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Telluride Wrap

Little_children_1 After cramming in as many movies as I could this weekend, I didn't see one film I didn't like. That doesn't mean I loved them all. But the programmers here have exquisite taste. And even after Bill and Stella Pence retire this year, going forward under the leadership of festival co-founder Tom Luddy and new co-director Gary Meyer, that Telluride quality standard should continue.

It will be interesting to see how the festival evolves: there probably won't be major changes in the first year. But this intimate summer camp of a festival remains the last holdout against the forces of growth, saturation, and exploitation. There are at most some 3000 extra people in the town of Telluride over Labor Day weekend, including 1200 passholders, 500 staff, and incoming talent and their handlers. There are no lines of red carpet photographers, very few TV crews. The big celebrities of the weekend were Laura Linney (Jindabyne), Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), Penelope Cruz (Volver) and Derek Luke (Catch a Fire). And the filmmakers, of course: Peter Bogdanovich, Todd Field, Kevin Macdonald, Doug McGrath, Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, Ken Burns, Steve Shainberg, Mira Nair, Roger Michell. They looked happpy. As well they should be. They were giving their movies the gentle Telluride soft landing. The real world still awaits.

Some more movies:

Little Children. Writer-director Todd Field creates a world that pulls you into the screen and never lets you go. He digs deep into the dysfunction of two marriages, one sexy adulterous romance, and the love between a convicted sexual predator and his doting mom. Working closely with novelist Tom Perrotta (Election), Field composes an elegant, darkly satiric drama which doesn't coddle its characters. They are lost and trying to find their way. All the actors are more than fine. Telluride Reaction: Decidedly mixed. Some people don't buy this movie. Oscar Watch: The deglamorized Kate Winslet as best actress; Broadway actress Phyllis Somerville as supporting.

The Namesake: Mira Nair, working with her best collaborators, producer Lydia Dean Pilcher and writer Sooni Taraporevala, adapts the Jhumpa Lahiri culture clash novel, which spans two generations and the distant worlds of Calcutta and New York. While The Namesake shows the stresses on a young family in a strange land and how their offspring deal with two vastly different cultures, the gap between parents and kids is universal. All parents lose their children, and all children lose their parents. Strong stuff. Nair is very close to this material, and this may be her best movie. Telluride Reaction: Positive, though now that Fox Searchlight has pushed the movie back to March, Nair has time to fine tune her pacing.


Venus: Director Roger Michell called on screenwriter Hanif Kureishi to pen an original for him about an aging London actor who falls for the young neice of a friend. Peter O'Toole carries the film; he's in every scene. He's brilliant and heart-breaking as a man who is fighting the dimming of the light and hangs on fiercely to every minute he can get with a rude rube of a girl who nonetheless appreciates his polished attentions. Listening to O'Toole spout Shakespeare is heaven. Telluride reaction: The folks loved it. Critics may be mixed: the movie is a smart, well-made, conventional crowd-pleaser. Oscar Watch: No question Lawrence of Arabia star O'Toole, who is a revered actor and has only won a special Oscar, will move the aging Academy. This is Miramax's to lose.


The Last King of Scotland: In his audacious feature film debut, documentarian Kevin Macdonald takes a thrill-seeking young Scottish doctor to Uganda during the reign of terror of dictator Idi Amin, played at full throttle by Forest Whitaker. It's easy to see how the doctor gets seduced by Amin and his power, harder to understand why it takes so long for him to face the brutal truth. Telluride Reaction: Good buzz. Oscar Watch: Whitaker dominates the movie in this larger-than-life role and should earn a nomination.

The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen): Sony Pictures Classics picked up writer-director Florian Henckel-Donnersmarck's film debut, which was a surprise hit in Germany, this May. This chilling portrait of the last days of the Stasi, the corrupt East German Secret Police, focuses on the transformation of one committed Stasi agent (Ulrich Muhe) as he listens in on the lives of a decent, successful playwright (Sebastian Koch) and his ambitious actress wife and muse (Martina Gedeck). Telluride Reaction: Rapturous. Oscar Watch: If Germany submits the film for Oscar consideration, it should land a nomination.


Catch a Fire: Phillip Noyce brings impeccable style to the real-life story of a South African oil refinery worker, Patrick Chamuso (Derek Luke), who becomes the target of the South African security police. Written by Shawn Slovo (A World Apart), the movie includes her late father Joe Slovo as one of the organizers of the anti-apartheid resistance movement. Telluride Reaction: Good. Oscar Watch: Derek Luke is strong and could prevail in an unusually weak year for leading men, but the movie will need brilliant marketing from Focus Features and huge critical and audience support to survive the competitive Oscar season.

Infamous: It's fascinating to watch Douglas McGrath's take on Truman Capote. It's the same story as last year's Capote, told in a very different way. It's warmer and more moving, because the screenplay goes farther with the relationship in the prison between Capote (Toby Jones) and his In Cold Blood murderer, Perry Smith (Daniel Craig). They were really lovers, and that makes Smith's execution even more devastating for the writer. You understand why he was destroyed by it. Knowing that Capote was coming, then Warner Independent Pictures president Mark Gill made the decision a year ago to push the movie back into this year's Oscar season. It's unfortunate that the second film will inevitably suffer; but WIP will push to get people to see it. Telluride Reaction: Positive. Oscar Watch: Jones can't go up against the memory of Philip Seymour Hoffman, last year's Oscar winner, nor will Sandra Bullock erase Catherine Keener as Harper Lee. But Daniel Craig's powerful performance as Smith has a shot as supporting.


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