In a reflection well worth digesting, Variety critic Peter Debruge reminds us that despite its growing awards-season cachet, the Telluride Film Festival shouldn’t be judged by the Oscar potential of its screenings. “Though the pundits cluck over how weak the field looks, they seem to
have missed the point — namely, that Telluride and the Academy don’t
necessarily define ‘best’ in the same way,” Debruge writes.

But within the narrow-minded perspective of the awards-season barometer, it appears that Telluride’s biggest needle-mover (outside of “The Master” and “Argo,” at least) might have been “Hyde Park on Hudson”  — and not in a good way. Debruge, who reviewed “Hyde” here,  calls the Bill Murray/Laura Linney starrer the “smarmy American cousin” of 2010 Oscar-winner “The King’s Speech.”

The Roger Michell-directed, Richard Nelson-scripted film’s initial award strength appears to be centered around lead actor for Bill Murray, who himself faces looming competition from another presidential perf, Daniel Day-Lewis’ Abraham Lincoln. At the same time, cautions Sasha Stone of Awards Daily, “the film will play well with its intended audience and it will be especially interesting to fans of FDR,” so don’t rule out a broader kudos run just yet. 

SarahIt’s possible, however, that Telluride 2012 might turn out to be best remembered for a documentary, namely “Stories We Tell,” the family project from director Sarah Polley (right) of the admirable “Take This Waltz.”   (A trailer for the film appears at the bottom of this post.)

From Colorado to Venice, the doc drew absolute raves, such as this take from Eric Kohn for Indiewire that says it “marks the finest of Polley’s filmmaking skills by blending intimacy and intrigue to remarkable effect.” Oliver Lyttelton at The Playlist calls it “her finest work as a director so far,” and Guy Lodge had more praise via Variety.

“The alternately playful and elegiac ‘Stories We Tell’ is wholly of a piece with her fiction work, and just as rewarding,” Lodge writes. “A shape-shifting study of her late mother’s infidelities, sewn from the occasionally sparring firsthand accounts of loved ones, it’s another delicate, surprising reflection on intimate relationship politics from the young Canadian.”

Over at Venice, Terrence Malick’s “To the Wonder” (reviewed for Variety by Justin Chang) debuted to a similar brand of bifurcated notices that found last year’s “The Tree of Life,” setting the stage for another set of diehards to try to repeat last year’s run to a picture nomination, over the protests of detractors. That being said, the film itself is not a rerun, with Chang and Lodge (in this HitFix.com review) suggesting that “Wonder” is more accessible.

And in an advance look at a Toronto premiere, Leslie Felperin writes for Variety that “Anna Karenina” is “well-placed to gain admiring awards looks, especially in craft categories.” The Joe Wright-directed pic, in which he once again teams up with star Keira Knightley, has had mixed buzz entering festival season.