It feels all kinds of strange to say I’m back, but alas, I’m sitting here in a hotel in Telluride, CO writing this. I have attended several virtual film festivals since the world shut down in March of 2020. However, being completely transparent, the best part of a film festival is the experience of being at a festival. So while I appreciate the fact that so many festivals pivoted to virtual, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of a virtual film festival but instead felt like I was watching just another movie on an app or link. At the same time, I agree that everyone should be given a choice of whether they want to attend in-person or virtually when it comes to film festivals and screenings. For me, I like having the option to pick and chose whether I want to see a movie at home or on the big screen; however, when it comes to film festivals, I will always pick in-person, even if it takes me half a year to save up the money to attend. I am all about the lived shared experience, and it’s simply not the same watching the world premiere of something at home. I love being in the moment, being surrounded by others, and seeing how they react.
That being said, being back at an in-person festival isn’t the same experience that I am used to. Mask wearing, covid testing, and the lack of celebrities in attendance are definitely not what Telluride used to be. Still, if that’s what it takes to have these shared experiences again, I have no problem adjusting because something is better than nothing. Now, as many of you already know, Telluride, unlike other festivals, doesn’t reveal its programming line-up or schedule until 24 hours before the event. It’s a complete risk, and while some years are stronger than others, I am a big fan of the speculation and suspense leading up to the festival. Since the schedule and lineup are now public and we got a nice variety of films, I’m excited to share with all of you which ones I’m most looking forward to seeing during my time in Telluride.
Spencer – Wait, what? Does Scott Menzel have a Kristen Stewart movie on his must-see list? What is going on here? I kid, kid because again, anyone who knows me or follows me can confirm that I’m a massive Kristen Stewart supporter and have been for over a decade. Truthfully, Spencer is my most anticipated of all the awards films being released this year. I was lucky enough to see an exclusive clip from the film while at CinemaCon. While the internet went crazy over the trailer, which was pretty damn great, the clip shown during the Neon presentation showcased Stewart’s performance as Princess Diana, and it looked absolutely brilliant. I have a strong gut feeling that Stewart will be nominated a lot over the next several months, and I couldn’t be happier about that. I hope that even though she’s had fantastic performances over the years that this role speaks to the naysayers and makes them go, “oh wow, that was incredible.” I know that I’m a huge supporter of Stewart’s, but I’m also very honest snd transparent. I will share my unbiased opinion of the film, just like I always do.
Cyrano – I was lucky enough to attend CinemaCon last week, where I got to see the trailer for Cyrano. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for musicals, so when I saw that this was a period piece that was also a musical, I was sold. Let me not forget to mention that it stars Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, and Kelvin Harrison Jr., which only adds to my excitement. Lastly, it’s from Joe Wright, and while I will agree that he has had his fair share of ups and downs (Woman in the Window, anyone?), historical period pieces are where Wright shines the brightest as a filmmaker. Cyrano definitely looks like something in his wheelhouse and could end up being one of his best films to date.
C’mon C’mon – I have thoroughly enjoyed almost all of Mike Mills’ previous outings, and I’m a fan of Joaquin Phoenix as an actor, so this one has been on my radar ever since the film was removed from the schedule last awards season. While I don’t really know much about the plot other than it is about a journalist who takes a trip across the country with his nephew, I do think that Mills is due for another awards movie, especially since 20th Century Women was pretty freaking terrific and somehow got overlooked. Fun fact: This is one of two films on my list shot in black and white.
King Richard – It has been a while since Will Smith gave us a performance that was award-worthy but judging from the trailer for King Richard, I have a good feeling that we will be hearing his name A LOT during the upcoming awards season. King Richard tells the story of Venus and Serena Williams and how they climbed their way to becoming two of the biggest tennis stars on the planet. This project has been widely discussed over the past year, and while the plot doesn’t sound like anything special, I believe critics and audiences are longing for an awards movie that makes them feel good. The story of Venus and Serena is incredibly inspiring, and we all know that Will Smith can make us cry when he wants to. This film looks like it will capture the same spirit as The Pursuit of Happiness, which is widely considered some of Will Smith’s best work as an actor. I am looking forward to seeing the film because while I don’t doubt that the story will touch upon difficult topics, I do feel the film as a whole will be a joyful crowd-pleaser.
Belfast – Based on the film’s trailer, I believe that Belfast will be Kenneth Branagh’s best work as a filmmaker. The film serves as a semi-autobiographical tale about his family and childhood in Ireland. The film would play out as this deeply personal yet beautiful and emotional love letter to his family and Ireland, if I had to guess. It is shot in black and white, and from what I saw, the cinematography looks absolutely stunning. I hope that the film will be more of a feel-good film than a depressing family drama.
The Same Storm – I have absolutely no idea what Peter Hedges’ latest film is about, but given how much I have enjoyed his previous outings, including the most recent Ben is Back, this film is on my must-see list. I am also a big fan of seeing films at festivals that I know little to nothing about. This is why I am a big fan of the Sundance Film Festival because all I usually know is who the filmmaker is or who is acting in the project. I very much enjoy the element of surprise when seeing a movie, so it’s nice to see a film like this one unexpectedly appearing on the schedule at Telluride.
The Lost Daughter – I have not read the book this film is based on, but I have heard much about it. Maggie Gyllenhaal directs the film, and the script was adapted by her as well. Gyllenhaal has assembled a fantastic cast, including Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson, Peter Sarsgaard, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Paul Mescal, and Ed Harris. The plot of the film sounds creepy and interesting. The Lost Daughter is rumored to be one of the biggest awards players for Netflix this year, and it seems like a film that will be more accessible to the general audiences as well.
Marcel the Shell with Shoes on – I don’t know how many people are aware of these cute little short films, but when I saw Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp turned this into a feature-length film, I was excited. I am a huge advocate for all filmmakers who explore stop motion animation because it truly feels like it is becoming a lost art form. Oddly enough, no one knew anything about this film before Wednesday, which has me intrigued.
Encounter – Another film that I don’t know much about outside of the fact that it is a sci-fi thriller starring Riz Ahmed and Octavia Spencer. However, just like I mentioend above with the Same Storm, I love going into movies knowing next to nothing about them. Encounter can go either way but the fact that its playing at Telluride and TIFF makes me think that this one is going to be a welcomed surprise to come out of these two festivals this year.
The French Dispatch – I don’t know if this has been officially announced anywhere yet, but The French Dispatch is slated to have its US debut at Telluride. I was shocked when I first looked over the lineup and didn’t see any Searchlight films on the schedule. However, through various sources, I have learned and confirmed that The French Dispatch is playing and Wes Anderson will be here at the festival. In terms of why I want to see this? Well, because it’s Wes Anderson. I completely understand that his work isn’t for everyone, but I adore his films and their quirky qualities. Rushmore was my introduction to the world of Wes Anderson, and I remember being obsessed with it throughout my teenage years. I have watched every film he has ever done, and I am always in awe of the level of talent he gets for each of his projects. And let’s not forget, Bill Murray is in every single one of them, and who doesn’t fucking love Bill Murray?
Honorable mentions: The Power of the Dog, The Rescue, and Flee