‘Women Talking,’ Cate Blanchett, Olivia Colman And… ‘Close’ Top Telluride’s Oscars Buzzlist
Jan 12, 2023
TELLURIDE – Venice may be enraptured in gossip-y drama over a film no one will be talking about two months from now (and, clearly, a very frustrating ticketing system), but the 49th edition of the Telluride Film Festival was where the 2023 Oscar season truly kicked off. The annual Colorado set festival certainly has its fair share of world premieres and curated Venice and Cannes titles, but that’s only one reason it has solidified its reputation as an awards season staple. Frankly, whether they are Telluride regulars or in town for their own films, there is no other festival in the world where so many AMPAS members get to see so many of their peers’ work. It’s almost revolutionary.
READ MORE: “Women Talking” Review: Jessie Buckley leads a stellar cast In Sarah Polley’s tense drama [Telluride]
This year turned out to be a reminder of just how many members hit the Labor Day weekend staple. The Academy’s private “reception” for just members returned in full force and was packed. Screenings for Sam Mendes’ “Empire of Light” and tributes for Cate Blanchett and Sarah Polley were crashed by AMPAS members such as Mike Mills, Frances McDormand, Robert Downey, Jr., Jeremy Strong, Anne Hathaway, James Gray, the cast of “Women Talking” attending en masse (Claire Foy, Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, etc.), Chloe Zhao, Michelle Yeoh (who was in town for a 20th Anniversary screening of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” but maybe some subtle campaigning too), Barry Jenkins (longtime Telluride attendee who presented “Aftersun”) Lulu Wang, and Sarah Polley (making her case for Florence Pugh in “The Wonder”), among many others. And that doesn’t even include the countless documentary branch filmmakers and producers on hand. Some were obviously here for their own films, but all of them take the time to see movies (something TIFF, Sundance, and even Cannes make difficult). And, hence, the word-of-mouth buzz begins for The Academy itself.
In terms of the Oscar race, the biggest winner of the festival was absolutely Polley’s “Women Talking.” It’s a potential (likely?) Best Picture nominee and could easily earn nods for Director, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress. Of course, how the talented ensemble cast will shake out in the latter is a wealth of riches other studios only dream about. Some viewers thought Buckley popped the most. Others favored Foy and many were blown away by two-time Tony winner Judith Ivey even if they didn’t know her name.
Todd Field’s “TAR” arrived after a celebrated Venice premiere and Blanchett stole the show as a “book it” Best Actress nominee. The drama played well with audiences in the Mountains, but perhaps not as strong as it has with critics on both sides of the Atlantic. That will turn out to be a major advantage for Focus as the year progresses, however. Unless there is a major surprise in the release schedule, you can almost guarantee that either the NYFCC or LAFCA (or both) will select it as Best Picture. Moreover, Blanchett will win a slew of Best Actress honors before nomination voting begins. Field is also a player for Director and Original Screenplay nods while cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister, composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, editor Monika Willi, and the film’s sound team are also in the mix in their respective fields. The fact it’s also releasing in theaters on Oct. 7 before many of its competitors is a nice bonus.
There was almost universal praise for Olivia Colman, another likely Best Actress contender, in “Empire of Light.” The movie played better with audiences than critics overall, but Searchlight may have an easier Best Picture sell with Martin McDonaugh‘s “The Banshees of Inisherin” which earned raves at Venice on Monday. “Empire” is not the slam dunk BP nominee many thought it might be, but it will absolutely play to a large base of the Academy and, more importantly, the Brits have yet to weigh in. Long, long way to go with this one.
Netflix had a slightly rougher Telluride than previous years when they popped with “The Power of the Dog” and “Marriage Story.” While both “The Wonder” and “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” had their fans, Alejandro Inarritu’s “Bardo” did not necessarily find a more welcome reception in Telluride than in Venice. The film will still have its champions, however, and it would be shocking for it not to be chosen as Mexico’s selection in the International Film race.
As noted after Cannes, James Gray’s “Armageddon Time” is a potential Original Screenplay player and Anthony Hopkins is always lurking for a potential nod (in this case, Supporting Actor). It sold out all four of its initial screenings and the festival added a fifth one in their largest venue, the Werner Herzog Theater, at the end of the fest.
The secret sauce about Telluride, however, is the film with the most heart, that moves audiences and AMPAS members alike always pops to the surface. This year, that film turned out to be Lukas Dhont’s “Close,” which A24 acquired for U.S. distribution after Cannes. If you saw Paul Mescal on Sunday night he would have told you it was his favorite film at the festival (he and Phoebe Bridges saw a ton). And Mills sought out Dhont at A24’s Sunday soiree because he was such a big fan. Oh, but that’s just anecdotal, right? After its Monday 9 AM screening, it had AMPAS members crying while they walked out of the theater. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. No other narrative movie came, um, close to that sort of reaction.
As for docs, there were simply too many to track on this year’s slate, but Laura Poitras’ “All The Beauty and The Bloodshed,” Downey, Jr.’s “Sr.,” Ryan White’s “Good Night Oppy” and Melissa Lesh and Trevor Beck Frost’s “Wildcat” all generated a significant amount of positive chatter.
Films looking to enter the awards season fray at Toronto this week include Steven Spielberg’s “The Fablemans,” Elegance Bratton’s “The Inspection,” Rian Johnson’s “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” J.D. Dillard’s “Devotion,” Michael Grandage’s “My Policeman” and Gina Prince-Bythewood’s “The Woman King.”
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