Why DIFF is your early primer for the Oscars
Of course, there are some great films from the Middle East and other parts of the world, but one of the best things about the Dubai International Film Festival is its increasing involvement in the Oscar buzz. This year, seven of the contenders for next February’s Best Picture Academy Award will be shown at the festival. It’s a chance to see the contenders before they go on general release, as well as 130 other films…
Here’s the ones to look out for:
Michael Keaton is currently the odds-on favourite to win the Best Actor Oscar for his performance as a washed-up superhero actor trying to revive his fortunes with a Broadway play. The black comedy skewering celebrity culture premiered to rave reviews at the Venice Film Festival last August and has been described as “exhausting but supremely exhilarating” and “funny and unpredictable”.
Based on a true story, eccentric millionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell) sponsors wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and invites him to move into the du Pont estate as they train for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. Early screenings have resulted in huge praise for Steve Carell’s performance as things take a turn for the weird, with sibling rivalry, paranoia and du Pont’s disapproving mother (Vanessa Redgrave). Don’t read up on the true events, let the film surprise you.
The Theory of Everything
Biopic of the physicist Stephen Hawking, told partly through the prism of his meeting Jane Wilde, the literature student he fell in love with while studying at Cambridge in the Sixties. Although essentially the same story was told 10 years ago as a BBC drama (with Benedict Cumberbatch as Hawking), this is a welcome update, with Eddie Redmayne shining in the lead as a brilliant man studying the very thing he believes he’s running out of — time.
A Most Violent Year
Written and directed by J. C. Chandor, (who made the outstanding Margin Call) this crime thriller is a must-see. Set in New York in winter of 1981 (one of the most violent years in the city’s history), the film follows an immigrant and his family trying to expand their business and capitalise on opportunities as they get caught up in the savagery and corruption of New York’s infamous early Eighties.
The Imitation Game
Biopic of mathematician, cryptanalyst and war hero Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), who led a team to break the codes of Germany’s World War II Enigma machine, helping shorten the war and, in turn, save thousands of lives. The pioneer of modern-day computing, his contribution was overlooked by the British government in the Fifties when Turing was criminally prosecuted for his homosexuality. Essential viewing and also our tip for Best Original Screenplay.
Into The Woods
The film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical that combines the plots of several Brothers Grimm fairy tales including Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and Cinderella. A baker and his wife are cursed childless by a witch and embark on a quest into the woods to find the objects required to break the spell, meeting other characters along the way. Darker than it sounds (despite being from Disney) and the cast — including Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp — should elevate proceedings.
From director Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club), and adapted by Nick Hornby from the bestselling memoir, this has seen lead Reese Witherspoon become one of the front-runners to win Best Actress at the Oscars. Cheryl Strayed (Witherspoon ) sets out on a solo hike over a thousand miles along the Pacific Crest Trail to help get over her divorce, the death of her mother, and years of heroin addiction.
Academy Awards: Best Picture odds
Boyhood – 11/8 :
Unbroken – 5/2:
The Imitation Game – 7/2
Interstellar – 5/1
Birdman – 6/1
Foxcatcher – 10/1
The Theory of Everything – 10/1
Gone Girl – 14/1
Trash – 16/1
Inherent Vice – 16/1
Whiplash – 16/1
Rosewater – 20/1
A Most Violent Year – 20/1
Selma – 25/1
Big Eyes – 25/1
Into The Woods – 25/1
American Sniper – 25/1
Mr Turner – 25/1
Wild – 25/1
Suite Francaise – 25/1