No one needs awards coverage this deep
What will the upcoming Canada marathon have in store for the season?
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
The season is here. "Argo" has sounded the starting gun in the mountains of Telluride while "The Master" has made a strong case on the Lido of Venice. Where will we go from here?
The upcoming Toronto Film Festival will bring a number of possibilities. The Weinstein Company has a few threads dangling, and in typical fashion, will see what sticks to the wall.
"The Sapphires" played well at Telluride after having already pleased crowds in Cannes, but it's likely to move to next year. "Silver Linings Playbook" will get its close-up next, with "Quartet" and "Song for Marion" as lingering possibilities besides. And before long, the moneymaker: "Django Unchained." But at the fest next week, we could see the beginning of an Oscar march for Robert De Niro and some serious consideration for Terrence Stamp, Maggie Smith, Pauline Collins, etc. We'll just have to see what sticks.
Another lovely SHOW to start the fall festival circuit
Credit: Telluride Film Festival
TELLURIDE - Things are pretty much wrapping up at the 39th annual. Monday is generally a great time for catch-up, as the schedule is filled in with repeat showings. Unfortunately, I tend to leave on Monday afternoon each year, so I don't get to use the day productively. But nine-and-a-half movies over the three-day spread is good enough for me. (I won't knock the movie I walked out of. I'll come back to it at some point, as it's generated interesting split reactions.)
The festival this year was more in line with its former identity. A few years of Oscar bait titles -- "127 Hours," "Up in the Air," "The King's Speech," "Black Swan" -- caused an influx of press recently, but things have been more refined this year and last. But in particular, the whole thing was quite subdued this time around. It's the first Telluride I've attended where I didn't even do any interviews, which is also kind of in keeping with its former self. They've never really wanted a strong press presence here. But who knows what might happen next year as the fest celebrates its 40th anniversary with an extra day of programming?
Stunning as ever in 70mm
This scene from "Baraka" reeled me in 10 or 12 years ago.
Credit: The Samuel Goldwyn Company
TELLURIDE - I've recognized over the last few years that sometime Sunday afternoon at the Telluride fest, I find myself yearning for a break, something different, something I don't feel compelled to write about. Of course, I'll often find myself wanting to write about it anyway, but the lack of obligation going in is the real gift. Last year it was the presentation of a restored version of Georges Méliès's "A Trip to the Moon." This year it was a 70mm presentation of Ron Fricke's "Baraka."
I've mentioned this briefly before, but I was fortunate enough to attend a film school that had a massive archive of prints, one of the top three largest collections in the world at the time. And part of that was a great 70mm selection, from "Aliens" to "2001: A Space Odyssey" to, indeed, "Baraka." I had never heard of the film at the time, though a few of my classmates had. I went in blind and I fell in love. It was a very specific and noteworthy moment for me, an awe-inspiring experience in a pre-jaded time. I've owned the film on VHS, DVD and Blu-ray since and, naturally, it has just never been the same experience.
Dazzling design but muted passion in imaginative adaptation of the Tolstoy tome
Keira Knightley in "Anna Karenina."
Credit: Focus Features
In the five years since Joe Wright last fixed his camera on a lissome, silk-swaddled Keira Knightley, he appears to have taken concerted, even hasty, steps away from a reputation he'd never made as much effort to acquire as his harshest critics would have you believe. Those accusing him of safely wallowing in Masterpiece Theater starch, or brashly seizing the mantle of the late Anthony Minghella (already a little moth-eaten from its time in David Lean's wardrobe), seem prompted more by the comfortable middlebrow success of his first two films than the often invigorating evidence on screen.
No one needed another “Pride and Prejudice,” true, but Wright's frisky, grass-stained romp proved you could young up the classics without taking them to Vegas; “Atonement” occasionally buckled under the weight of its formal ostentation, but was bracingly concept-y in its romanticism, doubling back on Ian McEwan's exclusively literary twists with cool elan. It was an impressive one-two, but Wright obviously felt cowed into contemporary material by glib Merchant-Ivory comparisons. The modern LA folk tale of “The Soloist” wasn't as gloopy as it looked from a distance, but it felt like an assignment. Far weirder and more vital was “Hanna,” a daffy girl-oriented chase thriller lent cred and urgency by its full-throttle techno-Grimm styling; his best film to date, it's also the one that had us wondering who Joe Wright, like his equally mutable heroine, really is.
Charisma on two levels in Telluride
Michael Shannon in "The Iceman"
Credit: Millennium Films
TELLURIDE - I'm not the Noah Baumbach subscriber many of my colleagues are. I even choked a little bit yesterday at the premiere of "Frances Ha" when Scott Foundas, in introducing the director, called him "the voice of his generation." But I do think a case may have been made in his latest.
The film is Woody Allen by way of Williamsburg, "Girls" by way of...well, Baumbach. And it's easily his best yet, his most thematically refined outing. And it's been interesting to see some call it his least essential, others his best effort. But few have bad words for it. At the center is a fantastic, flighty portrayal from Greta Gerwig, continuing her indie star rise, but I was once again charmed right out of my seat by Adam Driver.
You'll probably recall him for his work in Lena Dunham's aforementioned HBO series, and yes, he's treading similar waters here. But there's something so charismatic and easy, assured and magnetic about the actor. I'd say when he was on screen, I was most invested in the film. And I hope he gets more and more work.
Heartfelt song to personal and spiritual intimacy proves predictably divisive
Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams in "To the Wonder."
Credit: FilmNation Entertainment
VENICE -- Stop the presses: There's been booing at a screening of the new Terrence Malick film. Whether they came from the same small-but-loud faction of supposed journalists who vocally expressed their displeasure at "The Tree of Life" in Cannes last year, or a fresh batch of doubters, such jeers are unusual for films that feature no purported moral transgressions, nor any sheer ineptitude of craft. (Films aren't booed at festivals simply for being bad, you know: a year ago, Madonna's "W.E." heard not a one.)
Rather, Malick is one of the few senior A-list filmmakers who can get razzed in this fashion for being too sincere, too lyrical, too himself. And he is all of those things, to both bewitching and bemusing effect, in "To the Wonder," a follow-up to "The Tree of Life" in more senses than mere proximity. With not even 16 months separating their premieres, they are by far the nearest-born works in a filmography otherwise thick with white space, underlining the impression of two sister films: both iridescently pictorial, ambiguously self-focused and inclined to lure critics into terms they should normally feel self-conscious about using. "Tone poem." "Meditation." "Elegy." "Prayer." Ghastly words when abused, the lot of them. Malick's cinema somehow wears them well.
One of the most important premieres of the festival
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
TELLURIDE - Fewer movies are going to be as important and provocative at this year's Telluride Film Festival than Dror Moreh's "The Gatekeepers." The documentary filmmaker was granted an extraordinary amount of access to six former heads of Shin Bet, the ultra-secretive Israeli intelligence agency, and turned out a striking, candid assessment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from those with the very power to dictate what can and cannot be divulged.
Along the way there are plenty of defensive exchanges regarding the organization's handling of terrorism and notions of morality in a situation seemingly lacking any sense of it, but ultimately there is a sense of weariness from the former agency chiefs and a desire to negotiate peace with their enemies. "We can sit down and I can see that you don't eat glass and you can see that I don't drink petrol," one of them -- who even goes so far as to compare the "cruel" Israeli occupation to Nazi Germany -- puts it.
Signs point to 'Yes'
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
TELLURIDE - Like my colleague Greg Ellwood, I attended yesterday afternoon's "Sneak Preview" premiere of Ben Affleck's "Argo." Last year the spot -- an unannounced screening for patrons of the festival and invited press -- went to "The Descendants," the year before, "Chico & Rita." It's not a typical spot for Oscar bait to bow, it just happened to fall that way the last couple of years. And it was a big winner this time around.
I found the film to be yet another step up for Affleck, who continues to grow as a filmmaker and surprise not just formally but with his adeptness at handling ensembles as well. And that's what "Argo" is: an organic, finely tuned ensemble where no one really stands out from the pack. And that's not a bad thing, particularly for a film that is very much about the efforts of the many.
The still-rising starlet receives the second tribute of the festival this year
Marion Cotillard at the New York premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises" in July
Credit: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
TELLURIDE - Actress Marion Cotillard didn't really explode onto the domestic film stage until "La Vie en Rose," but what a coming out it was. She managed to win an Oscar that few (ahem) saw coming and transformed that newfound respect and goodwill into a thriving Hollywood career, but it was hardly an overnight success story.
Cotillard had already seen plenty of success in her native France before that 2007 explosion. She starred in Arnaud Desplechin's "My Sex Life... or How I Got Into an Argument," Pierre Grimblat's "Lisa" and the "Taxi" action comedy trilogy -- earning plenty of recognition for each -- before breaking out in Yann Samuel's romantic comedy "Love Me If You Dare" (in which she co-starred with eventual husband Guillaume Canet) in 2003. She also eventually landed a prime role in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "A Very Long Engagement," which brought her a César Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon's doc holds a mirror up to society
A police sketch from the trial of Antron McCray, Raymond Santana and Yusef Salaam
Credit: Sundance Selects
TELLURIDE - "I hope this film makes you angry," filmmaker Sarah Burns said by way of introduction to this morning's screening of "The Central Park Five." She co-directed the film with her father, Ken Burns (a Telluride staple -- as is Sarah: this is her 20th fest) and husband David McMahon. And angry is a good way to put it.
Maddening, gut-wrenching, deflating, these are all words I would use to describe the film, which tells the story of five black and Latino youths who were wrongfully convicted of the vicious rape of a female jogger in New York's Central Park in April of 1989. Films like the "Paradise Lost" trilogy and "West of Memphis" have recently depicted miscarriages of justice in similarly infuriating ways, but few have been such a thorough and profound indictment of mob mentality as this. It's a must-see effort analyzing an ugly and dark hour for society.