Thursday, September 3, 2015

2015 Venice Film Festival: Spotlight, Beasts of No Nation, and Everest

Tom McCarthy is trying to rebound after The Cobbler was dead on arrival. Spotlight, his look into the Catholic molestation scandal comes with a big cast and big names such as Michael Keaton, John Slattery, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Mark Ruffalo, Stanley Tucci, and Billy Crudup. So far the film has had mostly good, but some mixed reviews. It is definitely landing better than The Cobbler. It still has a few more festival pit stops where it hopes to pick up steam for box office and awards attention. My take from the variety of reviews I have read is that there are a lot of conventional moments in the film, and more than a few stereotypes, but that it still succeeds in being a well-made, and especially well-acted film that still delivers. Which brings me to the performances. The only name that has been truly mentioned as a stand-out is Michael Keaton. His loss last year in Best Actor puts some overdue and some attention on his supporting role here, and he could ride a wave to a back to back nomination. The overall vibe is that the cast as a whole is great, I think that more reviews, more viewings, and some time will separate the contenders from the pretenders among its ranks. 

Beasts of No Nation
Netflix has made humongous strides in the recent Emmy races, and its gallant campaign efforts got Virunga into the competitive documentary feature race at last year's Oscars. Beasts of No Nations is their first original production, and its release schedule is already rankling studio owners, and possibly pushing forward the struggle between theater and home release dates. But it premieres at the Venice Film Festival, with pretty good reviews, especially for Idris Elba. He has been turning fine work on television and in film for a while now, and has racked up some serious nominations, but has yet to breakthrough into the Oscars. Early word suggests he could be a real player in Best Supporting Actor. The film though might struggle with voters and with viewers. All of the descriptions seem to suggest a brutal, tough, and hard to watch film, despite its good performances, and its pertinent story line. A film this long and this brutal could manage to grab some attention, but might lose out to films with a bit more heart and soul. It will be a struggle for Netflix to push this film into any realm other than art house audiences, at least from the first impressions. 

Everest got Venice off to a bang, a big, bold, fearless picture. Or was it? A lot of reviewers are really mixed on what to think of this film. It looks like a thriller, but apparently is actually kind of slow and methodical, aka kind of hard to get through, especially considering the subject matter and the outcome. I don't see Everest making a big Oscar splash, although we have seen plenty of festival premieres recover and go on to glory. That being said, I will say that even the harshest reviews have pointed out some of the technical elements are quality, so if it gets any love maybe it will be in some of those categories.  

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