5 Sep 2014, 4:51pm
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My Telluride Film Festival 2014

Telluride:  A Beautiful Spot for a Film Festival

Telluride: A Beautiful Spot for a Film Festival

I’m exhausted today. It’s Friday and the end of a busy week, so I have good reason. I think most of my fatigue, however, is emotional. I’m coming off of the Telluride Film Festival (TFF) and I feel like every fiber of my being absorbed the many intense emotions I experienced while watching movies that dealt with everything from a mother’s bizarre relationship with her deeply troubled son (“Mommy“) to a journalist’s capture and brutal confinement in Iran (Jon Stewart’s “Rosewater”) to the devastating effects of the housing bust in America (“99 Homes“).

But a film is worth nothing unless it deeply moves you, right? And moved you will always be at the Telluride Film Festival, many times over in fact.

The Imitation Game:  My Favorite

The Imitation Game: My Favorite

Setting Up for the Show at the Abel Gance Outdoor Theater

Setting Up for the Show at the Abel Gance Open-Air Cinema

Free Films at Abel Gance for All

Free Films at Abel Gance for All

Werner Herzog Theater

Werner Herzog Theater

Some people watch as many as eighteen films during this annual Labor Day gathering of film aficionados, film makers, celebrities and movers and shakers from the world of cinema. Others–such as errant visitors to our beautiful mountain town that didn’t know there was a world-renowned festival taking place during their stay–just take in a film or two. Many, including myself, watch a half a dozen movies during the After the Festival festival, which occurs the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings following this great gathering.

On My Way to Work the Party

On My Way to Work the Party

We Only Stop for Sheep Around Here

We Only Stop for Sheep Around Here

More Sheep:  No Wonder the Stars Are in Awe

More Sheep: No Wonder the Stars Are in Awe

This Movie's Producer AKA Shepherd

This Movie’s Producer AKA Shepherd

Greyhead:  Party Destination

Greyhead: Party Destination

During the festival many of us locals work, largely doing pick up jobs–volunteer or paid–since it takes a village, or at least a good part of our local workforce, to put on the Show. This year, like many years in the past, I worked some catering events, including one where I served up salad to celebs such as Hillary Swank at a delicious brunch for almost 700 people furnished by T-ride favorite, La Cocina de Luz. The glitterati seemed to be gazing at our drop-dead gorgeous scenery–worthy of a starring role in a feature film–more than we were looking at them. (No big whoop-whoops about this sort of thing, since Telluriders aren’t big stargazers at any time of the year. TFF is also casual about all the famous people and there’s not a single red carpet or any kind of paparazzi in sight.)

Festival Line Keeper

Festival Line Keeper

That's All Folks!

That’s All Folks!

At another job at The Village Table, I made sure that hungry film viewers were able to grab a bite on the go as they hurried from one theater to the next. Fortunately the Telluride Film Festival does a superlative job in crowd management and most waiting-in-line times provide delightful opportunities to chat with fellow filmgoers from all over the world. Festival workers get into the spirit of the Show as well, especially at the Chuck Jones theater where costuming adds extra fun.

Each of the movie venues offers an exciting theater experience as well. This year I went to the Werner Herzog, a theater I had not visited before and was enthralled by the transformation of the town’s ice skating rink into a 650-seat theater replete with luxurious, red, ergonomically-correct seats and miles of plush, black draperies for enhanced sound and visual effects. (The Meyer Sound system here, in fact, is considered to be the most state-of-the-art of the whole festival. And you can bet that TFF is at the top of the cinema game all around.)

I took in a couple of films during the festival and then did it full-on the past three nights this week. (The After the Festival festival used to be a hush-hush insider’s secret but with social media, it’s impossible to keep anything under wraps.)

Ethan Hawke in T-ride

Ethan Hawke in T-ride

Wild Q & As Open to All: Jean-Marc Vallée, Cheryl Strayed, Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern

Wild Q & As Open to All: Jean-Marc Vallée, Cheryl Strayed, Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern and the Moderator

It's All About the Show

It’s All About the Show

So what did I love? “Wild,” of course. I’m a huge fan of the book and was happy to interview Cheryl Strayed, the author of this best-selling memoir, that recounts her journey of transformation during her super trek over the Pacific Crest Trail, on my Travel Fun radio show in May. To me, books are always better than movies, although in this case, “Wild,” the film, does not disappoint. I loved how the narrative remained true to Cheryl’s story and I thought Reese Witherspoon was very convincing in the role despite the fact that I heard some ladies talked snarky about the dumb blond thing. “Really?” I’d want to say to them. Loudly. I’d like to see them live through such heartache and accomplish such a feat and then tell a superb story through print and film. Honestly, it’s often those that produce the least–especially creatively–that are the harshest critics. Yet I’m sure they’ll tell their friends about the movie. And they’ll go to see it, too.

I was blown away by “The Imitation Game,” a film of extraordinary quality, set in World War II Britain. It’s the powerful story of an idiosyncratic British mathematician, Alan Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, and his mission to decode enigma, the linchpin to the Nazi war machine. Part “Downton Abbey,” part “The Longest Day,” “The Imitation Game”will seduce you by its intelligence and glossy veneer. Keira Knightley provides a strong performance here, too. But I predict that Mr. Cumberbatch will pull off best actor at the Oscars and the film will snag best picture. Wanna bet?

Every Day is a Beautiful Day to Watch Movies in Telluride

Every Day is a Beautiful Day to Watch Movies in Telluride

Palm Theater:  A Glorious Theater at the High School

Palm Theater: A Glorious Theater at the High School

I saw a few others that you will likely be catching in your movieplexes and cinema art houses within the upcoming months. Yes, I feel like I’m on the inside track since I’ve seen some of the year’s best movies within the past week. I’m sure we scooped Toronto and New York for a few of them. But what matters most to me and likely many others is that, as always, Telluride showcases reels of movie-going moments unlike those you’ll find at any other film festival. Telluride Film Festival has been doing it for forty-one years. We have the expertise but most of all, we have the most cinematic settings in the world in and around our Rocky Mountain destination.

Now I think I’ll go for a hike to work out the complex range of emotions I’ve soaked up this past week. At the same time though I will cherish and honor what I took in from Film Fest and move forward with the long-lasting impressions I acquired from all these incredible stories.

Telluride:  Forever Cast in Great Lighting

Telluride: Forever Cast in Great Lighting

For more on Telluride Film Festival 2014, read Oscar Contenders Flock to Telluride Film Festival from Variety.

For more of my take on TFF, read Post Telluride Film Festival Reflections, Telluride Film Festival Celebrates Forty Years, Silence is Golden on Telluride Film Festival’s Golden Screens and Telluride Film Festival:  A Moviegoer’s Lovefest.

Thank you to Telluride Film Festival, Ingrid Lundahl, Pamela Gentile, Merrick ChaseTelluride Daily Photo and moi for the images in this post.

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