Announcing film festival lineups may seem a bit pointless to many/all of my readers – after all, in all likelihood none of us will be tripping the Croisette or the Lido any time soon. So the logic behind my commentary here boils down to three reasons: 1) I’m really bored, 2) wishful thinking; I concede that attending one of these major festivals remains one of my greatest (and luckily, most practical) life goals, and 3) I don’t know, maybe you’re curious about when we’ll get to hear the first reviews for some of these anticipated titles. Reason #1 is really the most important factor here. The two biggest players of the September festival trio (Venice, Toronto, and Telluride) unveiled their lineups this week, so let’s take a peek, shall we?
This year’s Venice Festival seems consistent with what we’ve come to expect from the Cannes-wannabes, with a strong lineup of established auteurs backed with a smattering of sophomore efforts from rising talents. The competition for the Golden Lion will open with George Clooney’s political thriller “The Ides of March,” which unveiled a scathingly good trailer/poster combo this morning. I’ll have more to say about the trailer on Sunday, of course, but the poster is easily my favorite of the year so far, even besting that clever “Tinker, Tailor” cipher. You might recall that “Black Swan” led things off in Venice last year, and we all hopefully remember how that turned out.
But speaking of Tomas Alfredson’s, “Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy,” that film will also see its world premiere on the Lido. Also on the agenda is Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method,” Andrea Arnold’s reportedly revisionist take on “Wuthering Heights,” Steve McQueen’s dear-God-how-is-Michael-Fassbender-in-ANOTHER-movie “Shame,” and Marjane Satrapi’s animated follow-up to “Persepolis,” “Chicken with Plums.”
Something of a surprise is that Roman Polanski’s “Carnage,” a star-studded adaptation of the award-winning play “God of Carnage,” will indeed be ready in time for Venice. Since the film only wrapped up shooting not too long ago, it as thought that the film might get delayed into next season, but I guess Polanski is working fast these days. I don’t know what he’s concerned about, our legal system has shown itself completely incapable of bringing him to justice. But let’s not get into that today. Polanski will be joined by other veterans like Alexander Sokurov (“Russian Ark”), bringing his take on “Faust” to the table, Todd Solondz (“Life During Wartime,” “Happiness”) and his “Dark Horse,” and William Friedkin (“Th Exorcist,” “The French Connection”) and “Killer Joe.”
Meanwhile, out of competition we’ll get a first look at Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion” and this festival’s requisite Jessica Chastain-starring feature, Al Pacino’s “Wilde Salome.” Also, Madonna takes another crack at directing (her first feature was the mostly-panned “Filth and Wisdom” in 2008), with “W.E.” What is “W.E.?” Well, remember last year in my “King’s Speech” review, when I said that the bizarro King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson deserved their own movie? Apparently Madonna reads my blog. James D’Arcy, who you might remember from absolutely nothing, will take up Guy Pearce’s mantle in tackling the enigmatic royal, while relative newcomer Andrea Riseborough will handle the American divorcee. I’m intrigued, though I have to say Madonna was not quite the person I had in mind when I pictured this. To say the least.
Basically the only disappointment here is that Wong Kar-Wai’s “The Grandmaster” still isn’t ready, but Wong is notoriously meticulously in the cutting room. Considering how well his films usually turn out (“Chungking Express,” “In the Mood for Love”), I’m fine with him taking his time.
TIFF likewise unveiled a basically surprise-free lineup, as usual consisting of all the movies, ever. But Toronto is quickly turning into the first Oscar precursor: both “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The King’s Speech” took the People’s Choice Award at TIFF, their most prestigious accolade (you can see why my snobby self would prefer to go to Venice or Cannes). So it’s important to sift through the madness.
Toronto will feature a host of refugees from other festivals, including Cannes (“The Artist,” “Drive,” “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” “Melancholia”), Sundance (“Martha Marcy May Marlene,” “Take Shelter”), Berlin (“Coriolanus”) and the slightly-earlier Venice (“The Ides of March,” “W.E.,” “A Dangerous Method,” “Killer Joe,” “Dark Horse,” “Shame”).
Titles that Toronto viewers WILL get first dibs on include Bennett Miller’s “Moneyball,” Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants,” Sarah Polley’s “Take This Waltz,” Jonathan Levine’s “50/50,” Francis Ford Coppola’s gothic drama “Twixt,” and Rodrigo Garcia’s Glenn Close-dresses-like-a-man-period-costume-drama-oh-man-we-want-an-Oscar-really-badly “Albert Nobbs.”
Phew. Like I said. All the movies. EVER.