Films I'm Excited to See at the 2018 Venice Film Festival

by keithsim | last updated - 8 months ago

Venice's lineup for its 75th year may be the most exciting in a decade. From Orson Welles's last film to the first man on the moon the Lido will be host to a startling array of movies with fantastic potential. The "In Competition" titles alone are enough to fill up two week's viewing time for anyone attending and there are several out-of-competition titles that any festival would kill to premiere. That's partially because, in addition to films distributed in the conventional way Venice is also embracing the works of non-traditional studios including Amazon, who has two movies (full disclosure: IMDb is owned by Amazon) and Netflix, who has six (full disclosure: I have a Netflix account). These films are selected out of the In Competition, Out of Competition, Venice Classics, and Orizzonti categories. You can also see my Best of Venice list here- by Keith Simanton, Senior Film Editor

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1. The Other Side of the Wind (2018)

R | 122 min | Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
78 Metascore

A Hollywood director emerges from semi-exile with plans to complete work on an innovative motion picture.

Director: Orson Welles | Stars: John Huston, Oja Kodar, Peter Bogdanovich, Susan Strasberg

Votes: 4,433

Welles, who passed away in October of 1985, started shooting this film in August of 1970. Josh Karp's excellent book "Orson Welles's Last Movie" should be required on-the-plane reading readying for the historic unveiling of this film on August 31. Out-of-competition, World Premiere

2. First Man (2018)

PG-13 | 141 min | Biography, Drama, History

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
84 Metascore

A look at the life of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

Director: Damien Chazelle | Stars: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler

Votes: 117,846 | Gross: $44.94M

Seems like the only person involved with La La Land NOT working again with Chazelle on this is Emma Stone.

Everyone else, including composer Justin Hurwitz', cinematographer Linus Sandgren', and editor Tom Cross, have joined in. This was one of the films that left Cinema-Con with the biggest buzz, due largely to this trailer.

Chazelle's last premiere at Venice, in 2016, La La Land was tinged with tragedy. Less than a week before the August 31 debut an earthquake hit central Italy, killing 300. The traditional after-party and dinner was cancelled in recognition. In Competition, World Premiere

3. A Star Is Born (2018)

R | 136 min | Drama, Music, Romance

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
88 Metascore

A musician helps a young singer find fame as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.

Director: Bradley Cooper | Stars: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott, Greg Grunberg

Votes: 243,880 | Gross: $215.29M

It was evident when Warners unveiled the remake of this chestnut at Cinema-Con (it closed their show) that the studio was high, high, high on it. The trailer from DIRECTOR Cooper doesn't get old; Gaga holds the screen. Cooper looks appropriately grizzled and his Sam Elliott rumble sounds right. And the snippets of the tunes sound like a lot of playlist in the future. It's not In Competition, which seems odd, but the politics behind that move may be too much to untangle. Out-of-Competition, World Premiere

4. Suspiria (I) (2018)

R | 152 min | Fantasy, Horror, Mystery

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
64 Metascore

A darkness swirls at the center of a world-renowned dance company, one that will engulf the artistic director, an ambitious young dancer, and a grieving psychotherapist. Some will succumb to the nightmare. Others will finally wake up.

Director: Luca Guadagnino | Stars: Chloë Grace Moretz, Tilda Swinton, Doris Hick, Malgorzata Bela

Votes: 35,801 | Gross: $2.47M

The director of Call Me By Your Name and I Am Love reimagines Dario Argento's 1977 frenetic and freaky cult-classic. I watched five unnerving minutes of this at Cinema-Con (I understand they are, by far, the most intense moments in the whole film) and I'm a bit scared, and more than a bit excited, to see the rest. In Competition, World Premiere

5. The Favourite (2018)

R | 119 min | Biography, Drama, History

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
90 Metascore

In early 18th century England, a frail Queen Anne occupies the throne and her close friend, Lady Sarah, governs the country in her stead. When a new servant, Abigail, arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah.

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos | Stars: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult

Votes: 112,825 | Gross: $34.24M

As with our previous entry I'm already a bit nervous at the prospect of a Lanthimos film not tethered to the supposed morality of the present but to a more-barbarous past. There's some minor solace that, since it's based on history and not written by him so we won't have a man having to decide which family member to shoot (Killing of a Sacred Deer) or which animal to become (The Lobster). That said The Favourite can go anywhere, do anything. I'm not even sure it's meant to be accurate. It's possible that it's more of a commentary on just such a historical drama. When a director can make people have chills just by unveiling something new....well, that's the power of a unique artist. In Competition, World Premiere

6. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

R | 133 min | Comedy, Drama, Musical

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79 Metascore

Six tales of life and violence in the Old West, following a singing gunslinger, a bank robber, a traveling impresario, an elderly prospector, a wagon train, and a perverse pair of bounty hunters.

Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen | Stars: Tim Blake Nelson, Willie Watson, Clancy Brown, Danny McCarthy

Votes: 85,869

Will they show all six episodes of this Netflix mini-series from the masterful Coens? When the fest feted Frances MacDormand (married to Joel Coen) in 2014 for Olive Kitteridge they showed all four episodes, two a night. In Competition, World Premiere

7. The Sisters Brothers (2018)

R | 122 min | Adventure, Comedy, Crime

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78 Metascore

In 1850s Oregon, the infamous duo of assassins, Eli and Charlie Sisters, chase a gold prospector and his unexpected ally.

Director: Jacques Audiard | Stars: John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed

Votes: 31,103 | Gross: $3.14M

Audiard's films include A Prophet and Rust and Bone. He's clearly capable with intense actors. He's got a clutch of them on this one. In Competition, World Premiere

8. Roma (2018)

R | 135 min | Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
96 Metascore

A year in the life of a middle-class family's maid in Mexico City in the early 1970s.

Director: Alfonso Cuarón | Stars: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Diego Cortina Autrey, Carlos Peralta

Votes: 105,193

Fellini was 52-53 when he was making Amacord. Cuaron is 57 this year and has described this as his "most personal film." Seems like the right time to start getting nostalgic. In Competition, World Premiere

9. Non-Fiction (2018)

R | 108 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
80 Metascore

Set in the Parisian publishing world, an editor and an author find themselves in over their heads, as they cope with a middle-age crisis, the changing industry and their wives.

Director: Olivier Assayas | Stars: Guillaume Canet, Juliette Binoche, Vincent Macaigne, Christa Théret

Votes: 1,564 | Gross: $0.18M

It's Assayas so this is a must-catch regardless but it's also about the crumbling of real-world publishing made by a filmmaker who is watching titanic changes in his own industry. In Competition, World Premiere

10. The Nightingale (I) (2018)

R | 136 min | Adventure, Drama, Thriller

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
78 Metascore

Set in 1825, Clare, a young Irish convict woman, chases a British officer through the rugged Tasmanian wilderness, bent on revenge for a terrible act of violence he committed against her family. On the way she enlists the services of an Aboriginal tracker named Billy, who is also marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past.

Director: Jennifer Kent | Stars: Sam Claflin, Aisling Franciosi, Damon Herriman, Ewen Leslie

Votes: 381

Kent wrote and directed the chilling The Babadook and she's reuniting with her editor, Simon Njoo, and cinematographer, Radek Ladczuk, from that film. I'm looking forward to the same driving energy without the nails-on-chalkboard whiny kid. In Competition, World Premiere

11. Never Look Away (2018)

R | 189 min | Drama, History, Romance

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
69 Metascore

German artist Kurt Barnert has escaped East Germany and now lives in West Germany, but is tormented by his childhood under the Nazis and the GDR-regime.

Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck | Stars: Tom Schilling, Sebastian Koch, Paula Beer, Saskia Rosendahl

Votes: 4,125 | Gross: $1.30M

von Donnersmarck wrote and directed 2007's Best Foreign Language film The Lives of Others. He followed it up with one of the biggest embarrassments for the HFPA and the Golden Globes, the much-derided Best Comedy/Musical nominee of 2010, The Tourist (which, while not a great film, didn't deserve the widespread scorn heaped on it). This is the director's first film in eight years. In Competition, World Premiere

12. At Eternity's Gate (2018)

PG-13 | 111 min | Biography, Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
76 Metascore

A look at the life of painter Vincent van Gogh during the time he lived in Arles and Auvers-sur-Oise, France.

Director: Julian Schnabel | Stars: Willem Dafoe, Rupert Friend, Oscar Isaac, Mads Mikkelsen

Votes: 15,937 | Gross: $2.29M

A small sampling of Schnable's other efforts include the exquisite The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Basquiat, which still boasts one of the most eclectic casts in recent memory. In Competition, World Premiere

13. Peterloo (2018)

PG-13 | 154 min | Drama, History

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
66 Metascore

The story of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre where British forces attacked a peaceful pro-democracy rally in Manchester.

Director: Mike Leigh | Stars: Rory Kinnear, Maxine Peake, Neil Bell, Philip Jackson

Votes: 1,831 | Gross: $0.15M

Not counting the Kitchen Sink film school of the '60s no one does working-class rage quite like Mike Leigh (okay, okay, after Ken Loach). For my money Leigh's best film has been Naked, with a nod to Topsy Turvy and Life Is Sweet. But I found Mr. Turner, his bio-pic about the 19th century painter and his most recent, to be a slog, a slog by a grouch, about a grouch, that made me grouchy. In Competition, World Premiere

14. Friedkin Uncut (2018)

107 min | Documentary

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Add a Plot

Director: Francesco Zippel | Stars: William Friedkin, Wes Anderson, Dario Argento, Samuel Blumenfeld

Votes: 57

A "warts-and-all" documentary about Friedkin would be amazing. I kinda have to imagine though this fits under the "appreciation" category of docs like De Palma from 2015. Venice Classics, World Premiere

15. Charlie Says (2018)

R | 104 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  
56 Metascore

The tragic tale of an all-American girl who was transformed into a cold-blooded killer in the summer of 1969.

Director: Mary Harron | Stars: Hannah Murray, Suki Waterhouse, Sosie Bacon, Matt Smith

Votes: 362 | Gross: $0.04M

I'm a huge fan of Matt Smith but also of Mary Harron who directed the ahead-of-its-time, maybe still ahead-of-its-time American Psycho. I'd love to see her get recognition with this American psycho. Orrizonti, World Premiere

16. Dragged Across Concrete (2018)

R | 159 min | Action, Crime, Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
60 Metascore

Once two overzealous cops get suspended from the force, they must delve into the criminal underworld to get their proper compensation.

Director: S. Craig Zahler | Stars: Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Tory Kittles, Michael Jai White

Votes: 14,954

Zahler is a self-made director, carving out a spot for himself with the brutal Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99. He reunites with his Brawl star Vince Vaughan here. Out-of-Competition, World Premiere

17. They'll Love Me When I'm Dead (2018)

TV-MA | 98 min | Documentary

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
77 Metascore

In the final fifteen years of the life of legendary director Orson Welles he pins his Hollywood comeback hopes on a film, The Other Side of the Wind, in itself a film about an aging film director trying to finish his last great movie.

Director: Morgan Neville | Stars: Alan Cumming, Peter Bogdanovich, Oja Kodar, Orson Welles

Votes: 3,014

Oscar-winner Morgan Neville looks at the life of Orson Welles and the creation of the Out-of-Competition title, The Other Side of the Wind. Neville has done docs on the beloved, such as the backup singers from 20 Feet from Stardom and the saintly, with Fred Rogers and Won't You Be My Neighbor. So what about curmudgeonly raconteurs? This appears to be the year of Welles. Out-of-Competition, World Premiere

18. Close Enemies (2018)

111 min | Drama, Thriller

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

Driss and Manuel are two childhood friends who end up taking opposite paths: Manuel chose to embrace the thug life, while Driss becomes a cop. When Manuel's biggest deal goes terribly wrong, the two men meet again and come to realize they both need each other to survive in their worlds.

Director: David Oelhoffen | Stars: Matthias Schoenaerts, Reda Kateb, Adel Bencherif, Sofiane Zermani

Votes: 593

Oelhoffen wrote and directed one of the best overlooked films of 2014, Far From Men, which is reason enough for me. In Competition, World Premiere

19. Vox Lux (2018)

R | 114 min | Drama, Music

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  
67 Metascore

An unusual set of circumstances brings unexpected success to a pop star.

Director: Brady Corbet | Stars: Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Stacy Martin, Jennifer Ehle

Votes: 8,705 | Gross: $0.73M

I've not seen director Corbet's first full-length feature The Childhood of a Leader but I've seen how daring Portman's choices have been of late (Annihilation, Jackie). In Competition, World Premiere

20. 22 July (2018)

R | 143 min | Crime, Drama, History

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
69 Metascore

A three-part story of Norway's worst terrorist attack in which over seventy people were killed. 22 July looks at the disaster itself, the survivors, Norway's political system and the lawyers who worked on this horrific case.

Director: Paul Greengrass | Stars: Anders Danielsen Lie, Jonas Strand Gravli, Jon Øigarden, Maria Bock

Votes: 19,416

Greengrass, who directed the blood-chilling 9-11 plane film, Flight 93, tackles a nearly impossible subject and one most people can't relish experiencing. But he's one of the few who could pull it off. In Competition, World Premiere

21. Nice Girls Don't Stay for Breakfast (2018)


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A celebration of the infamous life of Hollywood bad boy, Robert Mitchum.

Director: Bruce Weber | Star: Robert Mitchum

Votes: 28

Mitchum. Do I need to go into more detail?

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