The Paul Thomas Anderson film The Master almost had a clean sweep at this year's Venice Film Festival, the only reason the film lost Best Picture was because of a technicality stating no film can sweep the major awards. The eventual Golden Lion award for Best Picture went to Kim-ki Duk for The Pieta. Imagine winning this prize on a technicality.
The Master did quite well at the festival, Paul Thomas Anderson took home the prize for Best Director, and Joaquin Phoenix, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman tied for the Best Actor prize. Some will argue that this hurts Hoffman's supporting actor nomination chances, but I think this helps him, after all there is no supporting actor category at Venice.
What does this mean for this early contender? How has the Venice Film Festival impacted the Oscar races the past couple of years? Last year Michael Fassbender won the Best Actor award last year for Shame; he did not get an Oscar nomination (robbery). In 2010 the Golden Lion went to Sofia Coppola's Somewhere, but that film was nowhere to found after this festival. In 2009 Collin Firth won the prize for Best Actor playing A Single Man; he was nominated for an Oscar but did not win until one year later. 2008 proved a strong comeback for Mickey Rourke, his film The Wrestler took home The Golden Lion. The Wrestler did not grab a Best Picture nomination, but the film grabbed two acting nominations.
The most traction a film got was in 2005 when Brokeback Mountain won The Golden Lion, the film should have won the Best Picture Oscar, and was favored to win throughout the entire award season, but lost to Crash. Helen Mirren is the biggest success story; she won the Best Actress prize in 2006, and she has been one of the few people in recent history to go on to win the Oscar.
Venice has launched some successful starting off points, but has never been a real launching point for major winners. I think The Master has a great shot at taking home some major wins this year, especially within the acting, writing, and directing categories. The film feels a bit dark to be a Best Picture winner, the most recent winners are hug-able films like The King's Speech and The Artist. Only time will tell.
The other two major winners from the festival were as follows: the Grand Jury Prize went to Paradise:Love, and the Best Actress award went to Hadas Yaron for Fill the Void. Let the festival season continue!