"The Master" did well in the kudos bestowed by the Venice filmfest with Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman sharing the Volpi Cup for best actor while Paul Thomas Anderson won the Silver Lion for directing.
Only because the rules preclude one film from winning all of the top prizes did it not also take home the Golden Lion for best picture; that went to "Pieta." Just how will this early awards attention impact the standing of these contenders in the Oscar races?
Being cited as a lead actor at Venice could hurt Hoffman's chances of being nominated for the supporting award at the Oscars. That is where he is being positioned so as not to siphon votes away from his co-star who is a strong contender for Best Actor.
The acting branch does not always heed to direction from the studios as to the category in which their talent should contend. Back in 2006, Leonardo DiCaprio was being touted as lead for "The Departed" and supporting for "Blood Diamond" but got snubbed for the former and nominated as Best Actor for the latter.
While Phoenix is likely to net a nom if not the win, a look back at the track record of recent Venice champs reveals a surprisingly mixed bag of results when it came to contending at the Academy Awards.
In 2010, Sofia Coppola claimed the Golden Lion for "Somewhere," but that film went nowhere at the Oscars.
In 2009, Colin Firth leveraged his Venice win for "A Single Man" into a BAFTA and an Oscar bid.
In 2008, "The Wrestler" took the top prize at Venice. While Mickey Rourke did not win the best actor award – that went to Silvio Orlando in "Giovanna's Father" – he launched a comeback that culminated in a Golden Globe win and an Oscar nomination. And his erstwhile love interest Marisa Tomei earned her third Supporting Actress nod following her win for "My Cousin Vinny" (1992) and a nom for "In the Bedroom" (2001). Likewise "Rachel Getting Married" star Anne Hathaway missed out on an award here – Dominque Blanc won for "L'Autre" – but won the Critics Choice prize and contended for the Oscar. Neither "The Wrestler" nor "Rachel Getting Married" earned an Oscar nod for Best Picture.
In 2007, eventual Best Picture nominees "Atonement" and "Michael Clayton" were launched at Venice. However, it was Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution" that won the Golden Lion. Venice's best actress winner Cate Blanchett slipped down to the supporting race come Oscar time for "I'm Not There." And while Venice best actor champ Brad Pitt ("The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford") did not get a nod, his on-screen adversary, Casey Affleck, was a supporting nominee.
The year before, Casey's older brother, Ben Affleck, was the surprise winner of the best actor prize at Venice for "Hollywoodland." Because the festival offers only one acting category, Affleck's supporting turn as TV's Superman George Reeves edged out leading performances, including that of the film's nominal star, Adrien Brody as an anguished detective investigating Reeves' suspicious death. Though Affleck landed a Golden Globe supporting nod, he was snubbed come Oscar time.
That same year, Helen Mirren began her regal procession to an Oscar coronation with her win at Venice for "The Queen." She stands alone among Venice Volpi Cup winners of the past decade to prevail at the Academy Awards.
In 2005, both Golden Lion winner "Brokeback Mountain" and "Good Night, and Good Luck" contended at the Oscars. While front-runner "Brokeback Mountain" lost Best Picture to "Crash," Lee did win the Oscar.
Those who successfully translated their Venice victories into at least Oscar nods were: David Strathairn ("Good Night, and Good Luck," 2005), Imelda Staunton ("Vera Drake," 2004), Julianne Moore ("Far From Heaven," 2002) and Javier Bardem ("Before Night Falls," 2000).
Among those snubbed were Bardem ("The Sea Inside," 2004) and, in a way, Sean Penn, who won with "21 Grams" at Venice but with "Mystic River" at the 2003 Oscars.