Well, it’s the end of the summer, which means the beginning of the awards season and the line-up for this year’s Telluride Film Festival has finally been announced. Notoriously secretive and the only major film festival that unveils its line-up the day before it starts — a bold move and seemingly risky for those making the trip all the way to Colorado — for 41 years the tastemaking festival has proven itself to have terrific programming and a boast a few “premiere-y” coups within the fall film festival circuit too. Technically, Telluride doesn’t call any of their films “premieres” or even “world premieres,” but they certainly have had many a prestigious global premiere in the last few years including Oscar winners “Argo,” “The King’s Speech,” “12 Years A Slave” and “Slumdog Millionaire.”
And as the festival wars continue—though maybe they’re now known as just smaller festival resentments as Venice, TIFF and Telluride all backed down this year from last year’s skirmishes — it’s been fairly easy to predict what’s screening at Telluride this year. So, as the festival has just been announced, here are the top ten films to look out for. And you should consider most of them viable awards-season contenders too.
First announced as the centerpiece film of The New York Film Festival, it’s actually Telluride that’s scored the world premiere of this hotly-tipped awards contender. The film is the trifecta powerhouse efforts of producer Scott Rudin, writer Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”) and director Danny Boyle. Between them they have enough Oscar nominations and awards for several careers. And then there’s the cast Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Michael Stuhlbarg and more. The movie focuses on three milestone moments in the life of Apple computers through the visionary Steve Jobs.
Technically making its world premiere in Venice, Cary Fukunaga’s follow-up to season one of “True Detective,” the long-gestating “Beasts Of No Nation” is possibly another big Oscar contender. The movie stars Idris Elba as the only star in a movie about Ugandan overlords that recruit children into war. Super confident in the film, Netflix beat out all other major studios to the film and the movie will debut theatrically and on Netflix in November.
A slight surprise for Telluride, as this isn’t in the TIFF line-up, but the film’s opening slot at the LFF is only billed as the ‘European Premiere,’ so it was bound to turn up somewhere. Anyhow, we’ll gladly take this drama that stars Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, and the great Meryl Streep. Written by lauded BAFTA winner Abi Morgan (“The Iron Lady,” “The Hour”) and directed by Sarah Gavron (“Brick Lane”), the film centers on early members of the feminist women’s right, “suffrage movement” of the late 19th and early 20th century in England.
Is Johnny Depp finally back? An American crime film directed by Scott Cooper (“Out Of the Furnace”), “Black Mass” centers on the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who turned FBI Informant. The cast is utterly stacked too and it includes Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Sienna Miller, Dakota Johnson and many many more. The trailers make it out to be “The Godfather” meets “Donnie Brasco” and lord knows Depp could use a movie like that.
It’s been far too long since we had a film from the brilliant mind of writer/director Charlie Kaufman (“Being John Malkovich,” “Adaptation,” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) — he spent a few years trying to make a bizarre Hollywood musical that never got made. He’s back finally with “Anomalisa,” an animated film he co-directed with Duke Johnson, voiced-by Jennifer Jason Leigh, David Thewlis, Tom Noonan. We’re sold.
Demonstrating his versatility, director Lenny Abrahamson dazzled Sundance last year with his hilarious outsider rock comedy “Frank” starring Michael Fassbender. But Abrahamson has already cut his teeth on dark, cutting dramas and “Room” — about a woman and her daughter who have to adapt to living in the real world after ten years of basement imprisonment — sounds very much up his wheelhouse. Also, Brie Larson deeply impressed with her dramatic turn in “Short Term 12” so it’ll be fascinating to see her take on another heavy role.
In a major coup that beat out the New York Times, LA Times and the Washington Post, the smaller journalism team at the Boston
Globe uncovered a massive children sexual abuse conspiracy in the Catholic Church. Written and directed by Thomas McCarthy (“The Visitor”), “Spotlight” is the story of the journalists who risked their reputation and lives to investigate this case. It stars Rachel McAdams, Marc Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, John Slattery and more.
Jacques Audiard’s “Dheepan” won Cannes’ Palme D’or prize, but many critics felt the award should have gone to László Nemes’ dazzling holocaust drama, “Son Of Saul.” Kinetic and moving with pulsing energy, Nemes makes a thriller out of a story about a prisoner forced to burn the corpses of his own people who finds moral survival upon trying to salvage from the flames the body of a boy he takes for his son.
Todd Haynes directing a lesbian love story that stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Need one say more? Interestingly enough, “Carol” makes its North American premiere at Telluride as it’s apparently avoiding getting lost in the shuffle of Toronto. An adaptation of a lesser-known Patricia Highsmith novel, “Carol” already received a raining-down of critical plaudits in Cannes where Rooney Mara tied for Best Actress. Word is the film is exquisite and we can’t wait.
Critics raved over Andrew Haigh’s “45 Years” in Berlin. Our own review called it akin to “open heart surgery.” The British drama from the director of “Weekend” centers on a retired English couple (played by screen legends Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay) who reflect on their lives after nearly a half-century together. It’s been described as a wonderfully nuanced character study and just a heartbreakingly good piece of work. We’re in.
As usual, this is just the tip-of-the-iceberg highlights. Telluride shows off some 25 films in four days–not counting all the retrospective cinema — and so there’s lots more to get excited about including the world premiere of “Amazing Grace,” a Sydney Pollack film about Aretha Franklin, finally completed years after the director’s death, Laurie Anderson‘s “Heart Of A Dog,”, Berlin winner “Taxi” from Jafar Panahi and Un Certain Regard victor “Rams.” But you can check out the full line-up here. The Telluride Film Festival runs September 4th-7th.
Telluride Film Festival 2015 Line-Up
“Amazing Grace” (d. Sydney Pollack, U.S., 1972/2015)
“Anomalisa” (d. Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson, 2015)
“Beasts of No Nation” (d. Cary Fukunaga, U.S., 2015)
“Bitter Lake” (d. Adam Curtis, U.K., 2015)
“Black Mass” (d. Scott Cooper, U.S., 2015)
“Carol” (d. Todd Haynes, U.S., 2015)
“45 Years” (d. Andrew Haigh, England, 2015)
“He Named Me Malala” (d. Davis Guggenheim, U.S., 2015)
“Heart of a Dog” (d. Laurie Anderson, U.S., 2014)
“Hitchcock/Truffaut” (d. Kent Jones, U.S., 2015)
“Ixcanul” (d. Jayro Bustamante, Guatemala, 2015)
“Marguerite” (d. Xavier Giannoli, France, 2015)
“Mom and Me” (d. Ken Wardrop, Ireland, 2015)
“Only the Dead See the End of War” (d. Michael Ware, Bill Guttentag, U.S.-Australia, 2015)
“Rams” (d. Grímur Hákonarson, Iceland, 2015)
“Room” (d. Lenny Abrahamson, England, 2015)
“Siti” (d. Eddie Cahyono, Singapore, 2015)
“Son of Saul” (d. Lázló Nemes, Hungary, 2015)
“Spotlight” (d. Tom McCarthy, U.S., 2015)
“Steve Jobs” (d. Danny Boyle, U.S., 2015)
“Suffragette” (d. Sarah Gavron, U.K., 2015)
“Taj Mahal” (d. Nicolas Saada, France-India, 2015)
“Taxi” (d. Jafar Panahi, Iran, 2015)
“Tikkun” (d. Avishai Sivan, Israel, 2015)
“Time to Choose” (d. Charles Ferguson, U.S., 2015)
“Viva” (d. Paddy Breathnach, Ireland, 2015)
“Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” (d. Evgeny Afineevsky, Russia-Ukraine, 2015)