Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Back in the Game / Distribution: Strand Releasing and Focus Features / A Couple of Points of Passenger Interest

Welcome to Wednesday my friends...


Well, for the fifth consecutive year the Telluride Film Festival has been gracious enough to grant Michael's Telluride Film Blog status as an actual journalistic endeavor.  I got word a couple of days ago that I had been accredited for TFF #43.

It never fails to blow my mind that MTFB gets accepted in the same breath as Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Sasha Stone's Awards Daily and others.  Journalists and outlets that I read studiously and respect tremendously and I get to play like I belong in that pool for four days a year.

It's cool.

Thanks to the Telluride Film Festival and its directors Tom Luddy and Julie Huntsinger as well as P.R. Chief Shannon Mitchell and P.R. Coordinator Richard Parkin.


As we come down the home stretch of our review of distributors who have had the largest presence at Telluride over the last decade or so, we turn our attention to companies who have had a spotty, but serious record of inclusion.  These are outfits that are sometime players that you always need to account for because they show up just often enough that you'd be a fool to overlook them each year as you try to puzzle out possible lineup choices.

It's this type of organization we'll talk about through Friday and then next week, we'll turn our attention to overseas production companies.

Today, however, we look at distributors Strand Releasing and Focus Features.


Strand started showing up at the SHOW in 2010 and ran off appearances for five straight years before missing last year's SHOW.

2010- Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff
2011- Bonsai
2012- Paradise: Love
2013- The Missing Picture
2014- Dancing Arabs

In 2015, Strand failed to make the TFF #42 lineup.  I thought a year ago that there was some possibility of seeing Cemetery of Splendour but, as you know, that did not happen.

Much like last year, at this point Strand seems to have only one possibility and that is Alain Guiraudie's Staying Vertical.  The film played in Cannes competition and drew fair reviews.  You may have noticed that I posted its poster in yesterday's dispatch.  My feeling right now is that it may be a borderline inclusion in the TFF #43 lineup.  Call its chances 55%.


Meanwhile, As we turn to Focus Features we regard a distributor who has had a very sketchy Telluride relationship.  Only three films from them have appeared at T-ride since 2006.

2006- Catch a Fire
2012- Hyde Park on Hudson
2015- Suffragette

Now, I have to tell you that they impressed me last year in that they had the estimable Meryl Streep in Telluride in addition to director Sarah Gavron and writer Abi Morgan.  I also have to admit that I liked the film more than a good many others.  You may recall that in my post-SHOW ratings that The People had it ranked 12the of 14 films and The Professionals had it 12th of 13.  However, IMDb has it currently at 6.9, MetaCritic has it at 67 and Rotten Tomatoes at 73% s, in hindsight, though it didn't set the world on fire, it seems that the film actually came away in modestly good critical shape.

Still, Focus had to have believed or hoped for some awards season traction that never really materialized.

All of those factors will probably have some effect on the Focus decision about which film or films to submit to Telluride (if any) and Telluride's perspective on this films.

Nevertheless, Focus does have a few films that might merit consideration:

Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals
J. A. Bayona's A Monster Calls
Jeff Nichol's Loving
Colin Trevorrow's The Book of Henry

You could make a decent case for any of these.

Tom Ford's second film, Nocturnal Animals would seem to be highly desired by most of the big fall fests in light of the critical success of his first feature, A Single Man.  Additionally, it features Telluride regular (and MTFB "Usual Suspect) Laura Linney.

You could make a case for Jeff Nichol's Loving, as I have been since it screened at Cannes.  Decent reviews and a film that many in France thought was the film that had the most awards prospects of the Palme competition lineup.

J.A. Bayona's A Monster Calls hasn't necessarily seemed like a Telluride possibility to me until recently.  I, am higher on its prospects this week.  Been hearing a bit of buzz plus one its executive producers is T-ride regular (and another MTFB "Usual Suspect")  Bill Pohlad/River Road Entertainment.  Pohlad has also produced Telluride-screened features 12 Years a Slave, Wild, Into the Wild, Fur and Brokeback Mountain.

The longest shot of the four seems to me to be Treverrow's The Book of Henry.  It's notable Telluride connection is that it stars the young Jacob Trembay of last year's Telluride breakout film Room.

Assessing the chances for these films is complicated by Focus Features spotty T-ride record and the unknown about how their perception of the reception of Suffragette last year had colored their strategy for the fall.

Chances for each:

Loving 60%
A Monster Calls 50%
Nocturnal Animals 40%
The Book of Henry 30%

Tomorrow we'll look at Open Road and Zeitgeist.


Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence of Passengers via Teen Daily 

 A few days back I saw a brief blurb that there might some difficulties with a special effects firm and some late 2016 releases.  I kind of slapped in the back of my brain and moved on.

Then I ran across this post from Awards Circuit about the original story and how it could impact the Morten Tyldum film Passengers.

Now, I have mentioned Passengers briefly in the past and suggested that it might be an outside, outside shot to play Telluride because of Tyldum who directed The Imitation Game and seemed to have had a good time when he was there with that film in 2014.  Additionally, the presence of Jennifer Lawrence and her Oscar success (one win and four nominations since 2011) gave the sci-fi drama a bit more of a prestige factor.

The AC article also references the earlier piece from The Hollywood Reporter.

The bottom line is that Passengers could be delayed because of legal action involving this special effects outfit and, more to the point, Awards Circuit's article implies that it almost certainly bags the film for a possible Telluride play.

Now,  I'm not saying that AC is telling us that was in the cards...but it's really interesting speculation for them to come up with.  The actual quote from the piece goes, "'s possible the producers planned a "Gravity" style campaign to drop the film at Telluride.  This news makes that plan somewhat unlikely now."

Makes you go...hmmmmmm.

The sfx firm is seeking a modification to the injunction to work on soon-to-be-released projects but who knows if that will be granted and how quickly.

I have linked the Awards Circuit and THR stories as well as Passengers IMDb page:

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