Friday, March 30, 2012

The Festival Route: We Run Down The Odds

We now know that "The Master" will receive a October 12th release, most likely limited opening in NY/LA before expanding wider in the following weeks. It'll be going up against the Ryan Gosling noir "The Gangster Squad" and a Kevin James comedy called "Here Comes The Boom." As far as history is concerned this date puts it in the company of films like "Punch-Drunk Love," "The Social Network," "A Serious Man," "Where The Wild Things Are," "The Skin I Live In," "Martha Marcy May Marlene" and "Rachel Getting Married," all recent examples of challenging fare that doesn't strike us as your typical awards bait. So while we know where we'll be lining up on October 12, what we don't know yet for certain is whether the film will have its premiere at a festival (or several) along the way. With 196 days to go, we thought we'd run down the list of possibilities and what the odds are of "The Master" showing up on the festival circuit.

Cannes Film Festival (May 16 - 27)
The Vibe: Arguably the most prestigious film festival in the world. A mix of World Cinema auteurs (Von Trier, Haneke, etc.) and splashy Hollywood premieres ("Midnight In Paris," "Pirates of the Carribean").
The History: "Hard Eight" played Cannes (after it had premiered at Sundance) and "Punch-Drunk Love" had its World Premiere here back in 2002.
The Odds: Many have speculated (maybe just wishful thinking?) that "The Master" will show up on the Croisette this year but we think it's unlikely. The full lineup won't be announced 'till April 19 but we think May is awfully early for the film, which as of February was still being scored. And with all the secrecy surrounding the project we find it hard to believe they'd want to let the cat out of the bag this early.
Verdict: Long shot.

Venice Film Festival (August 29 - Sept 8)
The Vibe: Yet another long-running prestigious international film festival, Venice is also heavy on auteurs from around the world but in recent years has become home for films looking for the first stop on the Fall awards circuit. Last year's fest held premieres of "Shame," "The Ides of March," and "Tinker Tailor Solider Spy" among others.
The History: None of PTA's films have premiered here.
The Odds: Though he doesn't have a history with the fest, we wouldn't entirely rule out "The Master" showing up for a Venice premiere. Not only would it be a nice little vacation for the crew but would help to build the buzz stateside making U.S. critics envious of their international counterparts. However August/early September is still a little early if PTA intends to keep his packaged unwrapped as long as he can.
Verdict: Possible.

Telluride Film Festival (August 31 - Sept 3)
The Vibe: A festival that caters mainly for press and industry types features a mix of Awards contenders and more esoteric fare though the lineup is kept secret until the festival begins.
The History: Unless we're mistaken none of his films have played here though a 20 minute reel from "There Will Be Blood" was shown in 2007 as part of a Daniel Day-Lewis tribute.
The Odds: Though films like "Slumdog Millionaire" and "The Descendants" have received a huge boost from playing Telluride, we just don't see this as a proper venue for "The Master" premiere. Telluride is mainly thought of as a fest for rich folks and that just doesn't strike us as PTA's style.
Verdict: Long shot.

Toronto International Film Festival (Sept 6 - 16)
The Vibe: One of the largest film festivals in the world. This is where many critics and audiences get their first look at the films that will be coming out over the next few months. It may not be the first festival to play them but the range and quality of films showcased here is extraordinary.
The History: "Boogie Nights" premiered here and "Punch-Drunk Love" played here after its Cannes premiere.
The Odds: It might be a no-brainer to bring "The Master" here a few weeks before its theatrical release but with a lineup that includes over 300 films all vying for awards attention, it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle. The most buzzed about film to play during TIFF back in 2010 was a film that didn't play the fest at all. "The Social Network" famously had a critics screening in NYC during the festival where journalists flew from Toronto to New York and back in the same day just to catch the film, which could make holding back the film an even smarter play.
Verdict: Possible.

Fantastic Fest (Sept 20 - 27)
The Vibe: Genre festival started in 2005 by Tim League of the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX that showcases horror, sci-fi, fantasy, action and cult films from around the world.
The History: "There Will Be Blood" famously had its World Premiere here as a Secret Screening back in September of 2007. Harry Knowles from AICN is closely linked with the fest and was able to book "Magnolia" at his first ever "Butt-Numb-A-Thon" 24 hour film festival back in 1999.
The Odds: Though "The Master" doesn't appear to fit into any of those genres, neither did "There Will Be Blood" despite the horror influences. We suspect that the decision to book the fest was a last minute decision to show it off in front of famously enthusiastic Austin film fans and not necessarily a strategy that they'll employ twice.
Verdict: Long shot.

New York Film Festival (Sept 28 - Oct 14)
The Vibe: A mix of favorites from Cannes and the Fall festivals that take place beforehand, the NYFF's relatively small lineup (about 30 films in the main section) and highbrow leanings make it a good place to have a splashy premiere and not feel like you're going to be lost in the shuffle.
The History: "Boogie Nights" played here after premiering at TIFF and "Punch-Drunk Love" closed the festival in 2002 after playing at Cannes and TIFF.
The Odds: Despite some WTF selections ("Hereafter"? "My Week With Marilyn"?) and omissions ("Black Swan," "There Will Be Blood"), NYFF is still thought of as a prestigious festival to be a part of and they have had a history of playing his films so it might make sense to roll it out during the fest right before a NY/LA opening. However, 'TWBB''s curious omission from the 2007 lineup (and surprise screening in Austin around the same timeframe) might mean they have other plans.
Verdict: Very possible.

Of course, the other option is to skip the festival route altogether. "There Will Be Blood" sidestepped all the major Fall festivals and still went on to being PTA's highest grossing and most acclaimed film. "The Master" isn't going to have any trouble stirring up attention and traveling the festival circuit also runs the risk of 'peaking too early.'

If the team behind the film just decide to have a couple of screenings (like they did for "There Will Be Blood" at The Castro in San Francisco and secretly in Austin), that would be just fine with us. With the curiosity surrounding the film - it appeared on nearly every site's Most Anticipated list for 2012 despite not even knowing at the time that it would be released this year - the festivals probably need the film more than it needs them. What do you think?

Check out our updated "The Master" cast and follow the entire history of the project here.

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  1. THERE WILL BE BLOOD was in Berlin, in competition --- you call that sidestepping all the major festivals?

  2. That's true. Should have clarified "all the major fall festivals" since we were mainly referring to the ones leading up to the Oscars. Berlin is certainly an important fest.