Telluride Film Festival

son of saul

Michael Patterson polled various critics and sorts who attended the Telluride Film Festival and the list put Son of Saul (a film I still have not seen) at the top of the list. Son of Saul is on track to get more attention than just Foreign Language Feature (which it’s expected to win). It isn’t just that it’s a “holocaust movie.” There’s more to it. If enough Academy members see it, it should do very well.  Michael’s list ended up looking like this:

1) Son of Saul (4.44
2) Anomalisa (4.42)
3) Spotlight (4.41)
4) Steve Jobs (4.31)
5) Beasts of No Nation (4.27)
6) Carol (4.11)
7) 45 Years (4.06)
8) Taxi (4.00)
9) Black Mass (3.85)
10) Time to Choose (3.57)
11) Room (3.50)
12) Suffragette (3.49)
13) He Named Me Malala (2.83)

“Son of Saul” tops The Professionals poll for TFF #42.  You might recall from last week that “Saul” also topped Indiewrie’s Critic’s poll for the fest as well.  Compared to past poll leaders, “Saul” lagged a bit.  In 2014 “Birdman” lead the Pros ratings with a combined 4.72.  Even second place film “Foxcatcher” rated better at 4.63.

In 2013, “12 Years a Slave led the way with a 4.7 rating.  In 2012, the first year for the project, “The Central Park Five was on top with a 4.7 rating as well.

The critics participating:

Nick Allen/Chicago Film Critics Assn. member/
Alex Billington/
David Ehrlich/Time Out New York
Greg Ellwood/HitFix
Scott Feinberg/The Hollywood Reporter
Eric Kohn/Indiewire
Mark Johnson/
Tomris Laffly/Movie Mezzanine/Film Journal
Kenny Miles/The Movie Blog
Christopher Schiller/
Sasha Stone/Awards Daily
Kristopher Tapley/Variety/InContention
Anne Thompson/Thompson on Hollywood


Boy Soldier

What a smile! One large lamp for a face,
smaller lanterns where skin stretches over
bones waiting for muscle, body all angles.
His Kalashnikov fires at each moving
thing before he knows what he drags
down. He halts movement of every
kind and fails to weigh whom he stops
dead or maims, his bullets
like jabs thrown before the thought
to throw them, involuntary shudders
when someone, somewhere, steps over
his shallow, unmarked, mass grave.
But his smile remains undimmed,
inviting, not knowing what hit him,
what snuffs out the wicks in his eyes.
Except that he moves and a face just like
his figures like him to stop all action
with a flick of finger on the trigger. —Fred D’Aguiar

The violence in Cary Fukunaga’s exquisite Beasts of No Nation is graphic. But so is its purity of heart. In America, young white boys are told that the world owes them something just by virtue of their being born. Once they become teenagers it starts to dawn on them that this plan isn’t going to work out. Their lives haven’t lived up to the promise of the American dream, of all of the animated and live action films aimed at them that reinforce the idea that they are special, that they matter. Most of them just go on to live their unadorned lives anyway. Some of them pick up a weapon and shoot people before taking their own lives. Contrast that bizarre, aberrant phenomena with child soldiers in Africa and other places where boys are given no other choice but to pick up a weapon and start shooting people. That’s if they’re lucky. That’s if they aren’t killed first.

Written, directed and filmed by wunderkind Cary Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation lasts 133 minutes and throughout its duration it depicts one horror after another, with fleeting moments of humanity. Appearing like unintentional daisies in a landfill, our young soldier clings to those moments as they are taken away one at a time, his own existence proof of the absence of God.  This is the childhood of an ordinary boy soldier raised to further some war lord’s cause. Poverty and corruption go hand in hand in places most Americans pretend not to know exist.  This brilliantly made, wholly original war epic belongs on the same shelf as Apocalypse Now and yet was rejected by every studio until Netflix came to the rescue.

Now the film can have a chance to play in a small number of theaters for those lucky enough to live in major cities; now it can be seen at the same time online by serious film lovers who search in vain for great cinema at multiplexes in thousands of small towns; and it will eventually become a film that continues to stun anyone who scrolls past bland options on a Saturday night, anyone who comes across it deliberately or chance discovery, a great movie made widely available for anyone who has the curiosity to find it and the guts to stick with it.

Anyone who watched the first season of True Detective knows what this director can do. That alone should have motivated the studios to have faith in him.  But fear set in and no one wanted touch it because they thought no one would watch it. Studio execs think we’re too busy wasting time on Facebook or watching The Biggest Loser to care. It’s all about money and where is the money in this?

There might not be money, but there is beauty.  Beauty in watching a seriously talented artist deliver an uncompromising work of art. This film, in fact, is a moving poem.  One scene to the next immerses us more deeply into the jungle, as we get to know the faces and the unwritten rules of this kind of warfare.  Are we asked to care? Does it even matter? We have angry young white men in America who walk into churches and theaters to shoot innocent people in Bible study and on date night, and yet it’s these guys 5000 miles away that we cal barbarians? The truth about Americans is that they don’t care to look at the truth most of the time.

Idris Elba is the big name attached. He plays the commandant who “adopts” young Agu (the incredibly talented Abraham Atta). Fukunaga never lets you forget you are watching a child whose life was ripped apart when his family fled his village as rebels rode into town. The book the film is based on, and the press packet synopsis, calls the rebel army “unnamed,” meaning, there are so many of them cropping up out of poverty and desperation that naming them is almost pointless. Their crimes follow a familiar pattern. Young boys are forced to join armies, women and girls are routinely raped, all in the name of grabbing power in places crippled by progress, where many first-world corporate giants have robbed all the natural resources, leaving destitute people to fend for themselves, chasing scraps and getting what they can, while they can.

What is so remarkable about this film is how Fukunaga holds it all together so that, even at its two-hour plus running time, the film never drags. Each moment in young Agu’s life matters because he is evolving from an ordinary child into a monster.  Because Atta is the right actor chosen to play the part, we feel a connection to young Agu.  We never forget he’s a child because his eyes remain vulnerable, even as he’s aiming his weapon, even as he’s shooting bullets through a woman’s head, even as he’s made to bring the machete down on an innocent man’s skull. He’s made to do these things because that is what you do or else you’re one of the dead. He makes a friend and the two of them comfort each other after sexual assaults by the commandant (hinted at but never graphically shown). That relationship, though, like all good things in Agu’s life, is just another casualty.

So much of the film drifts by like a surreal dream — even though the narration is that of a child, we would not need to hear that narration to know we are witnessing the unthinkable from a child’s point of view.  As director and cinematographer, Fukunaga does not need to translate or have his ideas interpreted through another collaborator. He films what he sees in his head. That somehow makes Beasts of No Nation feel wholly original, unlike anything that will play in a movie theater this year or the next ten years. It might not be right to call it entertainment, but it is art.

There was a time back in the 1980s and 1990s when Americans cared about child soldiers in Africa. The occasional celebrity cracks our distracted bubble and mentions it as some distant event where photos are taken and put on fan sites. Art can do more than that. It can rip away protective covers and embed itself in ways you can’t shake off. There is no website at the end of this film to tell us where to donate to help. There is no petition we can sign so that we can click a button and go on with our day. There is no invitation for us to care about anything beyond whether or not we can sync our iPhones with our new computers.  It asks nothing from you except to look and see.

A great filmmaker builds worlds with their own language.  They are so skillful you never doubt where they’re taking you even if it is so painful to watch it turns your stomach and makes you flinch. This film does not draw from anyone else’s playbook.  It is a wholly original masterpiece that no person who claims to love film should pass up. Don’t not watch it because you think there is no way you can help young boys who are violated in so many different ways. We here in the first world have the luxury of getting depressed about it.

When the film at last comes to its closing moments, after we’ve seen what life is like from a child soldier’s point of view, Fukunaga hits us with the film’s true meaning. Agu asks himself whether he’ll ever be able to return to the world of children. Of playtime and ice cream cones, of teasing each other with flashlights, of finding love and friendship in places where something as basic as good drinking water is hard to get. Can he ever regain that purity of heart, that goodness each child inherits at birth? The truth is that he doesn’t yet know if he can after what he’s seen, after what he’s done, after all of the death that has become his everyday reality. What does he know? He once had a mother, a father, sisters and brothers. They loved him. All he knows is that he was once something closer to a real human being, kissed and carried, and maybe never forgotten.

Photo by Jeffrey Wells

I used to think that the reason there weren’t films like Bonnie and Clyde or Midnight Cowboy or A Clockwork Orange or Taxi Driver or Apocalypse Now in the Oscar race was because the Oscar voters were too old to go there anymore. They’re facing the twilight of their years. They eat prozac and hip replacement meds for breakfast. I used to think it was their fault. Now I know that’s only partly true. There is a concerted effort made, and it starts right here, to exclude those kinds of movies because “they” won’t like them or vote for them. It starts here and then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that feeds into all of the early awards and eventually the bigger voting blocks like the PGA, the DGA and finally the Oscars.

Sure, we’ve all had our years where we stood firmly behind daring works like Inside Llewyn Davis, All is Lost and Gone Girl and had them come up totally and shockingly empty at the Oscars.  There is a reality to dumbing the whole thing down to a palatable level. It isn’t made up by Oscar pundits. It is perpetuated by them, way too early on, just so that they (we) can be “right” at the end of the year. Everyone who works in this business knows that’s true.

When Cary Fukunaga’s extraordinary Beasts of No Nation hit Telluride that is exactly what the conversation swirled around: whether it was “too much” for Academy voters. Could they sit through it, would it bother them too much – would it make them reach for something light and easy, something inoffensive, something entirely forgettable? We know the answer to that one. Even a broken clock is right twice a day, and sometimes the movies that play here deserve every bit of the praise that swells to greater heights once it’s clear “they” will like it.

This is a film that could not get an independent studio to stand behind it because it was too “rough” or “problematic.” They couldn’t sell it because it was thought no one would watch it. Netflix — a newly formed “studio” that is rewriting the rules that are holding Hollywood back — said not only will we buy it but we’ll finance a major theatrical release before making it available on Netflix. Here at Telluride, the 9pm crowd sat through this difficult two-hour uncompromising epic and did not wildly applaud at the end, not even when Cary Fukunaga and his lead actor, Abraham Atta, came back to the mic afterwards. There were a few people shouting “Bravo” but it was pretty clear from that reception how this movie might “play” with “them.”

How an audience responds to a film like this does tell you how it will do with consensus voters and overall white upper-middle-class audience members. The reason Telluride is so good at predicting Oscar movies is that the attendees are mostly well-to-do liberals heading towards retirement. They don’t look away from social justice but they do seem ill-equipped to handle a film like this. Thus, if there were no Oscar blogs and if there were no precursors and if there were no fixed game, an influential critic like Pauline Kael would take this movie and write the kind of review that would launch it into the stratosphere. Why, because sometimes people have to be told what is great and what isn’t. That was certainly the case with Bonnie and Clyde. Kael’s advocacy turned perception for that film completely around. Roger Ebert did the same thing with Martin Scorsese early on his career.

When the same people who write those reviews start playing the Oscar game, however? What they’re looking for is what “they” will like, rather than looking for greatness and then trying to convince “them” to like it. We know we can’t convince them. We know what our job is. We know mostly what will sell. And we know that all of the breathless advocacy in the world can’t make “them” like it or vote for it.

Still, knowing all this, and given the many years I’ve been Oscar watching — almost 17 now — I was still disappointed and surprised by the way many of my fellow colleagues were talking about this film. They will be “right” because they will have helped perpetuate a “muted” response to a film that can really only be described as a masterpiece. It won’t have a chance, not anywhere, because “they” won’t like it.

This narrative is increasingly dangerous. That downside is exiling films that are worthy of attention simply because they don’t fit that awards narrative. That is bad for movies, and bad for the Oscars. If you watch a film as good as Beasts and conclude the movie is not good enough — fine. That’s fair. But if you watch this film and reject it because “they” won’t go for it? You’re really not qualified to be writing about film at all.

History will eventually declare this film one of the best of all time. It might take twenty years. It might take thirty years but sooner or later that conclusion will be reached. Does that mean it has any chance of getting nominated?  No. You know it and I know it. Unless Pauline Kael comes back from the dead.

This kind of audacity ought to be applauded and supported. Cary Fukanaga directed the first season of HBO’s True Detective, one of the best things ever seen on television. Cary Fukanaga wrote, directed and shot Beasts of No Nation. A talent like this ought to be given better treatment than to find no studio picking up this film. Sorry, but shame on them. I know it’s a money issue. I know it’s a selling issue. But wow, really?

Hollywood’s version of supporting a brilliant talent like Fukanaga is to say “here’s a superhero movie – lock yourself into our system and make us lots of money.”  I don’t know if that’s Fukunaga’s fate yet. But I do know someone let him walk away from Stephen King’s It, and it looks like he’ll be doing what the best of them are — heading to television. When it’s this difficult to make movies like this, movies like this will not get made.

So what you likely want to know is what are this film’s Oscar chances? I’ll give you two answers to that one. The first one, it’s too “rough” for many of “them.” Many of them won’t be able to sit through it and many of them will either not put the screener in or they’ll stop it halfway through during the film’s more graphic moments. They will want to see something else, something that will remind them that they are still valuable in the world and that horrors like this do not exist. They might give Fukunaga a well deserved screenplay nomination. The directors branch might get their shit together to nominate Fukunaga (I’m not holding my breath on that one).

The second answer I would give you is this: imagine there were no names of studios that had influence, and that having your film distributed by Netflix didn’t make you were an outsider. Imagine if the Best Picture race was really about picking the truly best films of the year. Imagine a world where people still believed that was true. In that imagined world, Beasts of No Nation is getting nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for Abraham Atta, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography.

You can go read the rest of the Telluride reports to find out what kind of world we actually live in. Either way, make it your objective to see this movie – and many of the other great films that have come out of here (or played elsewhere), especially Spotlight, Steve Jobs, Room, Carol, 45 Years, Son of Saul, Black Mass, Suffragette. Some of them aren’t perfect. Some of them are greatly flawed even. But all of them involve people who are committed to perpetuating the idea that film is still in the realm of art. We in the Oscar game often undermine their efforts, becoming part of the system that often rejects audacity.

Quentin Tarantino recently asked why there aren’t great movies like The Godfather anymore. I just saw one last night. You can figure out the rest of the story from here.

Rain, wind and cold enveloped the splendid valley of Telluride as the film festival came alive for patrons and press. Occasional showers usually keep the sunny village in green but a full-blown storm was unexpected. Out came the umbrellas and down jackets. It was a welcome change for me and Emma, leaving behind the suffocating heat of Los Angeles. Our drive brought us through the Four Corners where last year we acquired a dirty, scruffy stray puppy.  That puppy is now a full-grown member of the family and our travel companion a year later. Telluride is, if nothing else, the land of dogs who roam with their owners leashless, probably because when there aren’t festivals clogging up the roads with rental cars this is a walking town.

This year’s festival had a strange feel to it. For one thing, there was no Fox Searchlight party. Their movies have bypassed the festival this year so they had no reason to host a party. In its place are parties for films like Suffragette and Steve Jobs. I skipped both those, given that I was writing on deadline. That meant I didn’t get to meet Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet or Aaron Sorkin.  I would spend the weekend pretending like that didn’t matter.

I watched Meryl Streep watch He Named Me Malala’s Q&A with Malala herself joining in via satellite. Streep seemed to pop up everywhere. She was at the Spotlight screening, too. It goes without saying that all actresses are always much more beautiful in real life than the camera can ever capture and this is doubly true of the age-defying Streep. At first glance I thought I was looking at her daughter. I didn’t see Streep at the Patron’s Brunch that morning, however. The rain and cold did not keep people away from the brunch where festival goers huddled up in line to get hot coffee and hot food.

I spoke briefly to Rooney Mara and she was saying how she wanted to see so many films while she was here. Later, she asked me what audiobooks I was listening to. “Oh, this one is called Head Full of Ghosts and it’s about schizophrenia, and I’m listening to another one about Climate Change.” She had a concerned look on her face for me, but I appreciated her curiosity. Not many famous people are so inquisitive. That’s the great thing about her — she’s a thoughtful person who isn’t much into the usual Hollywood bullshit.  I also got an opportunity to speak with Todd Haynes, the absurdly talented director of Carol. Our conversation started off on the subject of marriage equality and how it is so much in the news now. I told him my fears that the fight would continue with martyrs for the cause of hate turning up almost daily. But Haynes said he thought that the tide had permanently turned and that we should not fear our country taking a step backwards.  Eventually we got to Donald Trump of all people. Haynes was saying that the country had a macho asshole (my word) as our president for eight years. Then we got someone thoughtful in office and now America wants another macho asshole in the White House. I bet he’s right about that.  You’d be hard pressed to find anyone as easy to talk to and as kind as Todd Haynes.

I also had a few words with Room’s Brie Larson. “I’m a mom,” I told her. “Oh, you shouldn’t see this movie then,” she half-joked. Like Rooney Mara, she was more interested in seeing other people’s work than talking about her own but seemed to be enjoying the mountain view. I would see her later, after a screening of Room, and was able to circle back to the part about being a mom and watching a film about a mother who is being held captive and forced to raise her young son. I told her I thought the film was a powerful message about motherhood and what it means to call a place home. Home is whom we love and those who love us.  As she acknowledged by convoluted comment I thought about how nice it is to be able to talk to Brie Larson now, on the eve of her career explosion.  Someday she will be too big to talk to the likes of me.

I’d finally met an old friend from the web — Mark Johnson, who writes for Awards Circuit. He walked around with me from screening to screening. With cords spilling out of my bag, newly formed food stain drying on my shirt, a general sense of confusion about where I’m supposed to be going next, Mark was very kind to help “fix” minor catastrophes. This was his first trip to Telluride and he was learning as he went along. So far, so good. He’d met Brie Larson on the plane and would later report being able to buy Rachel MacAdams something to drink. His first Telluride and he was already way ahead of me, even though I’ve been coming for five years or so.

With the first few films kicking off the fest it really did feel like we were on the verge of maybe having it be a Telluride, and an Oscar season, that might be about women after all, with Suffragette, Carol and Room setting of a trio of explosions. It wouldn’t be long, though, before the testosterone rolled into town in the form of Steve Jobs, Black Mass and Beasts of No Nation. When there is a balance of both kinds of films — when there is room for everybody — it’s hard to find anything to complain about.

The rain wasn’t planning on letting up any time soon. Walking down the muddy trail at night felt like trekking in another country. Fog spilled over the mountains and the gondolas tipped and weaved in the air. Riding back from Malala with Kris Tapley just as the Aretha Franklin story was breaking we saw a rainbow. It covered the whole village in a perfect vibrant half-circle. We all photographed it until we slid under it and it disappeared.  Moments later Instagram would light up with the moment captured forever.

We don’t often appreciate the role of technology in our lives. Since the film Steve Jobs is one of the high points of the festival I could not help but think about the way his ideas have helped shape the way we interface with the world around us. The iPhone put a camera, music, a phone and a web browser in the palm of your hand. Someone built a Periscope app and I was able to generate a live feed of the Danny Boyle Q&A for anyone interested in it to watch from anywhere in the world. Technology can’t make your world more beautiful but it can capture fleeting moments of beauty like trapping a butterfly forever under a glass jar.

There isn’t any way to adequately describe the beauty of this place. It sounds cliché even to try. Even with the rain.  The camera can only capture so much. Mine tends to find the dogs; always with the dogs. But every so often you look up to the sky and there are bursts of blindingly white clouds tumbling slowly forward, filling up the circle of sky above us. The sunlight makes them glow brilliantly. The drops of rain dotting rooftops also light up — and all at once the magic of Telluride unfolds. That magic was always here whether people ever arrived or not.

The festival has flown by. I haven’t had a chance to see my good friend Alex Billington, but I did get to meet another old friend, Kenny Miles. And I got to see Michael and Kris Patterson, Tomris and Eric Laffly, Chris Willman, Jeff Wells, Pete and Madelyn Hammond. Even without the parties we caught brief hellos waiting in line for screenings.  There is barely enough time for that. There is never enough time for anything. Too many movies are left unseen. Parties are left unattended.

Today I will be seeing a climate change documentary called A Time to Choose, and later Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation. I feel so lucky to be able to do this every year. I fall back in love every time. That love is as dizzying as the high altitude. It leaves us with beating hearts and delirium. What better way to spend the end of Summer.























Just as the image of the British monarchy was remade in the wake of the Diana catastrophe, with careful PR and reliable players, so has the Catholic Church attempted to manage wavering public perception with a dazzling and progressive new leader, Pope Francis. The crimes of priests and the tacit complicity of the church are still many and ongoing. The way the church has shielded and coddled pedophile priests, tangled up in its struggle to hold onto a hypocritical stance that denies the sexuality of the male animal, is something for which they have yet to completely admit, much less begin to atone. Most unforgivable of all are the obstacles put in place by the system, making it all the more difficult to nail the bastards once their crimes became too big to ignore. Hundreds upon thousands of victims for decades have been either silenced with pay-outs large and small, or else driven to addiction, self harm, and suicide. There is no monetary amount that can absolve the church of these crimes. There is only self-reflection on the unholy and unhealthily foundation upon which it has been built.

The story of this inherent rot has been brought to the surface by writer/director Tom McCarthy, just as Pope Francis captivates the media, seeking to bandage the raw damage inflicted by the Catholic Church. In his thoughtful and moving new film, Spotlight, McCarthy lays out how the Boston Globe nailed the Boston Archdiocese for its efforts to cover up the deeds of 90 or so pedophile priests who were never brought to trial for their crimes but rather shuffled around to various other countries where they would continue to molest countless more children.

The corruption begins at the core — the type of victims chosen are most often from poor families with nowhere to turn but the church. Their parents are grateful for the attention the kids receive. Sooner or later the priests grooms then assaults his young victims, using whatever process to get him through the night, all in the name of sinning and forgiveness for those sins — such is the Catholic way. More than once the victims recall a priest’s attention in terms of becoming a friend of God himself. Another outstanding score by Howard Shore rumbles in somber counterpoint, like murmurs of judgment.

The Globe reporters who would ultimately receive a Pulitzer Prize for their astonishing coverage begin by pointing fingers at lawyers, judges, cops, and ordinary citizens working in unison to protect the church they so dearly love, and eventually those fingers begin to point back to themselves. The bigger the story gets, the harder it is to find anyone who isn’t part of the growing cancer. This involves a lot of note taking old-school, which many journalists will look upon with nostalgia as they’re seen tapping stories into their tablets. It is knocking on doors and prying open the doors that are sealed shut. It is being a bulldog, a nuisance and sometimes a liar all in the service of a uncovering a story this important.

One thing McCarthy does so cleverly is remind us what being a journalist really means. We’re in an era where even the New York Times is falling prey to clickbait reporting and failing to adequately source big stories, like the falsehoods they printed about the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. An era where the Huffington Post is the gold standard of news trafficking, because it manages to draw eyeballs by appealing to our base instincts while also pretending to do actual hard news reporting. We stand to lose too much if this is the only way news can reach the general public. In Spotlight, reporters dutifully take notes, wait months, even years to get the story right before putting the story out.

This is where comparisons to All the President’s Men must stop. Yes, both are films about good journalism. Both are films about bringing down a massive power structure that involved payoffs and corrupt officials. But the timing of Spotlight is what separates it from that President’s Men. If anything, it might be better compared to Michael Mann’s The Insider, which is also about how news has changed and why that change isn’t necessarily a good thing. Spotlight is a movie about the moment the way we receive our news began to change. Just as the internet was exploding at the beginning of the new millennium, the Catholic Church was imploding, along with the World Trade Center, our privacy, and our trust. CNN has turned into a fear generator and Fox News might be the most dangerous thing that’s happened to America. Spotlight gives us a moment to stop, take a breath, and remember.

The Globe’s reporting led to countless lawsuits and it’s not over yet. Most of the priests have not admitted guilt. Only a few are spending time in jail. What hard news does at its best has nothing to do with telling us Justin Bieber cried at VMAs, or insisting that we need to know what instagram photo of Kim Kardashian’s got the most views. The nobler goal of bringing important stories to light to protect people sits atop Spotlight, which never loses sight of the damage done by not reporting the story decades ago.

This is a film that has no big Oscar-y scenes. There is humility before these unforgivable crimes. It is a carefully written screenplay, honored by a harmonious ensemble of actors at the top of their game. The standouts are Michael Keaton, of course, as the longtime Globe editor and Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Walter Robinson. Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes has perhaps the most notable scenes. Liev Schreiber shows once again that he is yet another great actor Hollywood has not figured out what to do with yet. Rachel McAdams gives an authentic portrayal as Sacha Pfeiffer.

McCarthy throws in subtle imagery to remind us how much things have changed — really changed — since this story broke back in the early 2000s. AOL was a thing back then, for instance. The internet really wasn’t. The director’s ability to hold this long and sometimes rambling story together has resulted in the best film to screen at Telluride so far.

One of the Spotlight’s most moving moments isn’t one of its biggest. It comes at the hands of Stanley Tucci who plays a worn-down lawyer advocating for the victims. The story breaks but he knows it’s really only the beginning. How can this mess ever be cleaned up? How can the Catholic Church ever be made to change? How can an institution that purports to do the work of God do so much harm to so many?

As the world looks away and throws roses at the feet of the new Pope, millions of young children are getting ready to start school. The worshippers are still putting their trust in those who wear the robes. How can they know if the culture of abuse is really over? How can they know their children are safe? This ongoing trauma stands as the backdrop to McCarthy’s subdued, superb film. It looms impossibly large, casting the darkest shadow in places that should be flooded with light.


Reviews for The Danish Girl out of Venice range on the high side of mixed, although all the critics seem to agree that Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander elevate the film far above any reservations each critic might harbor.

Peter Debruge at Variety writes:

Clearly, this was never not going to be a “prestige” picture. And while that ultra-respectful approach will engender allergic reactions in some, who’d sooner see a gritty, realistic portrayal — a la Jill Soloway’s terrific “Transparent” series for Amazon — than one seemingly tailored for the pages of fashion and interior-design magazines, there’s no denying that Hooper and screenwriter Lucinda Coxon have delivered a cinematic landmark, one whose classical style all but disguises how controversial its subject matter still remains.

…Spotlighting the least-represented thread in the LGBT quilt, “The Danish Girl” clearly wants to untangle the trans experience from the blanket definition of homosexuality, using Lili’s rejection of Whishaw’s gay character and her interview with gender-confirmation surgeon Dr. Kurt Warnekros (Sebastian Koch, playing the sensitive pioneer) to distinguish the two. What’s of utmost importance here is the discovery and ultimate acceptance of Lili’s true identity, and from the film’s perspective, the gender question has nothing (or very little) to do with sex. Rather, it’s something that reveals itself at first in mirrors and other reflective surfaces, and later directly to camera, as Redmayne explores Einar’s hidden second persona.

As Hans puts it at a train sendoff that recalls “Casablanca,” “I’ve only really liked a handful of people in my life, and you’ve been two of them.” But Lili’s emergence is a gradual and hesitant process, beautifully embodied by Redmayne — and reflected by Vikander, whose Gerda does her best to adapt alongside her husband, amounting to a substantive role for the film’s resident “Swedish girl.” Shy at first, like a flower opening, Redmayne ducks his eyes and turns his head as Lili, his confidence growing in tandem with the rolling boil of Alexandre Desplat’s strings and piano score.

Alonso Duralde at The Wrap says:

Hooper’s stately storytelling style matches the material, since there are so many stages and intermediate steps involved in Einar fully becoming Lili, who goes so far as to undergo one of the very first gender-reassignment surgeries. And while the movie could have gotten more out of its supporting characters — there’s no doubt much more to know about Oola, Henrik and Einar’s boyhood friend Hans (Matthias Schoenaerts), who grew up to be a Paris art dealer — the delicate dance by which Einar becomes Lili and Gerda comes to love and accept this new person while mourning the loss of her husband remains fascinating all the same.

After all those wretched tight close-ups in “Les Misérables,” it’s a relief that Hooper and his usual cinematographer, Danny Cohen, allow these characters, searching for a way through their own lives, to get lost in vast spaces like hospital corridors and city blocks of Danish row houses. (We also get some nicely painterly moments, like a ballet studio where tutus hang in the rafters like indoor clouds.) Cohen and Hooper also make it a point to shoot Redmayne like Josef von Sternberg filming Marlene Dietrich, finding the androgynous actor’s best angles and lighting him like a screen queen of yore.

(More review excerpts to come)

Telluride 2012

Kris Tapley over at Variety has posted the lineup for the Telluride Film Fest. So far it’s mostly in keeping with what most have been circulating. What I’m wondering is, where is our Best Picture for 2016? The list:

Telluride’s main program slate for 2015:

“Amazing Grace” (d. Sydney Pollack, U.S., 1972/2015)
“Anomalisa” (d. Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson, 2015)
“Beasts of No Nation” (d. Cary Fukunaga, U.S., 2015)
“Bitter Lake” (d. Adam Curtis, U.K., 2015)
“Black Mass” (d. Scott Cooper, U.S., 2015)
“Carol” (d. Todd Haynes, U.S., 2015)
“45 Years” (d. Andrew Haigh, England, 2015)
“He Named Me Malala” (d. Davis Guggenheim, U.S., 2015)
“Heart of a Dog” (d. Laurie Anderson, U.S., 2014)
“Hitchcock/Truffaut” (d. Kent Jones, U.S., 2015)
“Ixcanul” (d. Jayro Bustamante, Guatemala, 2015)
“Marguerite” (d. Xavier Giannoli, France, 2015)
“Mom and Me” (d. Ken Wardrop, Ireland, 2015)
“Only the Dead See the End of War” (d. Michael War, Bill Guttentag, U.S.-Australia, 2015)
“Rams” (d. Grímur Hákonarson, Iceland, 2015)
“Room” (d. Lenny Abrahamson, England, 2015)
“Siti” (d. Eddie Cahyono, Singapore, 2015)
“Son of Saul” (d. Lázló Nemes, Hungary, 2015)
“Spotlight” (d. Tom McCarthy, U.S., 2015)
“Steve Jobs” (d. Danny Boyle, U.S., 2015)
“Suffragette” (d. Sarah Gavron, U.K., 2015)
“Taj Mahal” (d. Nicolas Saada, France-India, 2015)
“Taxi” (d. Jafar Panahi, Iran, 2015)
“Tikkun” (d. Avishai Sivan, Israel, 2015)
“Time to Choose” (d. Charles Ferguson, U.S., 2015)
“Viva” (d. Paddy Breathnach, Ireland, 2015)
“Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” (d. Evgeny Afineevsky, Russia-Ukraine, 2015)

Actress Rooney Mara who stars in Carol will be honored at the festival along with Adam Curtis (Bitter Lake), and director Danny Boyle (Steve Jobs).

If you look at recent past Best Picture winners, most were seen either at Telluride or at Venice and Cannes prior. All except The Departed, if you go back ten years to 2006.

Birdman – Venice/Telluride
12 Years a Slave – Telluride
Argo – Telluride
The Artist – Cannes/Telluride
The King’s Speech – Telluride
The Hurt Locker (year prior, Toronto)
Slumdog Millionaire (Telluride)
No Country for Old Men (Cannes)
The Departed (October release)
Brokeback Mountain – Telluride
Million Dollar Baby – late release

The closer you are to the way the Oscars used to be — held in March with plenty of time to rally at the end of the year — the later the winners. Now, the winners come earlier. Could this be the game changing year? It’s possible. If not, that really leaves us with any film seen before now — Mad Max: Fury Road, Inside Out…and/or Steve Jobs, Spotlight, Carol, Black Mass, Room, 45 Years, Suffragette and Beasts of No Nation as our potential most likely winners.

feature telluride last day

The Venice Film Festival is in a unique position to capture the first blush of a film that might ultimately do well during Oscar season.  This was true of Gravity and it was true of Birdman. The next stop after Venice is Telluride, which is its own kind of launch pad that doesn’t necessarily need Venice, but once a film is highly praised in Venice the feeling is often contagious. What is it about Venice and Telluride that lends itself to this kind of impact? Timing. It’s all about timing.

As the summer comes to an anti-climactic close, it becomes more and more clear every year that the kinds of films critics are best suited to write about, the ones that keep them employed, the ones the adults will pay to see, are usually only let out of the gate in the fall season. By that point, there are hundreds of fingers waiting to hit the keypad. There is too much coverage for not enough material so being relatively “first” on the scene is crucial. This is as true of Venice and Telluride as it is of the New York Film Critics and the National Board of Review (no, I do not distinguish between them anymore).

Right around now, critics and bloggers are preparing for these two festivals and waiting to be enthralled. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. We have no idea what kind of a year this will be, because so many of the films that are most anticipated aren’t making the festival rounds at all. The pattern has followed the same steps in the last few years — high anticipation builds for the Big Oscar Movies that are shown in October, November and sometimes December, while the movies seen at Telluride hover in the background and are mostly taken for granted (The Artist, The King’s Speech, Argo, Birdman). Last year the Oscar predictors were placing high on their lists films like Unbroken, Into the Woods and two that would make it in — American Sniper and Selma. Little attention is paid to possibilities seen at Telluride because there are so many big movies still waiting to be seen.

And yet, as we keep repeating here at AwardsDaily, the win always comes down to the girl next door — the familiar and reliable underdog that never felt like the frontrunner. The psychology of the voting consensus is as maddening in the Oscar race as it is in political elections. The moment you become a threat, forces work actively to take you down. It’s good but it’s not THAT good. Really, that’s the film that’s supposed to win Best Picture? I can guarantee you that both Birdman and Argo would have suffered that same fate if they were the predicted winners heading into the voting season. A few people (Kris Tapley) disagree with me on this — they think the movie is the movie is the movie. I think it’s a matter of perception; where our expectations lie determines how we perceive a film.  Last year, what really was the “little movie that could” and the “scrappy underdog,” Boyhood, was morphed into the mean ol’ frontrunner because it won so many critics awards. It might not have won Best Picture anyway but its formidable status in the race made it a punching bag.

Of course, none of this makes any difference if you’re holding onto a film like Slumdog Millionaire. It came into Telluride with the lowest possible expectations — rumors of it being released “straight to video” persisted. Once it hit big it never took a tumble, not even when the “poverty porn” accusations blew up, not even when the scandal involving the poor stars of the films took hold. Nothing was going to take that movie down.

Here we are once again facing the Venice Film Fest and the Telluride Film Fest colliding during Labor Day weekend. Jeff Wells at Hollywood-Elsewhere made a short list of movies he expects to see on the list:

Steve Jobs, Suffragette, Black Mass, Spotlight, Son of Saul, Beasts of No Nation, Carol, Amazing Grace, Marguerite, CharlieKaufman‘s Anomalisa (probably), He Named Me Malala (maybe), Room, Hitchcock/Truffaut.

And our good pal Michael Patterson also put in his latest predictions:

15) “Taxi”
14) “Marguerite”
13) “Hitchcock/Truffaut”
12) “Anomalisa”
11) “Amazing Grace”
10) “Room”
9)   “Spotlight”
8)   “45 Years”
7)   “He Named Me Malala”
6)   “Carol”
5)   “Steve Jobs”
4)   “Black Mass”
3)   “Suffragette”
2)   “Beasts of No Nation”
1)   “Son of Saul”

What’s playing Venice that might be that seat-rocking out-of-body experience that sends the critics into a tailspin? In competition there is Cary Fukanaga’s Beasts of No Nation. It could launch big and then hit Telluride shortly thereafter generating that one-two punch we’re looking for. Out of competition Everest and Black Mass. Ditto. Although Everest was screened recently by critics thus it can’t have that first flush of the season when viewers see something no one else has yet seen, which only adds to the intensified landing.

45 Years is currently being hyped by Anne Thompson and others who’ve seen it. Charlotte Rampling has some great early buzz.  Do you see any potential Best Picture winners on this list?

We don’t yet know the Telluride lineup and it might not even include Beasts of No Nation, though Everest and Black Mass both seem likely. It will be a curious thing to see if Netflix can break into the game of Oscar. The Academy is ruled mostly by the five families with the sole recent exception of The Hurt Locker. Best Picture is usually Best Bread and Butter Picture existing within the confines of the Hollywood structure. Either way, as we sit perched on the edge of the free fall we wait with eager anticipation.

AwardsDaily rolls into Telluride on the 3rd of September. Watch for diaries, photos, periscoping, twitter and more.



Michael Patterson has been predicting the Telluride lineup for a while now and has compiled what he thinks are the ten most likely titles to land. Why it matters: Telluride has screened the Best Picture winner for the past ten years. Not since The Departed has the eventual winner not screened — or premiered — either at Telluride or somewhere else before Telluride.

2014 – Birdman — Venice/Telluride
2013 – 12 Years a Slave — Telluride
2012 – Argo — Telluride
2011 – The Artist — Cannes/Telluride
2010 – The King’s Speech — Telluride
2009 – The Hurt Locker — (year prior)
2008 – Slumdog Millionaire — Telluride
2007 – No Country for Old Men — Cannes

Why this rule continues to apply has to do, I think, with the Academy’s decision to push their ceremony date back one month, which eventually shifted everything back, which now means the race is decided behind the scenes. It also could be the safe harbor Telluride represents. Unlike other film festivals, critics and bloggers must pay their own way in at $750 a pop. Thus, the attendance is limited to those who are either being sent there by bigger outlets or there because their passion for film compels them to be there. Also, the Telluride people who select the films could have similar tastes to industry voters.

Patterson has chosen ten films he thinks will go. Is the eventual Best Picture winner among them? Or will this be the year the streak is finally broken?

Here are the features he’s predicting
Steve Jobs
Beasts of No Nation
Black Mass
Son of Saul

These will represent the underdogs expected to beat the Big Oscar Movies coming out in October or later in the year and those include: Bridge of Spies, The Revenant, Spotlight, etc.  And the ones already seen in Cannes that could have a shot: Sicario, Youth and the already mentioned Carol.

Telluride begins at the end of this month, right on the heels of the Venice Film Festival.


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.






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




Them teens
Them teens




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.








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

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,, 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 to download the Program Guide.

Film stills and Festival images available upon request. Email 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”
“Bird People”

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

Still in play for T-ride…

“Slow West”
“Kill the Messenger”
“A Most Violent Year”

BIG films still hanging:

“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.



Who hasn’t been captivated at one time or another by J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, one of the greatest American novels ever written. Probably we shouldn’t need to know much about the genius behind the book because, as the genius himself admits, the work should speak for itself. And indeed, Catcher in the Rye has spoken to many for decades, in ways good and bad. Is it Salinger’s fault that so many crazies identify with Holden Caufield’s shunning of the adult world? Or was he merely tapping into the modern American psyche post WWII? Do young, smart, white men feel isolated by what the world has become and do they find an ally in Holden?

The new doc, called simply Salinger, had its premiere at Telluride this morning. Director Shane Salerno had been working on the film for ten years. Keeping close wraps on the information contained in the film (based on the book by David Shields and Salreno was of utmost importance but all of that rolled out today. So fresh was much of this news to the audience that Joyce Maynard (here for Jason Reitman’s Labor Day, upon which her novel is based), who attended the screening, had mascara smeared under her eyes from tears she shed. Later, after the screening and in the lobby, Maynard said that over the past twenty years not a day has gone by that she hasn’t thought of Salinger.

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“For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away
And the shadows eaten the moon.”

“Can I see the stars, Mommy?” A young boy of around five asked his mother on the gondola ride down from the Coen brothers tribute yesterday here in Telluride. “Maybe,” she said, in a patient voice. “If the sky is clear enough tonight.”


“See that building with all of the windows down there? That’s my school down there,” he said. His mother kept pulling his feet back from where he was lightly kicking me. “It’s okay,” I said. “Well, yeah, but…” His mother wanted to teach him manners. He closed his eyes tightly as the gondola clanged to a stop, the sliding doors opened and we clambering out.

The night before I’d been one of the lucky ones to catch 12 Years a Slave’s premiere at the Galaxy with Steve McQueen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o and Brad Pitt in attendance. Pitt is one of the producers on the film as well as a supporting player. It’s the only film I’ve seen this week that received a standing ovation. Like Shame and Hunger, McQueen’s new film clutches at the the heart and mind, imprinting itself somewhere inside you permanently. Its harsh depiction of slavery, the talented cast, and McQueen’s gift for long takes made it a true standout. The buzz around Telluride was that it was the strongest film to hit the festival. 12 Years a Slave marks McQueen’s 3rd Telluride premiere and each of them have received the same kind of ecstatic buzz.

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Telluride 2012

Yeah so your Best Picture winner? Chances are it will show up at Telluride this year, if not at Cannes.  It might then meander up to Toronto but, what with the way films are violently attacked these days, seems like they show up earlier rather than later, perhaps in order to get the dirt over and done with before Oscar season starts.

Telluride Film Festival, presented by the National Film Preserve, announces its 40th Anniversary set to run August 29 – September 2, 2013. An additional day of festivities has been added to the usual four-day Festival, making room for a five-day bounty of special programming and festivities. The National Film Preserve is a not-for-profit arts and educational organization that annually presents the Telluride Film Festival.

Festival passes will be available for purchase beginning tomorrow, March 1, 2013. Festival passes may be purchased Pass levels and descriptions may also be found on the Festival’s website. Pricing will not increase given the additional day in 2013.

Telluride Film Festival, along with the Town of Telluride, is also pleased to announce it is creating a new venue in time for its 40thAnniversary celebration. The Werner Herzog Theatre will be situated in Telluride’s Town Park Pavilion and become the Festival’s most technologically advanced theatre accommodating 650 pass holders. Telluride Film Festival is committed to present not only the best quality films but in the most state of the art manner. TFF is also committed to maximizing pass holder enjoyment, valuing its intimate, relaxed atmosphere and will not be expanding its 2013 pass holder base.

In keeping with Festival tradition, Telluride Film Festival does not announce its program in advance, though the 40th promises to be a grand reunion highlighting all the elements of the last forty years. During this special edition of the SHOW, the Festival is thrilled it will be able to showcase its technical excellence and provide its pass holders and sponsors the highest level of service while presenting the world’s greatest films and filmmakers.


This Thursday, I will be flying out to Telluride for the first legit stop on the slow train to Oscar in this 2012/2013 season. The fest will run from Friday through Monday and I’ll be back by Tuesday. I will be taking pictures of the place and writing up film reviews, possibly some interviews and tweeting from @awardsdaily a lot.

The rumblings about the titles was discussed on the latest Oscar Poker. Essentially, the Telluride lineup has not yet been fully announced — and that happens on Thursday as well.

Last year, The Descendants was really the big get, but The Artist playing on the outdoor theater screen was still the movie almost everyone was talking about. The talk started in Cannes and didn’t stop until the film won Best Picture. Our Best Picture for this year is still hidden. Will it pop up in Telluride or Toronto? Or will it reveal itself later in the year?

Sasha’s own hand-held giggle-cam videography.

The idea to drive into Albuquerque and make the nearly six hour drive to Telluride turned out to be a good one by my travel mate, Jeff Wells of  At first it seemed like the way to go was to wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am it and fly in just for the film fest.  But to know a place, to fall in love with a place, it is sometimes necessary, advisable even, to take a different route than everyone else might take.  The work is the work, but the place is the place. And when it comes to Telluride, Colorado, and all of the magnificent landscape that surrounds it, a broader view is the way to go.  I will admit fully, though, that as a “Telluride virgin” perhaps I don’t know what I’m talking about.  I’ll take that chance.

New Mexico was covered with a swatch of moisture-soaked clouds threatening to rain and every now and then letting some raindrops go – in bursts sometimes.  Every once in a while there’d be an ominous flash of lightning splitting the flat horizon line, darkening as we headed toward Durango.  We would make it to our hotel by 11pm, a full hour earlier than expected, careful to avoid the many cop cars which were pulling people over right and left, looking an awful lot like immigrant purging but one brings one’s liberal agenda with them everywhere.

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Official Telluride press release:

George Clooney, Pierre Étaix and Tilda Swinton to receive Silver Medallion Awards

Over twenty-five new features plus revival programs and unique programming from Guest Director Caetano Veloso will be presented as part of the 2011 exhibition

Telluride, CO (September 1, 2011) – Telluride Film Festival (September 2-5, 2011), presented by the National Film Preserve, announces its program for the 38th Telluride Film Festival. Featuring diverse programming from around the globe, TFF once again sets the stage for some of the year’s most highly anticipated films.

TFF opens its 38th year with over twenty-five new feature films plus special artist tributes, Guest Director programs selected by Caetano Veloso, Backlot programs, classics and restorations, shorts, student films, seminars and conversations, each introduced or proceeded with a Q&A by its filmmaker, actors, writer or producer. Telluride Film Festival opens Friday, September 2 and runs through Labor Day, Monday, September 5.

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