We had no way of knowing that our two day drive to Telluride would eventually take us to a gas station where, in the midst of Trader Joe’s snacks flying around the car, boy bands blaring on the stereo, the dim hum of girl talk which ranges from politics to cats to awkward sex jokes to whether or not we like the shape of our boobs, we would happen upon a dirty but affectionate puppy someone had left at a gas station in the middle of the American West, approaching the Four Corners.

Heavy immovable clouds hung on the horizon. Horses roamed freely. America is one of the prettiest places to drive through and life is too short to have it all pass by on an airplane. Still, such a long drive does take its eventual toll. Though something got us to the right place at the right time — a gas station in Navajo country where a little dog was left in hopes someone might pick him up. He was so small and vulnerable anything could have taken him, a car, a hard rain. He got lucky. We got luckier.

Usually abandoned dogs or lost dogs will run from you if you try to save them. Believe me, I’ve tried. This dog didn’t. He somehow knew on some primal level that his only hope of survival was charming any human into giving him food or taking him in. We did both. The benevolent act was enough to make the whole trip worthwhile, though the shadow that followed it was this: people leave dogs at gas stations.

The Telluride Film Festival starts today. Last night there was a gathering at the Sheridan Hotel. First Showing’s Alex Billington had kindly sent me the email chain invite to a party I wasn’t invited to. Chris Willman had also driven in and invited me to come and see Life Itself at the outdoor movie theater. That would have been something, as Telluride’s sky is nothing but deep blue and blankets of stars. But, as my teen traveling companions would say, TBH (to be honest), I was looking forward to getting into a warm bed with good wi-fi and the chance to reconnect to what was happening in the world.

Hollywood-Elsewhere’s Jeff Wells secured a whole house to rent for the fest and kindly offered me two rooms — one for me, and a whole downstairs with its own bathroom and television for the teenagers and their new pal, a scruffy puppy they named Cooper Navajo. We got lucky this time with so much space.

The puppy settled in for the night, after some burgers and a gentle cleaning. He seemed to be smiling, even though we know dogs might actually not do this. He had three overly attentive females doting on him. He slept and then he slept some more. One tiny life out on the unforgiving mesa spared.

It’s cold here in Telluride — bright, clear and cold. It’s puffy jacket weather. Coffee weather. This morning is the Patron’s Brunch where we will reconnect with many Telluride regulars — Ken Burns will probably be milling about. Ditto Alice Waters. There will be champagne, lots of good food, and a long wait for the bus to take us back down the hill. Afterwards, I will probably try to catch the first screening of Wild, the first of the Big Oscar Movies to show here. The Frances Ford Coppola Apocalypse Now tribute repeats tomorrow morning so I’ll do catch-up then. Film history is not something to miss.

Birdman has the feel of something special where the Oscar race is concerned and appears to be the strongest contender out of this festival. But it’s also possible this year will break the streak, that Best Picture won’t come from here at all but from a film released in a different way, Toronto, New York or one that bypasses the festival circuit entirely. It is only a pattern until that pattern is broken.

Day one, and we’re off.







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  • Simone

    Looking at these pictures puts Michigan to shame. I love, LOVE the humanitarian thing you did in adopting Cooper Navajo. He’s beautiful.

    Guess I’ll have to wait until Birdman’s theatrical release for me to see it.

  • Kane

    Telluride is such a giant in the film festival world. I truly hope I can get there one day. Sundance isn’t enough, I must have more haha. Birdman seems to be radiating at this point.

    Thank you for what you did with the dog. I’ve seen some stray animals on my travels for work and I’m not always able to do what I want with them. I also drive away from the city/suburbs and head to the more rural area for work so I see some unpleasantries on the road. The shadow does loom large and there are a lot of people who are irresponsible with pets and it breaks my heart everyday that more can’t be done on a global scale. But it always starts with one and continues with another. This post made my day and I bet Cooper Navajo knows what it is you’ve done for him.

  • JPNS Viewer

    Thanks for a good read, Sasha.

    Good on Wells for inviting you guys in as well; I’ve read his thread where he shows the pics of the residence — it looks really nice.

    “ . . . people leave dogs at gas stations.”

    Re Cooper the dog, good on you and your companions to have taken good care of him. I’ve always been under impression that the English-speaking cultures are one of the best, if not the best of all, when it comes to the matter of caring for their pet animals. So, whether or not it was a rare incident, it somewhat caught me by surprise hearing the story of pet/stray dogs left on purpose at gas stations in the middle of nowhere or so, as well as [see Kane’s comment’s second paragraph] Kane’s first-hand, unpleasant, visual experience re how some rural residents seemed to mistreat their pet animals.
    I did read about people in a certain country (not Japan – to be clear) leaving their pet dogs on street once the latter had grown up because, to them, they were not as cute as they once were in their earlier puppy days anymore – such an inhumane thing to do with innocent animals . . . . Some pieces of shit even kicked stray dogs for fun [I’m not making this up] or even did some more horrible things in random . . . .
    (Sorry for the rant.)

    Anyway, looking forward to your journal and reviews.

  • John

    Great entry. Amazing photos. How I wish I were there.

  • Jeremy C

    Didn’t Wild open the festival? Has anybody here seen it? Is it a real contender?

  • m1
  • Jeremy C, Sasha saw it today. But she’s seen 3 films today and hasn’t had time in between to review them yet. (Wild, The Imitation Game, Rosewater).

    Reviews forthcoming. Hang tight!

    The Imitation Game seems to have been the most impressive debut today.

    Sasha has tweeted:

    Imitation Game is utterly brilliant. Benedict Cumberbatch number one with a bullet. Might win.

    Keira Knightley is just great. Best I’ve seen her. Loved this movie.

    Imitation Game is kind of a bait and switch. You think it’s about one thing but then… Depressing on one hand but needs to be told.

  • Wesley Richard

    Off Topic to Sasha Stone. Not sure if you know this but your Best Supporting Actors and Actresses are flipped in your current predictions on the home page.

  • Lovely read. Again, another festival I wish I could go to…

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