Here are the fall festival movie premieres that Oscar voters will be watching

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Are we about to get our first look at the next Oscar best picture winner?

The last five movies to take that award premiered at one of the three fall film festivals – Venice, Telluride and Toronto – now upon us.

That could change this year as there are several intriguing, late-arriving titles, films from (the drama “The Post”), Paul Thomas Anderson (a still-untitled movie about the London fashion world), Richard Linklater (“Last Flag Flying,” a sequel of sorts to “The Last Detail”) and Ridley Scott (“All the Money in the World,” a crime drama about the 1973 kidnapping of ).

Still, the movies listed below — premiering at festivals in Venice, Telluride and Toronto — will likely comprise much of the meat of this year’s Oscar race. (Also factor in “Dunkirk,” Sundance standouts “Call Me by Your Name,” “The Big Sick” and “Mudbound,” and Cannes favorites “Wonderstruck” and “The Florida Project.”)

Here’s a look at how the upcoming premieres stack up.

‘Battle of the Sexes’

as Billie Jean King and Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs in "Battle of the Sexes." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Twentieth Cen)

Story: Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) calls Bobby Riggs’ (Steve Carell) bluff in this drama about their famous 1973 tennis match.

Pedigree: Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris helmed “Little Miss Sunshine.” Writer Simon Beaufoy won an Oscar for “Slumdog Millionaire.”

Best case: Picture. Acting. Screenplay. Game, set, match.

Worst case: Movie’s timely feminist themes get lost in a series of unforced errors by the filmmakers.


and Claire Foy star as Robin and Diana Cavendish in "Breathe." (Laurie Sparham / Bleecker Street)

Story: makes his directorial debut with this portrait of Robin and Diana Cavendish (Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy), an adventurous couple who refuse to wave the white flag after Robin is diagnosed with polio.

Pedigree: Garfield earned an Oscar nom last year for “Hacksaw Ridge.” Costar Claire Foy received Emmy love for “The Crown.”

Best case: It’s a touching story of triumph and true love that reduces voters to puddles.

Worst case: Rookie director Serkis hews too closely to the conventions of the genre, and the film fails to earn crucial critical support.

‘The Children Act’

Story: London judge () presides over the case of a young man (Fionn Whitehead) refusing a life-saving blood transfusion because of his religious beliefs.

Pedigree: The last Ian McEwan adaptation, “Atonement,” earned seven Oscar nominations.

Best case: Movie finds a distributor at Toronto eager to give it a prime release date and awards season push.

Worst case: Film leaves Toronto with an uncertain future.

‘The Current War’

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon directs Benedict Cumberbatch (pictured), , Nicholas Hoult, Tom Holland, and Katherine Waterston in "The Current War." (Dean Roger / / TIFF)

Story: Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) jockey to determine whose electrical system will power the United States.

Pedigree: Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s first feature, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” took two prizes at Sundance in 2015.

Best case: Shannon and Cumberbatch generate plenty of sparks. (Sorry.)

Worst case: More perspiration than inspiration.

‘Darkest Hour’

steps into the imposing persona of Winston Churchill in this period drama "Darkest Hour." (Focus Features / TIFF)

Story: Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) keeps Great Britain’s upper lip stiff in the early days of .

Pedigree: Oldman is good enough to (almost) make us forget that Michael Gambon and John Lithgow have already killed it playing Churchill in recent TV projects.

Best case: Director Joe Wright gets his mojo back after recent misfires “Anna Karenina” and “Pan.”

Worst case: Viewers’ minds drift mid-film back to Wright’s five-minute Dunkirk tracking shot from “Atonement.”


Story: A man (Matt Damon) literally shrinks himself to simplify his life in Alexander Payne’s social satire.

Pedigree: Payne has won two Oscars and nominated six times. His last three movies — “Nebraska,” “The Descendants” and “Sideways” — earned best picture noms.

Best case: Long-gestating project proves worth the wait, as Venice reviews attest. Payne’s Oscar streak continues.

Worst case: Rick Moranis has nothing to worry about.

‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’

Story: Terminally ill actress Gloria Grahame () turns to an ex-lover (Jamie Bell) for support in this adaptation of Peter Turner’s memoir about his relationship with the Oscar-winning actress.

Pedigree: Bening has four Oscar nominations, though, unlike Grahame, she hasn’t yet won.

Best case: Bening snags the lead actress nod that many thought she’d receive last year for “20th Century Women.”

Worst case: Bening’s fine, but the movie itself is more bad than beautiful.

‘First They Killed My Father’

Sareum Srey Moch as Loung Ung in Netflix's "They Killed My Father" directed by Angelina Jolie. (AccuSoft Inc. / Netflix / TIFF)

Story: Angelina Jolie co-wrote and directed this adaptation of Loung Ung’s memoir about her terrifying childhood in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime.

Pedigree: Jolie’s directorial work has won a fair amount of respect from critics.

Best case: Strong reviews compel voters and viewers to stream the movie on Netflix later this month.

Worst case: The movie suffers a similar indifferent fate as another tough-minded Netflix release, “Beasts of No Nation.”


Story: An Army captain (Christian Bale) escorts a dying Cheyenne war chief (West Studi) back to his tribal lands in 1892.

Pedigree: Writer-director helped Jeff Bridges land an Oscar for “Crazy Heart,” though his Johnny Depp gangster movie, “Black Mass,” fell flat two years ago.

Best case: The $40-million period film finds a distributor at Toronto capable of shepherding it through awards season.

Worst case: The finished product isn’t as interesting as the premise.

‘Lady Bird’

A rebellious young woman (Saoirse Ronan) navigates the pressures and constraints of Catholic school and life in Sacremento, in "Lady Bird." (AccuSoft / TIFF)

Story: Rebellious Catholic high school girl (Saoirse Ronan) looks to escape Sacramento and move to New York in Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut.

Pedigree: The talented Ronan already owns two Oscar noms.

Best case: With producer Scott Rudin and “Moonlight” distributor A24 behind it, Gerwig’s unconventional comedy receives plenty of attention.

Worst case: More Indie Spirit than Oscar. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

‘Molly’s Game’

Charlie Jaffe (Idris Elba) and Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) in "Molly's Game." (Michael Gibson / STX Productions)

Story: Molly (Jessica Chastain) runs a high-stakes underground poker game that attracts the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck, the Russian mob and, eventually, the U.S. government. (No, Affleck and DiCaprio will not be playing themselves.)

Pedigree: Oscar-winning screenwriter makes his directorial debut in this adaptation of Molly Bloom’s memoir. The always-interesting Chastain has two nominations herself.

Best case: Sorkin translates his rat-a-tat-tat writing style into kinetic filmmaking.

Worst case: Way too many walk and talks.



Story: Uninvited guests threaten the tranquillity of a couple’s home in this psychological thriller from .

Pedigree: The ensemble — Jennifer Lawrence, , Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer — have 13 Oscar nominations among them.

Best case: That exclamation point in the title isn’t false advertising, with Aronofsky delivering a freaky shock-fest along the lines of “Black Swan.”

Worst case: It’s not half as loopy as Aronofsky’s “Noah.”

‘Our Souls at Night’

Jane Fonda, in "Our Souls At Night." (Kerry Brown / Netflix)

Story: Elderly widow (Jane Fonda) pays a social call to aging widower (Robert Redford) in a drama about reinvention and second chances.

Pedigree: Fonda and Redford, celebrating the golden anniversary of their first movie, “Barefoot in the Park,” need no introduction.

Best case: Delicate character study reveals the screen legends at their best.

Worst case: More an exercise in nostalgia than meaning.

‘Roman J. Israel, Esq.’

Story: Idealistic Los Angeles attorney () sees his life upended after his partner’s death reveals some disturbing truths about the firm.

Pedigree: Washington came close to winning his third acting Oscar last year for “Fences.” Writer-director Dan Gilroy picked up a screenplay nod for “Nightcrawler.”

Best case: The film offers the spectacle of Washington chewing up scenery with a grandeur we haven’t seen since “Training Day.”

Worst case: Makes us nostalgic for “L.A. Law.”

‘The Shape of Water’

Richard Jenkins and in the film "The Shape of Water." (Kerry Hayes / )

Story: A lonely, mute janitor (Sally Hawkins) discovers a classified experiment in a Cold War-era government laboratory in this lush, strange romance from writer-director Guillermo Del Toro.

Pedigree: Del Toro scored screenplay and foreign language film nods for “Pan’s Labyrinth.”

Best case: Dreamy Del Toro fairy tale marks a return to form for the filmmaker and showcases the talented Hawkins.

Worst case: Festival reviews touting the movie as “ ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ directed by Douglas Sirk” prove catnip for cineastes but not so much for the general public.



Story: After losing his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing, Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) adjusts to his new life and resolves to walk again.

Pedigree: Gyllenhaal joined the Oscar club 12 years ago with “Brokeback Mountain.”

Best case: Remember how Gyllenhaal was robbed for “Nightcrawler”? The reception for his work here rights that wrong.

Worst case: Gyllenhaal winds up better remembered this year for his nutty turn in “Okja.”


Julianne Moore as Margaret, left, and Matt Damon as Gardner in "Suburbicon." (Hilary Bronwyn Gayle / Paramount Pictures)

Story: Nerdy ’50s dad (Matt Damon) seeks revenge after mobsters come collecting a debt in this crime comedy written by George Clooney, Grant Heslov and the Coen brothers and directed by Clooney.

Pedigree: Coens! Clooney!

Best case: The Coens’ script elevates Clooney’s directorial game, resulting in a cool comic lark.

Worst case: It’s all too evident why the script had been in the Coens’ drawer for the past 30 years.

‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’

Story: Frustrated mother (Frances McDormand) puts pressure on police to solve her daughter’s murder. Yes, billboards are involved.

Pedigree: Writer-director Martin McDonagh earned an Oscar nom for writing “In Bruges.”

Best case: Movie earns the kind of acclaim that prompts Fox Searchlight to buy plenty of billboards on its behalf.

Worst case: The total buy is literally just three billboards.

‘The Upside’

Story: Paralyzed billionaire (Bryan Cranston) strikes up an unlikely friendship with a recently paroled convict (Kevin Hart) in this remake of the 2011 French buddy dramedy “The Intouchables.”

Pedigree: “The Intouchables” won a bevy of critics prizes. And Cranston, as you may know, has won a few awards himself.

Best case: Late-year Oscar-qualifying run catches fire with the academy. Hart becomes the toast of awards season for career-altering turn.

Worst case: TIFF premiere finds audiences and critics immune to the Weinstein Co.’s enthusiasm for the film. No upside to be found.

‘Victoria & Abdul’

Judi Dench, left, stars as Queen Victoria and Ali Fazal stars as Abdul Karim in director ' "Victoria and Abdul." (Peter Mountain / Focus Features)

Story: It’s about the friendship between Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and her younger Indian servant (Ali Fazal).

Pedigree: Academy members loved “Philomena,” the last collaboration between Dench and director Stephen Frears.

Best case: Who are we kidding? There’s almost no way Dench doesn’t get nominated for playing a queen in a charming Stephen Frears film.

Worst case: Dench-as-royalty fatigue becomes a thing. And maybe voters got their fill of the monarchy recently while binge-watching “The Crown” on Netflix.

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