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Telluride: Oscar Buzz Builds For Renée Zellweger, Adam Driver and ‘The Two Popes’

This year’s Telluride Film Festival began on Thursday with the Guest/Patron Brunch on a private estate about a 30-minute drive from the center of town.

Eggs, bacon and fruit salad were being served as the sun was shining on Martin Scorsese, Adam Driver, Noah Baumbach, Laura Dern, Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Ken Burns, Ric Burns, Julia Garner, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Taylor Russell, Antonio Banderas, Asif Kapadia, James Mangold, Bong Joon-ho and “Hidden Life” stars August Diehl and Valerie Pachner.

A couple of hours later, Oscar chatter kicked into high gear with the world premiere of Mangold’s “Ford v Ferrari,” a real-life car racing drama starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale. Both actors got a lot of awards season love after the screening. Sources tell me Fox will likely put Bale up for lead and Damon for supporting, but nothing is set just yet.

In the evening, the world premiere of “Judy” solidified Renée Zellweger’s place in the Oscar race for her portrayal of Judy Garland in the last — and very tragic — months of the “Wizard of Oz” star’s life. Zellweger, who earned her first Academy Award for “Cold Mountain,” received a standing ovation before a post-screening Q&A on Sunday night with her director Rupert Goold.

“The Aeronauts” premiered at the same time. As the weekend went on, Amazon’s Tom Harper film about an 1862 hot air balloon flight that goes terribly wrong picked up steam with high praise for Felicity Jones’ work as the balloon’s pilot. Some even mentioned her as a contender, but that all depends on other actress contender possibilities that haven’t yet been seen, including Charlize Theron in “Bombshell,” Cynthia Erivo In “Harriet,” Saoirse Ronan and the rest of the “Little Women” ensemble and Natalie Portman in “Lucy in the Sky.”

Other world premieres included “Uncut Gems,” “The Two Popes,” “Motherless Brooklyn” and “Waves.”

Adam Sandler could be a contender for his work as a Diamond district con-man in Josh and Benny Safdie’s “Uncut Gems.” The A24 film wasn’t universally praised, but Sandler’s performance drew numerous mentions. Sandler isn’t a fan of doing a lot of publicity and press, so he’ll have to be much more accessible if he wants to make it the Oscars.

Uncut Gems
CREDIT: A24

“The Two Popes” was an unexpected hit at the festival. I wasn’t the only one who thought the Netlfix two-hander starring Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins was going to be a heavy dissertation on religion and morality. Instead, word quickly spread that “Two Popes” is surprisingly funny, with Oscar talk for Pryce, who has never been nominated, and Hopkins, a four-time nominee with a win for “The Silence of the Lambs.”

“Waves” was also a favorite and became one of the hottest tickets at the festival. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see it, but it was described by many as the next “Moonlight” and became a newly-minted contender this awards season. Those who saw the film raved about the young stars of the Trey Edward Shults-directed film, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Taylor Russell, with some people mentioning possible Oscar consideration for the two.

Edward Norton received a standing ovation on Sunday morning after a showing of “Motherless Brooklyn,” an adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s novel that he starred in and directed. While audiences responded well to the film, it hasn’t yet picked up the Oscar buzz that Warner Bros. was hoping for. Norton’s work as a private investigator with Tourette syndrome probably could have left Telluride with more awards season talk, but the race in the male lead category this season is already packed and it’s only September.

The strong showing of Baumbach’s semi-autobiographical divorce drama “Marriage Story” in Venice continued at Telluride. Most observers say Adam Driver is a shoo-in for a nomination.

Driver also got an awards season assist from Martin Scorsese, who presented the actor with his Silver Medallion at his tribute on Saturday. Scorsese, who was also in Telluride for an Agnès Varda tribute and as a producer on “Uncut Gems,” directed Driver in “Silence.”

“Parasite,” which won the Palme d’or at Cannes in May, gained even more awards momentum with its U.S. premiere at Telluride. But the question now is whether the South Korean comedy thriller directed by Bong Joon-Ho can pull a “Roma” and earn noms for best picture and best international film, formerly known as the best foreign language category.

With the 46th Telluride closing on Monday night, focus now turns to the Toronto Film Festival with many of the same titles having gala and special Presentations along with world premieres of others, including “Just Mercy” starring Jamie Foxx, Michael B. Jordan and Brie Larson, and Tom Hanks’s Mister Rogers biopic “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”

See you in Canada!

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