The 39th Annual Telluride Film Festival officially gets underway tonight. But the fest provided a “sneak preview” of its highest profile movie: director/star Ben Affleck‘s pulse-pounding true life thriller, Argo, which made its world debut this afternoon for patron and sponsor passholders and selected press. Although not announced as an official part of the Telluride lineup, it was strongly tipped to come here and Affleck introduced today’s screening: “You are the first paying people to see the film. I know you didn’t literally pay, but in my heart you did. This is actually one of the few film festivals that really is about seeing movies instead of just walking around and talking about them.” Judging from the reaction during the end credits as well as talk on the streets afterward, Warner Bros and Affleck not only have a hit but a slam-dunk major Oscar contender in several categories. At last February’s Oscars Governors Ball, this film was still in post. But a top Warners exec predicted to me that it could be the studio’s best shot at top Oscar attention in 2012. Looks like that bold prediction was right.
Jump-starting the long 6-month awards season, which officially begins with the Venice/Telluride/Toronto film festivals, this supremely well-crafted studio film is the kind that Academy members (and there were several on hand for this screening) eat up. “It’s got my vote as one of the 10,” a voter told me after the screening. It also shows the movie industry in a favorable light, which should further impress Oscar voters. So, unless I am crazy, expect nominations for picture (producers are Affleck, George Clooney, and Grant Heslov), director for Affleck, screenplay For Chris Terrio, and supporting actor for Alan Arkin and possibly Bryan Cranston. Affleck also could figure in the crowded actor contest. Other possibilities are editing, score (Alexandre Desplat), and Rodrigo Prieto’s stirring cinematography.
Related: Hot Trailer: Ben Affleck’s ‘Argo’
Telluride has a recent tradition of debuting at least one solid Best Picture contender. Recent winners Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, and The Artist all started their awards season right here in the Rockies. And Argo has already laid claim to one of those spots if reaction holds. Next stop is Toronto a week from today (more…)