‘Birdman’ with Michael Keaton to kick off Oscar season as 2014 Venice opener

The fall festival season is lurking around the corner and before long, the Telluride guessing game will commence, the massive Toronto slate will be set (it'll be interesting to see how the tug of war between those two fests shakes out) and the always finely curated Venice line-up will help point the way after high profile debuts like “Gravity” and “The Master” in recent years. Add another to that growing list, as Alejandro González Iñárritu's highly anticipated “Birdman” has been tapped to open the 71st annual fest in a move you probably could have seen coming.

Fox Searchlight has made good use of Venice in the past, dropping films like “Black Swan” there before charging out into the season. Telluride has also been a big part of the studio's awards strategy over the years, so I wouldn't be shocked to see “Birdman” turn up in the Colorado mountains not long after its Venice bow; Iñárritu has been a die-hard fan of the cinephile event for some time, most recently taking his “Biutiful” there in 2010. But we'll save that speculation for another day.

“Birdman, or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance” (the film's full title) stars Michael Keaton as an aged actor famous for an iconic superhero role who struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he struggles with ego, family distress and his career. Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Ryan and Andrea Riseborough also star.

Obviously, the film is sure to be a ripe opportunity for the former “Batman” star, and what's more, early signs are that the film itself is a complex vision that may even be mounted to appear as one long take. If so, and regardless, really, expect last year's Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki to be back in the mix after being in a similar position with last year's Venice opener, “Gravity.”

“Birdman” opens in theaters on Oct. 17 after kicking off the Venice fest on Aug. 27.