Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Guest Director/A Tale of Two Companies/Rudderless Casting/A Tease

Caetano Veloso is this year's Guest Director


Telluride organizers have named Brazilian musician Caetano Veloso this year's guest director.  Veloso will program a selection of films as a part of his duties as Guest Director and will serve as a panelist during the Festival's run.  Veloso joins a long list of enigmatic choices for the position. Past Guest Directors have included novelists Michael Ondaatje, Composer Stephen Sondheim, Philosopher Slovaj Zizek, and author Salman Rushdie among others.

The official announcement form the festival is here:

The Movie City News story with details is here:


Regular readers of this space know that it's primary purpose is to attempt to ferret out the films that could play as a part of the Telluride Film Festival each year.  Secondary purpose: analyze those films, third purpose: track them through film awards season.

Telluride is, arguably, one of the 5 most influential film festivals on the planet and it's importance seems to be growing.  Look at its impact in terms of the last few years as measured by the film awards season... premieres of "The King's Speech" and "Slumdog Millionaire" (that's 12 Oscars between them including 2 Best Pictures, 2 Best Directors, 2 Screenplay Oscars and a Best Actor) both of which got the Oscar buzz rolling out of the "little" Labor Day fest in the old mining town. 

One of the quirks of Telluride is that they do not announce their lineup of films in advance.  Nobody knows whats playing until the day the festival starts (always Labor Day weekend).  Well, that's cool, because you really have to trust the festival organizers to program it well (and do they ever) but it also seemed like a challenge to me to see if you could make any kind of educated guesses about what might be there.  Thereby, the genesis for this blog.

I've been doing this for three years now because I thought it would be fun to play film detective.  It allows me to piddle with the research skills a lifetime of debate coaching has honed, in a world I love: film and because of the incredible generosity of 2 of my former debate kids, I get to attend the Festival each year.

All that is the preface to this, again, if you've read this space at all, you've become privy to some of the "tells" that I think are out there that give some guidance to a guy trying to figure out what's going to show at The SHOW.  One of those "tells" is the frequent appearance of films that are affiliated with two American film companies: Sony Pictures Classics and to a lesser extent Fox Searchlight.

Let's look at each and discuss.  Sony Pictures Classics (SPC) seems to be represented very well at the Telluride Film Festival in the time I have been attending (since 2006).  To wit: SPC films at recent TFF's
2006 (TFF #33): "Volver," "Jindabyne," and "The Lives of Others.
2007 (TFF#34): "The Counterfeiters," "The Band's Visit," "Persepolis," "When Did You Last See Your Father?" "Brick Lane," and "O"Horten."
2008 (TFF#35): "I've Loved You So Long" and "Waltz with Bashir."
2009 (TFF #36): "An Education," "A Prophet," "Coco Before Chanel," "The White Ribbon," and "The Last Station."
2010 (TFF #37): "Incendies," "Of Gods and Men," "Tamara Drewe," "Another Year," "The Illusionist" and "Inside Job."

The point being that SPC is a player at Telluride most years.  This year SPC has 5 films that could reasonably be in play to be programmed at T-ride: "Carnage," "A Dangerous Method," "The Skin I Inhabit" (or "The Skin I Live In" depending on your translator), "Restless" and "Hearat Shulayim" (Footnote).  And if you look at SPC's extended presence at Telluride, especially in 2007 and each of the last two years, you'd think maybe all 5 show up there.  But they all have "problems' for "Telluride" fare.

"Carnage":  It's almost certainly Venice bound.  That lowers it's chances.  Roman Polanski's the director...he won't be coming to the U.S. with it...normally director's do accompany their films at Telluride. On the upside: maybe it gets Jodie Foster to the San Juans...would love to meet her.

"A Dangerous Method":  David Cronenberg's take on the conflict confronting Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) from a young female patient (Keira Knightley).  I am very high on this film right now, but it also has big buzz for Venice and you have to believe native Canadian Cronenberg will play it in Toronto...decreasing its chances of a Telluride bow.

"The Skin I Inhabit": The latest from Telluride favorite Pedro Almodovar.  Normally being a film from Almodovar would mean we'd think it was a lock to play Telluride.  He's had many films there over the years.  However, his last "Broken Embraces" did NOT play and this latest is said to be more of a thriller/genre piece than what we'd usually expect to see from the auteur.  So, maybe not.

"Hearat Shulayim/Footnote": Played Cannes, which is also a decent precursor for Telluride but it didn't set the critical world on fire when it showed there...so, again, maybe not.

And finally, Gus Van Sant's "Restless":  Van Sant films have played as a part of Telluride's lineup more than once and "Restless" did play at Cannes, out of competition.  But like "Hearat Shulayim" it didn't get a uniformly glowing critical response...so it also has some question marks about whether it plays in TFF #38.

5 films...all of which could be at Telluride, but also none of them a lead pipe cinch either.  My guess is that 3 of the 5 end up in T-ride, but your guess is as good as mine which ones.  Forced to predict, here's the five listed in order from what I'm guessing is most likely to least likely: 1) "The Skin I Inhabit" 2) "Hearat Shulayim/Footnote, 3) "A Dangerous Method" 4) "Restless' and 5) "Carnage."

The other company to mention has had a smaller profile over the last few years, but when it plays, it plays big.  Fox Searchlight's imprint at T-ride over the last five years looks like this:
2006: "The Namesake," "The Last King of Scotland" (Best Actor Oscar for Forest Whitaker).
2007: "The Savages" and "Juno" (Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Diablo Cody)
2008: "Slumdog Millionaire" (8 Oscars including Picture, Director, and Screenplay)
2009: Not represented at Telluride
2010: "Never Let Me Go," "127 Hours" and "Black Swan" (Best Actress Oscar for Natalie Portman)

In 2011, Fox Searchlight has 2 films that could play:  Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" (his first film since 2004's "Sideways") starring Geroge Clooney and John Madden's "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" starring a huge cast including Slumdog's Dev Patel, Tom Wilkinson and Bill Nighy.
I think "The Descendants" is a lock for Telluride.  Payne is on record as saying he was going to submit and clearly Fox Search is positioning it for Oscar consideration.  As to "Marigold," I think it's a 50/50 shot about whether it gets included on the playbill.  It wouldn't surprise me either way.


The crew at "Rudderless" has announced that singer/songwriter Ben Kweller will be joining the cast and perhaps writing some of the music for the film.  That announcement came via the films Facebook page which you can find here:


We'll have the review for Kenton Bartlett's "Missing Pieces" up later this afternoon.

Coming tomorrow...Could Stephen Soderbergh be repped at TFF #38? and a look at another film company that may play in the San Juans on Labor Day.

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