The Shape of Water
Golden Lion winner
Directed and co-written by Guillermo del Toro
Out 25 January 2018
Following in the footsteps of his compatriots Alejandro González Iñárritu, who won the Golden Lion for Gravity, and Alfonso Cuaron, who went on to win the Best Picture Oscar for Birdman, Mexican auteur Guillermo del Toro carried off the main Venice trophy this year. The 52-year-old returns to the magic realism of 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth for another huge success that was a decade in the making and which he says was his most difficult film. After receiving plaudits for Aisling Walsh’s biographical drama, Maudie, the film’s star Sally Hawkins is set for awards contention for her portrayal of a lonely mute who works in a high-security government laboratory where she develops a relationship with a reptilian fish monster.
Richard Jenkins tells us more about 'The Shape Of Water'
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Screenplay for writer/director Martin McDonagh
Out 1 January 2018
After a misstep with Seven Psychopaths, the In Bruges director has made a huge comeback with Frances McDormand and a cracking screenplay. Both should figure at the Oscars. It’s not so much what happens as how wittily the story is told as McDormand takes on the local law enforcement (McDonagh regulars Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell) with billboards in an attempt to keep the case of her murdered daughter open.
Samuel Maoz’s hugely anticipated follow-up to his 2009 Venice winner, Lebanon, is ambitious in its structure. Told in three acts, the film follows the death of a soldier, the son of beloved parents (Sarah Adler and Lior Ashkenazi), who fall apart upon receiving news of his death delivered coldly by a military representative. But then they discover he is alive. The film developed further heat in Toronto and will be a likely Oscar contender for Best Foreign Language Film, or at least Israel’s entry.
Special Jury Prize
Australian premiere: October 7, Adelaide Film Festival
Out January 25, 2018
Warwick Thornton’s film boasts some fine casting. After Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Sam Neill has taken to playing bushy types and is wildly eccentric as a kind of lay preacher who loves his aboriginal brothers. But it's Hamilton Morris, with such fine-etched facial features we see in close-up, who steals the show.
Lean on Pete
Best Newcomer for Charlie Plummer
Out 15 February 2018
Andrew Haigh's follow-up to his Oscar-nominated 45 Years stars Charlie Plummer as 15-year-old Charley, who helps with family finances by taking a summer job in Portland, Oregon working for a washed-up horse trainer (Steve Buscemi). Ultimately, Charley befriends a failing racehorse named Lean on Pete. Plummer also has a leading role in Ridley Scott’s highly anticipated Getty family kidnap thriller, All the Money in the World, which is being rushed into completion for the Oscars.
Best Film in the Horizons section
Susanna Nicchiarelli’s dramatic feature stars Denmark’s Trine Dyrholm as the drug-addled former Velvet Underground star who struggled to achieve success in her own right. Having personally watched the iconic singer perform at the 1986 Adelaide Festival, where she had to be carried onto the stage, it was fascinating to see how she picked herself up in her final years only to die in a bike crash caused by a heart attack.
Out 26 December
Alexander Payne’s opening film was hugely divisive. It’s like an art film with a studio budget, and while everyone loves Matt Damon, do we really want to see him reduced to the size of a thumb? Here, it works for those who want to go along for the ride, as Damon’s chubby Paul and his wife, Audrey (Kristen Wiig), shrink themselves in order to simplify their lives. Payne's tongue-in-cheek story addresses the planet’s overpopulation.
Out 26 October
George Clooney’s sixth effort as director and the first of his films in which he does not appear also stars a pudgy Damon who plays against type as a scurrilous schemer. Based on a screenplay by Clooney’s buddies, The Coen Brothers, the dark comedy/crime mystery focuses on flawed people making very bad decisions in 1950s suburbia. The consensus with critics is that Suburbicon lacks bite and should have been directed by the Coens.
Victoria and Abdul
At 82 and with her eyesight failing, Judi Dench is a trouper and manages to elevate Stephen Frears’ story out of its British sitcom leanings. Is it a comedy? Can we believe it’s all true? As it happens, it mostly is, as Queen Victoria manages to live considerably longer thanks to her friendship with a handsome Indian who provides guidance in her final years. There was no sex here, even if Victoria’s previous relationship with John Brown was more of a contender. Dench, of course, rose to movie fame playing the formidable pint-sized queen in 1997’s Mrs Brown, which delved into Victoria’s previous dalliance and gained her an Oscar nomination for her performance.
The Leisure Seeker
Out 8 March 2018
It’s not an awards contender but one for the older crowd, the audience who still goes to the cinema in droves. Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland are captivating as an elderly couple who are failing in health though still very much in love and decide to take off in their campervan for one last jaunt.
These three prizewinners are still to be picked up for Australia, though should prove popular with local buyers.
Hannah (Italy/France/Belgium, shot in French and English)
Best Actress for Charlotte Rampling
The second film by Italian-born director Andrea Pallaoro (Medeas), Hannah is an elliptical Belgium-set crime drama. Aussie Hollywood Reporter critic David Rooney says the film is “austere to a fault... Charlotte Rampling gives an emotionally rigorous display of bruising internalisation, without an ounce of vanity.”
The Insult (Lebanon/France/US/Belgium/Cyprus)
Best Actor for Kamel El Basha
The first film to create a huge buzz in Venice, The Insult pits a Palestinian construction worker against the owner of a balcony on which he did some work, who is part of a Christian political party in Lebanon.
Custody (Jusqu’à La Garde) (France)
Silver Lion for Best Direction for Xavier Legrand
A broken marriage leads to a bitter custody battle with an embattled son at the centre. The wife (Lea Drucker, The Man of My Life) insists on full custody though cannot prove her husband (Denis Menochet, In the House) has been violent.