Telluride, Monument Valley and the Oscars

In Living Color:  Monument Valley

In Living Color: Monument Valley

How about those Oscars? Wasn’t it a great show? I was thrilled that I had seen most of the films nominated for an award here in our little mountain town of Telluride, Colorado way back in September. Yes, just as in recent years, many of the movies that gained high acclaim from the Academy of Motion Pictures were shown here in T-ride—either as premiers or sneak peeks—during the Telluride Film Festival (TFF) long before they were officially released. Telluride’s selection of films seems to be filled with Oscar contenders more so than the lineups presented at other renowned film festivals in New York, Venice and Toronto.

Much of the Oscar buzz takes place before and after this annual awards show. I was thrilled to tune into CBS Sunday Morning, one of my all-time favorite TV shows, to see Monument Valley:  Mother Nature’s scene stealing movie star, last Sunday. It was a wonderful segment that featured the extraordinary sense of place of this iconic site and the many Oscar-worthy movies filmed there including “The Searchers,” “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” “Back to the Future,” “Forrest Gump” and many more. This majestic landscape has appeared in dozens of films as well as countless commercials. Almost a half a million visitors go to Monument Valley every year, largely because of the prominence it has enjoyed in the movies. Thanks to Harry Gouding and his wife, Leone (known as Mike), film director John Ford discovered Monument Valley and its perfect setting for great western movies and feature films. This was highlighted in the CBS piece although Goulding’s Lodge and its terrific Trading Post Museum, which also showcases the history of movie-making in the area, were scarcely mentioned.

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Post Telluride Film Festival Reflections

TFF Banner Over Main Street

TFF Banner Over Main Street

Brad Pitt, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong'o from 12 Years a Slave in Telluride

Brad Pitt, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o from 12 Years a Slave in Telluride

When was the last time you saw a double feature at the movies? Well, I went to one three nights in a row this past week and I’m still processing my emotions from what I took in. I watched films that inspired and moved me, entertained and informed, some of which have been billed as big contenders for this year’s Oscars. (See Can Telluride Continue to Steal Venice and Toronto’s Thunder? and In Toronto, the Oscar Smackdown Gets an Early Start) No, I don’t live in New York or L.A. This wonderful opportunity for film viewing was provided yet again here in Telluride, Colorado as part of the after-the-festival doings of the Telluride Film Festival. These three evenings of post festival movie watching have always been one of my favorite parts of this great festival and as time goes on and the festival rises in importance, I realize just how lucky I am to take in these films, some of which were shown as sneak peeks at this year’s 40th anniversary festival, scooping other world renowned festivals such as those of Venice, Toronto and New York. (Read Film Reviews from the Telluride Film Festival:  Alexander Payne and Many More Pleasures and for more of the lowdown.)

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Telluride Film Festival Celebrates Forty Years

Hot Off the Press:  Bruce Dern and Robert Redford

Hot Off the Press: Bruce Dern and Robert Redford at this Year’s Telluride Film Festival

I’m powering through this post, since I have to head out soon to work at a Telluride Film Festival event for VIPs. No one is especially starstruck in Telluride, including me. But still, Robert Redford is in town (a big first) with other notables such as Francis Ford Coppola, Ralph Fiennes, Joyce Maynard and who knows who else will be a part of this year’s fortieth annual Telluride Film Festival. “Gravity,” a film starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, is set to premiere at The Werner Herzog, film fest’s new theater, so those two biggies just might show up as well. No, I’m not starstruck but it is fun to get up close and personal with these film-world forces, particularly when you see them relaxed and happy in our beautiful mountain town of Telluride, Colorado.

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More Mountainfilm 2013 Highlights: High & Hallowed and Running Blind

High & Hallowed:  Everest 1963

High & Hallowed: Everest 1963

Mountaineering and remarkable physical achievements have been a big part of  Mountainfilm, a world renowned festival in Telluride, Colorado, since its origin in 1979. In addition to watching films that raise social awareness, I love taking in adventure films that thrill and inspire me on many levels. This year was no different and the two that stood out for me the most were “High & Hallowed:  Everest 1963” and “Running Blind,” both of which made their world premiere at the festival.

High & Hallowed,” a visually stunning film, juxtaposes the first American summiting of Mt. Everest in 1963 with a recent attempt. Filmmakers David Morton and Jake Norton skillfully tell the story of Everest past and present by marrying old footage with new. It’s also the tale of the West Ridge route, an Everest ascent that has only been achieved once back in 1963 by Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld, two members of the original American team. Jim Whittaker was the first to plant the American flag on Everest on the already then-established South Col route, yet even more remarkably, Hornbein and Unsoeld followed up on the same expedition with the West Ridge ascent. Some consider this to have been an even more astounding feat than putting a man on the moon; all acknowledge this as having been one of the most daring climbs in history. And it hasn’t been successfully repeated since.

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Mountainfilm, The Last Ocean and Travel to Antarctica

The Last Ocean Penguin

The Last Ocean Penguin

I’m grateful to live in Telluride, Colorado, a town that’s both environmentally aware and full of social consciousness. We’re far from perfect, although as I travel to other parts of the world, I realize how down-to-earth and forward-thinking most of us Telluriders are  and how that effects the way in which we live. From our desire to embrace the outdoors on a daily basis to championing a cause such as eliminating the use of plastic bags, most of us live more tuned in to our little slice of paradise—as well as the rest of the world—each and every day.

Mountainfilm, an important Telluride festival founded thirty-five years ago, is perhaps part of the reason for this awareness. Or, maybe it’s the reverse in that Mountainfilm is able to flourish in Telluride, a community that greatly values the outdoors and being a steward of your surroundings. Regardless, Mountainfilm and Telluride go hand-in-hand and whether here in T-ride or on the road, Mountainfilm is dedicated to educating and inspiring audiences about issues that matter both in Telluride, Colorado and all over the planet.

There’s so much to glean from Mountainfilm that it’s hard to zero in on one particular film, talk or art exhibit. I typically do, however, and this year “The Last Ocean,” a documentary about the last most pristine body of water on earth, touched me the most. From the opening scene of a penguin scampering across the blinding-white ice to glorious views of whales, seals and other remarkable creatures frolicking in crystal-clear water, I dove into this film with great enthusiasm. As the film played on, I became increasingly heartbroken about how man is impacting this seemingly unspoiled sea, known as the Ross Sea, located in the Southern Ocean. I learned that although Antarctica, the land mass that borders the Ross Sea, is protected by international accords, the water surrounding it is not. Sadly, commercial fishing has made its mark in recent years, so much so, in fact, that this remarkable marine ecosystem is now in peril.

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Hawkeye Johnson: Guide, Hiker, Filmmaker and Telluride Adaptive Sports Program Fundraiser Extraordinaire

Hawkeye AKA Michael Johnson

Hawkeye AKA Michael Johnson

“Working as a prison guard makes you appreciate life’s freedoms even more,” says Michael AKA Hawkeye Johnson. Hawkeye’s job as a prison guard for over two decades drives him in both his work with TASP (Telluride Adaptive Sports Program) as well as in his creative and outdoor endeavors. Clearly, he’s a guy that’s determined to help people make the best use of their lives, no matter what’s thrown their way.

Is it possible to embrace the great outdoors after you’ve suffered a life-changing injury? Damn right it is and through Hawkeye’s work with TASP and his two films, “Off the Hook” and “Load Bearing,” we see that people can live fully regardless of their special needs. Hawkeye teamed up with fellow filmmaker and TASP volunteer Craig Stein for both films, shorts which premiered on separate occasions at Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride, Colorado.

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Halloween and the Telluride Horror Show

Game of Werewolves

What are you doing this Halloween? Are you going to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve? Will you toast the dead? Get spooked? Go out and get scary?

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Film, Blues & Brews, Telluride Makes Saying Goodbye to Summer Easy

Telluride Blues & Brews: A Great Way to End Summer

Within the span of the last week, you can really feel that summer is winding down here in Telluride. The aspens are beginning to change and within two weeks, we should be nearing peak leaf-peeping season. With the arrival of this golden autumnal season comes the promise that ski season isn’t far off, two not-so negligible happenings that make summer’s end much easier to accept in this part of the country.

In T-ride, as in many mountain towns in Colorado, the end of summer marks the close of a terrific festival season. This weekend, September 14, 15 & 16, you can enjoy one of the best festivals of the West at Telluride Blues & Brews Festival in beautiful Telluride Town Park, one of the world’s most spectacular settings. Tickets have been selling super fast this year due to an exceptionally stellar lineup. The good news is that there are still day passes available for Friday and Sunday. Plus, at this writing, some seats remain at the glorious Sheridan Opera House for Bal de Maison, the Cajun house party that kicks off Blues & Brews festivities this Thursday night. For more on my take of this year’s festival closer in T-ride, read Telluride Blues & Brews Promises More Fun Than Ever This Year. Let’s just call it the last big party of the summer and even better, the forecast is gorgeous for this weekend. 

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