<p>Oscar Isaac in &quot;Inside Llewyn&nbsp;Davis&quot;</p>

Oscar Isaac in "Inside Llewyn Davis"

Credit: CBS Films

Telluride: Nothing touches Oscar Isaac in 'Inside Llewyn Davis' ... nothing

As I let the film marinate I can't help but take a moment to praise this performance

TELLURIDE, Colo. - The truth is I don't quite know how I feel about the Coen brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis" yet. A number of people have asked me, "How can you not know how you feel?" This is, after all, a film embraced almost unanimously at Cannes and now here in Telluride.

I don't quite know how to put it, so I want to wait and see how it resonates. At first blush it feels somewhat minor, but I want to think more about what's going on thematically. It shouldn't be lost on anyone that the Coens are independently making a film about a folk musician struggling against the constraints of commercial music after coming off their biggest box office hit to date, for instance. For now, though, I'll just concentrate on what sticks out as immediately worthy of praise: Oscar Isaac's absolutely pitch-perfect performance as the eponymous Davis.

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<p>Chiwetel Ejiofor and&nbsp;Michael Fassbender in &quot;12 Years a Slave&quot;</p>

Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender in "12 Years a Slave"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Telluride: On the beauty and barbarity of sure-fire Oscar contender '12 Years a Slave'

Steve McQueen's and his cast reflect on an intense but rewarding experience

TELLURIDE, Colo. - Fox Searchlight was smart to get into business with filmmaker Steve McQueen two years ago when, not long after screening his last film, "Shame," here at the Telluride Film Festival, they acquired it for distribution. Further dividends will be paid in the sterling accomplishment of "12 Years a Slave," to be sure.

It wasn't just the sound of sniffles but open bawling that could be heard throughout the Werner Herzog Theater today at the second screening of the film. It is every bit as emotionally devastating as you've been led to believe so far and it is a knock-out awards contender, firing on all cylinders with nominations to be expected across the board.

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<p>The Coen Bros. with T Bone Burnett and his Grammys in 2002</p>

The Coen Bros. with T Bone Burnett and his Grammys in 2002

Credit: Reed Saxon/AP Photo

Telluride: The Coen Bros. and T Bone Burnett celebrated for telling the stories of American music

And could the story of an opera singer be next?

TELLURIDE, Colo. - Given the Coen brothers' catalog of great American films, they would have been perfectly suited to a tribute unto themselves at this year's 40th annual Telluride Film Festival. But when you consider Telluride's connection to music via the annual Bluegrass music festival held in June, the Coens' collaboration with T Bone Burnett over the years and particularly how that collaboration has reached a peak with this year's "Inside Llewyn Davis," honoring them together made way too much sense.

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<p>Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in &quot;Philomena.&quot;</p>

Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in "Philomena."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Review: Judi Dench on touching form in reductive but effective 'Philomena'

Stephen Frears' true-life drama brings the house down in Venice

VENICE - The unhappy case of Philomena Lee, we are told throughout Stephen Frears’ outwardly stoic but not-so-secretly mallow-centered “Philomena,” is far more than a ‘human interest’ story. That phrase, frequently used here as a catch-all for manipulative, exploitative ‘soft’ journalism short on both sincere humanity and interest, is first contemptuously uttered by disgraced political journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) when Lee’s daughter approaches him about looking into her mother’s agonized search for a long-lost son. “It’s a human interest story,” he brusquely informs her, helpfully adding that such stories are written both for and about the “weak-minded, vulnerable and ignorant.”

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<p>Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'o and Chiwetel Ejiofor in Steve McQueen's &quot;12 Years A&nbsp;Slave.&quot;</p>

Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'o and Chiwetel Ejiofor in Steve McQueen's "12 Years A Slave."

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Review: Powerful '12 Years A Slave' won't turn away from the brutality of slavery

Chiwetel Ejiofor is exceptional in this true story

TELLURIDE, Colo. - After its premiere screening at the 2013 Telluride Film Festival Friday evening, it goes without saying that no narrative film or TV program has ever depicted the sheer brutality and horror that was American slavery as Steve McQueen's "12 Years A Slave" does. Based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841, "12 Years" is a powerful drama driven by McQueen's bold direction and the finest performance of Chiwetel Ejiofor's career.

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<p>Ralph Fiennes presents Robert Redford with Telluride's Silver Medallion on&nbsp;Thursday.</p>

Ralph Fiennes presents Robert Redford with Telluride's Silver Medallion on Thursday.

Credit: Getty Images

Telluride: Robert Redford looks back at the progression of an industry

The 'All is Lost' star received one of the festival's three tributes this year

TELLURIDE, Colo. - It's interesting seeing Robert Redford receive a tribute at the Telluride Film Festival. With Sundance so ingrained in his blood and his being the face of an entire institution, his presence here -- albeit in a completely warranted capacity -- feels like a touch of infidelity. But it's too good an opportunity to pass up for a fixture of Hollywood history who this year delivers an absolutely amazing, sure-fire Oscar-contending performance in J.C. Chandor's "All is Lost."

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<p>Hugh Jackman and Jake&nbsp;Gyllenhaal in &quot;Prisoners&quot;</p>

Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal in "Prisoners"

Credit: Warner Bros.

Telluride: Denis Villeneuve's 'Prisoners' is a bow of tension drawn impossibly tight

This might be Hugh Jackman's best work to date

TELLURIDE, Colo. - They simply don't make thrillers like Denis Villeneuve's "Prisoners" at the studio level, and yet here it is. Glacially paced, bloated to a 158 minute running time, stingy with details as its mystery unfolds, it goes against most every convention for a film like this.

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<p>&quot;12 Years a Slave&quot;</p>

"12 Years a Slave"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

'12 Years a Slave' added to New York Film Festival lineup

Steve McQueen's hotly buzzed historical drama sneaks in Telluride tonight

The lucky folks in Telluride are the envy of the cinephile community tonight, as "12 Years a Slave" has its unofficial world premiere with a sneak preview at the festival. It will, of course, go on to Toronto for its formal unveiling, but by that point, many key critics will have already had their say, and a reputation will already be forming.

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<p>&quot;Salinger&quot; is set to open a mere week from today.</p>

"Salinger" is set to open a mere week from today.

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Telluride: Weinstein to sneak 'Salinger' after pulling 'Philomena' at the last minute

Oh the drama of the fall festival circuit

TELLURIDE, Colo. - All of town is abuzz today with the official revelation of two "sneak preview" screenings set for tonight: Denis Villeneuve's "Prisoners" and Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave." But everyone has been curious what the third would be, if indeed there would be a third.

Well, wonder no more as Deadline is reporting that Shane Salerno's documentary "Salinger" has grabbed a "surprise late entry" to the lineup. If true, it's an interesting turn of events, given how things were apparently supposed to shake out originally.

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<p>Tye Sheridan and Nicolas Cage in &quot;Joe.&quot;</p>

Tye Sheridan and Nicolas Cage in "Joe."

Credit: Worldview Entertainment

Review: Nicolas Cage finds no Southern comfort in grim, grimy 'Joe'

David Gordon Green's latest comes as a disappointment after 'Prince Avalanche'

VENICE - Tye Sheridan seems a nice kid and all, but he sure has terrible taste in father figures. Well, okay, not the real Tye Sheridan – whose dad, I’m sure, is a delight – but the flinty, feral persona he’s honed in two country-fried journeys into manhood this year. First came Jeff Nichols’ “Mud,” in which the steady-gazing teenager attached himself to Matthew McConaughey’s snake-tattooed fugitive Mud, a reverse adoption that ended about as well as it might have done. Now comes David Gordon Green’s “Joe,” in which Sheridan, his face already older and more settled, attaches himself to Nicolas Cage’s skull-tattooed ex-con Joe – a slightly more mutual adoption that, given the boy’s brutal, whiskey-wet home environment, could only be described as the lesser of two evils.

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