Thursday, September 4, 2014

What I Saw in Telluride/Video from "Rosewater" and "Birdman"/LA Weekly's Oscar Take from TFF #41/Rate Those Flicks!

Hello friends and neighbors...hope everyone has made it back home safe and sound from TFF #41.


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:


People have been responding but we need more data!  Send your 0-5 ratings of the films you saw in Telluride last weekend to me via Twitter @Gort2, or email me at or leave your ratings as a comment to this blog.  I'll be collating and publishing these in about a week.  Meanwhile, The Professionals Telluride ratings are coming in and I expect to have those ready for your consumption on Monday.

Rate 'em!

More tomorrow...

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