VOGUE – In what promises to be the strangest of awards seasons, with continued uncertainty about when people will feel comfortable returning to movie theaters and the Oscars already pushed back two months to April 25, one factor remains constant: The Venice and Toronto film festivals are still a reliable predictor of the films that will most likely compete for the top awards.
Those two festivals, one held with socially distanced in-person screenings and the other held primarily online, seemed to have sharply narrowed the best-picture race to a handful of films and have begun to clarify some of the other top races, most notably best actress and best director. With Telluride and Cannes both canceled this year, and with the New York Film Festival scaled back, Venice and Toronto may hold even more sway this year.
Earlier this month, Venice gave its Golden Lion award to Nomadland—a meditation on the current economic crisis starring Frances McDormand as a “houseless” woman traveling the country in her van—while also honoring its director, Chloé Zhao. (Last year, the Golden Lion went to Joker, immediately giving that film awards-season legitimacy and propelling Joaquin Phoenix to his first Oscar for best actor.) In Toronto, which followed Venice and just concluded earlier this week, the highly influential audience award also went to Nomadland.
The Toronto audience award has been a good Oscar predictor since 2008, when Slumdog Millionaire was a surprise winner and went on to collect seven Oscars, including best picture. Since then, The King’s Speech, 12 Years a Slave, and Green Book have all gone on to win that awards-season double, while runners-up in the audience award—Argo, Spotlight, and Parasite—have also claimed the best-picture prize.
This year’s runner-up, One Night in Miami, the directorial debut of Regina King, is also creating Oscar buzz. (It was not competing at Venice, but garnered extremely strong reviews.) For King, already clearly in the mix for a best-director nomination, it’s been a heady few years. She has won four acting Emmys in the past five years, including the award for outstanding lead actress in a limited series on Sunday for her role in Watchmen, as well as a 2019 best-supporting-actress Oscar for If Beale Street Could Talk.
One Night in Miami, based on a play written by Kemp Powers, tells the story of Cassius Clay (before he became Muhammad Ali) and his celebration with friends Malcom X, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke after defeating Sonny Liston for the world heavyweight boxing championship. It has an electric cast, including the Hamilton Tony winner Leslie Odom Jr., as Cooke, but it is the largely unknown British actor, Kingsley Ben-Adir, playing Malcolm X, who is creating the most Oscar buzz and seems headed for a best-actor nomination.
Among his potential rivals is Delroy Lindo, in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, which is currently streaming on Netflix; Anthony Hopkins, in the harrowing Florian Zeller film The Father (an adaption of Zeller’s own play), which got rave reviews at Sundance, particularly for Hopkins; and several actors whose films have not yet been released, but who are generating a lot of strong advance word. They include Gary Oldman in Mank (playing the screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he battles with Orson Welles over who deserves credit for Citizen Kane); Tom Hanks in News of the World; and Daniel Kaluuya in Judas and the Black Messiah. Meanwhile, Andy Samberg, the former Saturday Night Live cast member, might snag his first Oscar nomination for his role in the Groundhog Day–like Palm Springs, another big hit at Sundance.
Vanessa Kirby, best known to American audiences for playing Princess Margaret in the first two seasons of The Crown, received the best-actress award at Venice for Pieces of a Woman—in which she plays a woman who loses her infant daughter during a home birth gone terribly wrong—and is certain to be in the running at Oscar time. So far, her chief competitors seem to be Frances McDormand, already a two-time Oscar winner, for Nomadland; Oscar-winner Kate Winslet (and possibly her costar Saoirse Ronan) for Ammonite; as well as two other past Oscar winners, Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and Jennifer Hudson (playing Aretha Franklin in Respect), and previous nominees Michelle Pfeiffer (French Exit) and Amy Adams (Hillbilly Elegy).
At this point, except for Nomadland and One Night in Miami, the best-film race seems the most fluid, with many of the year’s biggest films yet to be released, and one highly anticipated movie that has managed a largely traditional release during the pandemic: Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, debuting to mixed reviews and somewhat disappointing grosses. So far, the most likely contenders for a best-picture nomination seem to be David Fincher’s Mank, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch (to be released next year), The Father, News of the World, Judas and the Black Messiah, with the possible additions of Aaron Sorkin’s docudrama, The Trial of the Chicago 7. (An early favorite, Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story, has been pushed back a year, to December 2021, because of the pandemic.) One outside contender might be Eliza Hittman’s quietly powerful Never Rarely Sometimes Always, a Sundance winner that opened to very strong reviews in March, just days before the coronavirus shut down theaters.
BACKSTAGE – The Toronto International Film Festival ended on Sept. 20 after a special awards ceremony that combined socially distanced and streaming events. The scaled-down 45th iteration of TIFF managed to screen 50 features compared to last year’s 333, but that didn’t stop the Canadian festival from offering a bustling marketplace for film acquisition and anointing 2021 Oscar hopefuls.
Even in the hybridized, digital version of the festival, the Grolsch People’s Choice Award still offers a look at award season glory; this year’s coveted first place position went to Searchlight Pictures’ “Nomadland” from writer-director-editor Chloé Zhao. The Toronto screening featured leading actor Frances McDormand introducing the project, which is based on Jessica Bruder’s work of nonfiction about a woman living out of a van as a modern nomad after her town’s economic collapse. Zhao’s film also picked up TIFF’s Ebert Director Award in addition to the Golden Lion Award at the Venice International Film Festival, marking the first time a film has ever taken home both accolades.
And it is TIFF’s People’s Choice Award that places “Nomadland” as an awards contender at this early stage of the season. Last year’s winner, “Jojo Rabbit,” received six Academy Award nominations including for best picture, while the second runner-up in 2019 was “Parasite,” which went on to win four Oscars including best picture. Over the last decade, every winner of the TIFF People’s Choice Award has gone on to receive an Oscar nomination for best picture.
“Nomadland” screened in Toronto Sept. 11 in collaboration with the festivals of Venice, New York, and Telluride. Although the latter was canceled this year, Zhao’s film screened to public audiences at the Rose Bowl Drive in Los Angeles.
The runner-up at this year’s People’s Choice honors was Regina King’s feature film directorial debut, “One Night in Miami,” based on the play by Kemp Powers. Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, and Leslie Odom Jr. star as Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke, respectively, celebrating one of Clay’s boxing wins on a night in 1964. King, fresh off her fourth acting Emmy Award win, is already garnering praise for the film, its directing, and the ensemble cast. Following “One Night in Miami,” the second runner-up for TIFF’s People’s Choice Award was the Canadian drama “Beans” from director Tracey Deer, who also received the Emerging Talent award.
The fest’s tribute awards ceremony streamed internationally and was broadcast across Canada on CTV. The one-hour event awarded actors Kate Winslet and Sir Anthony Hopkins with Tribute Actor honors. Both stars had films screening at the festival: Winslet in “Ammonite” opposite Saoirse Ronan and Hopkins in Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Father” alongside Olivia Colman. Both titles are likely to be players again throughout the 2020–21 awards season.
Along with its awards, the festival still proved itself a significant force in the film industry markets. “Malcolm & Marie” starring John David Washington and recent Emmy winner Zendaya, “Pieces of a Woman” starring Vanessa Kirby, and “Bruised” featuring Halle Berry as star and director, will all be released on Netflix. (The streaming giant is acquiring titles this year despite sitting out film festivals themselves.) “Another Round” starring Mads Mikkelsen went to Samuel Goldwyn Films, “Good Joe Bell” starring Mark Wahlberg went to Solstice Studios, and “Shadow in the Cloud” starring Chloë Grace Moretz went to Vertical Entertainment and Redbox Entertainment. Neon acquired the Côte d’Ivoire–set drama “Night of the Kings.”
Of this year’s unusual festival, Artistic Director and Co-Head Cameron Bailey said, “TIFF 2020 was a year we won’t soon forget. Over the last 10 days, we have experienced community in the truest sense. The pandemic hit TIFF hard and we responded by going back to our original inspiration—to bring the very best in film to the broadest possible audience and transform the way people see the world through film. We heeded the urgent calls for greater representation of under-represented voices. And we watched as audiences embraced cinema’s ability to transport them through screens of all sizes by joining us online from all over this country.”
TIFF Executive Director and Co-Head Joana Vicente said in a statement, “In a time where the very future of our beloved art form was in question due to cinema and production shutdowns and film festival cancellations, we have seen a tenacity of spirit.” She also mentioned one of the fest’s biggest achievements: 46% of all titles screened were either directed, co-directed, or created by women. For more on TIFF, the changes to this year’s festival, and year-round programming, visit their official website.
Don’t forget your mace.
Aldis Hodge, who starred in City on the Hill and appeared in this year’s remake of The Invisible Man, has nabbed the high-flying role of Hawkman in Black Adam and is now in final negotiations to join New Line’s action-adventure thriller featuring the DC Comics antihero starring Dwayne Johnson.
Jaume Collet-Serra, who directed Johnson in the upcoming Disney adventure film Jungle Cruise, is directing.
Longtime Johnson collaborator Beau Flynn is producing via FlynnPictureCo., along with Johnson, Dany Garcia and Hiram Garcia via their Seven Bucks Productions. Scott Sheldon will oversee for FlynnPictureCo. and will also serve as executive producer.
The story is tied to 2019’s hit Shazam! and centers on the character who was first created as that squinty-eyed hero’s archnemesis but evolved into a more layered individual.
An enticing factor for fans is the introduction in Black Adam of the Justice Society of America, a multi-generational group that preceded the Justice League. Characters Atom Smasher (to played by Noah Centineo), as well as Doctor Fate and Cyclone, who have yet to be cast, will figure into the story.
Hawkman, who first appeared in 1940’s Flash Comics No. 1, is one of a pair of lovers from Ancient Egypt destined to constantly be reincarnated throughout time and space, with many rebirths leading to an emergence as a hawk-themed hero using both giant wings and an alien element called “nth metal,” which negates gravity and allows him to fly. In contemporary times, he’s Carter Hall, an archaeologist-turned-adventurer who struggles with anger issues — and his ability to control a mace.
Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani wrote the latest draft. Adam Sztykiel worked on the previous writer draft.
Black Adam is due out Dec. 22, 2021.
Hodge is the having a hot moment as he is one of the stars in One Night in Miami, Regina King’s historical drama that is generating Oscar buzz this awards season. He also co-starred with Elisabeth Moss in one of the biggest theatrical movies of the year, Universal and Blumhouse’s remake of The Invisible Man.
The actor has been gaining steam with strong notices for his appearances in movies such as 2016’s Straight Outta Compton, in which he played MC Ren, and 2017’s Hidden Figures, and for starring with Jurnee Smollett on WGN’s Underground, co-created by Lovecraft Country’s Misha Green.
Hodge is repped by Paradigm, The Priluck Company, and Ziffren Brittenham.
—Graeme McMillan contributed to this story.
Dwayne Johnson later confirmed the casting and told an amusing story about Aldis.
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THIS IS HAWKMAN ? A pleasure to welcome @aldis_hodge to BLACK ADAM. HAWKMAN is a critical leading role for our movie, as he is the fiery leader of the JSA (Justice Society of America) and one of the most beloved and legendary characters in the DC UNIVERSE. I called Aldis personally as I wanted to surprise him that he got the role and it wound up being one of the greatest conversations I’ve ever had. Aldis: Hello? DJ: Hello, I’d like to speak to Aldis. Aldis: Who is this? DJ: This is Dwayne Johnson. * long pause Aldis: Whoever this is stop playing on my phone. DJ: This is Dwayne, is this Aldis? * longer pause Aldis: This shit ain’t funny, I said stop playing on my fucking phone. DJ: Aldis, this is DJ. I just called to say thank you so much for sending in your audition – it was great and I really appreciate the efforts you made. Just wanted to say thanks and best of luck in all you do. And one more thing — welcome to Black Adam. * longest pause Aldis: I’m sorry you’ll have to hold on for a one second. * he puts the phone down and walks away and all I hear is inaudible yells ? Aldis: DJAYYYY OHHHHH SHIT!!!!!! * Im laughing my ass off by now. DJ: You ok? You’re gonna crush this role! We went on to have an awesome conversation full of gratitude, love and motivation. Can’t wait to work with this very talented brother. The perfect HAWKMAN. Let’s get to work. #aldishodge #jsa #hawkman ? #blackadam??
TVLINE-IMDb TV‘s Leverage revival has added to the mix a second hacker who shares the same particular set of skills as her brother.
TVLine has learned that Aleyse Shannon (formerly of The CW’s Charmed) has joined the revival’s cast in the series regular role of Hardison’s sister, Breanna Casey.
Described as “sarcastic and intelligent,” Breanna’s skills include being a genius mechanical engineer and making social hacking and social media manipulation look like child’s play. Having landed in the foster system following her parents’ tragic car accident, Breanna got lucky by finding a home with Nana, where as a “bonus” she acquired big brother Alec (played by Aldis Hodge, who will only recur in the revival).
Hardison at the time reached out to the scared 10-year old by teaching her computers and hacking. Now, as Breanne trains in new skills with the other Leverage team members, she will need to learn to embrace and trust her new family.
The synopsis for the new Leverage, which started production this month in New Orleans, reads: “The rich and powerful take what they want… and the Leverage team is back to take them down! Sophie Devereaux/The Grifter (played by Gina Bellman), Parker/The Thief (Beth Riesgraf), Eliot Spencer/The Hitter (Christian Kane) and Alec Hardison/The Hacker have watched the world change over the last eight years. It’s become easier – and sometimes legal — for the rich to become richer and the powerful to squash anyone who gets in their way. Sadly down one team member (Timothy Hutton will not be back as Nate), they find new blood in Harry Sullivan (Falling Skies‘ Noah Wyle), a corporate lawyer who is looking for redemption after realizing he’d been sitting on the wrong side of the table for his entire career.
In this new world, the team will use their collective skills to take down a new kind of villain. “From the man who created an opioid crisis from the comfort of his boardroom, to the woman who prefers to deport workers instead of paying them, to the shadowy security firm that helps hide dangerous secrets for a price, when someone needs help, we provide… Leverage.”
IMDb TV is Amazon’s free streaming service, on which you can currently watch the original Leverage series.