‘Jackie,’ ‘The Bad Batch’ and ’Hacksaw Ridge’ are wildcards in the 2016 Venice line up

'La La Land' and 'Magnificent Seven' bring the starpower
Natalie Portman in "Jackie"

The fall festival season is continuing to unfold and this morning Venice announced a majority of its slate.  There were few surprises as the Italian power scheduled some big stars for its red carpets, invited some world class filmmakers to debut their latest works and made sure la biennale dips its toe into the awards season mix.  Here are some quick takeaways from the Venice selections so far.

“The Bad Batch” is part of the mix
Ana Lily Amirpour’s follow up to “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is one of the most anticipated movies of the year.  Like ‘Night’ it appears to be another mix of compelling drama and horror elements except set in a “Texas wasteland.” It also could be a major comeback play for Jim Carrey who stars alongside Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, Diego Luna, Giovanni Ribisi and Suki Waterhouse. The Annapurna and Vice Films production still doesn’t have distribution which makes a stop at Toronto afterward likely. Will it take the time to hit Telluride too?  Considering Megan Ellison is a known fan of the Colorado fest we have our fingers crossed.

“The Light Between Oceans” gets some prestige before its bizarre opening weekend
No film has suffered more from the amicable breakup of DreamWorks Studios and Disney than Derek Cianfrance’s latest. There have been rumors of reshoots and new endings (not confirmed), but the Labor Day release date has been seen as a dump date by many including this pundit.  And, yes, you can throw out that extremely rare “Constant Gardener” example all you want, but take that opening date, the fact limited releases are not in Disney marketing’s wheelhouse and you have red flags galore.  The Venice birth may temper some of those concerns.  Hot couple Michael Fassbender and Alicka Vikander may be the film’s leads, but word is the best performance in the movie is Rachel Weisz’s and it’s actually awards worthy. Of course, she’s has about 300 other movies coming out or already on deck this year.  In fact, outside of an “Oceans” stunner her best shot at another Oscar nod may be for “The Lobster” which A24 turned into a surprising art house hit earlier this summer.

Natalie Portman’s “Jackie” looks for a home
The Jackie Kennedy biopic is still looking for a home after trying to sell its wares at Cannes. Will Venice reviews drive up the price for U.S. distribution or just help close foreign sales?  In either event, hard to see this one arriving in theaters for this awards season without massive critical acclaim.

We already knew they would be here and who wouldn’t
“Nocturnal Animals,” “Arrival,” “Frantz,” “Voyage of Time” and “La La Land” were either previously announced, TIFF revelations (thanks to those premiere categories) or rumored to dock in Venice for months. We also knew who wouldn’t be here: Ang Lee’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.”  Lee has always been a fan of Venice, but his latest has been pegged for an AFI debut before its wide release for a few months. Read into that what you will.

“Hacksaw Ridge” is supposed to be good but Mel Gibson complicates things
The fact the WWII drama – which is supposed to be much better than its terrible trailer  – found an out of competition Venice berth isn’t that surprising.  The question is whether Telluride or Toronto will program it knowing the scrutiny Gibson brings at this point in his career. The chances are better for the latter, but don’t be surprised if it misses out on both.

Get that private jet ready Sony Pictures
Seriously, one of the most unexpected films in Venice’s lineup is Antoine Fuqua’s “The Magnificent Seven” which is screening out of competition. Fuqua is a quality filmmaker and the cast is a red carpet’s dream, but “Seven” is already opening TIFF on Sept. 8, the night before Venice ends on Sept. 9. That’s a mad dash from Toronto to Italy and a rare feat if they can pull it off with no hiccups.

Beyond those semi-hot takes here’s a list of all the films in and out competition announced so far.

COMPETITION

Arrival – Denis Villenueve (US)

The Bad Batch – Ana Lily Amirpour (US)

The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez – Wim Wenders (France, Germany)

Brimstone – Martin Koolhoven (Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, U.K. Sweden)

El ciudadano ilustre – Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat (Argentina, Spain)

El Cristo ciego – Christopher Murray (Chile, France)

Frantz – Francois Ozon (France)

Jackie – Pablo Larrain (US, Chile)

La La Land – Damien Chazelle (US)

The Light Between Oceans – Derek Cianfrance (US, Australia, New Zealand)

La region salvaje – Amat Escalante (Mexico)

Nocturnal Animals – Tom Ford (US)

On the Milky Road – Emir Kusturica (Serbia, U.K., U.S.)

Paradise – Andrei Konchalovsky (Russia, Germany)

Piuma – Roan Johnson (Italy)

Questi Giorni – Giuseppe Piccioni (Italy)

Spira Mirabilis – Massimo D’Anolfi and Martina Parenti (Italy, Switzerland)

Une Vie – Stephan Brizé (France, Belgium)

Voyage of Time – Terrence Malik (US, Germany)

The Woman Who Left – Lav Diaz (Philippines)

OUT OF COMPETITION – FICTION

The Age of Shadows – Kim Jee woon (South Korea)

The Bleeder – Philippe Falardeau (US, Canada)

Dark Night – Tim Sutton (US)

Gantz:O – Yasushi Kawamura (Japan)

Hacksaw Ridge – Mel Gibson (US)

A jamais – Benoit Jacquot (France, Portugal)

The Journey – Nick Hamm (UK)

The Magnificent Seven – Antoine Fuqua (US)

Monte – Amir Naderi (Italy, U.S., France)

Planetarium- Rebecca Zlotowski (France, Belgium)

Tommaso – Kim Rossi Stewart (Italy)

OUT OF COMPETITION – DOCUMENTARY

American Anarchist – Charlie Siskel (U.S.)

Assalto al cielo – Francesco Munzi (Italy)

Austerlitz – Sergei Loznitsa (Germany)

I Called Him Morgan – Kasper Collin (Sweden, US)

Our War – Bruno Chiaravallotti, Claudio Jampaglia, Benedetta Argentieri (Italy, US)

One More Time with Feeling – Andrew Dominik (UK)

Safari – Ulrich Seidl (Austria, Denmark)

HORIZONS

Big Big World – Reha Erdem (Turkey)

Bitter Money – Wang Bing (China)

Boys in the Trees – Nicholas Verso (Australia)
*Big achievement for Verso’s feature directorial debut.

Dawson City: Frozen Time – Bill Morrison (US, France)

Die Einsiedler – Fien Troch (Germany, Austria)

Gukuroku – Ishikawa Kei (Japan)

Home – Fien Troch (Belgium)

Kekszakallu – Gaston Solnicky (Argentina)

King of the Belgians – Peter Brosens, Jessica Woolworth (Belgium, Netherlands, Bulgaria)

Liberami – Federica Di Giacomo (Italy, France)

Malaria – Parviz Shahbazi (Iran)

Maudit Poutine – Karl Lemieux, (Canada)

Il più grande sogno – (Italy)

Reparer les vivants – Katell Quillevere (France, Belgium)

Sao Jorge – Marco Martins (Portugal, France)

Tarde para la ira – Raul Arevalo (Spain)

Through the Wall – Rama Burshtein (Israel)

White Sun – Deepak Rauniyar (Nepal, U.S., Qatar, Netherlands)

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With over a decade of experience in the movie industry, Ellwood survived working for two major studios, has written for Variety, MSN and the LA Times and co-founded HitFix, Inc. serving as its first Editor-in-Chief and President. Ellwood spends his time relaxing hitting 3’s on the basketball court and following his beloved Clippers.
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