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Tuesday, December 20, 2016
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Oscars 2017: This Year’s Top 15 Oscar-Worthy Films Premiered at Which Festivals?

'Moonlight' (Courtesy: A24)

‘Moonlight’ (Courtesy: A24)

By: Carson Blackwelder
Managing Editor

The current Oscar race is turning into a real bloodbath, with a handful of films showing up in the discussion for Hollywood’s top prizes. This site’s namesake, The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg, lists 15 movies as frontrunners in vying for the top categories across best picture, best director, and best acting categories for the top. When did these works debut at film festivals and, is there an overwhelming time of the year that seems to have churned out more buzz?

Sundance Film Festival: January 21 through January 31
Sundance Film Festival is the first gathering, according to when they happened during the calendar year. Captain Fantastic — considered a frontrunner for best actor (Viggo Mortensen) — premiered here before heading to Cannes Film Festival, among others. Manchester by the Sea — considered a frontrunner for best picture, best director for (Kenneth Lonergan), best actor (Casey Affleck), best supporting actor (Lucas Hedges), and best supporting actress (Michelle Williams) — also premiered here before heading to Telluride Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, and New York Film Festival, among others.

Belfast Film Festival: April 14 through April 23
While not one of the bigger festivals, Belfast Film Festival has churned out one film clamoring for awards attention this year: Florence Foster Jenkins. The biographical dramedy debuted at the Irish gathering and is considered a frontrunner for best actress (Meryl Streep). After Belfast, the film went to a few other international festivals but largely remained on the down low.

Cannes Film Festival: May 11 through May 22
Cannes Film Festival gave us two attention-grabbing films this year: one foreign and one from the United States. The French film Elle — a frontrunner for best actress (Isabelle Huppert) — had its first showing here before stopping by Toronto International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, and others.. Also entering the fray at the gathering was Hell or High Water — a frontrunner for best picture and best supporting actor (Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster) — debuting here and heading to spots around the globe.

Venice Film Festival: August 31 through September 10
Things seem to get a little crazier in the second half of the year with the rest of the festival occurring then. Venice Film Festival, for example, gave us four of the films in contention for serious awards this year. Arrival — a frontrunner for best picture and best director (Denis Villeneuve) — showed up for the first time here and later went to Telluride Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, and others. Hacksaw Ridge — a frontrunner for best picture, best director (Mel Gibson), and best actor (Andrew Garfield) — premiered here but didn’t show up at other festivals. Jackie — a frontrunner for best picture and best actress (Natalie Portman) — debuted here before traveling to Toronto International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, and others. And finally there’s La La Land — a frontrunner for best picture, best director (Damien Chazelle), best actor (Ryan Gosling), and best actress (Emma Stone) — that premiered here before bouncing around to Telluride Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, and others.

Telluride Film Festival: September 2 through September 5
Telluride Film Festival had a solid showing this year with two films in the headlines. Moonlight — a frontrunner for best picture, best director (Barry Jenkins), best supporting actor (Mahershala Ali), and best supporting actress (Naomie Harris) — took its first bow here before venturing to Toronto International Film Festival and New York Film Festival, among others. Sully — a frontrunner for just best picture — debuted here before landing at a few others.

Toronto International Film Festival: September 8 through September 18
Toronto International Film Festival hit next, giving us just one major film. Lion — a frontrunner for best picture, best supporting actor (Dev Patel), and best supporting actress (Nicole Kidman) hit the big screen here first before making its way to many other festivals around the world.

New York Film Festival: September 30 through October 16
Finishing up the list of major film festivals this year is New York Film Festival. The big hit to emerge from here was 20th Century Women — a frontrunner for best actress (Annette Bening) — which, with a later premiere, went to just a few other festivals.

No Festival Premiere
While it might seem like film festivals are the way to go for these major works — and it is — that doesn’t mean some forego that route altogether. Fences — a frontrunner for best actor (Denzel Washington) and best supporting actress (Viola Davis) — as well as Hidden Figures — a frontrunner for best picture and best supporting actress (Octavia Spencer) — opted just to meet the minimum for an Oscar-qualifying run. Fences is out on Christmas Day, December 25, while audiences will have to wait for Hidden Figures until just after the New Year, specifically January 6.

These are just the films atop the frontrunner positions among the best picture, best director, and best acting categories — as of now, at least. Things could likely change before nominations are made official on January 24 and the Oscar statuettes are handed out the following month on February 26. Will the festival schedule of these films influence who wins? We shall see.

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