Having only just recovered from yesterday's delayed slog back to the North of England, I'm now ready to provide some reaction to the Venice trip. As well as speculating on where the festival's awards may go (Guy Lodge has already stuck his two cents in), I'm also going to be discussing the Oscar potential of some of the films. I don't pretend to be a shrewd Oscar prognosticator, but talking about some of Venice's awards hopefuls in greater detail will hopefully convey my doubts about their ability to appeal to the Academy collective.
First to the anticipated festival prizes, which are even more difficult to judge given that it's essentially decided by seven people locked in a room until decisions are made. Add to that the fact that the head of those seven people is the off-the-wall auteur Quentin Tarantino, and things become even hazier.
Predictions as follows:
Golden Lion: "Black Venus"
Alternate: "Post Mortem"
A film that commands respect for a fascinating and hard-to-depict subject matter, even as it prolongs so many similar scenes and doesn't evolve to the state that one feels it should. Hard to argue with as a showcase piece.
Silver Lion: Kelly Reichardt for "Meek's Cutoff"
Alternate: Darren Aronofsky for "Black Swan"
Perhaps this is wishful thinking as I felt that these were the two most assured pieces of Direction. Reichardt's Western is sparse and delicate, even as it brings up difficult subjects. In any case, her film is a Director's film, and despite the less-than-enthusiastic overall response, I don't think this coup is out of the question.
Special Jury Prize: "Essential Killing"
Alternate: "Post Mortem"
I have a feeling that "Essential Killing" may be popular among the male-dominated jury, but that it won't win the top prize. I found it tiresome in the worst ways.
Volpi Cup - Best Actress: Yahima Torres for "Black Venus"
Alternate: Natalie Portman for "Black Swan"
If I was on the jury I'd be fighting tooth and nail for a Torres victory here, since I felt her performance was one of the most impacting, introspectively devastating things I've witnessed in a cinema for a long while. Her role is certainly the most sympathetic, and so I'd suggest that she be a strong favourite for this.
Volpi Cup - Best Actor: Vincent Gallo for "Essential Killing"
Alternate: Bruce Greenwood for "Meek's Cutoff"
Involved in three films at the festival; two of which he directed, and two of which he starred in. He's also rather handy in the Skolimowski picture, and has a no-dialogue gimmick that may work in his favour.
Screenplay Prize: Athina Rachel Tsangari for "Attenberg"
Alternate: Denis Osokin for "Silent Souls"
Two films that may fly in a tad under the radar, and that I've heard trusty positive word about. Again, if you're spreading the wealth (as so often happens), then these may even pop up in the above prizes.
Coming Up: Judging the Oscar potential of the Venice crop.