The curtains are finally pulled back on this year’s most anticipated prestige cinematic offerings as the Venice, Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals cemented early Oscar favorites. All three festivals have been important launchpads for recent best picture winners, including Guillermo del Toro’s fantastical The Shape of Water last year at Venice. Ahead of next year’s Oscars, Entertainment Weekly breaks down the starry contenders for this awards race.
From a journey to the moon to a jaunt into the Queen’s court in 18th-century England, this year’s standout festival films showcase filmmakers and actors at their most ambitious. Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, which was inspired by the life of his childhood caretaker, is crafted as a sweeping poetic ode to elevate a woman often overlooked. After the infamous La La Land and Moonlight onstage mix-up at the 2017 Oscars, the directors of both films return this year with pictures that take their skills to new realms. For If Beale Street Could Talk — based on James Baldwin’s landmark 1974 novel of the same name — Barry Jenkins delivers a beautifully styled valentine to black love and a stark reckoning of racial injustice and inequality. Meanwhile, Damien Chazelle leaps from the city of stars toward actual stars with leading man Ryan Gosling in the Neil Armstrong biopic First Man, which traces the journey of the first moon landing in 1969. Bradley Cooper could have made a flashy melodrama out of A Star Is Born, his directorial debut, but instead grounds this decades-old love-story remake in new dramatic layers (alongside co-star Lady Gaga) with carefully composed close-ups and a resistance to showy spectacle.
George Tillman Jr.’s adaptation of Angie Thomas’ powerful novel The Hate U Give tells a fictional tale with very current trappings of present-day America: A teen (Amandla Stenberg) witnesses the shooting of her unarmed black friend by a police o icer and learns the true cost of becoming an activist. And then there’s The Favourite: Nothing on Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ short but singularly strange résumé (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) can prepare you for the humor, intrigue, or jeweler-precise period detail of this lusty, laugh-filled perspective on the power-mad court of Britain’s Queen Anne. It takes the traditional Masterpiece Theatre approach to the royals and turns it on its crown, vaulting it into the surreal stratosphere.