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September 02, 2008

'Slumdog,' 'Curious' push Telluride's buttons

Slumdog_millionaire

Summer's officially over in other parts of the country, but not in L.A., where our version of the groundhog (that would be a wildly chattering but hopefully not rabid raccoon in the backyard) says there's at least six more weeks of relentless sun and above 85-degree temps. Citified woodland critter would like extra water. Now!

As evidence that other places are getting down to near-end-of-year business, festival season has now lauched in earnest, with "Slumdog Millionaire" seeming to take the biggest bite out of tiny Telluride. Is it this year's "Little Miss Juno Sunshine?" Telluride has had a knack in the past of screening all or parts of Oscar bait like "Brokeback Mountain" and "There Will Be Blood" and prize-winner-audience-pleasers like "Juno" and "Walk the Line."

Looking forward to "Slumdog" -- it has a Nov. 28 release date in the U.S. -- because we love us some Bollywood flavor and some Danny Boyle ("28 Days Later," "Millions," "Trainspotting"). And the boxoffice sure could use a bump from a feel-good indie movie whose success would be all the sweeter because it nearly was lost in the aftermath of Warner Independent Pictures' untimely demise.

Curious_case_of_benjamin_button_bra

Also at Telluride, some disembodied clips from "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" made an appearance at an event where director David Fincher accepted a career tribute award. The movie's already featured prominently on a lot of early Oscar predictions lists, though it's unclear if the weekend's preview solidified that position or began to erode it. Buzz for star Brad Pitt continues to get louder, though. Anne Thompson wonders if "Button" will be this year's "Memoirs of a Geisha" in part because the fanboys didn't so much care for what they saw.

Here's something curious for you. Fincher, a festival vet and Cannes Golden Palm winner for last year's "Zodiac," said this about showing 20 minutes of "Button" at Telluride:

"It's not about selling the movie -- it's a treat, an appetizer. It's not a positioning statement, it's not marketing."

Really? He is an auteur and all -- no bigger fans of "Fight Club" than the Chuck Palahniuk-adoring Gold Rushers over here -- but it's always about selling the movie. Some say he did just that at Telluride. Some think, not so much.

As we shake off the long Labor Day weekend, we realize that for us and the industry, it appears to be time to get serious.

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Oscar Contenders

  • So "The Dark Knight" didn't make it into the final five after all, never mind that critical and popular support. Let's just call the comic-inspired mega-hit "The Biggest Snubee."

    Here are the best picture contenders in a race that, two weeks away from the Oscars, seems to be a foregone conclusion ("Slumdog") unless there's a come-from-behind possibility ("The Reader" anyone?)

    "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett; the politically timely "Milk;" rags-to-riches fairy tale, "Slumdog Millionaire," Holocaust best-seller-based drama "The Reader," and Watergate-era biopic "Frost/Nixon."

    Could "Button" and "Slumdog" split the vote, allowing another film to take the prize? Doesn't seem likely. After having clung to "Button" for months as what we thought would be the Academy voters' top vhoice, our money's now on "Slumdog." Momentum can't be ignored.

    Watch this blog for updates, ephemera and all manner of postulating.

Picture this

  • Mmmmm, chocolate Oscar. Not every star will walk away from the 81st annual Academy Awards with a trophy, but if they hit the high-profile Governor's Ball they can have pastry chef Sherry Yard's gold-dusted candy version. Also on the menu from celeb chef Wolfgang Puck is tuna tartare in sesame miso cones, chopped Chino Farms vegetable salad with ginger soy vinaigrette, Maine lobster and caviar. Serve it up! (Getty Images)

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