Extra day, extra venue, and a whole lot of extra buzz. It's kind of funny that Labor Day Weekend in Telluride actually means hanging out indoors. In my opinion, the 40th Telluride Film Festival was one of best in recent years. The extra day helped distribute the program guide evenly throughout the weekend, the addition of Werner Herzog theater added hundreds of more seats, and it seemed almost every film was receiving better buzz than the one I just viewed. I'm not an official film critic by any means, but here are my thoughts on a handful of flicks we viewed at the 2013 Telluride Film Festival:
Nebraska – Alexander Payne directs this black and white gem, staring Bruce Dern and Will Forte. While I wouldn’t classify the film as a comedy, I laughed more during this movie than any other movie at the festival – by a wide margin. I would certainly look for a best acting nomination, and I’d put this on a list of best picture. (4.5 stars)
12 Years a Slave – This is my pick for best picture of the Festival. Director Steve McQueen has made some interesting, gritty films in the past: Hunger and Shame. In 12 Years a Slave, he shows us how a very disturbing story can be done with artistry. “12 Years...” is the story of a free African American man (by birth) who is kidnapped by slave traffickers and shipped down south. Chiwetel Ejiofor will undoubtedly be nominated for best actor for his portrayal of a free black man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. He experiences the horrors slavery could be and McQueen doesn’t hold back. At times, it’s brutal. Through the 12 years, his focus and journey to return home is gripping and poignant. The acting is first rate on every level! (5 stars)
Tim’s Vermeer – Teller, of Penn & Teller fame, directs this documentary about one man’s quest to paint a Vermeer. While the film was fascinating, I’d probably cut 20-30 minutes from it. I look forward to seeing this on HBO or PBS. It was fun to have both Penn and Teller at the Festival to tell stories about the film. (3.5 stars)
The Invisible Woman – directed by Ralph Fiennes, staring Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones. The movie is about an affair between Charles Dickens and a much younger woman. I really wanted to like this, but I saw no chemistry between the stars. Without some sense of attraction, it’s hard to feel the conflict later on. (3 stars)
Gravity – This sci-fi thriller, staring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. The special effects were totally amazing, but in the end, the story’s improbability just couldn’t be overcome for me. I’d certainly recommend for the local multiplex, it wasn’t toward the top of my Festival list. (3.5 stars)
The Past (Le Passe) – directed by Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) - The focus of this French movie shifts from the ex-husband, to the ex-wife, to the new boyfriend. Add in a couple of kids and the comatose wife of the new boyfriend, and there are plenty of plot twists. I felt in the present throughout the movie – I didn’t even try to guess where it was going. (4 stars)
Labor Day – Making a switch from his more familiar comedic fare, Jason Reitman show’s his directing chops again in the very poignant, Labor Day. The story is layered – like 3 different stories... redemption, loneliness and coming of age. All work well within the story line. Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin knock it out of the park! Both understated performances but appropriate given the tone of the film. (5 stars)
Inside Llewyn Davis – When watching a Coen brothers film, you never know where they’re going to take you. Inside Llewyn Davis proves that once again. A story about a gifted musician struggling in the early 60’s folk music era. He barely scrapes by making a living and his life decisions/actions contrast with his musical aspirations, which he takes far more seriously. At the end of the movie, you’re left feeling slightly confused. You’re introduced to certain characters and story lines – but not given closure. The music is amazing! (3 stars)
Under the Skin – directed by Jonathan Glazer, staring Scarlett Johansson. On a 1-5 scale, I’d give this movie a minus 3. I walked out after an hour and that required amazing patience. This dark sci-fi movie has no soul.
The Lunchbox – The pace of this Indian film is a bit slow, and I’d probably cut 10 minutes from the time, but the story was good and drew me in. By the end, I really felt for the characters. (4 stars)
All is Lost – This one-man movie will be remembered for its one line of dialog and for Robert Redford’s superb ability to draw us into is character from the first few minutes of the film. Personally, I’d tweak the ending, but all in all, it was one of my favorite films of the festival. (4.5 stars)
Tracks – For a hard core festival goer (I see 12-14 movies over the weekend), this is definitely a must-see. The movie follows the real life story of a woman who walked across the Australian desert. I loved the cinematography in this one. My only wish is that more film time had been devoted to the alone times in the journey. (4 stars)
We hope your enjoyed the SHOW! See you next year for the 41st annual.