Venice film festival Oscar contenders: ‘Black Mass,’ ‘The Danish Girl,’ ‘Everest’ …

The 72nd annual edition of the Venice film festival kicks off on Wednesday (Sept. 2) with a non-competition screening of the epic "Everest" and runs until Sept. 12. Last year the prestigious opening night slot went to "Birdman." Despite losing the top prize here to the Swedish comedy "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence,” Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's examination of an aging action star (Michael Keaton) looking to jumpstart his flagging movie career went on to sweep the Oscars. 

Two hot Oscar prospects — "Beasts of No Nation" and "The Danish Girl" — are among the 21 films competing for the Golden Lion this year. The jury is headed up by Alfonso Cuaron. He won the Best Director Oscar two years ago for "Gravity," which was launched on the Lido. His jury includes two actors — Elizabeth Banks and Diane Kruger — and six more directors: Emmanuel Carrère (France), Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Turkey), Pawel Pawlikowski (Poland), Francesco Munzi (Italy), Hou Hsiao-Hsien (Taiwan) and Lynne Ramsay (Scotland).

Besides "Everest," two other Oscar contenders also based on true stories and both set in Boston — "Black Mass" and "Spotlight" — are having world premieres here without the added pressure of being in contention. (Make your Oscar predictions for Best Picture at the bottom of this post using our easy drag-and-drop menu.)

Below are brief overviews of these five films, including studios, stateside release dates, other festival appearances, plot descriptions, cast lists, directing and screenwriting credits. 

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"Beasts of No Nation"  – Netflix/Bleecker Street (Oct. 16)
TIFF (Special Presentation)
Set in an unnamed West African country, Idris Elba plays a rebel who recruits a child soldier (Abraham Attah).
Directed by Cary Fukunaga ("True Detective," Emmy) who adapted Uzodinma Iweala’s 2005 novel of the same name.

"Black Mass"  – Warner Bros. (Sept. 18)
TIFF (Special Presentation)
Boston crime boss Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp), whose brother Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch) was a state senator, acted as an FBI informant for more than three decades. Features Sienna Miller, Joel Edgerton and Kevin Bacon.
Directed by Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart”). Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth adapted the 2001 book “Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob” by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill.

"The Danish Girl" – Focus Features (Nov. 27) 
TIFF (Special Presentation)
In the 1920s, artist Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) becomes one of the world’s first sex-change patients and transforms into Lili Elbe. Co-stars Alicia Vikander.
Directed by Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech," Oscar; "Les Miserables"). Lucinda Coxon adapted David Ebershoff’s 2000 novel of the same name.

"Everest"- Universal (Sept. 18)
In 1996, eight climbers lost their lives on the world's highest peak. Jake Gyllenhaal and Jason Clarke are rivals leading separate teams of amateur climbers (including people played by Josh Brolin and John Hawkes). Sam Worthington is an expert who warns of the perils ahead and Keira Knightley is Clarke's partner, awaiting word back home. 
Directed by Baltasar Kormakur ("2 Guns"), Screenplay by William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy.

"Spotlight"  – Open Road Films (Nov. 6)
TIFF (Special Presentation)
A group of Boston Globe reporters uncover a massive cover-up by the Catholic archdiocese of child molestation. Stars Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams.
Directed by Thomas McCarthy ("The Station Agent"). Screenplay by McCarthy and Josh Singer.

These Lido screenings overlap with two other prime showcases for Oscar contenders: the exclusive Telluride film festival, which kicks off its four-day event focusing on just a few titles on Sept. 4, and the expansive Toronto filmfest, which begins its 10-day marathon of more than 300 titles on Sept. 10. 

Oscar predictions: What will win Best Animated Feature?

Make your Oscar predictions beginning with Best Picture below. You could earn a place of honor on our leaderboard and a starring role in next year's Top 24 Users (the two dozen folks who do the best predicting this year's Oscar nominations). Last year the Top 24 Users led the way with an accuracy rate of 76.67% when it came to predicting the Oscar nominations. Next up were Gold Derby's Editors with 74.44%, followed by the Experts with 71.11% and all Users with 68.09%. (Click on any of these groups to see what they got right and wrong last year.)

Which group will be victorious this year? Meet the guy who won our contest to predict the Oscar nominations last year — and learn how he did it and how you can be our next Gold Derby superstar. As some of our Users turn out to be our smartest prognosticators, it's important that you give us your predictions. Your picks influence our Users racetrack odds, which also factor into our official combined odds.

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