Monday, September 8, 2014

Apologies: The Professionals Telluride/Random Thoughts a Week Removed/Film Comment Talks Telluride

Welcome to Monday...


I had intended to post the results of the ratings from the professionals who have been kind enough to rate the films they saw last weekend at TFF #41 but last minute additions and alterations have pushed that to tomorrow.  Sorry.  Think of it as building suspense.

I'm still planning The People's Telluride release on Thursday so you peeps still have a couple of days to send in your ratings on a 0-5 scale to me via Twitter (@Gort2) email: or as a comment to this blog.


Well, I've had a little time to process TFF #41 so I thought I might tap out a few things that have been rattling around my brain over the last week or so.


I have made some great friends as a result of the Telluride Film Fest over these past eight years of attending and six years of writing about it.  Especially worthy of mention are Christopher Schiller, who was a great guy to stand in line with, a counselor and conversationalist.  Also, it was terrific to catch up, briefly, with Jack Werzberger and Patrick Pringle.  Great guys who love film and TFF.

Susan and Bunee Tomlinson, fellow Oklahomans, who make the trek each year to the San Juans and are remarkably kind.  Look out world, Bunee's gonna run the film world someday.

Alexandra and Mark Helfrich, who, I believe we met in line in 2007.  Dinner companions, fellow film fans and hard core Telluride fest-goers.  They have become more than acquaintances over these past few years.  I value the brief moments we get to share.

I also am humbled and gratified that I am treated so warmly by the members of the real press.  Going out of their way to show kindness and share insight: Sasha Stone/Awards Daily, Kristopher Tapley/HitFix-InContention, Alex Billington/FirstShowing and Tomris Laffley/Film Journal.  Mr. Schiller also falls into this camp.

And then there was the nearly constant parade of people that I ran into that read the blog.  It seemed like I was constantly sitting next to or standing in line with someone who reads the thing.  To all of you and those of you who have taken time to pass along an "I love your blog" via email, Twitter or other social media...thanks so very much. You're too kind.

And I would be seriously remiss if I didn't mention TFF's VP of Publicity Shannon Mitchell and Co-director Julie Huntsinger.  These two women have persistently shown me nothing but respect, kindness and warmth.  I thank them sincerely.

And, of course, Larry and Mitzi Mallard who make the whole thing possible.  They were my students back in the 80's and have grown into great friends and have the wife and I the most ridiculously wonderful gift in the form of passes to attend the festival and a ludicrously beautiful place to stay.  "Thank you" is inadequate expression of gratitude.


You know how it is sometimes.  You come out of theater in T-ride and you're giddy and then, after some reflection, a week later, you reassess.  Sometimes something that you thought was great is really just good and sometimes what you thought wasn't much, resonates louder and louder on reflection.  Last year, "Llewyn Davis"...which I thought was great from the better on reflection.    So, looking back after a bit of time always seems like a good idea.  That said...

A week out and I still feel strongly about what the three films I saw that seem to be the standouts of TFF #41.  Alejandro Inarritu's "Birdman" (which did NOT win the Venice Golden Lion over the weekend and many were surprised by that) which I called a masterpiece in the heat of the immediate post film reaction.  Now that I've mulled it for a week...still a masterpiece.  It's Inarritu's best film and a career defining performance from Michael Keaton.  I don't know if Keaton will win a Best Oscar next spring, only that he should and, in a year that already has a surfeit of phenomenal work in the Lead Actor category (and more to come raves for Eddie Redmayne for "The Theory of Everything" and Bill Murray for "St. Vincent" are coming out of Toronto from this weekend's screenings like Jack O'Connell in "Unbroken" and I suspect Matthew McConnaughey will be back in the conversation after we finally see Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar"), I cannot imagine that anyone is going to be as good as Keaton in this film.

Make no mistake...most years I would be all about Steve Carell and Channing Tatum in "Foxcatcher" and Benedict Cumberbatch in "The Imitation Game".  They're fantastic performances and were I member of the Academy and having to choose, it'd be difficult...but Keaton's performance makes it easy.  At least for me.

Speaking of "Foxcatcher" and :The Imitation Game", I still feel the same about them as I did a week ago.  Great work, great scripting and direction.  Excellent acting from two very, very different films.

"Wild Tales" seems to have gotten the biggest buzz boost from the fest.  It's the kind of thing that has happened before at Telluride, I think.  Audiences responding to a well made comic film that provides big laughs made bigger as a relief/release from some of the other more somber, challenging fare at the fest.  I enjoyed "Wild Tales" but I don't think it's in the same ball park that the above three films are.

Though I didn't see it, I imagine that people that saw "The Look of Silence" were probably looking for that.  To a lesser extent, I think the same might be true for Ethan Hawke's documentary "Seymour: An Introduction" which was warmly embraced by everyone I talked to that saw it last weekend.  As a matter of fact, Jack Werzberger (mentioned above) said it was one of his five best TFF experiences ever.  Strong praise indeed.  Also, shout out to Mr. Hawke whom my parents met and, as is so often the case at Telluride, was terrifically pleasant and kind.

Director, actor and genuinely nice guy Ethan Hawke with my parents Patricia and Calvin Patterson.

As I mentioned above also, sometimes a film grows with some distance.  "Red Army", Gabe Polsky's documentary about the Cold War era Soviet hockey team has been that film over the last week for me.  Great work.  It's funny, engaging, dramatic and even emotional.

Noble misses: "Wild" and "The Homesman".  Both films have good performances at their core (Witherspoon/Wild Dern/Wild and Swank/Homesman) and are beautiful to look at but are lacking some structural elements that left this viewer unclear as to motivation.  Though that ambiguity is sometimes a valid choice, in these two instances I felt like I needed to understand the leads at a deeper level to make sense of the way each film played out.

Jon Stewart's "Rosewater" also fell into this same category for me for different reasons, really.  Stewart explained more than once over the course of last weekend that one of the things that he was after was a film that expressed evil and torture and terror as being something that could be subtle.  He wants us to realize that those things don't have to take the shape of a "Midnight Express" level of abuse to be just as terrifying and maybe even more so because of its subtlety.  OK.  I'm not sure that makes for a compelling film.  It didn't for me.

I also had issues with what was going on with the leads flashbacks/imaginings of conversations with his father who, it seems to me, would not have been pleased with the choices that Gael Garcia Bernal's character makes.  The film devotes a good amount of time to Dad making much of his own choices when faced with similar circumstances in his own life but when Bernal's character charts a different course toward the films end, Ghost Dad seems all about condoning those choices. Ummm...what'd I miss?


Having said all that about Jon Stewart's film, I was thrilled to meet him and shake his hand.  Call me shallow.

I was also pretty happy to shake Alejandro Inarritu's hand and congratulate him after the first North American screening of "Birdman".

Realizing as I was talking to some fellow journalist types that I was standing two feet from Reese Witherspoon.

The sheer breath taking thrill that it was to watch "Birdman" happen in front of my eyes and then see Inarritu talk about it afterwards.

It was also ridiculously grand to hear/see Bennett Miller, Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Hilary Swank discuss their films moments after seeing them.

Finally got to meet Screencraft's John Rhodes face to face after a couple of years of communicating facelessly via email and the Twitterverse.  Had a fantastic breakfast with him and his buddy Trevor Kress of Corbis Entertainment on Monday morning just before we pulled out to Telluride.

Dinner Thursday night with the Helfrichs.


....and they're silly...but...

Tommy Lee Jones appears to have been in town for about three hours.  Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like he was in T-ride to do the singularly scheduled Q & A with Leonard Maltin after the Sunday afternoon screening of "The Homesman".  I understand that Mr. Jones is notoriously unwilling to suffer the indignities of fame and that the Q & A demonstrated that and part of me wishes I could have been there but I had a prior engagement that I really couldn't move around,  Still, I would have risked a withering glance to have put my eyeballs on him and even more to have actually been able to greet the man.

I hate that Benedict Cumberbatch didn't make it despite the program assurance that he would be in attendance.  I think the young man is a terrific actor and gives an incredible performance in "Imitation Game".  It would have fun to tell him that in person.

I was thrilled to get to hear Steve Carell and Channing Tatum talk about "Foxcatcher"  My disappoint...kept thinking I'd run into them...never happened.  Apparently I just missed Carell at the Patron's brunch.  Curse my luck.

Missed Oprah... who was around at least early in the weekend for "Wild".

I saw Megan Ellison at the Fox Searchlight party Saturday (and again Fox Searchlight...thanks so much for the invitation..was cool.) but didn't work up the gumption to walk over and thank her for the producing work she has done over that last five years or so ("True Grit" -my favorite film of 2010, "The Master", "Zero Dark Thirty" "American Hustle" and this year's "Foxcatcher" among others. She's part of the list of producers for Inarritu's next project as well. "The Revenant"...TFF #42?...if it's done, I'll bet it shows...)

I also missed Quincey Jones at the FS party.  I think I was already out the door when Q showed up. Man, I hate to have missed a legend.

I also regret not having had a second conversation with Jon Stewart who was leaving the FS party as I was coming in.  That's probably for the best, but, again, a week removed...seems like a missed opportunity.


Eugene Hernandez has posted a Telluride re-cap for Film Comment.  Here's the link to that:

No comments: