Telluride Film Festival: Oscar contenders include ‘Darkest Hour,’ ‘Battle of the Sexes,’ ‘Downsizing’ …

Over the Labor Day weekend, those who make the trek to the Telluride filmfest will get to see eight of the leading Oscar contenders. In the past several years, this low-key gathering has turned into a important stop on the road to the Oscars. Five of the last 10 Best Picture winners — “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008), “The King’s Speech” (2010), “Argo” (2012), “12 Years a Slave” (2013) and “Moonlight” (2016)– had their world premieres here while both 2011 winner “The Artist” and 2014 champ “Birdman” made their North American debuts at this Rocky Mountain resort.

Of this year’s Academy Awards hopefuls, Telluride will have four world premieres and four more films  that first screened first at a European festival. Below are brief overviews of these eight films, including studios, stateside release dates, plot descriptions, cast lists, directing and screenwriting credits.

After reading these excerpts, be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23.


Battle of the Sexes” (Fox Searchlight) – Sept. 22
Directors: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Writer: Simon Beaufoy
Cast: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Elisabeth Shue, Andrea Riseborough, Alan Cumming, Sarah Silverman, Natalie Morales

Summary: The true story of the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and ex-champ Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) is recounted in this docudrama from Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Farris.

Darkest Hour” (Focus Features/Working Title Films) – Nov. 24
Director: Joe Wright
Writer: Anthony McCarten
Cast: Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Ben Mendelsohn, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas, Stephen Dillane

Summary: Directed by Joe Wright, this period drama stars Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, who leads the charge against Adolph Hitler’s arm in the early days of WWII.

“Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” (Sony Pictures Classics) – TBA
Director: Paul McGuigan
Writer: Matt Greenhalgh
Cast: Annette Bening, Jamie Bell, Vanessa Redgrave, Julie Walters, Kenneth Cranham, Stephen Graham, Frances Barber

Summary: Bening plays Oscar-winning actress Gloria Grahame (“The Bad and the Beautiful”) while Bell is her young lover Peter Turner.

“Lady Bird” (A24) – Nov. 10
Director: Greta Gerwig
Writer: Greta Gerwig
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet Beanie Feldstein, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Lois Smith

Summary: Gerwig wrote and directed this intimate look at a year in the life of a young woman (Ronan).

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“Wonderstruck” (Amazon Studios) – October 20
Director: Todd Haynes
Writer: Brian Selznick (based on his novel)
Cast: Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Oakes Fegley

Summary: Based on the bestselling children’s book, Todd Haynes’ latest film tells the simultaneous stories of a young boy in the Midwest and a young girl in New York City fifty years earlier, who both seek the same mysterious connection.


“Downsizing” (Paramount Pictures/Annapurna Pictures) – Dec. 22
Director: Alexander Payne
Writers: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor
Cast: Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Sudeikis, Alec Baldwin, Margo Martindale

Summary: In Alexander Payne’s social satire, a man realizes he would have a better life if he were to shrink himself.

“Lean on Pete” (A24) – TBD
Director: Andrew Haigh
Writers: Andrew Haigh
Cast: Charlie Plummer, Travis Fimmel, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Steve Zahn, Thomas Mann, Amy Seimetz

Summary: Haigh adapted Willy Vlautin’s 2010 bestselling novel of the same name about a teenage boy who befriends a failing racehorse named Lean on Pete.

“The Shape of Water” (Fox Searchlight Picture) – Dec. 8
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writers: Daniel Kraus, Vanessa Taylor, Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones, Richard Jenkins

Summary: Guillermo del Toro directs this otherworldly story set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1963.

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