Telluride Announces Slate As Fest Helps Launch Awards Season With Keaton, Streep, Winslet, Mara & More

The Telluride Film Festival has just officially announced the lineup for its 42nd edition beginning tomorrow and running through Labor Day. However, much of this schedule has been largely known, even though the festival swears all participants to secrecy until its big reveal just before the fest begins. Actually since their dust-up last year, the announcement of the lineup for the Toronto Film Festival (which is blasted out two to three weeks earlier than Telluride) has tipped the hand of the Colorado fest by naming films that are getting North American, World  or Canadian premieres at TIFF. That more than reliably sends a signal of what Telluride has snagged. AND there are other ways of spilling the beans.

Anyway, now that the first charter flight is in the air on the way to the festival, Telluride has unveiled its slate — or at least most of it. (See it in full below.) Although this magical festival is full of interesting and some little-known films — discoveries, I like to call them — my big interest (other than as a pure film geek marveling at the riches on display) is the influence it will have on the Oscar race.

In recent years, Telluride has become an important part of the three-Fall Festival launch of awards season (including Venice, which started yesterday with what I hear was a rip-roaring standing ovation for opener Everestand the upcoming TIFF which starts September 10). This four-day fest has, in the past, been the first port of call for such eventual Oscar players as The King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, Argo, Juno, Capote and so manyBlack Mass others including North American debuts for the likes of Birdman, The Artist, Gravity and so on. So what in this year’s lineup looks to have awards potential?

At least two major studios are counting on the eccentric fest to give a push to the hopes of their films. Warner Bros, which has brought Argo and Gravity in recent editions, is sending director Scott Cooper’s Whitey Bulger story Black Mass directly from its Friday Venice world premiere. It will hit Telluride on its way next to TIFF. Cooper,  producer John Lesher and co-star Joel Edgerton are making the trek from Italy. Star Johnny Depp is attending Venice and Toronto for sure, but could he be an unexpected visitor to Telluride? Anything’s possible I hear. Universal, meanwhile, is bringing in Steve Jobs, the biopic that stars Michael Michael-as-Steve-Jobs-MAINFassbender in the title role. There is much anticipation for this one and Uni is sending a big delegation to the Rockies for this unofficial world premiere. Expected to accompany the film are co-stars Kate Winslet and Michael Stuhlbarg (but not Fassbender, who is working) along with writer Aaron Sorkin (in his first visit to Telluride) and director Danny Boyle, who once told me he owes much to Telluride for being the first to showcase the then-unknown Slumdog Millionaire and later eventual Best Picture nominee 127 Hours. He will be the recipient of one of the festival’s special tributes this year as well. Producers and/or executive producers Mark Gordon, Guymon Casady, Bryan Zuriff and Christian Colson will also be on hand.

Speaking of tributes, Telluride will also be highlighting a young star, Rooney Mara,  co-star of the Cannes sensation Carol (with Cate Blanchett) that will be making its North American debut at Telluride. Mara is an interesting choice for this shout-out only because the resume for the 30 year old is not long, with the only big titles being David Fincher-directed films The Social Network and Thecarol Girl With The Dragon Tattoo along with Her, the upcoming Pan  and a handful of others. Occasionally Telluride likes to salute a new star and that is clearly the case for this special spotlight. She won Best Actress at Cannes for her luminous portrayal in Carol, reminding me of a young Audrey Hepburn or Jean Simmons. Expect director Todd Haynes also along for the ride with this Weinstein Company pic set for a November 20 release.

Fox Searchlight, a frequent supplier to the fest, is bringing only their documentary, He He Named Me MalalaNamed Me Malala. Usually they also throw a party, but not this year. Director Davis Guggenheim as well as Malala’s father will be on hand. The young subject of the film has to stay back in England for school, but despite the distance I would not discount some sort of surprise participation. Just a guess but this is a virtual world we live in, right? The unknown is always a fun element at Telluride. Another frequent supplier Sony Pictures Classics is apparently only bringing one high-profile film this time, the Cannes Grand Prize winner Son Of Saul, Hungary’s entry for the Oscars. SPC will be having its annual dinner on Saturday per tradition, albeit in a new location this year.

Black Mass by the way won’t be the only title coming straight from Venice. A gripping story about the Boston Globe‘s uncovering of the Catholic church molestation scandal many years ago, Spotlight being released November 6 by Open Road Films and premiering today in Venice will head from the Lido to the Rockies  with stars Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams from the impressive ensemble joining director Tom McCarthy who is hopscotching several fests,I found the film to be compelling viewing indeed. Also direct from Venice will be Netflix’s first attempt (outside of a couple of documentaries) to launch a major feature film presence in the Spotlightawards season, Cary Fukanaga’s demanding 136-minute child soldier drama Beasts Of No Nation, which stars Idris Elba and is seemingly hitting every fest that will have it including Telluride.

Focus Features’ feminist triumph Suffragette on the other hand makes its only Fall Festival appearance at Telluride prior to its European premiere in October as the London Film Festival opener. Excellent star Carey Mulligan is expecting in September so she’s off the circuit until that preem. Among the flock said to be representing the film at Telluride will be director Sarah Gavron (who I first met at the 2007 Telluride with her brilliant Brick Lane), writer Abi Morgan, and co-star Meryl Streep, returning to the fest even though her role as the head of the Suffragette movement depicted in the film is really just a cameo. Doesn’t matter though since her character, Emmeline Pankhurst, has her presence felt throughout, and the subject matter of the film is very relevant and important and blissfullyd9ce123e-c0d9-487c-bdfb-f0f41c53b372-2060x1236 very female-centic in front of and behind the scenes. Focus is doing a cocktail party to celebrate the movie.

A24 is also coming to the fest this year with their indie Room with stars Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay and director Lenny Abrahmson attending. I am looking forward as well to the marriage drama 45 Years which stars Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay that first premiered in Berlin. Any chance to see those two together is worth fighting the altitude.

Of course as today’s announcement points out there are plenty of other films on display including a trio from Cohen Media Group which is having a cocktailer on Sunday to celebrate the documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut and Rams, both fresh out of Cannes with the latter Icelandic film winning the Un Certain Regard prize there. Cohen also has just officially acquired the French film Marguerite and is giving it a slot at Telluride. Charlie Kaufman will also be on hand with his animated Anomalisa,  attending with co-director Duke Johnson. The late Sydney Pollack’s as-yet unreleased   Aretha Franklin musical documentary from 1972, Amazing Grace, will finally get a theatrical showcase as well, one of the joys that Telluride can provide in addition to so many other treasures , classics and obscure gems to be unearthed in the next few days.

But for us Oscar watchers it will also help mark the launch of the six-month awards season. And as usual the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be having its cocktail party for members checking out the fest. This is the place to be over Labor Day. Look for my reports as I labor days and nights all weekend long.

Here’s the complete lineup sans surprise entries:

· CAROL (d. Todd Haynes, U.S., 2015)
· AMAZING GRACE (d. Sydney Pollack, U.S., 1972/2015)
· ANOMALISA (d. Charlie Kaufman, U.S., 2015)
· BEASTS OF NO NATION (d. Cary Fukunaga, U.S., 2015)
· HE NAMED ME MALALA (d. Davis Guggenheim, U.S., 2015)
· STEVE JOBS (d. Danny Boyle, U.S., 2015)
· IXCANUL (d. Jayro Bustamante, Guatemala, 2015)
· BITTER LAKE (d. Adam Curtis, U.K., 2015)
· ROOM (d. Lenny Abrahamson, England, 2015)
· BLACK MASS (d. Scott Cooper, U.S., 2015)
· SUFFRAGETTE (d. Sarah Gavron, U.K., 2015)
· SPOTLIGHT (d. Tom McCarthy, U.S., 2015)
· RAMS (d. Grímur Hákonarson, Iceland, 2015)
· MOM AND ME (d. Ken Wardrop, Ireland, 2015)
· VIVA (d. Paddy Breathnach, Ireland, 2015)
· TAJ MAJAL (d. Nicolas Saada, France-India, 2015)
· SITI (d. Eddie Cahyono, Indonesia, 2015)
· HEART OF THE DOG (d. Laurie Anderson, U.S. 2014)
· 45 YEARS (d. Andrew Haigh, England, 2015)
· SON OF SAUL (d. Lázló Nemes, Hungary, 2015)
· ONLY THE DEAD (d. Michael Ware, Bill Guttentag, U.S.- Australia, 2015)
· TAXI (d. Jafar Panahi, Iran, 2015)
· HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT (d. Kent Jones, U.S., 2015)
· TIME TO CHOOSE (d. Charles Ferguson, U.S., 2015)
· MARGUERITE (d. Xavier Giannoli, France, 2015)
· TIKKUN (d. Avishai Sivan, Israel, 2015)
· WINTER ON FIRE: UKRAINE’S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM (d. Evgeny Afineevsky, Russia-Ukraine, 2015)

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