Summer, that season that’s mostly about Hollywood big-budget pyrotechnics, is behind us once more. Selling those hot-weather hits is all about reaching as wide an audience as possible, which is why venues like the “American Idol” finale and the annual MTV Movie Awards are so highly prized by studios out to shill their product.
As the leaves turn color, however, so do many of the movies climb the “brow” scale from low to middle and even high, which requires a completely different kind of sales pitch. That’s where the Venice, Telluride and Toronto film festivals come into play, generating excitement and early international press for those movies that will most aggressively be gunning for Oscar attention at the beginning of next year.
“Brokeback Mountain” began its avalanche of acclaim by winning the top prize at Venice and going on to rave reviews in Toronto; last year’s “No Country for Old Men” began generating steam at the early-summer Cannes festival and never stopped.
Here’s a look at some of the performances that have already inspired critics and pundits to start throwing around the O-word. The 2008 alums of the big fall festivals are an interesting mix of performers, from celebrated megastars to performers who in recent years had been finding themselves in the whatever-happened-to column:
Those three performances have gotten the most across-the-board raves from festival observers, but several other actors have their champions for the awards season to come:
Brad Pitt, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”: Granted, no one’s seen the entirety of the new film from David Fincher, about a man who ages in reverse from senior citizen to infant, but the 20 minutes that Fincher presented at Telluride this year was enough to start buzz about Pitt’s Oscar chances. With Pitt’s significant other Angelina Jolie getting raves of her own at the Cannes Film Festival for her lead role in Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling,” watch for the paparazzi to go insane if this power couple winds up arm-in-arm on the Kodak Theatre red carpet.