If you’re a film nerd like myself, then you’ve probably been keeping a keen eye on the lineup for the 2023 Venice Film Festival, which concluded September 9. If you have no care for movies, or perhaps just didn’t realize it was happening, don’t fret – I’ve been obsessively combing through the reviews for the films displayed at the festival, trying to curate my must-watch list for this upcoming fall. I’ve crafted a list of the 5 most exciting new releases to check out within the next few months that are certain to be Oscar contenders for the 2023 season.
- Priscilla – Sofia Coppola
Much is known about Elvis Presley, but less is about the life of Priscilla Presley, his wife of six years at the height of his fame. Following the success of last year’s Elvis, which showed the rise and fall of its titular rockstar, Sofia Coppola’s new film Priscilla shows the life of its own namesake, highlighting her perspective in her controversial romance with Elvis (her being 14 to his 24). Caillee Spaeney plays Priscilla herself in a Volpi Cup-winning performance (Venice’s Best Actress award) while Jacob Elordi portrays the role of Elvis. Priscilla opened to spectacular reviews, and upon its release on October 27, will certainly be a necessary viewing opening night.
- Memory – Michel Franco
One of Michel Franco’s directorial trademarks is his love of placing his characters in dysfunctional situations, and his newest turn certainly follows the pattern. Memory plays with how its titular noun affects trauma processing in its subjects. Jessica Chastain portrays a woman who is plagued by vivid and traumatizing memories of her past, while Peter Sarsgaard is a man who suffers dementia so intense he struggles to remember his childhood or even what happened 10 minutes ago. Praised for its subtlety in acting and direction, Memory became another winner of the night, with Sarsgaard taking home his own Volpi Cup for Best Actor and solidifying this as a film to watch out for this Oscar season.
- Maestro – Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper seems to have found his directorial niche following his previous Oscar-winning remake of A Star Is Born in 2018, which followed the rise and fall of two fictional stars in a romantic relationship. His newest film, Maestro, tackles a similar plot, this time delving into nonfiction with the story of American conductor Leonard Bernstein’s romance with Costa Rican actress, Felicia Montealegre. Cooper himself portrays the famous conductor while Carey Mulligan plays his lover. Maestro has opened to dazzling reviews, praising Cooper’s directing and the acting prowess’s of the two leads, cementing it as an immediate award show contender for the 2023 season.
- Evil Does Not Exist – Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Two years ago, Japanese filmmaker Ryusuke Hamaguchi was thrust into the American spotlight following his Oscar-winning film, Drive My Car, which made him only the third Japanese director to be nominated for Best Director at the ceremony. For fans of Drive My Car, like myself, his follow-up work has been something eagerly anticipated, and the critics at Venice Film Festival certainly think his newest film, Evil Does Not Exist, lives up to the hype. This film tells the story of a man and his daughter who live in a small rural village outside of Tokyo which becomes ecologically ravaged by a new development plan nearby. Evil Does Not Exist snagged the Grand Jury Prize at the festival, solidifying it as one of the top hits to come out of Venice this year.
- Poor Things – Yorgos Lanthimos
It’s impossible to talk about the Venice Film Festival without mentioning the winner of its most prestigious award, the Golden Lion. This year, that honor went to Yorgos Lanthimos’s (The Favourite, The Lobster) new film, Poor Things, starring Emma Stone as a young woman brought back from the dead by a mad scientist (Willem Dafoe) who runs off with a slick lawyer (Mark Ruffalo) to explore the continents. If Poor Things sounds a little odd, it’s because it certainly is – Lanthimos is a director known for his psychological thrillers and black comedies, and his newest film is described to have combined both genres skillfully in what many critics describe as Lanthimos’s strangest film yet.
Venice Film Festival introduces some of the best films for the award season to come — winners here can indicate huge winners at the Oscars, and for the film-obsessed crowd, it’s key to look out for the major players. I know I’m beyond excited to see what this year’s crop of movies has to offer.