The Telluride Film Festival highlights some Oscar-buzzworthy films!
I had the opportunity to attend my first Telluride Film Festival. As a huge movie fan and Colorado resident, this was a very long time coming. Though I wasn’t credentialed press, I made up for it as a volunteer in one of the larger venues and watched over a dozen movies during the few days I was there. I’m just now playing catch up with work, life, sleep, and writing and have even more appointments over coffee, drinks, or dinner with friends, acquaintances, and other people to share my experience. I cannot recommend enough what an incredible time this was to not only attend this festival but volunteer as well. If you can get to Telluride for Labor Day weekend, do it! And volunteering is the best (and money saving) way to go.
Spending a couple days away from Denver and in this quaint mountain town, which reminded me of a cross of the swanky chic of Vail with the friendly eccentric vibe of Manitou Springs, was exactly the cinematic vacation I needed. You see various industry people roaming the streets, standing in line waiting to see a movie, or sitting in seats in packed venues. Ken Burns was everywhere. I stood next to Meryl Streep after a world premiere of “Steve Jobs” let out. I even had my picture taken with my Hollywood crush Rachel McAdams. I met up, connected with or sat with other movie press people like Mark Johnson, Tomris Laffly, Sasha Stone, Alex Billington, Justin Chang, Michael Patterson as well as Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson of IndieWire.
You may not be aware that awards season in the States kicks off in Telluride, Colorado. It is a mix of the prestige studios and offbeat foreign films vying for the attention of serious cinephiles and elite Hollywood. Previous Best Picture winners to either world premiere or have their North American premiere here recently include Birdman, “12 Years a Slave,” “Argo,” “The Artist,” “The Kings Speech,” and “Slumdog Millionaire.” Notice a recent trend, huh? Here were a few movies I watched that should receive award nominations that you can catch on the fall festival circuit or in theaters before Thanksgiving. Keep these titles in mind when scanning the programs or looking for alternatives to higher profile movies this autumn.
5. 45 Years
Charlotte Rampling is phenomenal and a standout in a subtle drama about an older, married British couple confronting a past issue. It has a slower pace and thankfully not very eventful or over-the top. There aren’t loud or dramatic moments from “Weekend” director Andrew Haigh who prefers low-key and dialogue heavy relational dramas. I found this refreshing. There is an emotionally devastating scene that still lingers with me well beyond the final frame. This is impressive considering I watched this on the first night. “45 Years” opens on December 25th.
Based on the acclaimed and controversial book “The Price of Salt,” this coming of age lesbian romance set in 1950s New York was consistently packed with passionate tension. Rooney Mara was stirring and Cate Blanchett, as always, was phenomenal, but somehow brought it up a notch! The detailed production design and the luminous cinematography were spellbinding traits I constantly admire. This is a first class, high quality art film primed for sophisticated audiences. I thought this was the best movie I’ve seen from Todd Haynes. “Carol” opens November 20th and is expanding throughout Oscar season.
A24 truly has a sensational winner this awards season from “Frank” director Lenny Abrahamson’s latest. Audiences connected with the movie. I knew nothing going in and I advise you do the same for maximum emotional impact. Based on the novel of the same name, Brie Larson is in a truly breakout role about a mother and son held against their will for years inside a room. Though the first half held my attention more than the second half, Brie Larson was consistently spectacular. Ditto for Joan Allen during her key scenes. The boy played by Jacob Tremblay is a serious, rising actor. Room opens October 16th and expands nationwide November 6th.
2. Son of Saul
The best movie from Telluride still haunts me. This fiercely intense Holocaust drama is relentlessly captivating and constantly unsettling stylized as an action thriller. With its jarring effect on placing viewers in the situation, it reminded me of this year’s war film ’71 (which you should rent ASAP). What an astounding filmmaking debut from Hungarian director László Neme! I feel fortunate I saw this on 35MM. Winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes, expect this to easily run away with the Best Foreign Language Oscar. I wouldn’t be shocked if this received worthy nominations for director, cinematography, and sound. Opening in New York in December and expanding in January.
Reminiscent of “All the President’s Men,” the true story about the Boston Globe uncovering the Catholic sex abuse scandal is riveting and taut even if though you know how it ends. Tom McCarthy directs this remarkable ensemble with precision. Mark Ruffalo delivered the best performance and has some big moments primed for awards buzz. Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, and Rachel McAdams were all terrific in their own way, too. “Spotlight” was a big hit with audiences at Telluride and I think will translate to general audiences seeking an escape. Expect this to be a sleeper hit this fall. “Spotlight” opens in limited release November 6th.