Telluride Awards Wrap: No Slam Dunk, But Lots of Possibilities

Telluride Awards Wrap: No Slam Dunk,

As the four-day Telluride Film Festival wraps Sept. 1, the big awards question is: Did we see the 2014 Oscar best-pic winner?

Since Telluride has screened the winner in five of the last six years, it’s a valid question. The answer is that there was no slam dunk. But three films that debuted here are clear possibilities for a best-pic nomination and maybe more: “Birdman,” “The Imitation Game” and “Wild.” The festival also offered Sony Classics’ “Foxcatcher,” which had bowed at Cannes and which seems destined to be a golden player in all categories.

“Foxcatcher” is universally admired; no one seems to dislike it, and some love it. “Birdman” is inspiring the most animated discussions, with many enthusing about the content and the technical magic. But it is too early to declare either film a front-runner.

Aside from those four, Telluride offered films that had premiered at other fests and that could be possibilities in various awards categories, including “The Homesman,” “Mr. Turner,” “99 Homes” and “Two Days, One Night.”

The fest here also premiered “Rosewater.” The Jon Stewart film is a gem, and audiences have been enthused. But awards chances? Ask again in December. For right now, Open Road needs to build word of mouth but to manage audience expectations on the film, so it seems unfair to burden “Rosewater” with awards talk at this point.

And that is the double-edged sword of mixing kudos campaigns with film festivals.

Some think it’s heretical to bring awards into a conversation about festivals, which in theory are about showcasing need-to-be-seen pics. Yes, film is an art, fests are showcases and awards are for excellence, but all of them are also businesses.

Telluride has cultivated its reputation as an awards launch pad, premiering four of the last six best-pic Oscar winners (“Slumdog Millionaire,” “The King’s Speech,” “Argo” and “12 Years a Slave”) and screening one that had bowed at Cannes (“The Artist”). So out of six years, Telluride only skipped “Hurt Locker.”

But sometimes award talk can get out of hand. Last year, a few overeager bloggers here declared “12 Years a Slave” the inevitable Oscar winner. As it turns out, they were right, though the season offered more competition and more plot twists than they had expected.

This year, it’s too early to declare a front-runner, but three things are clear. First, it is shaping up to be another good year. Second, awards talk is a valid part of fest conversations, but not the only part. And third, it’s six months until the Feb. 22 Oscar ceremony. So fasten your seat belts.

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  1. Des Brown says:

    We’ve still a lot of major titles to see yet – The Theory of Everything could be this year’s A Beautiful Mind (it debuts at Toronto); Fury could be this year’s Saving Private Ryan (opens in October), not to mention Gone Girl and Interstellar. What’s interesting abut this year is that there’s no obvious favourite, which will make the awards season all the more exciting. All eyes on Toronto and New York over the coming weeks. I suspect the winner will be seen at Toronto – every Best Picture winner since 2007 (I believe) has played at the Toronto Film Festival.

  2. Any word on Paradise Lost? Benicio del Toro’s performance as Pablo Escobar is supposedly excellent.

  3. Edkargir says:

    I can hardly wait to see the films you mentioned but I doubt I will see anything better than Boyhood.

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