Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Professionals Telluride/Telluride #40 Re-Cap/Best of the Week

Good Saturday and Post-Telluride weekend to you.  For those in have my envy...


For the second year I have asked a group of Film Pros...critics, Film and Oscar bloggers to rate the films they saw during the festival on a 0-5 scale and share those with me and, of course, with the readers of this space.  Today, I'm ready to post that information.

A couple of disclaimers: No film is included that wasn't rated by at least three of the professionals.  In this year's case that was 20 of the films. Ties were broken (when possible) in favor of the film that had been seen and rated by the larger number of professionals. In a case or two, I converted rankings to the 0-5 rating scale.  If there is any mistake or error in those conversions, that is purely my responsibility.

The gracious friends and colleagues who agreed to share their views about the TFF #40 lineup are:

Alex Billington/FirstShowing
Scott Feinberg/The Hollywood Reporter
Scott Foundas/Variety
Eric Kohn/IndieWire
Tomris Laffly/Film Journal
Eugene Novikov/Film Blather
Sasha Stone/Awards Daily
Kristopher Tapley/HitFix-InContention
Anne Thompson/Thompson on Hollywood

The Results:

(Composite ratings for the film is in parentheses)

1) 12 Years a Slave (4.7)
2) Blue is the Warmest Color (4.4)
3) Gravity (4.35)
4) Tim's Vermeer (4.3)
5) Nebraska (4.3)
6) All is Lost (4.2)
7) Inside Llewyn Davis (4.1)
8) Starred Up (4.0)
9) The Past (3.9)
10) Labor Day (3.6)
11) Bethlehem (3.6)
12) Prisoners (3.5)
13) The Lunchbox (3.5)
14) Salinger (3.3)
15) The Unknown Known (3.3)
16) Palo Alto (3.2)
17) Tracks (3.2)
18) Under the Skin (3.1)
18) (tie) The Wind Rises (3.1)
20) The Invisible Woman (3.0)

Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" leads the pack fairly comfortably.  Additionally, the reactions from Toronto, where the film has now played, seem to be just as enthusiastic.

Also, I've seen a number of references to "12 Years" and "Schindler's List" coming out of Toronto.  I think I may have said that first in my Aug. 31st post after the films "sneak" which some might call a world premiere.

By way of a more complete view of these ratings, here are the films that each of the professionals rated as a "5":

Billington: "12 Years", "All is Lost", "Blue is the Warmest Color".
Feinberg: "12 Years", "Blue is the Warmest Color", "Gravity", "Tim's Vermeer"
Foundas: "12 Years", "Blue is the Warmest Color", "Inside Llewyn Davis", "Prisoners"
Kohn: "12 Years"
Laffly: "12 Years", "Gravity"
Novikov: None ( but his highest ratings were for "All is Lost", "Gloria" and "Under the Skin")
Stone: "12 Years", "Blue is the Warmest Color", "Gravity", "Inside Llewyn Davis", "Labor Day"
Tapley: "Aguirre: The Wrath of God", "Gravity"
Thompson: "Nebraska"
Patterson (me): "12 Years", "Nebraska"

What can we learn?  Last year "Argo" was the #2 rated film by the pros in my survey with a 4.5 composite rating.  I think that is good news for the Fox Searchlight people going forward into awards season.  I mean, "Argo" had a pretty good year.

Ken Burns "Central Park Five" was the highest rated film last year with a 4.7.

It will be interesting to see how the People's ratings match up with this...which means:


Keep sending me YOUR ratings of films that played last week at Telluride.  The "People's Telluride" ratings will be posted here next week.  

email to

I'm planning to post The People's Telluride ratings on Thursday, so get them in to me and have your voice heard!  


I’ve been home for a couple of days now and have been back in the “real” world which for me is my classroom.  It’s been a busy week of catching up and recovery and I’m still not fully there.  Telluride is always a whirlwind and the added fifth day extended that (not that I’m complaining).

So I’m looking back after a few days to try to gain some perspective and draw a few conclusions about this year’s festival.

Here’s the first thing:  My wife and I have been attending the Telluride Film Festival each year since 2006.  I’ve always felt that 2007 was the hallmark year of the 7 fests that we’ve attended since then.  2007 featured films such as “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, “The Savages”, “Juno” and “Into the Wild”.  It also included a tribute to Daniel Day Lewis and 20 minutes of “There Will Be Blood”, which didn’t impress me at the time, but in the context of the entire film, did.

That’s right, 2007 had Daniel Day Lewis and Sean Penn in town at the same time.  Unbelievable!

There have been a lot of highlights from other years, but I’ve always felt that the 2007 fest was the best cinematically…until last week.

You knew, if you were paying attention, that the 40th anniversary celebration was likely to be a phenomenon.  For my money, TFF #40 did just that.

Telluride #40’s lineup included new films from Jason Reitman, Errol Morris, Alfonso Cuaron, Alexander Payne, Steve McQueen, Jonathan Glazer (who’s been MIA for almost a decade), Denis Villanueve, J.C. Chandor, Palme d'Or winner Abdelatif Kechiche, The Coen Brothers, Ralph Fiennes and Asghar Farhadi.  It was too much.  I couldn’t get to everything I wanted to see…which is a great problem to have.  Then there are the tributes.  I made sure that I made the tributes for both Robert Redford and The Coens with T-Bone Burnett.

If you focus on Telluride as a barometer for awards season, you cannot have been disappointed with this year’s crop of films. 

From my perspective it seemed that “12 Years a Slave”, which “sneaked” at Telluride (in other words, it wasn’t announced as a part of the original lineup on Wednesday morning but was added after the festival had begun) may have already seized the high ground in a number of categories.  I’m thinking nominations for Picture, Director, Actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Supporting Actress (newcomer Lupita Nyong’o), Supporting Actor (Michael Fassbender), Adapted Screenplay (John Ridley), Film Editing, Cinematography, Score, Art Direction and Costume Design.

It seems to me that Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska”, which had a fair critical response after Cannes with Bruce Dern winning Best Actor there, benefited hugely from a terrific Telluride response.  The film was said to have been tweaked between Cannes and Telluride and that may have made a difference or perhaps Telluride is just enough different from Cannes to explain the much warmer stateside embrace of the film.  Looking back a week later and examining the responses to me blog space and the critical reaction as well, it looks to me like “Nebraska” has gone from a lone Bruce Dern possibility for a nomination (reportedly there’s still some uncertainty about which category he’ll be campaigned in…I say Best Actor) to a film that could grab nominations for Picture, Director, Supporting Actress (June Squibb), Original Screenplay and Cinematography.  Will Forte might even have an outside shot at a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

“Gravity” also seemed to continue the momentum it had coming out of Venice.  Reviews are ecstatic.  It certainly will be in the conversation for technical Oscars and may well have locked up Best Picture, Director, Screenplay and acting nominations for Sandra Bullock and possibly even George Clooney.

Robert Redford seemed to solidify his chances at a Best Actor nomination and “All is Lost” might find its way onto a list of 9 or so Best Picture nominees.

The Coens’ “Inside Llewyn Davis” seems to have neither gained nor last Awards ground.  Personally I’d like to see acting nominations for Oscar Issac and John Goodman.  It could find itself in contention for Picture, Director, Score, Song, Cinematography and Adapted Screenplay.

Denis Villenueve’s “Prisoners’ created a lot of buzz in lines late in the weekend making

Foreign films making a strong play for Oscar recognition were “The Lunchbox” and Farhadi’s “The Past”.  “Blue is the Warmest Color” was mostly well received but we already know that it won’t be eligible for the Foreign Language Oscar because of release date considerations.

The Penn and Teller documentary, “Tim’s Vermeer” also made a strong case for Oscar consideration.  It was well loved by critics and fest-goers.  Meanwhile, Errol Morris’s “The Unknown Known” seemed a bit of a misfire.  Shane Salerno’s “Salinger” made a lot of waves as well but there was almost as much negative response as positive.

On a personal level, I couldn’t have asked for a more magical experience (except, of course, if I had sold a script…call me, I’ve got some great ideas).  I knew that I would have the chance to hear Robert Redford, Joel and Ethan Coen and T-Bone Burnett talk about their careers and the films that they are and have been involved with.  That would have been enough but Telluride #40 let me have other experiences that I would have never believed possible.  

I had the chance to meet, shake hands and thank Burnett for the music he has helped shepherd over the years.  I was embraced so warmly by many of the professional journalists and bloggers that heretofore, I had only read.  I was fortunate enough to have a couple of conversations with Festival Co- and Managing Director Julie Huntsinger who is never less than gracious and always has the time to share a couple of “under the radar” stories.

I had those crazy moments just prior to the screening of “12 Years a Slave” in which I walked in (with my popcorn and soda) right behind the Pitt/McQueen/Fassbender/Ejiofor/Nyong’o entourage.  I might as well have been a part of the crew I was so close.  Then to watch them talk about the experience of making a film that I think we’ll still be talking about decades from now…amazing.  Also amazing, learning that Fassbender was seeing the film for the first time just as we were.

Then, there’s the apex of the experiences that I had at this year’s festival.  I had a moment to meet, shake hands with, talk to and thank Francis Ford Coppola. 

2013 has eclipsed 2007.  It will now become the Telluride to measure all other Tellurides.  My hope is that I get to continue this love affair for a long, long time.  My thinking is that if this is what they do for their 40th anniversary, I sure hope I get to stick around and see #50.



I've linked to a couple of retrospectives about this year's festival from Leonard Maltin and Eugene Hernandez/The Film Society.  You can take a stroll down recent memory lane with both reports:

Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal adds his take to the conclusion of this year's festival as he examines the films he took in.  This piece was posted yesterday:


Oscar experts are continuing to re-calibrate their view of the early front runners in the aftermath of the reception of films that played last weekend.  Today I have linked to the HitFix/InContention Contender Countdown.  Greg Ellwood pens this post:

And from Gold Derby:

Best Picture contenders getting a boost from Telluride: "Gravity", "12 Years a Slave", "Nebraska" and "Inside Llewyn Davis".


Michael's Telluride Film Blog ( I really need a better name) changes this week.  Now that the festival is over, I'll go back to the twice a week posting schedule (Mondays and Thursdays) that I use for half the year.  Also, the content changes focus as The Film Awards Clearinghouse portion of what I do in this space kicks in.  For the next six months I'll be tracking the films that played at Telluride as we move through the awards season.  More frequent posts will occur as the season progresses culminating with the Oscars on March 2, 2014.

Thanks to all of you who continue to read this weird obsession that I have.  I have been humbled by the number of people who contact me to tell me that they read this space and appreciate the thing that it is. Keep reading...I'll keep writing.

Follow/Like Michael's Telluride Film Blog AND The Film Awards Clearinghouse on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter @Gort2.

More on Monday...

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