It’s that time of year again… The red carpet’s been rolled out, the flashbulbs are flashing and the stars are donning their finest threads as the Venice Film Festival opens its doors once again. Last year the toast of the town was Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, earning a slew of five star reviews and going on to bag seven gongs at this year’s Academy Awards. This year’s crop have plenty to live up to – so, who’s made a glamorous arrival via water taxi to vye for the limelight? Here’s our pick of this year’s offering…
2014’s opener screened today to rave reviews across the board. Hailed by critics as “spectacular“, “blistering“, “exemplary“, Birdman has already soared to giddy heights. Starring Michael Keaton as a former super-hero film star desperately in need of a comeback (sound familiar?), director Alejandro G. Inarritu (Babel) has assembled an exciting supporting cast of Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis and Naomi Watts. Set to land in UK cinemas next January, it’s in prime position for Oscars glory.
Venice is something of a Pacino-fest this year with two of The Godfather star’s films screening for the first time. Top of our list is Manglehorn directed by David Gordon Green who is already enjoying a jolly 2014 thanks to his upcoming feature Joe earning high praise at Berlin earlier this year. His second offering sees Pacino play AJ Manglehorn, an eccentric OAP grappling with a dark life of crime and obsessing over his decision to give up the woman of his dreams for one big job. Pacino has a jam-packed Saturday, debuting his second feature, The Humbling, in the afternoon. Co-starring Greta Gerwig, still basking in the glory of 2013’s Frances Ha, this adaptation of Philip Roth’s novel sees Pacino portray an ageing actor in a relationship with a younger woman (Gerwig).
Andrew Garfield unzips his Spider-man suit to play Dennis Nash – an unemployed construction worker battling to get his home back by going to work for the unscrupulous realtor (Michael Shannon) responsible for his predicament. Laura Dern co-stars as Nash’s widowed mother and the film is hotly anticipated, thanks not just to its cast but director Ramin Bahrani’s track record of critical darlings including Man Push Cart, Chop Shop and Goodbye Solo.
Once delightfully-named Squirrels to the Nuts, this new flick boasts an impressive cast, from crowd pleasers Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston to rising star Imogen Poots. She’s Funny This Way follows married Broadway director Arnold (Wilson) who falls for hooker-turned-Broadway actress Izzy (Poots) and hires her in his new play which happens to star his wife (Kathryn Hahn). Also susceptible to Izzy’s charms is playwright Joshua Fleet (Will Forte) who happens to be dating her therapist (Aniston). Complicated, yes, but with a supporting cast including Joanna Lumley and Rhys Ifans – plus Wes Anderson on board as a producer – our expectations are high.
James Franco and Seth Rogen’s on-screen partnership is a fan favourite thanks to collaborations on Freaks and Geeks, Pineapple Express, This Is the End and their controversial forthcoming flick The Interview. But while these two usually have us choking on our popcorn, The Sound and the Fury – an adaptation of William Faulkner’s iconic novel – switches up the mood. Franco is in the director’s chair with Danny McBride also among the cast. We’re intrigued…
The 71st Venice Film Festival runs from 27 August – 6 September