Film Festivals

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London, Wednesday 3 September 2014: – The programme for the 58th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express® launched today, with Festival Director Clare Stewart presenting this year’s rich and diverse selection of films and events. As Britain’s leading film event and one of the world’s oldest film festivals, it introduces the finest new British and international films to an expanding London and UK-wide audience, offering a compelling combination of red carpet glamour, engaged audiences and vibrant exchange. The Festival provides an essential profiling opportunity for films seeking global success at the start of the Awards season; promotes the careers of British and international filmmakers through its industry activities and awards line-up and positions London as the world’s leading creative city.

The Festival will screen a total of 245 fiction and documentary features, including 16 World Premieres, 9 International Premieres, 38 European Premieres and 19 Archive films including 2 Restoration World Premiere’s.[1] There will also be screenings of 148 live action and animated shorts. A stellar line-up of directors, cast and crew are expected to take part in career interviews, master classes, Q&As and other special events. The 58th BFI London Film Festival will run Wednesday 8 – Sunday 19 October 2014.

Taking place over 12 days, the Festival’s screenings are at venues across the capital, from the West End cinemas – Odeon West End, Vue West End and the iconic Odeon Leicester Square; central London venues – BFI Southbank, Odeon Covent Garden, the ICA, Curzon Mayfair, Curzon Soho and Ciné Lumière; and local cinemas – Ritzy Brixton, Hackney Picturehouse, Vue Islington and Rich Mix. Additional screenings and events will take place at the Odeon BFI IMAX, Empire Leicester Square, Curzon Chelsea and Queen Elizabeth Hall. Audiences across the UK can enjoy the Festival via simultaneous screenings in their local cinemas.

GALAS

OPENING & CLOSING NIGHT GALAS

The Festival opens with the European Premiere of THE IMITATION GAME, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. Director Morten Tyldum returns to the Festival with a film about Alan Turing, one of the world’s greatest innovators and pioneer of modern-day computing, who is credited with cracking the German Enigma code.

The European Premiere of FURY will close the Festival, directed by David Ayer whose End of Watch appeared in LFF Official Competition in 2012, this Second World War epic stars Brad Pitt as Wardaddy, a battle-hardened army sergeant who commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines.

Both Opening and Closing events will have a cinecast from the red carpet and simultaneous screenings taking place at cinemas across the UK.

HEADLINE GALAS

Among the other highly anticipated Galas are the previously announced American Express Gala of Bennett Miller’s FOXCATCHER, the dark and fascinating story of the unlikely and ultimately tragic relationship between an eccentric multimillionaire and two champion wrestlers, starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo. The Accenture Gala is the audacious thriller WHIPLASH, about a young jazz drummer under the tutelage of a ruthless and fearsome maestro starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. We are delighted to welcome a new Official Airline Partner to this year’s Festival, Virgin Atlantic who will present the European Premiere of Jason Reitman’s MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN starring Adam Sandler and Ansel Elgort with a racy voiceover by Emma Thompson. The May Fair Hotel Gala is the European Premiere of biopic-drama WILD starring Reese Witherspoon, adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby from Cheryl Strayed’s extraordinary account of her 1,100-mile solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trails. The Centrepiece Gala supported by the Mayor of London is the World Premiere of TESTAMENT OF YOUTH based on Vera Brittain’s memoir of World War 1 starring Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Hayley Atwell, Emily Watson and Dominic West. The Festival Gala is Mike Leigh’s MR. TURNER starring Timothy Spall as the great British artist J.M.W. Turner whose paintings evoked the moving image before there was cinema. The Archive Gala is the World Premiere of the BFI National Archive restoration of THE BATTLES OF CORONEL AND FALKLAND ISLANDS.

STRAND GALAS

The nine programme strands are each headlined with a gala, they are: the Love Gala, Alan Rickman’s A LITTLE CHAOS (European Premiere); the Debate Gala, Jon Stewart’s ROSEWATER (European Premiere); the Dare Gala, Xavier Dolan’s MOMMY; the Laugh Gala, Damián Szifron’s WILD TALES; the Thrill Gala, Kristian Levring’s THE SALVATION; the Cult Gala, Jacob Cheung’s THE WHITE HAIRED WITCH OF LUNAR KINGDOM (International Premiere); the Journey Gala, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s WINTER SLEEP; and the Family Gala is Tomm Moore’s SONG OF THE SEA (European Premiere). In addition to which, the previously announced Sonic Gala is Peter Strickland and Nick Fenton’s concert film BJÖRK: BIOPHILIA LIVE.

AWARDS AND COMPETITIONS

The Best Film Award will again be handed out in Official Competition; the Sutherland Award in the First Feature Competition and the Grierson Award in Documentary Competition. Each section is open to international and British films.

OFFICIAL COMPETITION

The Official Competition line-up, recognising inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking, includes the following:

  • · Peter Ho-Sun Chan, DEAREST
  • · Peter Strickland, THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY (European Premiere)
  • · Carol Morley, THE FALLING (World Premiere)
  • · Ana Lily Amirpour, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT
  • · Céline Sciamma, GIRLHOOD
  • · Daniel Barber, THE KEEPING ROOM (European Premiere)
  • · Andrey Zvyagintsev, LEVIATHAN
  • · François Ozon, THE NEW GIRLFRIEND
  • · Christian Petzold, PHOENIX
  • · Mohsen Makhmalbaf, THE PRESIDENT
  • · Julius Avery, SON OF A GUN (European Premiere)
  • · Abderrahmane Sissako, TIMBUKTU

FIRST FEATURE COMPETITION

Titles in consideration for the Sutherland Award in the First Feature Competition recognising an original and imaginative directorial debut are:

  • · Yann Demange,‘71
  • · Josephine Decker, BUTTER ON THE LATCH
  • · Daniel Wolfe, Matthew Wolfe, CATCH ME DADDY
  • · Zeresenay Berhane Mehari, DIFRET
  • · Franco Lolli, GENTE DE BIEN
  • · Guy Myhill, THE GOOB
  • · Adityavikram Sengupta, LABOUR OF LOVE
  • · Sudabeh Mortezai, MACONDO
  • · Debbie Tucker Green, SECOND COMING
  • · Ester Martin Bergsmark, SOMETHING MUST BREAK
  • · Naji Abu Nowar, THEEB
  • · Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, THE TRIBE

DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

The Grierson Award in the Documentary Competition category recognises cinematic documentaries with integrity, originality, and social or cultural significance. This year the Festival is screening:

· Nadav Schirman, THE GREEN PRINCE

· Jean-François Caissy, GUIDELINES

· Randall Wright, HOCKNEY (World Premiere)

· Jason Sussberg, David Alvarado, THE IMMORTALISTS (European Premiere)

· Ulrich Seidl, IN THE BASEMENT

· Sergei Loznitsa, MAIDAN

· Frederick Wiseman, NATIONAL GALLERY

· Sabine Lubbe Bakker & Niels van Koevorden, NE ME QUITTE PAS

· Edward Lovelace & James Hall, THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS (European Premiere)

· Ossama Mohammed & Wiam Simav Bedirxan, SILVERED WATER, SYRIA SELF-PORTRAIT

· Debra Granik, STRAY DOG

· Lynette Wallworth, TENDER (European Premiere)

BEST BRITISH NEWCOMER

Closing the Awards section is the prize for Best British Newcomer which highlights new British talent and is presented to an emerging writer, actor, producer or director. This year’s nominees are:

1. Guy Myhill – Writer/Director THE GOOB

2. Florence Pugh – Supporting Actor THE FALLING

3. Sameena Jabeen Ahmed – Actor CATCH ME DADDY

4. Rebecca Johnson – Writer/Director HONEYTRAP

5. Taron Egerton – Actor TESTAMENT OF YOUTH

6. Daniel Wolfe & Matthew Wolfe – Writers/Directors CATCH ME DADDY

7. Alex Lawther – Supporting Actor THE IMITATION GAME

FILM GUESTS

Key talent due to attend the Festival’s gala screenings include: Morten Tyldum, Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Allen Leech, Alex Lawther, Charles Dance, Rory Kinnear, Mark Strong, Matthew Beard, David Ayer, Brad Pitt, Bennett Miller, Steve Carrel, Sienna Miller, Damien Chazelle, J.K Simmons, Jason Reitman, Ansel Elgort, Kaitlyn Dever, Reese Witherspoon, Nick Hornby, Cheryl Strayed, James Kent, Kit Harrington, Dominic West, Emily Watson, Colin Morgan, Mike Leigh, Jon Stewart, Maziar Bahari, Alan Rickman, Damian Szifron, Kristian Levring, Jacob Cheung, Nick Fenton, Peter Strickland, Björk, Tomm Moore, Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flanagan and David Rawle.

Additional talent attending for films in competition include: for Official Competition: Peter Ho-Sun Chan, Peter Strickland, Sidse Babbet Knudsen, Chiara D’Anna, Fatma Mohammed, Monika Swinn, Eugenia Caruso, Carol Morley, Ana Lily Amirpour, Celine Sciamma, Daniel Barber, Francois Ozon, Julius Avery, Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Abderrahmane Sissako; First Feature Competition: Yann Demange, Jack O’Connell, Gregory Burke, Josephine Decker, Daniel Wolfe, Matthew Wolfe, Sameena Habeen Ahmed, Conor McCarron, Gary Lewis, Zeresenay Berhane Merhari, Franco Lolli, Guy Myhill, Adityavikram Sengupta, Sudabeh Mortezai, Debbie Tucker Green, Ester Martin Bergsmark, Naji Abu Nowar and Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy; Documentary Competition: Nadav Schirman, Jean-Francois Caissy, Randall Wright, Jason Sussberg, David Alvarado, Frederick Wiseman, Edward Lovelace, James Hall, Edwin Collins and Lynette Wallworth.

The Festival will announce its complete guest line-up for all sections in early October.

STRANDS / PATHWAYS

The Festival programme is organised into categories clustered around the themes of Love, Debate, Dare, Laugh, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Sonic and Family – an approach designed to help Festival-goers find the films that appeal the most to them and to open up the Festival for new audiences.

LOVE

Love is strange, and cinema reaps the fruit of its strangeness. The Love Gala is the European Premiere of Alan Rickman’s sophomore feature A LITTLE CHAOS set in the Court of Versailles starring Rickman himself as King Louis XIV, Kate Winslet as landscape gardener Sabine De Barra, Matthias Schoenaerts as the famous architect Le Nôtre and Stanley Tucci in hilarious form as a court dandy.

Other titles in this section include: Benoît Jacquot’s 3 HEARTS starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Chiara Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve; Daniel Ribeiro’s romantic tale of the joys and woes of young love, THE WAY HE LOOKS; Ira Sachs’ LOVE IS STRANGE starring Alfred Molina and John Lithgow as life-long lovers; the European Premiere of Shonali Bose’s portrait of a Punjabi teenage girl MARGARITA, WITH A STRAW; a new adaptation of Gustave Flaubert’s classic MADAME BOVARY directed by Sophie Barthes and starring Mia Wasikowska as the eponymous lead; the World Premiere of Corinna McFarlane’s SILENT STORM starring Andrea Riseborough and Damian Lewis; Susanne Bier’s SERENA starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, and the European Premiere of BAFTA-winning documentary filmmaker Morgan Matthews’ debut feature X + Y.

DEBATE

Debate presents films that rush headfirst and unafraid into some of the stormiest issues of the day. This year’s Debate Gala is the European Premiere of Jon Stewart’s directorial debut ROSEWATER starring Gael Garcia Bernal and based on the real-life ordeal of London-based journalist Maziar Bahari.

Other highlights in this section include: the European Premiere of Michael Winterbottom’s THE FACE OF AN ANGEL about an American student charged with the murder of her British housemate; the World Premiere of Tom Harper’s House of Commons-set political thriller War Book; Gabriel Mascaro’s haunting tale of the effects of climate change on a coastal community in Brazil, AUGUST WINDS; Annalet Steenkamp’s documentary about the four generations of her Afrikaner family I, AFRIKANER; Dieudo Hamadi’s NATIONAL DIPLOMA following a group of Congolese high schools students preparing for their exams; Steve James’ newly restored 1994 documentary HOOP DREAMS about the ultra-competitive world of college basketball; and Shira Geffen’s SELF MADE and Eran Riklis’ DANCING ARABS which both explore life on either side of the Palestinian-Israeli divide.

DARE

Here you’ll find cinema’s troublemakers and boundary pushers, with films for those who take their movies strong, no sugar. The Dare Gala is Xavier Dolan’s MOMMY which jointly won the Jury Prize in Cannes earlier this year.

Other highlights in this strand include: Jean-Luc Godard’s first foray into 3D, GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE which jointly won the Jury Prize in Cannes in May and will be presented here at BFI IMAX; New Queer Cinema alumnus Gregg Araki’s WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD starring Eva Green and Shailene Woodley; the World Premiere of Rebecca Johnson’s HONEYTRAP based on the 2008 case of Samantha Joseph, dubbed the ‘honeytrap killer’; Duane Hopkins’ social melodrama BYPASS; Aleksei German’s black and white epic HARD TO BE A GOD completed by his wife and son following German’s death in 2013; and Abel Ferrara’s PASOLINI starring Willem Dafoe as the Italian filmmaker.

LAUGH

This year’s comedic crop mine potentially treacherous terrain that some might consider no joke. This year’s Laugh Gala is WILD TALES, a delirious black comedy directed by Damián Szifron with Augustín and Pedro Almodóvar as producers.

Other titles in this strand include: Director-writer-star Desiree Akhavan’s fearless feature debut APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR; Hungary’s most innovative and controversial director György Pálfi’s new film FREE FALL; the International Premiere of Justin Simien’s razor-sharp satire DEAR WHITE PEOPLE; Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz’ delicate and heart-warming comedy LAND HO!; Josh Lawson’s whip-smart sex comedy THE LITTLE DEATH; Emilio Martínez-Lázaro’s SPANISH AFFAIR, a massive box-office hit in its native Spain; and John Boorman’s semi-autobiographical film, QUEEN AND COUNTRY.

THRILL

The Thrill strand covers noir, neo-noir, sci-fi, pulp, crime, action and adventure in a programme that’s as sure to inspire wanderlust as it is to set your pulse racing. The Gala presentation for this strand is Kristian Levring’s THE SALVATION, a gripping tale of revenge set in the Old West starring Mads Mikkelsen and Eva Green.

Other highlights in this section include: Diao Yinan’s murder mystery and Berlin winner BLACK COAL, THIN ICE; the European Premiere of Toa Fraser’s thriller THE DEAD LANDS made entirely in the Maori language; Michaël R. Roskam’s THE DROP starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and the late James Gandolfini; the European Premiere of Kriv Stenders’ boldly enjoyable comedy thriller KILL ME THREE TIMES starring Simon Pegg; the World Premiere of Tom Green’s MONSTERS: DARK CONTINENT, a sequel to Gareth Edwards’ 2010 debut Monsters; and Andrew Hulme’s crime thriller, SNOW IN PARADISE.

CULT

In the Cult strand, you’ll find a curious selection of films guaranteed to provoke, excite and take you entirely off guard. Welcome to the weird side. The Cult Gala is the International Premiere of Jacob Cheung’s lavish wuxia epic THE WHITE HAIRED WITCH OF LUNAR KINGDOM starring Chinese superstar Fan Bingbing.

Other highlights in this strand include: Mark Hartley’s latest celebration of exploitation films ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS; David Robert Mitchell’s remarkable shocker IT FOLLOWS; the European Premiere of British director Oliver Blackburn’s latest horror KRISTY; Carter Smith’s ethereal coming-of-age tale JAMIE MARKS IS DEAD; Sion Sono’s Yakuza gangster flick-cum-hip hop musical TOKYO TRIBE and the World Premiere of Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s striking debut THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN inspired by the 1976 classic of the same name.

JOURNEY

Whether it’s the journey or the destination, here are films to transport you and shift your perspective. This year’s Journey Gala is Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s extraordinary WINTER SLEEP which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year.

Other titles in this section include: AFRICAN METROPOLIS, a collection of six short films that explore the complexity of African urban life; Rolf de Heer’s CHARLIE’S COUNTRY starring legendary Australian actor David Gulpilil who won Best Actor in Un Certain Regard at Cannes this year; Writer-Director David Oelhoffen’s FAR FROM MEN featuring Viggo Mortensen, Fatih Akin’s THE CUT starring Tahar Rahim; Israel Horovitz’s MY OLD LADY starring Maggie Smith, Kevin Kline and Kristin Scott Thomas; 18 different filmmakers including Warwick Thornton, Justin Kurzel and a debut by Mia Wasikowska contribute to an expansive adaptation of Australian author Tim Winton’s THE TURNING starring Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne and Hugo Weaving; the World Premiere of Bryn Higgins’ ELECTRICITY starring Agyness Deyn; and the World Premiere of Gerry Fox’s MARC QUINN – MAKING WAVES documenting one year in the life of the artist Marc Quinn.

SONIC

Like cinema, music has the power to envelop us and move us, both emotionally and physically. This year’s Sonic Gala is Peter Strickland and Nick Fenton’s BJÖRK: BIOPHILIA LIVE, a concert film capturing the extraordinary closing night performance of Björk’s Biophilia project at London’s Alexandra Palace last year.

Other highlights in this strand include: the European Premiere of James Marcus Harvey’s AUSTIN TO BOSTON about a modern music tour, done the old fashioned way; One9’s documentary NAS: TIME IS ILLMATIC about one of the most influential and important records in hip hop; the European Premiere of Alan Hicks’ KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON about the relationship between legendary Jazz trumpet player Clark Terry and his protégé Justin Kauflin; Mia Hansen-Løve’s EDEN, a fictionalised account of the French house boom that spawned Daft Punk, Michael Obert’s SONG FROM THE FOREST that explores one man’s quest to find and record the music and sound of the remotest parts of the African jungle, Fenar Ahmad’s FLOW, a portrait of Copenhagen’s hip-hop scene; and a BUG SPECIAL: FULL TIME HOBBY devoted to the 10th anniversary of the independent London record label.

FAMILY

This year’s Family section has titles from all over the world to suit all ages and tastes, and the Family Gala is the European Premiere of SONG OF THE SEA, director Tomm Moore’s sophomore feature following his Oscar-nominated debut The Secret of Kells.

Other highlights are the International Premiere of Xavier Picard’s MOOMINS OF THE RIVIERA a glorious animated tale of Tove Jansson’s much-loved characters released in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of her birth; the World Premiere of Christian De Vita’s animated family tale YELLOWBIRD 3D; Jon Wright’s British sci-fi adventure ROBOT OVERLORDS starring Gillian Anderson and Sir Ben Kingsley; Chan Hyung-Yun kooky animated love story THE SATELLITE GIRL AND MILK COW; and Martin Miehe-Renard’s teen drama THE CONTEST – TO THE STARS AND BACK. We will show the UK’s first animated feature, ANIMAL FARM (1954) based on George Orwell’s novella, and directed and produced by John Halas and Joy Batchelor.

There is a dedicated section for animated shorts for younger audiences which include the World Premiere of Aardman’s new short film RAY’S BIG IDEA in 3D directed by Steve Harding-Hill and the World Premiere of Illuminated Films’new short film ON ANGEL WINGS directed by Dave Unwin and based on a story by Michael Morpurgo.

As part of our celeberation of 20 years of Dreamworks Animation, we present a special event for younger audiences and animation enthusiasts alike DreamWorks Animation: Taking Flight and Beyond showcasing the work of producer Bonnie Arnold and director Dean DeBlois, who will be joined by Cressida Cowell, author of the highly successful ‘How to Train your Dragon’ series of novels. Exclusive footage from upcoming release The Penguins of Madagascar will also be shown.

SHORTS

An original and innovative line-up of short films and animation that will captivate audiences young and old makes up this year’s Shorts compilation programmes presented across the Festival strands.

The Meaning of Love programme explores a range of expressions that define ‘love’ including EMOTIONAL FUSEBOX starring Jodie Whittaker, and THE KÁRMÁN LINE starring Olivia Colman. Let’s Talk About Sex is a series of shorts that question how we interact physically and emotionally with each other, such as GHOST TRAIN in which an elderly man dealing with his wife’s dementia becomes captivated by a young burlesque dancer, and in OUR SKIN IS GOING TO GRAY, a group of different characters experience the universal fear of rejection. The Life, But Is It A Dream? programme looks at the fleeting moments that can create big stories full of emotion such as IN AUGUST in which a 6 year-old girl sees that her father is leaving home, and in EMERGENCY CALLS an ageing bar hostess queries her decision to marry a long-term admirer. After Laughter Comes Tears presents six shorts that all encompass funny ha-ha, the absurdly funny and the funny strange. All Or Nothing offers shorts that reflect the passions in the hearts of their protagonists from positive love to destructive hate and all points in between. Take Me To The Other Side is the shorts programme for cult genre fans featuring zombies, crazed scientists, tattooed criminals and indescribable horrors. The Radio Live Transmission programme of short films and animations shows how sound and music are vital to cinema, no matter the genre. The London Calling section features a selection of shorts from budding filmmakers from across the capital, supported by Film London’s production schemes.

EXPERIMENTA

The LFF showcase of Experimental Cinema and Artists’ Moving Image, is programmed in partnership with LUX for a second year and is supported by Arts Council England. An extensive selection of new British work is presented including THE FILM THAT BUYS THE CINEMA by Cube Cinema, WHEN YOU FALL INTO A TRANCE by Emily Wardill, TOMORROW IS ALWAYS TOO LONG by Phil Collins commissioned as part of the Commonwealth Games, 72-82 by William Raban, NEAR REAL TIME by Gail Pickering and HOW TO MAKE MONEY RELIGIOUSLY by Laure Prouvost. International works include THE INEXTINGUISHABLE FIRE: HARUN FAROCKI 1944-2014, a tribute to the late great German filmmaker with screenings of PARALLEL I-IV and INEXTINGUISHABLE FIRE; and TRIBUTE TO MARIA KLONARIS (1950-2014) who was responsible for some of the most radical feminist and transgender films and art ever created. Preservationist Mark Toscano will present MEDITATIONS FROM OUR LADY OF THE ANGELS, a specially curated-selection of restored Los Angeles artists’ films from the Academy Film Archive. Ken McMullen’s new film OXI: An Act of Resistance. The diverse programme includes animation, conceptual and performance pieces, diaristic work, abstraction and more.

TREASURES

Treasures brings recently restored cinematic riches from archives around the world to the Festival in London. The previously announced Archive Gala is the World Premiere of the BFI National Archive restoration of a major British silent film THE BATTLES OF CORONEL AND FALKLAND ISLANDS (1927). This virtually unknown film offers a stunning recreation of two key battles faced by the Royal Navy in the early days of World War One, almost exactly a century ago. Screening at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the film will have a stirring new score, commissioned from award-winning composer Simon Dobson and will be performed by 24 members of the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines. Restoration supported by Matt Spick. Archive Gala and Score supported by Arts Council England, the Gosling Foundation, the Hartnett Conservation Trust, PRS for Music Foundation and the Charles Skey Charitable Trust.

The newly restored, iconic silent film THE GODDESS (1934) from Chinese cinema’s Golden Age starring Ruan Lingyu, is presented as part of the BFI’s year-long Electric Shadows project celebrating artistic and cultural collaborations between China and Britain. Screening at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the film will have a new score by Chinese composer Zou Ye, commissioned by the K T Wong Foundation, and will be performed live by the English Chamber Orchestra.

The latest 4k restoration by Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation and the BFI National Archive is Powell and Pressburger’s THE TALES OF HOFFMAN (1951) a dazzling take on Jacques Offenbach’s 1881 opera. The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project presents a 4k restored version of Sergei Parajanov’s THE COLOUR OF POMEGRANATES (1969).

The Imperial War Museum has restored and completed GERMAN CONCENTRATION CAMPS FACTUAL SURVEY (1945/2014), following the original filmmakers’ directions and drawing on seventeen hours of footage documenting the horrors discovered following the liberation of the concentration camps in 1944 and ’45.

Other highlights include John Schlesinger’s FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (1967) starring Julie Christie and Terrence Stamp cast as lovers in Thomas Hardy’s epic love story; Robert Altman’s COME BACK TO THE FIVE & DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN (1982); Joseph L Mankiewicz’s GUYS AND DOLLS (1955) starring Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando, and the 40th anniversary of Tobe Hooper’s classic horror THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE now available in a new razor sharp 4K transfer.

EVENTS

We are delighted to announce this year’s programme of events, including Screen Talks with filmmakers Bennett Miller and Abderrahmane Sissako; Masterclasses with production designer Maria Djurkovic and documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman and three events to celebrate DreamWorks Animation Studios turning 20 in October.

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One of the best things about going to Telluride is meeting up with people I only get to see once a year, or thereabouts. Some of them will drift in and out of the upcoming events in Los Angeles but not most. They come from all over the country to attend the festival and I have to admit seeing them is always the thing I look forward to. It’s right up there with hot coffee at the morning screening up at the Chuck Jones.

I briefly chatted with film critic James Rocchi who had come to Telluride for the first time, along with his wife. He said he loved it so far but that he felt a little guilty about being “in the bubble” of it all and not being sure whether or not he liked that. He knows that the hype machine begins high up in the Colorado mountains and he is one of the few who chafes against the Oscar race because he wonders why so many people care about the opinions of a few thousand privileged old white dudes. He has a point. He’s always had a point. Most of us come to the Oscar race hoping it will mean more, that sooner or later the Oscar race is going to matter, really matter beyond the sparkle and shimmy of a celebrity parade. Do they matter? I don’t know. I dive in every year thinking that they matter in terms of politics and power in Hollywood and that winning one can make a person feel as though their time was not wasted.

This was a cool weekend in Telluride with a bright clear blue sky, the occasional gusts of chilly wind and always that piercing high altitude sunlight. You could do nothing else but walk around the town and have the best time. That they hide away screenings in Masonic temples and school auditoriums is all the more delightful. Even after coming to the fest for four years now I never know what to pack. I just never end up with the right clothes so that I never wear anything I brought, and curse myself for not bringing the right clothes. Comfortable shoes are a must. No one really dresses up because they all look like REI catalogue models. Hiking boots, jeans and fleece, the occasional puffy jacket, a scarf. Forget the groovy city ankle boots, the short dresses, and above all, the high heels.

Chris Willman has become one of my Telluride pals. We never see each other in Los Angeles, hardly ever, but for some reason we always end up hanging out here or there, waiting in line, etc. He introduced me to the Feed, something I knew nothing about. That is a meal that takes place on Friday after the first screening (this one was Wild). The Telluride fest rolls out a lavish meal for all badge holders. I had no idea. Chris dragged me into it for salmon and a beer. Imagine that. A free meal.

First Showing’s Alex Billington and Film Journal’s Tomris Laffly are part of my pack in the mountains. We tend to gravitate towards one another in line or at parties and always sit together when we can. Theirs are two of the opinions I always seek out because we all three have similar sensibilities. We don’t always agree, of course, but they are both as passionate about movies as I feel movies deserve. Telluride blogger Michael and (artist) Kristy Patterson are two I didn’t get enough time to hang out with before I headed out of town. Michael Patterson’s countdown to the Telluride Film Fest and subsequent opinion gathering are vital aspects to the season. And my old pal Jeff Wells was my roommate. He works himself late into the evening, wakes up at 6am and starts all over again. He’s tireless in his time investment. You could say we were exactly the opposite in that way. At one point I had to just check out and cook a slow meal at the condo for the teenagers and Jeff. It was just like playing house!

I will never catch up with Anne Thompson, Kris Tapley, Greg Ellwood, and other journalists who just do the work really well. As if interviewing Jon Stewart wasn’t enough, Thompson also worked in a book signing for her successful $11 Billion Year at Between the Covers. I value each of their opinions, too, especially where Oscar is concerned. But the Oscar guru is now and will always be Mr. Pete Hammond, who hangs out with Academy members. I spent a gondola ride down with Hammond and his brilliant storytelling wife Madelyn, along with Peggy Siegel and Sig Ganis. They didn’t talk movies but that’s the kind of world Pete dwells in. He knows them. He knows what they like. Actually, they did report that they loved Wild.

“If this thing goes down,” Pete said, “The whole Oscar race goes with it.” Pete and I grabbed a couple of drinks and talked hardcore Oscar at the Fox Searchlight party. We were both on the hunt for “the one.” So far, we don’t know what’s coming. After three greyhounds and two glasses of wine I stumbled out of the Sheridan as the last call lights were coming up. I walked with Pete down the road a bit to finish our conversation then I pulled my puffy jacket on and found my way back to our condo. It was a mistake to drink that much. I could not wake up and face the next day, my last, in Telluride with a raging hangover. A couple cups of coffee, some water, Advil – nothing was helping. It was time to pack it in. There was much left to do but I was facing a two-day drive back to Los Angeles with two teenagers and an abandoned puppy I was becoming more and more attached to as the weekend wore on. I am not sure I will be able to part with him, tbh.

We drove through the Four Corners and Monument Valley on our way to Kingman, Arizona, where our hotel waited for us. We let the puppy out for bathroom break – a dusty, forgotten Res dog sniffing the cracked mud dimpled with carefully assembled homes for dung beetles. One dog found and rescued but hundreds more wander the reservations in packs, gathered around the Burger King. Navajo Preservation Center presented by Burger King.

With Telluride a world away, I was thinking about real life versus the bubble I dwell in. What does any of it have to do with anything? Turns out, not much. It is reserved for remaining few who still believe films can change the world. Or maybe they just change us. There was a Birdman and a Foxcatcher, a woman who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and women who were evacuated out of the West they hoped to help settle. These artists still care to make movies that might make a difference to someone, somewhere. I’m left with the last frame of Jon Stewart’s Rosewater — the image of youthful defiance in the face of oppression.. I just realized I went around the world and back, nestled in the higher altitudes, movies and the people who love them.

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Fox Searchlight Party
Fox Searchlight Party
Jean Marc Vallee and Reese Witherspoon
Jean Marc Vallee and Reese Witherspoon
Laura Dern and Alejandro Inarritu
Laura Dern and Alejandro Inarritu
Alex and Tomris
Alex and Tomris

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Rosewater
Rosewater
Wild
Wild

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Them teens
Them teens

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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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The plot: A small town teenager in the 1960s believes her dreams of becoming a famous singer will come true when her rock star idol gets stranded in town. But a leak in a nearby chemical plant that is believed to be causing mass mutations threatens to turn her dream into a nightmare.

Written and directed by Jeffrey St. Jules, starring Jane Levy.

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41st edition plays host to 25 new feature films in its main program

Tribute programs honoring Volker Schlöndorff, Hilary Swank and the 35th Anniversary of Apocalypse Now

Telluride, CO (August 28, 2014) – Telluride Film Festival, presented by the National Film Preserve, today announced its official program selections for the 41st edition of Telluride Film Festival. TFF’s annual celebration of artistic excellence brings together cinema enthusiasts, filmmakers and artists to discover the best in world cinema in the beautiful mountain town of Telluride, Colorado. TFF will screen 85 feature films, short films and revivals representing twenty-eight countries, along with special artist Tributes, Conversations, Panels, Education Programs and Festivities.

Telluride Film Festival takes place Friday, August 29 – Monday, September 1, 2014.

41st Telluride Film Festival is proud to present the following 25 new feature films to play in its main program:

  • · THE 50 YEAR ARGUMENT (d. Martin Scorsese, David Tedeschi, U.K.-U.S., 2014)
  • · ’71 (d. Yann Demange, U.K., 2014)
  • · 99 HOMES (d. Ramin Bahrani, U.S., 2014)
  • · BIRDMAN (d. Alejandro González Iñárritu, U.S., 2014)
  • · DANCING ARABS (d. Eran Riklis, Israel-Germany-France, 2014)
  • · THE DECENT ONE (d. Vanessa Lapa, Australia-Israel-Germany, 2014)
  • · DIPLOMACY (d. Volker Schlöndorff, France-Germany, 2014)
  • · FOXCATCHER (d. Bennett Miller, U.S., 2014)
  • · THE GATE (d. Régis Wargnier, France-Belgium-Cambodia, 2014)
  • · THE HOMESMAN (d. Tommy Lee Jones, U.S., 2014)
  • · THE IMITATION GAME (d. Morten Tyldum, U.K.-U.S., 2014)
  • · LEVIATHAN (d. Andrey Zvgagintsev, Russia, 2014)
  • · THE LOOK OF SILENCE (d. Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark-Indonesia-Norway-Finalnd-U.S., 2014)
  • · MADAME BOVARY (d. Sophie Barthes, U.K.-Belgium, 2014)
  • · MERCHANTS OF DOUBT (d. Robert Kenner, U.S., 2014)
  • · MOMMY (d. Xavier Dolan, Canada, 2014)
  • · MR. TURNER (d. Mike Leigh, U.K., 2014)
  • · THE PRICE OF FAME (d. Xavier Beauvois, France, 2014)
  • · RED ARMY (d. Gabe Polsky, U.S.-Russia, 2014)
  • · ROSEWATER (d. Jon Stewart, U.S., 2014)
  • · THE SALT OF THE EARTH (d. Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Brazil-Italy-France, 2014)
  • · TALES OF THE GRIM SLEEPER (d. Nick Broomfield, U.K.-U.S, 2014)
  • · TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (d. Luc Dardenne, Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Belgium-Italy-France, 2014)
  • · WILD (d. Jean-Marc Valleé, U.S., 2014)
  • · WILD TALES (d. Damián Szifrón, Argentina-Spain, 2014)

Additional Sneak Previews may play outside the main program and will be announced on the Telluride Film Festival website over the course of the four-day weekend. Visit the TFF website for updates www.telluridefilmfestival.org.

The 2014 Silver Medallion Awards, given to recognize an artist’s significant contribution to the world of cinema, go to German filmmaker Volker Schlöndorff who will present his latest work DIPLOMACY as part of the Tribute program, his 1992 collaboration with Billy Wilder, BILLY, HOW DID YOU DO IT? and his 1970 film BAAL starring Rainer Werner Fassbinder, both of which will play elsewhere in the program; Two-time Academy award-winning actress Hilary Swank (BOYS DON’T CRY, MILLION DOLLAR BABY) who stars in TFF selection, THE HOMESMAN; and in celebration of its 35th Anniversary, Francis Ford Coppola’s APOCALYPSE NOW – screened from a new DCP of the original theatrical cut – including guests Coppola, screenwriter John Milius, producer-casting director Fred Roos, cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and editor-sound designer Walter Murch.

Guest Directors Guy Maddin and Kim Morgan, who serve as key collaborators in the Festival’s program, present the following six films:

  • · CALIFORNIA SPLIT (d. Robert Altman, U.S., 1974)
  • · IL GRIDO (d. Michelangelo Antonioni, Italy, 1957)
  • · M (d. Joseph Losey, U.S., 1951)
  • · A MAN’S CASTLE (d. Frank Borzage, U.S., 1933)
  • · THE ROAD TO GLORY (d. Howard Hawks, U.S., 1936)
  • · WICKED WOMAN (d. Russell Rouse, U.S., 1953)

Additional film revivals include CHILDREN OF NO IMPORTANCE (d. Gerhard Lamprecht, Germany, 1926) and TOO MUCH JOHNSON (d. Orson Welles, U.S., 1938) both presented by the Pordenone Silent Film Festival with live accompaniment by Donald Sosin; a collection of short films by Carroll Ballard forming the program, CARROLL BALLARD: SEEMS LIKE ONLY YESTERDAY; and WHERE EAGLES DARE (d. Brian G. Hutton, U.S., 1968) from a print courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Backlot, Telluride’s intimate screening room featuring behind-the-scenes movies and portraits of artists, musicians and filmmakers, will screen the following nine programs:

  • · BERTOLUCCI ON BERTOLUCCI (d. Walter Fasano, Luca Guadagnino, Italy, 2013)
  • · FORBIDDEN FILMS (d. Felix Moeller, Germany, 2014)
  • · HOW TO SMELL A ROSE (d. Les Blank, Gina Leibrecht, U.S.-France, 2014)
  • · I STOP TIME (d. Gunilla Bresky, Sweden-Russia, 2014)
  • · KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON (d. Alan Hicks, U.S., 2014)
  • · MAGICIAN (d. Chuck Workman, U.S., 2014)
  • · NIGHT WILL FALL (d. André Singer, U.K.-U.S.-Israel, 2014)
  • · SEYMOUR (d. Ethan Hawke, U.S., 2014)
  • · SOCIALISM (d. Peter von Bagh, Finland, 2014)

“When we finish putting together the program there is a moment of absolute joy,” said Telluride Film Festival executive director Julie Huntsinger. “We never know what the film world will bring us when we set out each year, but with incredible gratitude to the filmmakers and artists and satisfaction in knowing we have screened everything imaginable, we are once again thrilled to present the absolute best in new American and world cinema and treasured films from the past. We hope our audience will be as inspired as we are. “

Telluride Film Festival annually celebrates heroes of cinema who preserve, honor and present great movies. The 2014 Special Medallion award goes to Cineteca di Bologna and Gian Luca Farinelli for the significant role played in film restoration and preservation of film culture. JOYFUL LAUGHTER, Mario Monicelli’s masterpiece from 1960 is a recent example of Bologna’s restorative work and will screen as part of the program.

Telluride Film Festival’s SHOWcase for Shorts features fourteen short films chosen to precede select feature films; Filmmakers of Tomorrow includes three programs: Student Prints, Great Expectations, and Calling Cards from eighteen emerging filmmakers.

Telluride Film Festival’s Education Programs present students the opportunity to experience film as an art and expand participants’ worldview through film screenings and filmmaker discussions. The Student Symposium provides 54 graduate and undergraduate college students a weekend-long immersion in cinema. The City Lights Project, now in its 15th year, brings 21 high school students and seven teachers from four divergent schools the opportunity to participate in a concentrated program of screenings and discussions. FilmLAB offers a master-class program for UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television graduate filmmaking students. The Roger Ebert/TFF University Seminars give university professors and students the opportunity to travel to the Festival each year to participate in special programming and to attend screenings throughout the weekend.

Telluride Film Festival’s Talking Heads programs allow attendees to go behind the scenes with the Festival’s special guests. Six Conversations take place between Festival guests and the audience about cinema and culture, and three outdoor Noon Seminars feature a panel of Festival guests discussing a wide range of film topics. These programs are free and open to the public.

Various Festivities will take place throughout the Festival including Book Signings with Cheryl Strayed (Wild), Maziar Bahari (Then They Came for Me), Sayed Kashua (Dancing Arabs), Werner Herzog (A Guide for the Perplexed), and Ted Hope (Hope for Film); Quincy Jones presents: Justin Kauflin in Concert, music from KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON; and Behind the Scenes: Feast and Lava where makers of Disney’s FEAST and Pixar’s LAVA share their inspiration behind and creation of two memorable animation films.

Corporate support at Telluride Film Festival plays an essential role in the life of the Festival and underscores the Festival’s commitment to quality, adventure and distinction in the art of cinema. TFF is privileged to collaborate with some of the world’s most renowned consumer and entertainment brands, including Turner Classic Movies, EY, Audible.com, Film Finances, Inc., Meyer Sound, Bombardier Business Aircraft, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group and Universal Studios; and excited to welcome new partners Blu Homes, Peter G. Dodge Foundation, Vimeo, Speck– each of which are aligned with a unique feature of the festival. Equally, Telluride Film Festival is extremely proud of its committed relationships with UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, Americas Film Conservancy, London Hotels: NYC & West Hollywood, Dolby, Teatulia, Telluride Alpine Lodging, New Sheridan Hotel, The Hollywood Reporter, Cinedigm, Boston Light and Sound, Land Rover North America, Canon, Dell, Novo Coffee and Time Warner Cable Business Class.

Huntsinger comments, “We simply could not present Telluride Film Festival without the generous support of our sponsors, who believe in what we do and back us meaningfully and repeatedly. “

The 41st Telluride Film Festival’s program will be posted in its entirety on Thursday, August 28, 2014. Visit www.telluridefilmfestival.org to download the Program Guide.

Film stills and Festival images available upon request. Email shannon@telluridefilmfestival.org for more information.

About Telluride Film Festival

The prestigious Telluride Film Festival ranks among the world’s best film festivals and is an annual gathering for film industry insiders, cinema enthusiasts, filmmakers and critics. TFF is considered a major launching ground for the fall season’s most talked-about films. Founded in 1974, Telluride Film Festival, presented in the beautiful mountain town of Telluride, Colorado, is a four-day international educational event celebrating the art of film. Telluride Film Festival’s long-standing commitment is to join filmmakers and film connoisseurs together to experience great cinema. The exciting schedule, kept secret until Opening Day, consists of over two dozen filmmakers presenting their newest works, special Guest Director programs, three major Tributes to guest artists, special events and remarkable treasures from the past. Telluride Film Festival is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit educational program. Festival headquarters are in Berkeley, CA.

Cannes 2014: Mr Turner

Michael Patterson has been dutifully keeping track of the buzz and checking the temperature for what might show up at Telluride this year. He’s keeping a list of possibles, those that are mights, and the maybes. He is pondering whether or not Leviathan, the Russian epic that made a big splash in Cannes this year, will hit the fest or not.

His list of possibles right now include:

15) 99 Homes
A father struggles to get back the home that his family was evicted from by working for the greedy real estate broker who’s the source of his frustration. Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, directed by Ramin Bahrani (At Any Price, Man Push Cart)

14) Life May Be (Documentary)
An epistolary feature film: a cinematic discourse between a British director, (Mark Cousins, the celebrated film maker and historian) and an Iranian actress and director (Mania Akbari, famed for her work with Abbas Kiarostami and in her own right as a director) which extends the concept of “essay film” with startling confrontations in the arenas of cultural issues, gender politics and differing artistic sensibilities. A unique journey into the minds of two exceptional filmmakers which becomes a love affair on film.
Directed by Mania Akbari, Mark Cousins (The Story of Film: An Odyssey).

13) The Homesman
A claim jumper and a pioneer woman team up to escort three insane women from Nebraska to Iowa.
Starring Hillary Swank, Tommy Lee Jones, directed by Tommy Lee Jones

12) Two Days, One Night
The film follows Sandra, a young woman assisted by her husband, who has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job.
Starring Marion Cotillard, by the Dardennes.

11) Red Army (Documentary)
Following the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War, RED ARMY tells the story of the nation’s famed Red Army hockey team through the eyes of its captain Slava Fetisov. Whether he was pitted against enemies in the political arena or on the ice, Fetisov’s story provides a rare glimpse behind the Iron Curtain of the 1970s and ’80s by mirroring the social and political forces at work in the world around him. While helping pave the way for his nation to cross over into the next century, this one man demonstrated how sports could not only be an avenue for creative expression in a world determined to suppress it, but also be something so inextricably intertwined with a nation’s cultural and political identity. Directed by Gabe Polsky

10) The Look of Silence (Documentary) A family that survives the genocide in Indonesia confronts the men who killed one of their brothers. Directed by Josh Oppenheimer (Act of Killing)

9) Wild Tales (Argentina)
A story about love deception, the return of the past, a tragedy, or even the violence contained in an everyday detail, appear themselves to push them towards the abyss, into the undeniable pleasure of losing control. Directed by Damián Szifrón (big hit in Cannes)

8) Rosewater
A journalist is detained in Iran for more than 100 days and brutally interrogated in prison. Starring Gael García Bernal, Shohreh Aghdashloo. Directed by Jon Stewart. Yes, THAT Jon Stewart.

7) Leviathan (Russia)
A present day social drama spanning multiple characters about the human insecurity in a “new country” which gradually unwinds to a mythological scale concerning the human condition on earth entirely. Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev

6) Queen of the Desert
A chronicle of Gertrude Bell’s life, a traveler, writer, archaeologist, explorer, cartographer, and political attaché for the British Empire at the dawn of the twentieth century.
James Franco, Robert Pattinson, Nicole Kidman
Directed by Werner Herzog

5) Wild
A chronicle of one woman’s 1,100-mile solo hike undertaken as a way to recover from a recent catastrophe.
Starring Reese Witherspoon, Gaby Hoffman. Directed by Jean-Marc Valle (Dallas Buyers Club)

4) The Imitation Game
English mathematician and logician, Alan Turing, helps crack the Enigma code during World War II.
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Directed by Morten Tyldum

3) Birdman
A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.
Starring Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu

2) Mr. Turner
An exploration of the last quarter century of the great, if eccentric, British painter J.M.W. Turner’s life.
Starring the great Timothy Spall (Cannes winner for Best Actor). Written and Directed by Mike Leigh.

Our Review

1) Foxcatcher
Based on the true story of Mark Schultz, an Olympic wrestler whose relationship with sponsor John du Pont and brother Dave Schultz would lead to unlikely circumstances.
Starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo. Directed by Bennett Miller

Our Review

Other films simmering below these 15:

“She’s Funny That Way”
Ken Burns’ “The Roosevelts”
Serge Bromberg’s Restored Film/Brinton Collection
“The Price of Fame”
“Winter Sleep”
“Mommy”
“Whiplash”
“Bird People”

Leaving our Telluride consideration this week:
“Clouds of Sils Maria”
“The Wonders”
“The Blue Room”
“Jauja”

Still in play for T-ride…

“Slow West”
“Suffragette”
“Kill the Messenger”
“A Most Violent Year”
“’71”

BIG films still hanging:

“Unbroken”
“Interstellar”
“Fury”
“Big Eyes”
“Exodus: Gods and Kings”

Of these five, “Unbroken” and “Big Eyes” now seem like the best shot at a Telluride play…and that shot isn’t that great.

The Best Picture winner has turned up at Telluride the past four years. The Hurt Locker was the last film not to get the T-Ride boost. There’s a good chance our winner is here somewhere. But there’s also the chance that it will be the one year where the winner is a later entry, coming in from somewhere else.

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Two weeks from today the Telluride Film Festival begins. It is an exciting time of the year because this festival, more than any other, heralds the arrival of the Oscar race. In the years I’ve been attending Telluride, the Best Picture winner has screened there, either premiering or part of the schedule. The last two Best Picture winners debuted there, with their directors bringing the films along to showcase, 12 Years a Slave and Argo. The Artist was the film everyone was talking about in 2011.

In 2010, The King’s Speech, this Deadline headline says it all, “TELLURIDE FEST CLOSES: Colin Firth Feted As ‘King’s Speech’ Draws Oscar Buzz. In 2009, Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker did not need Telluride to launch, as it had launched from Toronto the year before to much acclaim before being shelved for the following year. But Slumdog Millionaire premiered at Telluride in 2008. That was when it all began.

Why did the Telluride Film Festival become such a pivotal player in the Oscar race? And why has it stolen Toronto’s thunder? There are several reasons. The first big reason – Oscar changed its date, moving everything back one month. That shifted the entire awards race backwards so that to win Best Picture now you really have to be a known entity by October at the absolute latest. You have to go back to 2004, right around the time of the date change (a year after) to find a film that won being released later in the year, Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby.

The date change shifted focus off of the very end of the year and put it right around the beginning of the fall season. Because everything happens so fast you want your place in line early. Either bloggers will hold your place for you because they know you’re coming (we call these “sight unseen predictions”) or you will land your place at a festival, Cannes at the earliest (No Country for Old Men, The Artist) or Telluride (Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, Argo, 12 Years a Slave).

The second reason is that the audience at Telluride is smaller, more selective than that at Cannes or Toronto, both of which are open to anyone who can get credentialed. Telluride you have to pay to play – around $750 for a festival pass. That means, either your outlet finds it worthwhile to send you or you are someone like me, willing to pay your own way for a chance to maybe glimpse the Oscar favorite early.

The first Oscar blogger I can remember attending the festival was Kris Tapley from InContention. He smartly began attending Telluride because it wasn’t as big as Toronto and that made it more doable. Also sites like Collider, First Showing and Slashfilm had already been attending by then so if you were a young film blogger you might happen to Telluride on your festival circuit. But Oscar blogging is different from film blogging. You’re not just there to hype movies. You’re there to hype a specific kind of movie, a movie that industry voters might like.

After Slumdog’s ascent more Oscar bloggers began paying attention to Telluride and now, everyone goes. David Poland, Anne Thompson, Jeff Wells, Pete Hammond, Scott Feinberg – the whole thing.

Telluride is one of the more pleasurable festivals. It’s beautiful, quiet, peaceful – you can walk everywhere. Pot smoke wafts through the streets. Great coffee, great beer. If I could live there all year round I would. The volunteers are friendly. The attendees are badged marrieds, singles and seniors all there for the love of film. Riding back on the gondolas with them is always the most fun.

I can’t wait for my first morning screening up at the Chuck Jones, with a hot cup of coffee in my hands. Last year, there was a live band playing outside the Coen brothers tribute for Inside Llewyn Davis. The bottom line is that — happy attendees usually make for more kind reception of the films. In other words, even the worst movies play well at Telluride – and great movies? They get a lot of bang for their buck up there in the mountains with all of those happy people.

Finally, the biggest reason is the selection committee. I can count on one hand the bad movies I’ve seen at Telluride. They pick good ones. They have good taste. If you add all of these elements up together you can see why Telluride is one of the choice spots for launching a film headed for the Oscar race.

Of course, this isn’t their intention and many bristle at the suggestion. There is always the desire to keep Telluride a best kept secret so that it isn’t mobbed and overrun. It’s expensive to stay there and near impossible to find lodging. The chances of it becoming a mob scene are slim.

The reason Toronto falls just short of Telluride is that it’s so big a small contender can get lost in the shuffle. It used to be a movie that did really well at Toronto could be launch into the Oscar race with ease. But Toronto comes later, almost too late to impact the Oscar race, believe it or not. There are so many movies playing, so many bloggers and critics and journalists covering them, it’s hard to pool the enthusiasm in one place.

However, that doesn’t mean it still can’t launch a formidable contender. Silver Linings Playbook got its boost from Toronto.

Every year is different. 2014’s story has not yet been written. We don’t know if Telluride will once again produce a Best Picture winner. The New York Film Festival has several key films headed into the race.

What we do know is that time is of the essence where these awards are concerned. The voting and choosing starts early. The grooves are worn early. Once they are set in motion it becomes harder to derail them.

Then again, films can’t be hyped too early either. A movie like the Grand Budapest Hotel came out so early it’s hard to imagine it surviving on through the end of the year. Early films can get forgotten, even if they are hyped to no end by bloggers and critics. There are many variables. Things can shift. We might see our first late-release winner this year since 2003.

Either way, we’re just about two weeks away from having a pretty good idea where this year’s Best Picture race is going.

JESSICA LANGE at American Horror Story Special Screening in Hollywood

The first big announcement coming out of the Santa Barbara Film Festival is that Jessica Lange will be honored with the Kirk Douglas award in November.

Santa Barbara, CA – The Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s ninth annual KIRK DOUGLAS AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN FILM will be presented to two time Academy Award-winning actress JESSICA LANGE. Guests will gather to celebrate her achievements at a black-tie Gala dinner at Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara, Sunday November 16, 2014. In the tradition of the award, top-name presenters will be revealed closer to the event.

Commented Kirk Douglas, “Jessica Lange possess the three key elements in making it in this crazy business: talent, beauty, and intelligence…all of which have served her well and continue to do so. It is my honor to give her my award.”

Lange is in revered company, joining previous recipients Forrest Whittaker, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Quentin Tarantino, Ed Harris, John Travolta and Kirk Douglas himself.

Acclaimed as one of the greatest actresses of her generation, Lange has dazzled the screen with over thirty credits to her name. She made her Hollywood debut in John Guillermin’s King Kong opposite Jeff Bridges and Charles Grodin, winning a Golden Globe for Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture. She then permanently put her name on the map by receiving dual Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations in the same year for her challenging performances in Frances and in Sydney Pollack’s memorable comedy Tootsie starring opposite Dustin Hoffman, for which she took home the Oscar for Supporting Actress. Lange won her second Oscar for her starring role in Blue Sky, opposite Tommy Lee Jones.

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Variety listed the Venice films upcoming. A Lisa Cholodenko film called Olive Kittredge, playing out of competition, caught my eye immediately. It is not a feature, of course – do they make features like this anymore? But it does sound pretty great – an HBO mini series with Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins, together again after playing Hard Bodies boss and employee in Burn After Reading. Not many US films in main competition, though Birdman is really the big get.

VENICE FILM FESTIVAL — IN COMPETITION

“The Cut,” Fatih Akin (Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Canada, Poland, Turkey)
“A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence,” Roy Andersson (Sweden, Germany, Norway, France)
“99 Homes,” Ramin Bahrani (U.S.)
“Tales,” Rakhshan Bani E’temad (Iran)
“La rancon de la gloire,” Xavier Beauvois (France)
“Hungry Hearts,” Saverio Costanzo (Italy)
“Le fernier coup de marteau,” Alix Delaporte (France)
“Manglehorn,” David Gordon Green (U.S.)
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu (U.S.) OPENER
“Three Hearts,” Benoit Jacquot (France)
“The Postman’s White Nights,” Andrei Konchalovsky (Russia)
“Il Giovane Favoloso,” Mario Martone (Italy)
“Sivas,” Kaan Mujdeci (Turkey)
“Anime Nere,” Francesco Munzi (Italy, France)
“Good Kill,” Andrew Niccol (U.S.)
“Loin des Hommes,” David Oelhoffen (France)
“The Look of Silence,” Joshua Oppenheimer (Denmark, Finland, Indonesia, Norway, U.K.)
“Nobi,” Shinya Tsukamoto (Japan)
“Red Amnesia,” Wang Xiaoshuai (China)

OUT OF COMPETITION
“Words with Gods,” Guillermo Arriaga, Emir Kusturica, Amos Gitai. Mira Nair, Warwick Thornton, Hector Babenco, Bahman Ghobadi, Hideo Nakata, Alex de la Iglesia (Mexico. U.S.)
“She’s Funny That Way,” Peter Bogdanovich (U.S.)
“Dearest,” Peter Ho-sun Chan (Hong Kong, China)
“Olive Kitteridge,” Lisa Cholodenko (U.S.)
“Burying the Ex,” Joe Dante (U.S.)
”Perez,” Edoardo De Angelis (Italy)
“La zuppa del demonio,” Davide Ferrario (Italy)
“Tsili,” Amos Gitai (Israel, Russia, Italy, France)
“La trattativa,” Sabina Guzzanti (Italy)
“The Golden Era,” Ann Hui (China, Hong Kong) CLOSER
“Make Up,” Im Kwontaek (South Korea)
“The Humbling,” Barry Levinson (U.S.)
“The Old Man of Belem,” Manoel de Oliveira (Portugal, France)
“Italy in a Day,” Gabriele Salvatores (Italy, U.K.)
“In the Basement,” Ulrich Seidl (Austria)
“The Boxtrolls,” Anthony Stacchi, Annable Graham (U.K)
“Nyphomanic Volume II (long version) Director’s Cut,” Lars Von Trier (Denmark, Germany, France, Belgium)

HORIZONS
“Theeb,” Naji Abu Nowar (Jordan, U.A.E. Qatar, U.K.)
“Line of Credit,” Salome Alexi (Georgia, Germany, France)
“Cymbeline,” Michael Almereyda (U.S.)
“Senza Nessuna Pieta,” Michele Alhaique (Italy)
“Near Death Experience,” Benoit Delepine, Gustave Kervern (France)
“Le Vita Oscena,” Renato De Maria (Italy)
“Realite,” Quentin Dupieux (France, Belgium)
“I Spy/I Spy,” Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala (Austria)
“Hill of Freedom,” Hong Sangsoo (South Korea)
“Bypass,” Duane Hopkins (U.K.)
“The President,” Moshen Makhmalbaf (Georgia, France, U.K. Germany)
“Your Right Mind,” Ami Canaan Mann (U.S.)
“Belluscone, una storia siciliana,” Franco Maresco (Italy)
“Nabat,” Elchin Musaoglu (Azerbaijan)
“Heaven Knows What,” Josh Safdie, Ben Safdie (U.S., France)
“These Are the Rules,” Ognjen Svilicic,” (Croatia, France, Serbia, Macedonia)
“Court,” Chaitanya Tamhane (India)

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The Toronto Film Fest unfurls September 4th through the 14th. New York kind of pulled an announcement coup, being the first major North American fest to announce the premiere of David Fincher’s Gone Girl, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, with Inarritu’s Birdman closing. But TIFF is right up on its tail, announcing a partial slate today. Among those announced early, Ed Zwick’s chess drama Pawn Sacrifice (I can’t wait – being an avid chess player myself), with Tobey Maguire as the great Bobby Fischer and Liev Schrieber as the equally great Boris Spassky. Lone Scherfig’s The Riot Club, Cronenberg will hit it with Cannes player Maps to the Stars, Jason Reitman’s Men, Women and Children is also coming. Here is a list, via we got this covered:

GALAS

Black and White Mike Binder, USA

Black and White is the story of a widowed grandfather who is left to raise his bi-racial granddaughter. When the little girl’s paternal grandmother seeks custody, a bitter legal battle ensues that forces the uneasy family members to have an honest conversation about life, death, anger and America’s racial divide. Starring Academy Award-winners Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer, as well as Anthony Mackie, Jennifer Ehle, Gillian Jacobs, Bill Burr, Andre Holland and Jillian Estell.

The Equalizer Antoine Fuqua, USA World Premiere

In this big-screen adaptation of the cult ‘80s TV show, McCall believes he has put his past behind him and has dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when he meets Teri, a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can’t stand idly by –— he has to help her. Armed with hidden skills that allow him to extract vengeance upon anyone who would brutalize the helpless, McCall comes out of his self-imposed retirement and finds his desire for justice reawakened. If someone has a problem, if the odds are stacked against them, if they have nowhere else to turn, McCall will help. He is The Equalizer. Starring Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo.

Foxcatcher Bennett Miller, USA Canadian Premiere

Based on true events, this film tells the dark and fascinating story of the unlikely and ultimately tragic relationship between an eccentric multi-millionaire and two champion wrestlers. Starring Anthony Michael Hall, Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Vanessa Redgrave, Mark Ruffalo and Sienna Miller.

Haemoo Shim Sung-bo, South Korea International Premiere

The ragtag crew of a fishing boat takes on a dangerous commission to smuggle a group of illegal immigrants from China to Korea, in this tense high-seas adventure co-scripted by South Korean genre-movie guru Bong Joon-ho. Starring Kim Yoon-seok and Park Yoo- chun.

The Judge David Dobkin, USA World Premiere

Big city lawyer Hank Palmer returns to his childhood home where his estranged father, the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth, and along the way reconnects with the family he walked away from years before. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard and Billy Bob Thornton.Closing Night Fil

A Little Chaos Alan Rickman, United Kingdom World Premiere

A landscape gardener with a taste for the unconventional is invited to design one of the fountains at the Palace of Versailles. As she battles with the weather, the perilous rivalries at the court of Louis XIV and her own private demons, she finds herself drawn closer to the formality and enigma of the architect who hired her. Starring Kate Winslet, Stanley Tucci, Alan Rickman and Matthias Schoenaerts.

Maps to the Stars David Cronenberg, Canada/Germany North American Premiere

David Cronenberg forges both a wicked social satire and a very human ghost story from today’s celebrity-obsessed culture. Starring Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams, Sarah Gadon, John Cusack and Robert Pattinson.

The New Girlfriend (Une nouvelle amie) François Ozon, France World Premiere

When her best friend Lea dies, Claire falls into a deep depression. However, after making a surprising discovery about her late friend’s husband, she’s given a new lease on life. Starring Romain Duris, Anaïs Demoustier and Raphaël Personnaz.

Pawn Sacrifice Ed Zwick, USA World Premiere

In this remarkable true story set in the height of the Cold War, chess legend Bobby Fischer is locked in a gripping championship clash with the Soviets as he struggles against his own psychological demons while the whole world anxiously awaits the outcome. Starring Tobey Maguire, Peter Sarsgaard and Liev Schreiber.

The Riot Club Lone Scherfig, United Kingdom World Premiere

A privileged young man is inducted into the exclusive, debaucherous company of Oxford’s elite “Riot Club,” in this scathing dissection of the British class system. Based on the hit play Posh, the film stars Natalie Dormer, Max Irons, Sam Clafin, Jessica Brown Findlay and Douglas Booth.

Samba Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, France World Premiere

Samba migrated to France 10 years ago from Senegal, and has since been plugging away at various lowly jobs. Alice is a senior executive who has recently undergone a burnout. Both struggle to get out of their dead-end lives — Samba’s willing to do whatever it takes to get working papers, while Alice tries to get her life back on track — until fate draws them together. Balancing light-hearted moments with heavier emotion, Samba is a story about two strangers on a new path to happiness. Starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Omar Sy and Tamar Rahim.

This is Where I Leave You Shawn Levy, USA World Premiere

Shawn Levy’s dramatic comedy follows four adult siblings who return home after their father’s death to spend a week with their over- sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens. Confronting their history and frayed relationships among those who know and love them best, they reconnect in hysterical and emotionally affecting ways. Starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll and Kathryn Hahn.

Wild Jean-Marc Vallée, USA International Premiere

After years of reckless behaviour, a heroin addiction and the destruction of her marriage, Cheryl Strayed makes a rash decision. Haunted by memories of her mother Bobbi and with absolutely no experience, she sets out to hike more than a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail all on her own. Wild powerfully reveals Cheryl’s terrors and pleasures as she forges ahead on a journey that maddens, strengthens and ultimately heals her. Starring Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, Michiel Huisman, Gaby Hoffmann and Kevin Rankin.

SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS

99 Homes Ramin Bahrani, USA

After his family is evicted from their home, proud and desperate construction worker Dennis Nash tries to win his home back by striking a deal with the devil and working for Rick Carver, the corrupt real estate broker who evicted him. Starring Andrew Garfield, Laura Dern and Michael Shannon.

American Heist Sarik Andreasyan, USA World Premiere

Two brothers with troubled pasts become embroiled in a high-stakes bank robbery, in this indie action thriller. Starring Adrien Brody, Hayden Christensen, Jordana Brewster and Akon.

Before We Go Chris Evans, USA World Premiere

Set in Manhattan, the story follows two strangers after their serendipitous meeting in Grand Central. Over the course of one night, they form an unlikely bond and the conflicts in their own lives become the basis for exploration into each other and themselves. Starring Chris Evans and Alice Eve.

Breakup Buddies Ning Hao, China World Premiere

Recently cuckolded and reeling from a messy divorce, a hapless former singer hits the road — and the bar — with his all-too-helpful best bud, in this hilarious romantic comedy.

Cake Daniel Barnz, USA World Premiere

Cake tells the story of the acerbic Claire Bennett who has managed to alienate everyone from her life, with the exception of her loyal housekeeper. When Claire becomes fascinated with the suicide of a woman in her chronic pain support group, she develops a poignant relationship with the woman’s grieving husband and comes to terms with her own personal tragedy, catapulting her forward into life. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Anna Kendrick, William H. Macy, Felicity Huffman and Sam Worthington.

Coming Home Zhang Yimou, China North American Premiere

Lu Yanshi and Feng Wanyu are a devoted couple forced to separate when Lu is arrested and sent to a labour camp as a political prisoner, just as his wife is injured in an accident. Released during the last days of the Cultural Revolution, he finally returns home only to find that his beloved wife has amnesia and remembers little of her past. Unable to recognize Lu, she patiently waits for her husband’s return — until Lu determines to resurrect their past together and reawaken his wife’s memory. Starring Chen Daoming and Gong Li.

The Dead Lands (Hautoa) Toa Fraser, New Zealand/United Kingdom World Premiere

Hongi, a Maori chieftain’s teenage son, must avenge his father’s murder in order to bring peace and honour to the souls of his loved ones after his tribe is slaughtered through an act of treachery. Vastly outnumbered by a band of villains led by Wirepa, Hongi’s only hope is to pass through the feared and forbidden “Dead Lands” and forge an uneasy alliance with a mysterious warrior, a ruthless fighter who has ruled the area for years. Starring Xavier Horan, Raukura Turei, Rena Owen, James Rolleston, Lawrence Makoare and Te Kohe Tuhaka.

Dearest Peter Ho-Sun Chan, China/Hong Kong North American Premiere

Drawing on remarkable true stories, Peter Chan delivers a moving drama about child abduction in China. Huang Bo stars as a father whose young son disappears in the streets of a big city. He sets out on a search across China, stopping at nothing to find him. In this star-studded cast, Zhao Wei plays the role of a mother from a poor rural area.

The Drop Michael R. Roskam, USA World Premiere

The Drop follows lonely bartender Bob Saginowski through a covert scheme of funnelling cash to local gangsters in the underworld of Brooklyn bars. Under the heavy hand of his employer and cousin Marv, Bob finds himself at the centre of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighbourhood’s past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living — no matter the cost. Starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts and John Ortiz.

Eden Mia Hansen-Løve, France World Premiere

In the ‘90s, French electronic music is developing at a fast pace. Entering this exciting Parisian nightlife, Paul and his best friend form a DJ duo called Cheers. But just as they rapidly find their audience, they are caught up in a euphoric and short-lived rise to fame. Eden retraces the steps of the “French touch” generation from 1992 to today — a generation that still enjoys outstanding international success thanks to DJs like Daft Punk, Dimitri from Paris and Cassius. Starring Félix de Givry, Pauline Etienne, Vincent Macaigne, Greta Gerwig, Golshifteh Farahani, Laura Smet and Vincent Lacoste.

Far From Men (Loin des Hommes) David Oelhoffen, France North American Premiere

Algeria, 1954. While the rebellion rumbles in the valley, two very different men thrown together by a world in turmoil are forced to flee across the Atlas mountains. In the midst of an icy winter, Daru, a reclusive teacher, has to escort Mohamed, a villager accused of murder. Pursued by horsemen seeking summary justice and vengeful settlers, the two men decide to confront the unknown. Together, they fight to gain their freedom. Starring Viggo Mortensen and Reda Kateb.

Force Majeure Ruben Östlund, Sweden/Norway/Denmark/France North American Premiere

A Swedish family’s ski trip in the French Alps is cut short by news of an oncoming avalanche, during which an impulsive decision by the father Tomas drives a wedge between him and his wife, Ebba — he has run for his life, while she has stayed to protect her children. When the anticipated disaster fails to occur, reality and embarrassed relief returns to the mountainside resort, but the family’s world has been shaken to its core. Force Majeure is an observational comedy about the role of the male in modern family life. Starring Johannes Bah Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren, Vincent Wettergren, Kristofer Hivju and Fanni Metelius.

The Gate Régis Wargnier, France World Premiere

Two decades after forging an unlikely alliance in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, a French ethnologist and a former Khmer Rouge official meet again after the latter is arrested for crimes against humanity, in this drama from top French director Régis Wargnier.

Good Kill Andrew Niccol, USA North American Premiere

A Las Vegas-based fighter pilot turned drone pilot fights the Taliban by remote control for 12 hours a day, then goes home to the suburbs and feuds with his wife and kids for the other 12. But the pilot is starting to question the mission. Is he creating more terrorists than he’s killing? Is he fighting a war without end? This story follows one soldier’s tale with epic implications. Starring Ethan Hawke and January Jones.

The Good Lie Philippe Falardeau, USA World Premiere

Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon and an ensemble of young Sudanese actors — all of whom have direct personal ties to the war in their country — bring the inspiring and uplifting story of The Lost Boys of the Sudanto the screen in a film about heartbreak and hope, survival and triumph. Also starring Corey Stoll, Arnold Oceng, Kuoth Wiel, Ger Duany, Emmauel Jal and Femi Oguns.

Hector and the Search for Happiness Peter Chelsom, Germany/Canada North American Premiere

Hector is a quirky psychiatrist who has become increasingly tired of his humdrum life. Deciding to break out of his deluded routine, he embarks on a global quest in hopes of uncovering the elusive formula for true happiness… and so begins his larger-than-life adventure with riotously funny results. Starring Rosamund Pike, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, Simon Pegg, Stellan Skarsgård and Jean Reno.

The Humbling Barry Levinson, USA North American Premiere

The Humbling tells the story of a legendary stage actor who has an affair with a lesbian woman half his age at a secluded country house in Connecticut. Based on Philip Roth’s final novel, it is a tragic comedy about a man who has lived inside his own imagination for too long. Starring Al Pacino, Mandy Patinkin, Dianne Wiest and Greta Gerwig.

Hungry Hearts Saverio Costanzo, Italy International Premiere

Mina and Jude meet while stuck together in the restroom of a restaurant, marking the beginning of a true love story. They move in together. They get married. And anticipate the arrival of their baby — until a spiritual guide tells Mina she is bearing an “indigo” child. Starring Adam Driver, Alba Rohrwacher and Roberta Maxwell.

The Imitation Game Morten Tyldum, United Kingdom/USA Canadian Premiere

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, the genius British mathematician, logician, cryptologist and computer scientist who led the charge to crack the German Enigma Code that helped the Allies win WWII. Turing went on to assist with the development of computers at the University of Manchester after the war, but was prosecuted by the UK government in 1952 for homosexual acts which the country deemed illegal.

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, Canada/France/Lebanon/Qatar/USA World Premiere Roger Allers, Gaëtan Brizzi, Paul Brizzi, Joan C. Gratz,Mohammed Saeed Harib, Tomm Moore, Nina Paley, Bill Plympton, Joann Sfar and Michal Socha

Inspired by the beloved classic, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet is a richly-animated story and celebration of Gibran’s book, created by artists, animators and musicians from around the world. Starring Liam Neeson, Salma Hayek-Pinault, John Krasinski, Frank Langella, Alfred Molina, John Rhys-Davies and Quvenzhané Wallis.

The Keeping Room Daniel Barber, USA World Premiere

Left without men in the dying days of the American Civil War, three Southern women — two sisters and one African-American slave — must fight to defend their home and themselves from two rogue soldiers who have broken off from the fast-approaching Union Army. Starring Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Sam Worthington, Muna Otaru and Kyle Soller.

The Last Five Years Richard LaGravenese, USA World Premiere

In this adaptation of the hit Broadway musical, The Last Five Years is a musical deconstruction of a love affair and a marriage taking place over a five year period. Jamie, a young, talented up-and-coming Jewish novelist falls in love with Cathy, a Shiksa Goddess and struggling actress. The film, told almost entirely through song and a beautiful pop music score, portrays an honest, heartbreaking, often funny, exploration of love and its consequences on individual identity. Starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan.

Learning to Drive Isabel Coixet, USA World Premiere

As her marriage dissolves, a Manhattan writer takes driving lessons from a Sikh instructor with marriage troubles of his own. In each other’s company, they find the courage to get back on the road and the strength to take the wheel. Starring Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley.

Love & Mercy Bill Pohlad, USA World Premiere

Focusing on Brian Wilson, the mercurial singer, songwriter and leader of The Beach Boys, Love & Mercy paints an unconventional portrait of the artist by interweaving seminal moments in his life, from his artistic genius to his profound struggles, and the love that keeps him alive. Starring Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, John Cusack and Paul Giamatti.

Manglehorn David Gordon Green, USA North American Premiere

Angelo Manglehorn is a small town locksmith who never got over the love of his life. Clara was a beautiful, idealized woman who left him heartbroken 40 years ago. He still writes her letters obsessively as he tries to find her and get back the woman of his dreams. Manglehorn is the journey of this magical man, his son, his cat and a beautiful new woman trying to help him put the pieces of his heart back together. Starring Al Pacino, Holly Hunter and Chris Messina.

Mary Kom Omung Kumar, India World Premiere

Glamorous Indian star Priyanka Chopra completely transforms herself to play Mary Kom, world champion in women’s boxing. From traditional village life in remote Manipur state to high-stakes bouts in India and around the world, this is a remarkable story of triumph.

Men, Women and Children Jason Reitman, USA World Premiere

Men, Women and Children follows the story of a group of high school teenagers and their parents as they attempt to navigate the many ways the internet has changed their relationships, their communication, their self-image, and their love lives. Starring Jennifer Garner, Adam Sandler and Judy Greer.

Miss Julie Liv Ullmann, Norway/United Kingdom/Ireland World Premiere

A country estate in Ireland in the 1880s. Over the course of one midsummer night, Miss Julie explores the brutal, charged power struggle between a young aristocratic woman and her father’s valet. Starring Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton.

Mr. Turner Mike Leigh, United Kingdom Canadian Premiere

This biopic explores the last quarter century of the great if eccentric British painter J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851). Profoundly affected by the death of his father, he forms a close relationship with a seaside landlady with whom he eventually lives incognito in Chelsea, until his death. Throughout his life, the popular — if anarchic — member of the Royal Academy of Arts travels, paints, stays with the country aristocracy, visits brothels, has himself strapped to the mast of a ship so that he can paint a snowstorm, and is both celebrated and reviled by the public and by royalty. Starring Timothy Spall, Dorothy Atkinson, Marion Bailey, Paul Jesson, Lesley Manville, Martin Savage, Joshua McGuire, Ruth Sheen, David Horovitch and Karl Johnson.

My Old Lady Israel Horovitz, USA World Premiere A down-and-out New Yorker inherits an apartment in Paris from his estranged father and is stunned to find a refined old lady living there with her protective daughter. Starring Maggie Smith, Kevin Kline and Kristin Scott Thomas.

Ned Rifle Hal Hartley, USA World Premiere

Ned Rifle is the third and final chapter of Hal Hartley’s tragicomic epic begun with Henry Fool (1997) and continued with Fay Grim (2007). At once a saga concerning the Grim family of Queens and how their lives are turned upside down by the arrival of the self- proclaimed genius Henry Fool, the trilogy is also an illustration of America’s grappling with ideas, art, politics, and religion over the course of 20 years. In this swiftly paced and expansive conclusion, Henry and Fay’s son Ned sets out to find and kill his father for destroying his mother’s life. But his aims are frustrated by the troublesome, sexy and hilarious Susan, whose connection to Henry predates even his arrival in the lives of the Grim family.

Nightcrawler Dan Gilroy, USA World Premiere

Lou Bloom, a driven young man, discovers the nocturnal world of L.A. crime journalism. Joining a group of freelance camera crews who film marketable mayhem, Lou makes his own place at the table, aided by Nina, a veteran of the blood-sport that is local TV news. Blurring the line between observer and perpetrator, Lou finds his calling in a murderous world reduced to transactions. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed and Bill Paxton.

Pasolini Abel Ferrara, France/Italy/Belgium North American Premiere

Rome: on the night of November 2, 1975, the great Italian poet and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini is murdered. Pasolini is the symbol of an art that’s fighting against the power. His writings are scandalous, and his films are persecuted by the censors; many people love him and many hate him. The day of his death, Pasolini spends his last hours with his beloved mother and later with his dearest friends, until he finally goes out into the night in his Alfa Romeo in search of adventure in the eternal city. At dawn Pasolini is found dead on a beach in Ostia on the outskirts of the city. In a film dreamlike and visionary, blending reality and imagination, it reconstructs the last day in the life of this great poet. Starring Willem Dafoe.

Phoenix Christian Petzold, Germany World Premiere

Nelly Lenz is a concentration camp survivor who has been left with a disfigured face. Following facial reconstruction surgery, Nelly begins the search for her husband Johnny. When she finally does find him, he does not recognise her. Nevertheless he approaches her with a proposal: since she resembles his wife, whom he believes to be dead, he asks her to help him claim his wife’s considerable inheritance. Nelly agrees, and becomes her own doppelganger — she needs to know if Johnny ever loved her, or if he betrayed her. Starring Nina Hoss.

The Reach Jean-Baptiste Leonetti, USA World Premiere

Ben, a young man who works as a hunting guide, gets a job of a lifetime when he is hired by Madec, a wealthy businessman from Los Angeles, to hunt a bighorn sheep. Their excursion in the Southwestern desert quickly goes from bad to worse when overly-eager Madec gets trigger happy, accidentally killing an old prospector. He attempts to bribe Ben for his secrecy, but Ben staunchly refuses. Outraged, Madec turns on Ben, determined to eliminate the only witness to his crime. Trapped in a sadistic cat-and-mouse game, Ben has to rely on his basic survival skills to make it out alive. Starring Michael Douglas, Jeremy Irvine, Hannah Mangan, Lawrence and Ronny Cox.

Red Amnesia (Chuangru Zhe) Wang Xiaoshuai, China North American Premiere

A retired widow has her daily routine derailed when she starts receiving mysterious, anonymous phone calls, in this scintillating thriller from Chinese “Sixth Generation” master Wang Xiaoshuai. Starring Lü Zhong, Shi Liu, Feng Yuanzheng, Qin Hao and Amanda Qin.

Return to Ithaca Laurent Cantet, France North American Premiere

A terrace overlooking Havana. Five friends gather to celebrate the return of Amadeo after 16 years of exile. From dusk to dawn, they reminisce about their youth, the group they used to form, the faith they had in the future — also their disillusionment.

Rosewater Jon Stewart, USA Canadian Premiere

The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart makes his directorial debut with the true story of Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari (played by Gael García Bernal), whose appearance on Stewart’s show in 2009 precipitated his five-month imprisonment by the Iranian government.

A Second Chance (En chance til) Susanne Bier, Denmark World Premiere

How far are decent human beings willing to go, when tragedy blurs the line between just and unjust? Susanne Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen have crafted a startling yet moving drama, about how easily we lose our grasp on justice when confronted with the unthinkable, and life as we know it hangs by a thread. Starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Ulrich Thomsen, Maria Bonnevie, Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Lykke May Andersen.

Still Alice Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, USA World Premiere

Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children, is a renowned linguistics professor who starts to forget words. When she receives a devastating diagnosis, Alice and her family find their bonds tested. Alice’s struggle to stay connected to who she once was is frightening, heartbreaking, and inspiring. Starring Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth and Julianne Moore.

The Theory of Everything James Marsh, United Kingdom/USA World Premiere

The extraordinary true story of one of the world’s greatest living minds, Stephen Hawking, who falls deeply in love with fellow Cambridge student Jane Wilde. Hawking receives an earth-shattering diagnosis at age 21. Together, Stephen and Jane defy impossible odds, breaking new ground in medicine and science. Starring Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, David Thewlis and Emily Watson.

Time Out of Mind Oren Moverman, USA World Premiere

George, a man on the decline, enters the New York City homeless shelter system when he runs out of options. George struggles to navigate his way through this new world with the help of Dixon, a shelter veteran while trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter Maggie. Starring Richard Gere, Ben Vereen, Jena Malone, Kyra Sedgwick, Jeremy Strong, Yul Vasquez, Coleman Domingo, Geraldine Hughes, Michael Kenneth Williams and Steve Buscemi.

Top Five Chris Rock, USA World Premiere

Written, directed by, and starring Chris Rock, Top Fivetells the story of New York City comedian-turned-film star Andre Allen, whose unexpected encounter with a journalist forces him to confront both the career that made him famous and the life he left behind. Starring Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Tracy Morgan, Cedric the Entertainer, Kevin Hart, Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepherd, Jay Pharoah, Anders Holm and Michael Che. And featuring music by Questlove.

While We’re Young Noah Baumbach, USA World Premiere

Noah Baumbach’s exploration of aging, ambition and success, stars Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as a middle-aged couple whose career and marriage are overturned when a disarming young couple enters their lives. Also starring Amanda Seyfried, Adam Driver, Charles Grodin, Maria Dizzia and Adam Horovitz.

Whiplash Damien Chazelle, USA Canadian Premiere

Andrew Neyman is an ambitious young jazz drummer, single-minded in his pursuit to rise to the top of his elite East Coast music conservatory. Plagued by the failed writing career of his father, Andrew hungers day and night to become one of the greats. Terence Fletcher, an instructor equally known for his teaching talents as for his terrifying methods, leads the top jazz ensemble in the school. Fletcher discovers Andrew and transfers the aspiring drummer into his band, forever changing the young man’s life. Andrew’s passion to achieve perfection quickly spirals into obsession, as his ruthless teacher continues to push him to the brink of both his ability — and his sanity. Starring Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser, Austin Stowell, Nate Lang, Max Kasch and Damon Gupton.

Wild Tales (Relatos salvajes) Damian Szifron, Argentina/Spain Canadian Premiere

More than living up to its title, director Damián Szifron’s compendium of outrageous, hilarious and truly bizarre anecdotes offers a subversive, blackly comic portrait of contemporary Argentina. Starring Ricardo Darin, Oscar Martinez, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Erica Rivas, Rita Cortese, Julieta Zylberberg and Dario Grandinetti.

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Writer and artist Kim Morgan and filmmaker Guy Maddin will be a husband and wife programming team as Guest Directors for this year’s Telluride Film Fest.  Their tastes are jointly intriguing, thus their choices should be unpredictable and something to look forward to. Morgan writes brilliant film essays at Sunset Gun, and takes breathtaking photos and self-portraits that she posts on Flickr and occasionally Facebook.  Together with Maddin she is now collaborating on filmmaking, something she seemed kind of destined for (if you ask me). Her photos are so cinematic – she has her own film language already and not much farther to go to become a vital voice in film in her own right.  Maddin, too, is an artistic force to be reckoned with. All in all, this should be a Telluride to remember.

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Press release after the jump.

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Big news out of Cannes announced at today’s Weinstein Co. event:

(press release) Stephen Mensch announced as CEO of the Qingdao Oriental Movie Industrial Park with Rose Kuo named as the CEO of the Qingdao International Film Festival

Cannes, France (May 16, 2014) – Hawk Koch, President of the Producers Guild of America (PGA) and Special Advisor to Dailan Wanda Group announced at a press conference during the 67th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, Wanda’s new initiative to build a film studio and media complex along with the launch of a new major international film festival in Qingdao, China. Stephen Mensch was announced as CEO of the Qingdao Oriental Movie Industrial Park with Rose Kuo named as the CEO of the Qingdao International Film Festival.

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The New York Times reports that the Tribeca Film Fest handed out awards for Best Narrative feature to Chef, and best documentary to Keep on Keepin’ on.

The winners were chosen by audiences who voted after watching all of the films.

Chef is not faring so well over at Metacritic, not that it means much at this stage but if even some of these guys, many of whom used to be much more easily swayed bloggers, didn’t go for it, that might not bode well for its overall reception by critics, bloggers, and tastemakers.

Keep on Keepin’ On, however, does seem Oscar bound, as it’s produced by Quincy Jones – has just been picked up for distribution by Radius-TWC (Weinstein Co) and described on the website thusly:

In his melodic debut, Australian-director Alan Hicks spent four years following the charming and sometimes poignant mentorship between jazz-legend Clark Terry and blind piano prodigy, Justin Kaulflin, during a pivotal moment in each of their lives. At eighty-nine years old, ‘CT’ has played alongside Duke Ellington and Count Basie; his pupils include Miles Davis and Quincy Jones, but his most unlikely friendship is with Justin, a 23-year-old with uncanny talent but debilitating nerves. As Justin prepares for a competition that could jumpstart his budding career, CT’s failing health threatens his own. Beautifully nostalgic with a reverence for the importance of finding your own sound, Keep On Keepin’ On celebrates an iconic musician while introducing one of equal vibrancy. It is a mentoring tale as inspirational as its subjects.

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Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson on Love is Strange – but the picture above alone makes me think it could potentially be a player in some fashion, the who/what/where of it:

Last year, the first film I saw at the Tribeca Film Festival was the graceful, rueful, altogether entrancing Before Midnight. A lovely, summery, only slightly stinging story about love and time, it was a perfect way to start the festival. And, wouldn’t you know it, the first film I’ve seen at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which began yesterday and runs through next weekend, is the lovely, summery, and only slightly stinging Love Is Strange, the newest feature from writer/director Ira Sachs, whose intimate Keep the Lights On was a highlight of the 2012 festival. A small movie that nonetheless feels like Sachs’s biggest to date, Love Is Strange simulates real life in the most poignant of ways: breaking your heart while sending it soaring.

The film loosely follows what happens after Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina), a couple that’s been together for nearly 40 years, get married in New York City, now that the laws allow them to. George, who is the music director at a Catholic prep school, is quickly dismissed from his job for violating some morality clause in his contract (his marriage got the attention of highers-up in the diocese) and the couple is faced with an ugly reality for any New Yorkers, but especially for people at retirement age: they’re forced to sell their apartment and rely on the hospitality of friends and family while they struggle to find a new home.

James Rocchi writing from Sundance earlier this year:

If “Love Is Strange” were nothing more than as showcase for its performances, it would still be superlative; Lithgow and Molina are perfect not just as Ben and George, but also as the combination they make with each other. It has been noted that early couples say “I love you” with the force of a thousand exploding suns, but that long-standing couples say “I love you” in a way that can also ask, unspoken, if it was you who happened to leave the goddamn garage door open again. That kind of love is rarely seen on film, and hard to portray when it is; Molina and Lithgow make that happen here, with all of the feeling and fights and closeness that a real couple would have.

This is definitely one to keep an eye out for, thanks to Alan for the head’s up.

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The Oscar race might be straining the Santa Barbara film festival past its breaking point. Wednesday night, the appearance of Oprah Winfrey nearly broke the festival and last night’s appearance of Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and Martin Scorsese caused such a frenzy you’d think it was 1964.

Strange things start to happen when big time celebrities mingle among us. One woman heckled Oprah that she’d stolen all of her “work.” And last night DiCaprio was mobbed by a passionate journalist who had to be peeled off him and thrown out. Cutting through all the commotion, DiCaprio and Scorsese calmly took their place on stage. They were just a few seats away from me, just as Jennifer Lawrence had been a few days ago, but I realized again what a enormous star DiCaprio really is — an international, giant supernova.with multi-generational appeal. He simply sat down. Photographers continually took pictures of the two of them sitting there. The whole experience began to mirror some of the ravenous undercurrents of Scorsese’s latest masterpiece, The Wolf of Wall Street, and perhaps a bit of another film DiCaprio starred in this year, The Great Gatsby.

Listen to the Podcast of the tribute.

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Oprah’s appearance as honoree of the Montecito Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival was planned before the Oscar nominations were handed out. There was a lot of drama, old-school Hollywood style, as to whether or not She would receive one. A lifetime dedicated to great literature, promoting worthy films, and inspiring millions had still meant only three films in thirty years. One of those, Lee Daniels’ The Butler maybe the worst casualty of Oscars 2013, according to a select few of us, certainly not according to majority of tastemakers who snickered and laughed at the film the whole way through, from conception to execution — how easy that is to do from behind the quiet safety of a dark room and a computer screen. It was obvious from the outset the film would get the snob treatment, none of this rave reviews stuff the King’s Speech had gotten, or even Forrest Gump. Also obvious from the many snide tweets about the film, Lee Daniels, the subject matter and it looking too much like an “Oscar movie.” Of course, that didn’t stop War Horse, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Blind Side or The Help.

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Please forgive the quality of this video but Rooney Mara’s speech from the Santa Barbara Film Festival is so beautiful I had to share it with you all. Blanchett speaks towards the end.

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Last night, the Arlington theater was packed to celebrate Cate Blanchett who was named as Outstanding Actor of the Year from the Santa Barbara Film Festival. It was a cold night in Santa Barbara, but that didn’t stop the many party-goers and restaurant-hoppers crowding up and down State Street. Perhaps the familiar site of homeless men and women camped out in the corners had been mitigated by the weather. The night had a strange aura to it. Earlier in the day the news had broke that Dylan Farrow had called out Cate Blanchett, every actor who has ever worked with Woody Allen, Hollywood in general, and even us for continuing to honor a man who violated her at the age of seven. It wasn’t just the one incident, she explained. There was a pattern. Now, Woody Allen lives with Soon-Yi and their two adopted daughters. Farrow feels guilt for this too.

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David O. Russell at the SBIFF

It is that time of year again for the Santa Barbara International Film Fest, on the heels of the Palm Springs Fest, where many of the Oscar contenders were in attendance.  Those selected to be part of this year’s fest here in lovely SB include Bruce Dern, Cate Blanchett, Leo and Marty, to name a few.  The first tribute gala for the fest this year was David O. Russell, who was named by the festival Outstanding Director of the Year.  The fest’s director, Roger Durling, calls Russell his favorite director going all the way back to Spanking the Monkey.  Because Russell has been plugged into the Oscar game for three consecutive years now – winning Oscars for his actors along the way — one forgets his humble beginnings, his more rebellious younger self, and, frankly, how funny he is.  I’ve only ever seen two people wrestle control from Durling during one of these events — Jennifer Lawrence and David O. Russell.  It is no wonder she functions so beautifully as his muse.  They are cut from the same cloth, speak the same shorthand, and seem to have much the same sense of humor.

Before Sliver Linings and Lawrence, though, there was The Fighter and Oscar wins for Melissa Leo and Christian Bale.  Leo was on hand last night to present the award to Russell and the two made a pact to work together again very soon.

The festival itself has had some major upgrades from last year, including a new VIP room where guests of the festival can drink lots of alcohol, sponsored by a major label, and eat pretty/tiny hors d’oeuvres. This year, Robert Redford and Oprah Winfrey are two honorees who each missed out on Oscar nominations but decided to attend anyway.  To me that says they agreed to do the fest and either they stand by their word or they feel that experience is worthwhile with or without AMPAS’ validation.  Surely both are living legends who don’t need a golden statue to make them more worthy to humanity. The very notion is laughable.  But this is a game and the game has rules and this time these two are breaking them, which I think is kind of boss.

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It was a cold night in Santa Barbara, one of the more beautiful places on the planet. The ocean stretches out longways on your left. On your right, giant homes dot the hillside, twinkling lights within. The Kirk Douglas award was being held at the Bacara resort, an opulent palace hooked over the sea. Oscars 2013 was coming to a close. I was on my way to see Forest Whitaker, whose brilliant performance carries The Butler, celebrated with the Kirk Douglas award for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Fruitvale Station’s Michael B. Jordan and Black Nativity’s Angela Bassett were on hand to pay tribute to the veteran actor, along with hundreds of Santa Barbara’s finest, decked out in black tie attire – heels, furs, diamonds. It was being held all the way across the state from the Palms Springs fest where most of the Oscar populace were on hand. Palms Springs, Santa Barbara – what do these two things have in common? They are where Oscar voters go to rest and watch the sun set in the twilight of their careers.

The Butler’s fate has not yet been determined. The Screen Actors guild, by far the most ethnically diverse of the guilds, honored The Butler big time, with nods for Ensemble, Whitaker, and Oprah Winfrey. But the Producers Guild did not. The only one of the three films — by black filmmakers it must be noted, that did manage a Producers Guild nod was 12 Years a Slave, which guarantees Brad Pitt will be at the party. It used to be that black filmmakers didn’t make films the critics liked. And indeed, they ripped apart The Butler, mostly. They were tepid to encouraging on Fruitvale Station, but they lost their heads with Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, which goes down as the best reviewed film of this year.

Forest Whitaker is a revelation in The Butler. For me it’s the scene where he has to serve cookies for the bazillionth time. The look on his face, the struggle to keep back the sudden shame he felt in that position, was one of the most pivotal moments of the year for the film and for acting overall this year.

Michael B. Jordan credited Whitaker’s participation in Fruitvale Station as being one of the main reasons the film got made at all. Black Nativity did not make a blip on Oscar, or film critics’ radar, but it was clear from how Bassett talked about it that it was a project meaningful to the actress and to Whitaker. The best part of the evening were the long clips of Whitaker’s career, his work in Last King of Scotland, which earned him an Oscar win, but going all the way back to Fast Times at Ridgemont High when he played the football star.

Whitaker received two standing ovations at the dinner, and gave a humble speech that talked all about dreams and the possibilities. He is full of optimism, which infused the room with a permanent glow. He graciously shook hands with the many attendees who wanted to meet him before posing with his award for photographers.

The guests in their high heels and penguin suits filed out to wait in the valet line. Driving out of the Baraca resort was as pretty as driving in. The ocean still reaches as far into the horizon as you can see, its edge eventually dissolving into the night sky. Oil rigs, or birds? You can’t really tell what those things are out there until they are hit with the light of day.

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