Telluride and Venice Give Kudos Boosts to ‘Black Mass,’ ‘Spotlight’

Black Mass” and “Spotlight” have proven fast starters in the awards race, earning enthusiasm at both Venice and Telluride, while the Lido event also boasts “The Danish Girl” and the Colorado fest bowed “Steve Jobs,” with both those films firmly entering the conversation.

Also being talked about in terms of awards: “Room,” “Suffragette” and “Beasts of No Nation,” while two films are cementing the awards buzz that started at Cannes, “Carol” and “Son of Saul” — and “45 Years” is building on its prizes at Berlin.

Venice runs Sept. 2-12; Telluride is Sept. 4-7. So the Italian festival is still going strong, while most of the Telluride biggies have already debuted in its first two days.

See More: With ‘Steve Jobs,’ Fassbender Shoots to the Top of This Year’s Best Actor Oscar Race

The docu lineup is particularly strong, including “He Named Me Malala,” “Time to Choose,” “Winter on Fire” and “Sherpa”; plus some showbiz-themed docus at Telluride, “Hitchcock/Truffaut” and “Ingrid Bergman — In Her Own Words.” (After a court injunction, Telluride cancelled all screenings of another showbiz docu, Sydney Pollack’s decades-old study of Aretha Franklin, “Amazing Grace.”)

Black Mass” and “Spotlight” played well at both fests, which is a good sign, since Telluride and Venice respectively represent a healthy cross-section of domestic and international journalists/audiences.

None of the films has gotten across-the-board enthusiasm, but then, no film ever does: Last year, “Birdman” was generally liked at both fests, but there were some very vocal naysayers.

Variety‘s review of “Danish Girl” is among the most glowing ones, but there were negative responses from several major outlets. Still, a Venice acting prize for Eddie Redmayne and/or Alicia Vikander is a distinct possibility. “Everest” opened Venice respectably and was well received, but didn’t set pulses racing in the manner of recent Venice openers “Gravity” and “Birdman.” Concern is already setting in that this might not be a vintage Competition crop.

In its 42nd year, the Telluride Festival maintains a relaxed atmosphere, a mix between a family barbecue and a very private Hollywood party. The festival is small, with a limited number of tickets sold. A large portion of those are bought by industry people; the rest are bought by film fans from far-flung locations. For both groups, there is the knowledge that they are seeing heavy-hitter movies ahead of everyone else; when media members talk about “industry buzz,” Telluride attendees know that they are helping start that buzz.

There are no black-tie events at Telluride (no dressy wear of any kind), no red carpets and no paparazzi, despite the presence of filmmakers and stars for Q&As.

But black ties and red carpet are a key part of the Venice elegance, with the added bonus of having stars and filmmakers arrive for their premieres at the Lido in motorboats, which is always an irresistible photo op.

Telluride officials never brag out loud about the festival’s importance to awards season, but it’s a key, with six out of the past seven best pic Oscar winners having screened here. Venice’s goals overlap, but are different. It’s the oldest film festival in the world, begun in 1932, and Oscar is important but not necessarily the No. 1 priority of Venice. It’s an international gathering, offering a showcase and meeting ground for the world’s filmmakers and reporters.

But it’s clear that this past week has put Oscar conversation into high gear, and the Toronto Fest, which opens Sept. 10, promises to move things into overdrive.

Guy Lodge in Venice contributed to this report.

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