The AFI Film Festival holds the distinction of being the highest profile film festival to take place in the heart of Hollywood. However, its November setting limits the number of buzzy titles it can hold world premieres for, and so the festival usually provides a pit stop for films big and small to help bolster their awards momentum. They’ve been slow to announce their full official schedule but have already announced that Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks will be their opening night gala with the Coen Brother’s Inside Llewyn Davis closing out the festival. They have also announced their centerpiece gala selections which will include the world premiere of Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor, a late entry into the awards derby. The war thriller set in Afghanistan stars Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, and Eric Bana, and will released in limited release on December 27th before opening wide on January 10th.
Other titles set to play at AFI include August: Osage County which premiered to favorable, if muted reviews at the Toronto Film Festival. The film stars Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor and Benedict Cumberbatch and is based on Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer and Tony winning play; John Wells (The Company Men) directs the Weinstein Company awards contender which has seen its own controversy since its first public screening over the ending of the film; it is still up in the air how the film many end when it is released theatrically this Christmas. Their will also be a special presentation gala of 1987’s Best Picture winner The Last Emperor in 3-D, as well as the previously announced Out of the Furnace world premiere, starring Christian Bale, and galas of Alexander Payne’s Nebraska and Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Other titles added as special screenings include Spike Jonze’s Her, the futuristic romantic comedy starring Joaquin Phoenix as a love-lorn loner who falls for his Siri-like operating system, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. The film, the fourth feature Jonze has directed and the first he’s received sole screenplay credit for, recently closed the New York Film Festival to rave reviews, inciting awards potential and even a potentially history-making plea to the Academy to find a way to honor Johansson’s raved about voice-only performance. As included are The Past, the French-language film which won Berenice Bejo the Best Actress honor at this years Cannes Film Festival; the film directed by Ashar Farhardi (The Separation) is Iran’s selection for the foreign language film Oscar. Ralph Fiennes’ The Invisible Woman, Justin Chadwick’s Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Stephen Frears’ Philomena and Errol Morris’ The Unknown Known: The Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld will also screen at the festival; all of these titles previously played earlier fall festivals.
Not too shabby considering the festival was thrown a last minute hiccup after its previously announced world premiere of Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher fell through when the film was unexpectedly delayed to next year. The AFI Fest runs in Hollywood from November 7-14th.