Telluride Film Festival Preview: When Men (and Women) and Mountains Meet

The 44th Telluride Film Festival begins this Friday, and with it, the beginning of yet another awards race. I am very fortunate to be returning for my third straight festival and look forward to providing you with coverage as the films premiere.

There is nothing quite like the long, winding shuttle ride from Montrose, Colo., to the silver mining town of Telluride. The lush and plentiful San Juan Mountains rise into and above the clouds, enveloping you as you enter the whimsical valley that to witness, for me, had long been nothing more than a pipe dream up until a couple years ago. I fell in love with those mountains at first sight, at first scent, and can confess to never having seen anything more grandiose and awe-inspiring in my life.

The festival’s slate of films is kept largely a secret, as is the case every year at Telluride, though the unveiling of the Venice, Toronto, and New York rosters leave some easy speculation as to what might appear. As the weekend approaches, I am beginning to think more and more about the films rumored to be seen.

At the top of my list is Joe Wright’s Winston Churchill biopic, “Darkest Hour,” starring Gary Oldman as The British Bulldog himself. Many have been pegging Oldman to win his first Academy Award for the sight-unseen performance, and it became even harder to argue with his chances following the release of the trailer–not to mention the outstanding work the veteran actor has delivered for the past 30 years.

Battle of the Sexes” is based on the true story of the 1973 tennis match between the number one female player in the world, Billie Jean King (played by reigning Lead Actress winner Emma Stone), and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs (portrayed by Steve Carell, who also stars in Richard Linklater’s “Last Flag Flying” debuting at NYFF). Penned by Simon Beaufoy (three-time nominee, and winner for writing “Slumdog Millionaire”) and directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (who co-directed “Little Miss Sunshine”), “Battle of the Sexes” could be a timely comedy/drama, especially considering the political environment we are all living in at the moment.

Another film that could tap into the cultural climate is Alexander Payne’s social satire, “Downsizing.” The film boasts a great ensemble that includes Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Laura Dern, Jason Sudeikis, Neil Patrick Harris, Margo Martindale, and Brigette Lundy-Paine. Aside from that, there is little we know about the film. With no trailer in play, it’s kind of nice going into this one with as little knowledge as possible, to be honest.

A few additional films we’re very excited to see–pending they’re in play, of course–include “The Shape of Water” (Guillermo del Toro’s welcome back?), “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” (a vehicle for the long overdue Annette Bening), “Hostiles” (a possible play for Christian Bale and director Scott Cooper), and “Wonderstruck” (a bounce back for Todd Haynes after the “Carol” snub). We previewed the festival in this week’s Circuit Breaker podcast, so be sure to listen if you have not already.

Follow me on Twitter @marklikesmovies for instant reactions to the films –which are always spot-on, right?–and feel free to engage me in awards speculation throughout the festival and beyond.

I still have some prep-work to do for the fest, including changing travel arrangements away from Houston–you are all in our thoughts and prayers, for what that’s worth.

The festival is a brief, four-day affair, but the memories are anything but fleeting. As William Blake said, great things are done when men and mountains meet, and I can hardly wait to meet once more.



What do you think?

AC Fan

Written by Mark Johnson

Lover of all things film and Oscar. Fantasy sports’ equivalent of George Steinbrenner. Your very own Han Solo, making friends all over the movie-loving galaxy in spite of himself. When he’s not ranking just about everything or dominating boardgames, Mark is breaking down the Oscar race 24/7 with Rain Man-like stats and knowledge. In his downtime, you can find him commiserating with other Northeast Ohio sports fans because a hero isn’t complete without a little heartbreak. If Game of Thrones, Lost, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Survivor are your style, then congratulations, you have something in common with this inglourious basterd.


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