Saturday, September 6, 2014

Filmmaker Mag Looks at TFF #41/Best of the Week: What I Saw; Video: Rosewater and Birdman; Dance Called Oscar; Rudderless Music/THE PEOPLE'S TELLURIDE




Ten films over essentially two and a half days.  I would have liked to have gotten in about 4 more than I saw. Nevertheless, I saw some really fine film work at the top of the list.  Here's what I saw and how I rated them...

1) Birdman 5/5
2) The Imitation Game 4.5/5
3) Foxcatcher 4.5/5
4) Wild Tales 3.5/5
5) Red Army 3.5/5
6) The Homesman 3.5/5
7) Wild 3/5
8) Magician 3/5 (adjusted)
9) Rosewater 3/5
10) Two Days, One Night 2.5/5

A comment or two...

Alejandro Inarritu's "Birdman" is a masterpiece and his best film...and I'm a fan of his other films. I think it's a tremendous piece of work.  First and foremost is Michael Keaton's turn as Riggan Thomson...the down and out former movie superstar who made his name as the titular "Birdman".  It is a fearless performance on a ridiculously high, ridiculously thin high wire and he is riveting.  It's one of the great performances on film I think I have ever seen.  Keaton must win is a oral imperative.  To deny this performance would be a crime.  And Keaton isn't alone.  Ed Norton and Emma Stone shine as well.  Both should earn nominations and Norton may very well win the Supporting Actor trophy.

The technical work is also dizzying.  The technique to create a two hour plus film that seems to be nearly one long, non-stop take is an amazing feat that is a marvel to behold.

Admittedly, there will be some who don't care for the film.  It's experimental, existential and eccentric but that's also makes it so special.

I was in a conversation Saturday night, right after seeing the film, with one of the industry's smartest people about the Oscar season and we both agreed that it's a tough sell for Best Picture but the more I've thought about it, the more I wonder about that assessment.  It's hard to deny the virtuosity here and the actors, which make up the largest block in The Academy, I think are going to eat it up.  It's an actor's film.  Further, I think it's going to end up with the most nominations when they are announced next January.  So maybe...maybe...

Ultimately I have a hard time believing that I'm going to see a better film between now and Dec. 31st.

Morten Tyldum...better get used to hearing that name.  He's the director of "The Imitation Game", the Alan Turing biopic starring Benedict Cumberbatch which came as close to being the consensus hit of last week's festival as I could find and deservedly.  I loved it too...not as much as "Birdman" but still...

Cumberbatch will be a nominee for this film as will, I expect, Mr. Tyldum and the screenwriter Graham Moore.  That's enough to virtually guarantee a Best Picture nomination.  There's some sentiment that Kiera Nightley might be in the running for a Supporting Actress nomination.  Noms for Costumes and Art Direction are real possibilities and I could also see an editing nomination.

Some have compared this to "The King's Speech", "Argo" and "The Artist".  Not thematically at all, but as a very well made film that Telluride audiences responded enthusiastically to.  For some that is damning praise...not to me.  Say what you will, about those three films (two of which were from The Weinstein Company, as is "Imitation Game") but they were all outstanding films in their own right.

All that's a damn good film and Cumberbatch in almost any other year might be the Oscar favorite...

Finally, in terms of the films I really dug at TFF #41, there's Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher".  It's fantastic but won't be everyone's cup of tea.  "Too cold" is how I've heard it described and that makes some sense.  But that "cool" aesthetic is absolutely essential to the central performance/character.  Steve Carell is... well, some would say a revelation as deeply crazy buhzillionaire Jon duPont in this true story.  I wouldn't say "revelatory" because I've thought he was going to be great in the role since I first heard about it.  And if you read this blog with regularity, you know that I've been tracking this film for...well..ever.  You might recall that I (and others) went through last season thinking we might see it in 2013.  Nope.  But it was worth the wait.

So, Carell is excellent as are Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum as two brothers trying to conquer the Olympics circa 1988.  Bennett Miller's direction is sure handed, confident.  He's a great talent.  It's too bad that he takes as much time as he does because that means we'll see fewer films from him over the next couple of decades.  But if his body of work continues to mirror "Capote", "Moneyball" and now "Foxcatcher"'ll be worth the wait.

My expectation is that we'll see two acting nominations, Carell and either Ruffalo or Tatum...I can't see all three being nominated, though they probably should be...both Ruffalo and Tatum deserve the nod.  The Ruffalo love is probably not a surprise.  Tatum in that convo might raise an eyebrow until you see the performance.  Again, I'm not surprised.  I thought he'd be great too.

A Best Picture nomination is possible since we're likely to have nine films make the grade again this year.  A Best Direction nom for Miller is a tougher proposition though.  I'd vote for him but, you know, I'm not an Academy member.

A script nod for Dan Futterman and E. Max Frye is more likely.  Maybe editing as well.

That's the stuff I really liked of the ten films that I got to.


Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood posted exclusive video of interviews with the "Rosewater" and "Birdman" folks and I'm passing  along those links to you:




L.A. Weekly posted their assessment of Oscar potentials from this year's Telluride crop yesterday.  Weirdly, no mention of "Birdman".  Check it here:


Regular readers of this space know that now that the festival has concluded that two things are about to happen.  I'll go back to the regular twice a week publication schedule (Mondays and Thursdays) unless something special warrants a special post AND the focus of the blog shifts from the films that we puzzled about for six months to the actual films that played and their prospects for the upcoming awards season.

I know that plenty of TFFers couldn't care less about this or that Oscar prospect.  I completely understand that but I do enjoy the awards season and how those films that showed at The SHOW will fare.  As such, I have included a number of pieces of the "at first blush" variety from a number of the best Oscar/Awards thinkers and writers in the business.  Enjoy!

Sasha Stone/Awards Daily:

Kristopher Tapley/HitFix

Anne Thompson/Thompson on Hollywood and Eric Kohn/IndieWire (Screen Talk podcast)

Tim Gray/Variety:

Joey Magidson/Hollywood News

Gathered for this year's "Class Photo" Hilary Swank, Jon Stewart, and Channing Tatum (Getty Images)

I have continued to gather reactions to this year's group of films from critics and those that roam the awards season landscape.  Included in a couple of the wrap-ups and reviews are kind mentions of Alex Billington/First Showing and Sasha Stone/Awards Daily...thanks!  They're two of the best in the business and are always encouraging about this small enterprise.  So we'll start there:

Sasha reviews the weekend here:

Alex also provides a summary of the four days here:

Anne Thompson offers her take with some really interesting background on the Toronto issue:

Variety's Justin Chang and Scott Foundas filed this dialogue that looks at the weekend that was:

And from a number of places, the continued assesment of Oscar:

Gold Derby:

The Wrap:

Cinema Blend:


My countdown to the release of William H. Macy's set in Oklahoma Sundance drama "Rudderless" continues.  It's set to release on Oct. 17th.  News came yesterday that music form the film...and it's cool music...will be available within the month.  One of the things that was said after the Oklahoma City screening of the film last June was how good the music was.  Now you'll soon have a chance to hear for yourself.  The Playlist posted the release story online and here's the link to that:


The ratings from readers have begun to come in and this is your reminder to be a part of the annual rating compilation of  the films you saw at Telluride.  Please drop me a line with your rating of each of the films you saw using a 0-5 scale with "0" for the atrocious and "5" for the sublime.  Send them to me via Twitter @Gort2 or email: or as a comment to this post.  I'll collate them and publish the results in the next week or so.  It's fun!

1 comment:

steeple said...

So if you she'll out a lot of money for a pass to the festival, prepare for the following:

1) in the best case, waiting in line for up to 2 hours for a chance to see the movie of your liking

2) generally not getting in to any of the films where the celebrities appear, as the locals manage to sneak plenty of their non-paying friends in ahead of you

If you are thinking of buying an expensive pass, save yourself the money and attend the films later in the evening and where the celebrities don't attend.