Let’s get right to it. The Venice Film Festival is about to pop off this week which means, welcome to the madness of fall and the annual season when we lose our minds. It’s a terrific time to be a movie lover, a festival goer especially, maybe not so much as movie critic or writer trying to stay on top of it all, but we suppose that’s our problem.
As per usual, the Lido kicks things off first. The festival starts on Wednesday, August 28 with the opening night film “The Truth” by Hirokazu Kore-eda, who won the Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival for “Shoplifters.” So, this is basically the first appearance since he won the Super Bowl and as the opening night movie, things are looking good for Kore-eda. With Netflix out of the picture at Cannes, like last year, that has left Venice in a very enviable position. Last year, Cannes had to skip out on things like “Roma” last year and Venice debuted them, the Lido also gets first dibs on a lot of big Netflix movies this year including new dramas by Noah Baumbach, David Michod, and Steven Soderbergh.
The festival is also lucky enough to boast the first appearance of Todd Philips‘ sure-to-be-controversial “Joker” with Joaquin Phoenix as the Clown Prince of Crime, and the only festival appearance of James Gray’s much-awaited space odyssey “Ad Astra” starring Brad Pitt. Venice has a lot of coups this year actually, the only festival appearance of David Michôd‘s “The King” with the hot ensemble cast of Timothée Chalamet, Robert Pattinson, Ben Mendelsohn and Joel Edgerton, Ciro Guerra’s “Waiting for the Barbarians” featuring Mark Rylance, Johnny Depp, and Robert Pattinson, and the Aussie dramedy “Babyteeth” which includes Ben Mendelsohn, Essie Davis (“The Babadook“) Eliza Scanlen (breakout star of HBO’s “Sharp Objects“).
The jury this year is presided over by Argentinian filmmaker Lucrecia Martel, and includes folks like director Mary Harron, actress Stacy Martin, and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto. They’ll all do their best to not hold it against the festival for including Roman Polanski in the Venice line-up, but barely any women—and coincidentally or not, Jennifer Kent (“The Babadook”) was on the jury originally, then spoke out and complained about the lack of women in the line-up and then suddenly dropped out. Read into that one how you like, but anyhow, here’s the film’s we’re anticipating and or the ones you’ll likely be talking about, regardless of whether you think the filmmaker should get canceled or not.
Cast: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Merritt Weaver, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Mickey Sumner, Azhy Robertson
Synopsis: A stage director and his actor wife struggle through a grueling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal and creative extremes.
What You Need To Know: Noah Baumbach’s last few films – not including a documentary he co-directed focusing on the great Brian De Palma – have been a series of jaunty, bittersweet big-city comedies. “Marriage Story,” the writer/director’s latest, looks to be a more bracing and dramatic work than anything he’s attempted since “The Squid and the Whale.” The film reunites the director with Adam Driver, who lent such ineffable spark to his parts in “While We’re Young” and “Frances Ha.” Driver plays Charlie, a principled New York-based theater director whose wife Nicole (Johansson) wants to take off for the West Coast. Baumbach has described the film as containing multitudes – it flirts with genres that extend to “thriller, procedural, romantic comedy, and tragic love story” – making it possibly his most thematically elaborate effort to date. Knowing that the director has reunited with his “Meyerowitz Stories” cinematographer Robbie Ryan and the legendary Randy Newman (who wrote the score) makes “Marriage Story” one of the hot-ticket items in this year’s fall festival season. – Nicholas Laskin
“Waiting for the Barbarians”
Cast: Mark Rylance, Johnny Depp, Robert Pattinson, Gana Bayarsaikhan, Greta Scacchi, David Dencik
Synopsis: A Magistrate working in a distant colonial outpost begins to question his loyalty to the empire.
What You Need To Know: The pitfalls of imperialism and moral cost of colonialism have clearly remained fertile themes for director Ciro Guerra: both are explored in his trippy breakout “Embrace of the Serpent,” and also “Birds of Passage,” one of 2019’s strongest films. “Waiting for the Barbarians,” based on the historical novel by author J.M. Coetzee, looks to be the under-the-radar director’s most high profile project to date. For one, ‘Barbarians’ boasts an impeccable central cast, including the great Mark Rylance, auteur darling Robert Pattinson, and none other than Johnny Depp, who could stand to give a great performance in the wake of a recent string of half-hearted turns in tentpole pictures and alarming personal misbehavior. The film – which is also Guerra’s English-language debut – also appears to showcase a scope that dwarfs his earlier, more modest work. Whatever “Waiting for the Barbarians” holds in store, Guerra is one of our more interesting and introspective filmmakers, and we’re willing to follow him wherever he goes. Sign us up, please. – NL
— The Playlist ???? (@ThePlaylist) July 25, 2019
Cast: Mariana Di Girolamo, Gael Garcia Bernal, Santiago Cabrera, Paola Giannini, Paula Hofmann
Synopsis: A couple deals with the aftermath of an adoption that goes awry as their household falls apart.
What You Need To Know: “Jackie,” an unorthodox and destabilizing look at the public fallout endured by first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the wake of her husband’s assassination, was one of the finest pictures of 2016. It was also a film that split critical and audience opinion right down the middle, in spite of its impressive directorial formalism, a nerve-jangling score from “Under the Skin” composer Mica Levi, and a characteristically fantastic lead performance by Natalie Portman. That film was directed by the great Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín, and for his follow-up, Larraín seems to be retreating from the spotlight and working in a more personal register. “Ema” looks to be a more scaled-down work from the filmmaker: a torrid, unconventional romantic melodrama where several of the characters express their deepest feelings through dance. In spite of this last detail, however, Larraín has stated that the film is not a musical, insisting that the technique is merely a “way to transmit a message” and that “Ema” is supposedly a meditation on family life. Wherever Larraín decides to lead us – we’re there. – NL
— The Playlist ???? (@ThePlaylist) August 6, 2018
“The New Pope”
Cast: Jude Law, John Malkovich, Silvio Orlando, Javier Cámara, Cécile de France, Sharon Stone, Marilyn Manson, Henry Goodman
Synopsis: Upcoming follow-up to Paolo Sorrentino’s HBO series “The Young Pope.”
What You Need To Know: Paolo Sorrentino is one of the more visually distinctive directors making films right now. His movies are riotous, exuberant expressions of decadence and melancholy. Some of them are wonderful (“The Great Beauty”) and others slightly less so (“Youth”), but they’re never anything less than fascinating. Sorrentino’s “The Young Pope” – in which Jude Law played a sneering, narcissistic, cigarette-smoking papal prodigy who turns the Vatican upside down – was one of the more idiosyncratic and memorable HBO shows of the last few years. While the show was initially billed as a limited series, Sorrentino is helming a new iteration: “The New Pope,” which follows the continued exploits of everyone’s favorite shit-talking Catholic hustler, Lenny Belardo. Plot details are being kept to a minimum as of now, but knowing that Sharon Stone and Marilyn Manson will be appearing in the new series is considerably intriguing. We also have yet to know if any kangaroos will be involved in “The New Pope,” but one thing is for certain: it’ll probably have a killer soundtrack. -NL
— The Playlist ???? (@ThePlaylist) July 2, 2018
Cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Eliza Scanlen, Essie Davis, Toby Wallace, Andrea Demetriades
Synopsis: A mother and father discover that their seriously ill teenage daughter has fallen in love with a small-time drug dealer.
What You Need to Know: In terms of oversaturation, coming-of-age flicks are arguably only outweighed by superhero movies. Crafting a memorable film that accurately depicts the trials of adolescence in a fashion that somehow manages to set itself apart from its contemporaries grows more impossible by the day. However, Shannon Murphy’s “Babyteeth” seeks to take a decidedly artistic stab at an overcrowded subgenre. With its first trailer promising a compact, visually-driven interpretation of commonplace subject matter—first love, teenage rebellion, and self-discovery—Murphy’s full-length feature debut may stand apart as one of the premier picks for fans of comedy-infused dramas about children standing at the doorstep of adulthood. With Eliza Scanlen of “Sharp Objects” fame and Ben Mendelsohn—who is finally stepping back from forgettable villain roles—leading the cast, “Babyteeth” may be the revitalizing breath of fresh air that coming-of-age movies desperately need. – Jonathan Christian