Venice Film Festival: Brad Pitt space drama Ad Astra among line-up

By Lizo Mzimba
Entertainment correspondent

Still from Ad AstraImage source, Fox
Image caption,
Brad Pitt stars in space drama Ad Astra

Brad Pitt's space drama Ad Astra, along with Timothée Chalamet and Robert Pattinson's Shakespearean drama The King, are among the movies which will have their world premiere at the Venice Film Festival which begins in late August.

Director Steven Soderbergh's Panama Papers movie The Laundromat, which stars Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Gary Oldman, is also on the festival's line up.

Haifaa Al-Mansour, who is the first female director to shoot a movie in Saudia Arabia, will screen her new film The Perfect Candidate at the festival.

Controversially, Roman Polanski's latest An Officer and a Spy will also play at Venice. Polanski was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last year because of his 1977 rape conviction. He's taking legal action in an attempt to be reinstated.

Venice, along with Toronto and Telluride, is a festival where awards hopefuls have often launched their campaigns. In recent years, Oscar best picture winners including The Shape of Water and Birdman have been screened for the first time at the Italian festival.

This year's event is being seen as one with a fewer number of Oscar hopefuls in the line-up compared to 2018, where the world premieres included A Star Is Born, First Man, and The Favourite.

Telluride, which takes place in Colorado at the end of August, doesn't confirm its line up until just before it starts. Some Oscar tipped films including Greta Gerwig's Little Women, Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones in The Aeronauts, and Queen & Slim - which stars Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya - haven't yet been confirmed for any festivals.

Toronto revealed some of the films that will be shown there earlier this week.

Here's a round-up of some of this year's potential awards contenders so far, along with details of which Festivals they'll be shown at.

Ad Astra

Image source, Fox

What you need to know: This space drama stars Brad Pitt as an astronaut on a mission to find his father, and to save the earth from a devastating threat.

The buzz: The film was originally spoken of as a contender for last year's awards season, so many are hoping it will be worth the wait.

Festival appearances: It will have its world premiere at Venice, and may then go to Telluride.

Oscar hopes: If it hits the same notes as the Oscar-winning Gravity, it could feature in not just technical categories, but in performance ones too.

The King

Image source, Netflix

What you need to know: It brings together a group of Shakespeare's historical plays into one film.

The buzz: It has an impressive ensemble cast - Ben Mendelsohn as Henry IV, Timothee Chalamet as Henry V, and Joel Edgerton as Falstaff.

Festival appearances: It will have its world premiere at Venice.

Oscar hopes: Shakespearean stories have long been a favourite with the Academy.

The Laundromat

Image source, Claudette Barius

What you need to know: It's a Steven Soderbergh directed story about the journalistic uncovering of the Panama Papers scandal about alleged financial wrongdoing on a massive scale.

The buzz: It has a very buzzy cast, with the likes of Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Gary Oldman among others.

Festival appearances: After its world premiere at Venice, it will go on to be shown at Toronto

Oscar hopes: Soderbergh directs, produces, was the cinematographer for, and edited the film. So he has more chances than most!

Marriage Story

Image source, Wilson Webb

What you need to know: It's very much under wraps at the moment, but reportedly is about two characters played by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver divorcing.

The buzz: Writer/director Noah Baumbach has attracted a strong cast, and he's seen as a big talent.

Festival appearances: It will have its world premiere at Venice. It is also on Toronto's lineup, and looks certain to also screen at Telluride.

Oscar hopes: So much is still unknown about the film at this stage, it's hard to say.


Image source, Niko Tavernise

What you need to know: It's an origin story from Gotham City as failed stand-up comedian Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) evolves into feared villain The Joker.

The buzz: The trailer has met with huge approval, and has been viewed online more than 50 million times.

Festival appearances: The world premiere will be at Venice, and it will also play at Toronto.

Oscar hopes: Joaquin Phoenix has been nominated three times but never won. Could he become the second Joker actor to take home a statuette after the late Heath Ledger?

Here are some other potential awards favourites which aren't currently scheduled to play Venice but have already been announced for other film festivals:

Jojo Rabbit

Image source, Kimberley French

What you need to know: It's a dark comedy set during World War II about a young German boy who has an imaginary friend in the form of an idiotic Adolf Hitler, and who discovers his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic.

The buzz: Director Taika Waititi (who also plays Hitler) has won plaudits for his previous comedies What We Do in the Shadows and Thor: Ragnarok.

Festival appearances: It'll have its world premiere at Toronto, after what is likely to have been strong competition from Venice and Telluride.

Oscar hopes: If it connects with audiences it could well become a frontrunner for best picture.


Image source, Pathe

What you need to know: Set 30 years after Judy Garland played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, this biopic - which stars Renee Zellweger - reflects the highs and lows of the actress's career.

The buzz: The trailer shows how well Garland's life has been captured.

Festival appearances: It'll have its Canadian premiere at Toronto, so looks extremely likely to appear a few days earlier at the Telluride Film Festival.

Oscar hopes: A much-loved Hollywood actress playing a much loved Hollywood icon clearly has the potential to land Zellweger best actress recognition.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

Image source, LACEY TERRELL

What you need to know: Tom Hanks plays Fred Rogers, a TV personality who was hugely well known in the US, telling his life story to a journalist played by Welsh star Matthew Rhys.

The buzz: The new trailer created a hugely positive reaction on social media, and Marielle Heller's previous film Can You Ever Forgive Me? produced standout performances from Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant.

Festival appearances: It'll have its world premiere at Toronto.

Oscar hopes: Many of the Academy loved Fred Rogers. And many of them also love Tom Hanks. Oscar number three?

Just Mercy

What you need to know: An adaptation of a true story - Michael B Jordan plays Bryan Stevenson, a defence lawyer acting for Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) who faces the death penalty after being convicted of a crime he didn't commit.

The buzz: The book it's based on is a bestseller, and the studio Warner Bros. recently moved the film's release date to a prime Christmas slot.

Festival appearances: Toronto will host its world premiere.

Oscar hopes: It's the kind of story with potential to resonate with voters, multiples nominations are possible.

Le Mans '66 (aka Ford v Ferrari)

Image source, Fox

What you need to know: It's known as Ford v Ferrari in the US and Canada. And unsurprisingly covers the real life rivalry between the two companies in the gruelling 24 hour Le Mans race in 1966.

The buzz: Director James Mangold is loved by fellow film makers. If audiences react similarly, it could do particularly well.

Festival appearances: Its Canadian premiere will be in Toronto, so is likely to play at Telluride too.

Oscar hopes: Christian Bale has landed three acting nominations in the last five years. And is a favourite with Academy voters.

The Goldfinch

Image source, Warner Bros

What you need to know: Donna Tartt's Pulitzer prize-winning novel about a boy (Ansel Elgort) who loses his mother, and in the process gains a valuable painting has been adapted for the big screen.

The buzz: The book is several hundred pages long, with a lot to cram in to the film's two and half hour running time. Fans seem divided as to whether it'll manage it or not.

Festival appearances: Toronto has grabbed its world premiere.

Oscar hopes: If it is as loved by viewers as the book was by readers, it could be huge.

The Two Popes

Image source, Peter Mountain

What you need to know: The film explores the relationship and opposing views of Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) after he resigns the papacy and Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce) is elected as his successor.

The buzz: Netflix has one of the best awards teams in the business and the current plan seems to be give this a big Oscar qualifying push.

Festival appearances: It'll have its Canadian premiere at Toronto, so looks certain to play at Telluride first.

Oscar hopes: Hopkins and Pryce are both seen as heavyweights. And four of the last five best actor Oscars have gone to performers playing real life figures.

Bad Education

Image source, TIFF

What you need to know: It's a high school comedy drama starring Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney.

The buzz: The script featured on 2016's The Black List which highlights some of Hollywood's best unproduced screenplays.

Festival appearances: The film will have its world premiere at Toronto.

Oscar hopes: If it can connect in the same way 1999's Election did, it could do well.

Uncut Gems

Image source, TIFF

What you need to know: It's a comedy drama about a jewellery store owner (Adam Sandler) who ends up in debt when a huge amount of merchandise is taken from him.

The buzz: Directors Josh and Benny Safdie are favourites on the indie circuit.

Festival appearances: The film has its International premiere at Toronto, so looks certain to be shown at Telluride first.

Oscar hopes: Could this be Adam Sandler's moment?

The Personal History of David Copperfield

Image source, Lionsgate
Image caption,
Patel won a Bafta for his role in Lion alongside Nicole Kidman

What you need to know: It's a colour-inclusive version of David Copperfield set in the 1840s with Dev Patel in the title role, and Armando Iannucci directing and co-scripting.

The buzz: Armando Iannucci has gathered a cast of well regarded talent, and has scored success in the past with The Death of Stalin and In The Loop.

Festival appearances: It will have its world premiere at Toronto, and will go on to open the London Film Festival with its European premiere in October.

Oscar hopes: Dev Patel was surprisingly passed over for Slumdog Millionaire, but did land a best actor nomination for Lion. Could this be the year he wins?