American Film Institute fest kicks off race for Oscars

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“The Shape of Water” Image: 20th Century Fox 2017 via AFP Relaxnews

Held each year by one of Hollywood’s most respected institutions, the American Film Institute, the AFI film festival is considered a crucial stage in the movie awards season, which culminates with the Oscars.

AFI Fest, which kicked off Thursday in Los Angeles and runs through Nov. 16, has been paving the way to the Oscars every year since 1971. The week-long event screens dozens of the hottest movies of the moment, many of which go on to bag Oscar nominations a few months later. For example, last year’s festival program included “La La Land”, “Lion”, “Jackie” and “Elle”.

The 31st edition of the festival includes James Franco’s “The Disaster Artist”, as well as romantic coming-of-age drama “Call Me by Your Name”; “Hostiles” starring Christian Bale; racially charged period drama “Mudbound”; “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” with Annette Bening; “I, Tonya”, the biopic of ice skater Tonya Harding, played by Margot Robbie; “The Great Game” with Jessica Chastain; and Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water”.

The festival is also an important springboard for Oscar hopefuls in the Best Foreign Language Film category. This year’s selection includes “In the Fade” from Germany, “Happy End” by Michael Haneke (Austria), “A Cambria” (Italy), “Foxtrot” (Israel), “Loveless” (Russia), “On Body and Soul” (Hungary) and “The Other Side of Hope” (Finland).

A first step on the road to Oscar success

With the 90th Academy Awards scheduled for March 4, the road to the Oscars is still long and the field is wide open. AFI Fest is merely a first indication, one among many others coming between December and February.

The awards season includes several major influencers, including the Hollywood Film Awards, held Nov. 6. Winners include Jake Gyllenhaal, crowned for his performance in “Stronger” and Kate Winslet for her role in Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel”. The “I, Tonya” cast, “The Meyerowitz Stories”, Angelina Jolie’s movie (“First They Killed My Father”) and actor Joe Wright (for “Darkest Hour”) were also winners.

Other crucial stages follow in the coming weeks and months. The National Board of Review will announce its winners Nov. 28, followed by the New York Film Critics Circle (Nov. 30), the New York Film Critics Online and the Boston Society of Film Critics (Dec. 10). Plus, key ceremonies like the Golden Globes (Jan. 7), the Critics’ Choice Awards (Jan. 11) and the Independent Spirit Awards (March 3) should bring a few major pointers.

January also brings the Screen Actors Guild Awards (Jan. 21), the Writers Guild Awards (Jan. 4), the Producers Guild Awards (Jan. 20) and the Directors Guild Awards (Feb. 3).

The DGA Awards are considered the most reliable tip for the Best Director Oscar. Since its creation in 1949, the top winner has gone on to lift the famous golden gong almost every year. There have only been seven exceptions in 68 years, with the most recent dating from 2012. JB

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