The anticipation is over – it’s finally that time of year again, the festival circuit is in full swing and the very first reviews of our next favourite films are being published for all to read. You may not have made an opportunity to go to Cannes, Venice or Toronto in the flesh but the excitement and buzz surrounding these new features can be felt even through reading a review on your smartphone at home. The film festival circuit provides filmmakers with a space to reveal their new art in such an intimate way that allows film-watching in its finest form to take place. The festivals provide a unique viewer experience that requires patience to absorb and digest the images and sounds we have just seen – there is no possibility of pausing, rewinding or fast forwarding. Film festival audiences have the challenge and the pleasure of consuming every detail of a new film in a way that no audience will ever get to experience thereafter. Although we may not all have the luxury of viewing the films as they are exhibited to an audience for the very first time, most of us do have the opportunity to read about these films and get a taste of the Cinematic experience that is to come. The film festival reviews provide audiences and with a first glimpse of the film beyond the trailer, some viewers may choose to ignore the reviews in order to keep a blank slate – free from the opinions of a critic that may have completely different opinions and tastes to themselves. But there is the beauty of film festival reviews – subjectivity! I have read reviews of films that have been given five stars by one critic and two stars by another. The festivals allow for a subjective experience of film viewing that results in films being declared as Academy Awards frontrunners as early as September. Some of which might not even got a single nomination come January, but the festivals create an energy – positive or negative – surrounding all the films that are showcased which makes subjectivity the number one requirement of a film lover. More often than not the film festival awards themselves such as Grand Jury Prizes or Best Actor/Actresses awards become precursors to Golden Globe and Oscar winners but having the platform to showcase a film months before award season creates momentum and a buzz among audiences of the great films that are to be released over the coming months that is more important to filmmakers than any award-winning odds. Therefore, The Saint has created a shortlist of some of the most exciting films from this year’s festival circuit.
The Favourite (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)
Anybody that is familiar with Lanthimos’s work can already assume that this film is not going to be the typical period-drama piece that might be expected after hearing the plot. Lanthimos’s continues his absurdities that were ever present in The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer with The Favourite to create a film that has been described as both tragic and hilarious. The film features Olivia Coleman as Queen Anne in a performance that has been described as a career-best by critics and filmmakers alike, in fact Coleman won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at Venice Film Festival for her role as the eccentric Royal. The film focuses on the rivalry between Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) and her cousin Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) to become the Queen’s favourite, resulting in a dysfunctional ‘love’ triangle between the three. This black comedy has been applauded for not only the acting powerhouse performances but also for writing, direction, costume designing, cinematography, and music. As a result, the film came away with the Grand Jury Prize at Venice. Could this suggest a future Best Picture winner at the Oscars? The Favourite is a film that you will watch and still remember six months later thanks to the absurd nature of Lanthimos’s filmmaking, but this is all part of the charm. The Favourite will be released in UK cinemas on 1st January 2019.
A Star is Born (dir. Bradley Cooper)
With his directorial debut, Bradley Cooper provides audiences with the fourth reincarnation of A Star is Born and it seems that he has created a film that is a credit to its predecessors. Not only does Cooper direct the film but he plays Jackson Maine, a musician that falls in love with Ally, played by Lady Gaga, and encourages her to follow her aspirations of becoming a professional musician. However, none of this seems to be possible without consequences as their relationship begins to suffer while Jackson continues to be his own worst enemy. The most enticing factor of this film will not be that it is the third remake of a film or that Cooper is in charge of directing duties for the first time but the casting of popstar Lady Gaga is what will intrigue audiences. In 2016, Gaga won a Best Actress Golden Globe for her role in the long running TV show, American Horror Story: Hotel so it is clear that she has commendable acting abilities. Many people were sceptical when she was cast in such an iconic role and questioned her ability to fill Barbara Streisand’s shoes, Streisand played the same role in the 1976 version, but not only has Gaga proved that she is more than just a popstar, with this performance she has proved that she has the acting talents that deserve all the praise that they have received. Some critics are even suggesting that Gaga may be in with a shot at Oscar glory come award season! A Star is Born is one to look out for due to the circumstances surrounding the film and the film also deserves an abundance of praise itself due to the acting prowess and the original music that was performed and written by Cooper and Gaga with the help of an assortment of country musicians. A Star is Born is scheduled for a UK release on 5th October 2018.
Roma (dir. Alfonso Cuarón)
In his follow up work to Gravity, which seen him win Best Director at the Oscars in 2014, Cuarón provides a personal and emotive film concerning his homeland Mexico. Cuarón uses his own memories and experiences of his upbringing in Mexico to tell the story of Cleo (non-professional actress, Yalitz Aparicio). The film follows Cleo as she works for a family in Mexico City during the 1970’s where there is ongoing political unrest, while another storyline concerns Cleo’s personal life and the lives of the people she works for. Roma has been described as a film not that you watch but one that you become absorbed in. Cuarón’s filmmaking allows for the audiences to be delicately involved on an intimate level with what they are witnessing on screen. He does this by creating a film in monochrome shot on 65mm cameras that uses mostly wide shots that allow for audiences to be immersed in every aspect of the characters world. Roma has already been acquired by Netflix which allows for it to be seen by a wider audience at home, however, some critics have argued that this format will take away some of the aspects of the film as it was intended to be seen on a big screen. It is agreed amongst most critics that this film must be appreciated in a theatre rather than on a tablet or smartphone in order to appreciate the homage that Cuarón has paid to his country. Roma is to be distributed by Netflix on 14th December 2018.
If Beale Street Could Talk (dir. Barry Jenkins)
Moonlight director Barry Jenkins lives up to and creates a film beyond expectations with his adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel. The film follows a pair of childhood friends, Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) who become romantically involved as adults. Their relationship is thrown into chaos as Fonny is falsely accused of rape and as he struggles through the trial, Tish discovers she is pregnant and aims to get him released before the baby is born. Already, it is clear that Jenkins has opted for a story that is deeply concerned with emotion and love, a subject matter that he is renowned for after the triumph of Moonlight. Jenkins has been praised for the visual work he has produced with If Beale Street Could Talk, especially his expertise on human choreography. Jenkins knows how to work with his actors in such a way that creates a variety of powerful dynamic of performances on screen. Like his other work, If Beale Street Could Talk contributed to a social commentary regarding race and what it means to be black – again, Jenkins uses his filmmaking talents to discuss the experience of being black in Civil Rights-era Harlem. This film not only allows audiences to appreciate Jenkins’ filmmaking abilities but also details a political climate that has parallels with our own. The film is scheduled for a UK release on 18th January 2019.
First Man (dir. Damien Chazelle)
If you are a fan of Damien Chazelle or at least familiar with his work this may seem like an odd move away from his previous work – the films prior to First Man are centred around music, specifically Jazz. However, despite the drastic change in subject matter, reviews suggest that Chazelle can make a film about Space just as good as he can about Jazz! First Man is a biopic of Neil Armstrong and provides an interpretation of what it was like to be the embodiment of America and American 20th century values. Chazelle has been praised for using the landing itself as the spectacle of the film, but he has been commended on the same level for opting to reduce the amount of patriotism that surrounded the mission that the astronauts were set to complete. For example, Chazelle decides not to show the moment when the American flag is erected on the moon, this has drawn some controversy and criticism, but this film focuses on the man himself and what drove him to become the “first man” and how he become the iconic figure we all know today. Chazelle provides an insight into the “unglamorous” side of not only the mission but of the emotional impact that it had on the astronauts and their families – Claire Foy’s performance as Janet Armstrong has been wildly admired. First Man uses an all-American event to explore the man behind landing and who he really was in such a manner that should be applauded. First Man is to be released in UK Cinemas on 12th October 2018.