Saturday, September 5, 2015

2015 Venice Film Festival: Black Mass and The Danish Girl

Black Mass
Scott Cooper hopes to bring Johnny Depp Oscar gold the way he did Jeff Bridges with Black Mass, a film that premiered at Venice with solid reviews, especially for its two lead performances. Johnny Depp transformed, physically at least, in his role as Whitey Bulger, and the Oscarologists are already jumping on his performance as one to watch for in the upcoming awards season, and it officially marks the start of, we hope, a comeback for Depp after a few years wallowing in crap. The other cast member, in a large cast, that is getting a lot of attention is Joel Edgerton, who is probably more of a lead or co-lead, but likely will be pushed to supporting. He apparently is very effective as the lead officer. But what about the overall film? I think that mainstream audiences will be more open to it than some of these festival critics, who were still pretty nice. I think it will do well at the box office, and its stars will lead the film as a whole into the expanded Best Picture race. Remember, the Academy voters have always liked gangster films, and this one has had a lot of comparisons to say Scorsese (not as good apparently, but still the comparisons help).

The Danish Girl
The initial reviews of this remind me of when The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game landed at the fall festivals last year. There is a lot of praise of the performances, but the more art-house leaning critics thought the overall product to be a big generic. That combination to me seems to scream Academy, although it is worth nothing that some of their more recent choices, especially last year, were not Academy bait. The voters seem to be embracing darker, smaller, indie projects in a lot of top categories, in favor of more traditional fare. That being said, there is a still a lot of potential for these types of projects. Tom Hooper, is well known to the Academy, and his last two projects have done well with voters. Plus, when tackling a subject like transgender issues, it is probably best that they are more subtle, and have more traditional storytelling to help ease voters into it. All of that being said, even the more mixed reactions to the film have included raves for its two lead stars. Eddie Redmayne apparently tops his performance last year in The Theory of Everything, aka it lives up to the hype. But it is Alicia Vikander, who has a lot of work this year, that is coming up a lot early on in terms of her performance. She apparently has a lot of screen time, so we will have to see if she goes supporting, or like Felicity Jones last year, stays in lead.

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