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Off to Telluride: And So it Begins


This afternoon I will drive from Los Angeles to Telluride making a few stops along the way. Telluride film festival is set to announce their lineup on Wednesday, the day before the festival begins. It is officially the start of Oscar season, a race that is then shaped and reshaped by the Venice films fest, Toronto and New York. By the time those festivals all end, Best Picture should be in sight, unless we’re looking at a unique year.

For at least the past decade, the Best Picture winner has usually been spotted much earlier than it used to be, back before the Oscar race was picked and scavenged to its bones. It used to be that a film could be released in December and still manage to win Best Picture. Now it always seems like the more ambitious projects are given over to too much speculation and the reliable stand-bys win. In reality-TV they call this “flying under the radar.”

But rare is the movie that swoops in to a win without having been pre-vetted at film festivals. There is too much connectivity now, not just one information stream but hundreds of them. Will this be the year everything changes?

The rumors about which films will be at Telluride include: Inside Llewyn Davis, ebraska, Jason Reitman’s Labor Day, Blue is the Warmest Colour, possibly Gravity (we are all hoping but it opens Venice so probably not). Indiewire also says 12 Years a Slave (yes please), The Zero Theorem, Captain Phillips (another yes, please), Salinger, Rush…etc. but really? I think Indiewire is overshooting by mentioning every possible film. Usually Telluride doesn’t go that big.

Indiewire also mentioned Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin, and if that turns out to be true it would be considered a surprise.

Telluride is a good testing ground for films because if a movie isn’t that great (they are almost always well-selected) it isn’t going to bomb out the same way it does at Toronto (or Cannes) where the public and critics are all invited to attend. A smaller pool of critics attend because you have to pay to play unlike other festivals where you are accredited. Many simply say no to this, especially since in the modern era of journalism you have to not get paid for much of the time you work and fewer outlets will cough up the dough to send anyone. Thus, it’s a thinned herd. The rewards are higher for filmmakers and the risks are much lower.

The town itself is one of the most comfortable and welcoming places I’ve ever been. I so look forward to the quiet of the mountains, and roaming the streets in the early morning, as the sun is just coming up. I’m also looking forward to seeing my old pals Peter from Slashfilm and Alex from First Showing, Marlow Stern from the Daily Beast, not to mention In Contention’s Kris Tapley, Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeff Wells, Indiewire’s Anne Thompson, The Wrap’s Chris Willman and then the occasional sighting of AO Scott from the New York Times, Joe Morgenstern from the Wall Street Journal and Pete Hammond of Deadline. It’s always a good time in Telluride.

I will be sending dispatches from my Twitter mainly and will be doing my annual Telluride Diary (@awardsdaily