The battlefield of Telluride already made a dent in the Oscar race, Toronto followed suit and cemented the status of some films while adding some new horses in the derby, however, the first significant film festival on the West Coast to look forward to is the 46th edition of the Mill Valley Film Festival, which kicks off today. The fest has been of paramount importance in the awards campaign trail due to its substantial Academy member attendance just outside Hollywood will continue with its red carpet tradition of nominees and winners gracing this event with a diverse lineup drawn from prestigious festivals such as Berlin, Cannes, Venice, and TIFF. The Mill Valley Festival not only serves as a showcase for English language studio films but also serves as a critical platform for high-profile submissions in the Academy’s International Feature category. Films like Denmark’s The Promised Land, France’s The Taste of Things, Germany’s The Teacher’s Lounge, Mexico’s Totem, Spain’s Society of the Snow contribute to the festival’s influence on the global cinematic landscape.
The festival commences with Jack Huston’s Day of the Fight and concludes with Bradley Cooper’s Maestro. The absence of Cannes preemed Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon (also a no-show at NYFF) is one perplexing choice — as is the the strategic deviation of Lanthimos’ Poor Things, Mann’s Ferrari, Haigh’s All of Us Strangers, and Scott’s Napoleon. Here are four Oscar race narratives we are keeping a close eye on:
American Fiction: Cord Jefferson’s debut film not only won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival but it also “beat” Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers (which also gets showcased at Mill Valley). Realizing that the game has changed pushed the MGM/MRC folks to move the film’s release from November 3 limited opening to December 15. It needs to build the buzz stateside, and if the actor’s strike ends soon Jeffrey Wright will need to go heavy promo mode leading up to the Holidays.
Nyad: Same time last year the campaign for Everything Everywhere All at Once‘s Michelle Yeoh to win Best Actress was in automatic pilot mode. Nyad was supposed to be feted at Telluride and Toronto in the same manner, but with Annette Bening unable to self-promote a performance in the severable biopic means there’ll be a lot more work cut out for the Netflix folks. The category feels a lot more clouded and so these type of pre-theatrical (November 3rd) screenings are critical.
The Bikeriders: It was possibly passed on (or chose not to submit) to hit TIFF and NYFF, but 20th Century Studios opted for an intense two month window starting with Telluride, BFI London, Chicago, AFI Fest. An ensemble film, Jeff Nichols’ latest will need a lot of these type screenings before its December 1st drop.
The Zone of Interest: Despite not winning the Palme d’Or, several pundits feel that Jonathan Glazer’s fourth feature film is the film to beat in the International Film category. The fact that there won’t be a round II between The Zone of Interest and Anatomy of a Fall (due to The Taste of Things landing France’s submission spot) certainly allows A24 to focus on their campaign as a battle royal rather than a re-match. Holocaust and WWII themed films always manage to find already invested audiences, but this is a different beast and will need a lot of campaign trail pushing. Also worth mentioning is that it thrusts Sandra Hǔller into a crowded field, and while Glazer is secure as the director, Hüller’s quest for at least one nomination will likely come from the Triet film instead.