2022 marks my second year participating in the Telluride Film Festival representing Awards Daily. This year, I came prepared.
Last year I basically, stupidly, ignored all the advice online about hydration once at high altitude. The first night, I drank a little too much. Bad idea (on many levels). I became very ill. No life-threatening illness, of course, but persistent headaches, constant shortness of breath, and waking up in the middle of the night out of breath. None of that this time around. Not when Bardo was waiting…
But more on that later.
My first day started with the annual bosses’ brunch. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to attend brunch both years now. It takes place in a relatively secret location, a beautiful plateau nestled in the stunningly beautiful mountains of Telluride. You are at a higher elevation, a little above the town of Telluride itself. This means that even though the forecast calls for a mild temperature of the 60s, it will feel like 108 and you will be fried. The gathered crowd didn’t want celebrities and filmmakers who were mixed in with the gathered press and ticket-buying patrons. Both years Sasha and I played a guessing game because so many of the wealthy patrons there actually looked like celebrities. This year’s toughest competition was “Is Kathleen Kennedy?” (We think so.)
Some of the performers I’ve seen include Michael Ardnt (great dude), Sam Mendes, Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley (impossible to miss with that snappy clash of blonde hair), Claire Foy, Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong and Sarah Polley. Somehow I missed Robert Downey, Jr, who wore a fire engine red jumpsuit. Paul Mescal was also there because his Aftersun will be screened this weekend in a special and unannounced session. Festival programmers were more explicit this year with their “no photos” policy, although some bloggers were very keen to break that. Rather than focusing on the “celebrity selfies” game, I managed to have a nearly 10-minute conversation with Anne Hathaway about her job and our kids. She’s a very poised, fiercely intelligent, and genuinely beautiful actress in person, and I came out of that conversation even more of a fan than I was before. Also, I took a photo of her standing very close to me for proof. I’m good like that.
After brunch, we headed back down the mountain. I needed a nap knowing that I was planning on seeing Bardo’s three hours later that evening.
The first screening of the festival was Sarah Polley’s Women Talking. This is where Sasha and I suffered from the absence of Mark Johnson. We spent too much time at “The Feed”, the big downtown meal for festival-goers. By the time we got to the Palm Theater we hadn’t been able to score seats at the front. I didn’t mind, however. By the time I sat down, I was completely taken aback by the weirdest and oddly hilarious encounter I’m likely to experience during the festival.
When Sasha and I entered the lobby of the Palm Theater, Jessie Buckley and Claire Foy were waiting to enter the theater and be seated. Claire looked absolutely fantastic in person. Because I had already admitted to having a huge crush on her towards Sasha, Sasha uncharacteristically leapt into action as Claire walked past us. She said something to the effect of (pardon the lack of literal translation as this all happened in the span of 3 seconds), “Excuse me Claire. Would you mind taking a picture with Clarence Moye? To properly measure the shock of this moment, we have to pause momentarily and realize that Sasha never does this. She’s incredibly introverted in real life and rarely interacts with celebrities. But there she was, jumping into action to help me achieve a goal I had admitted to having earlier in the day.
Startled, Claire and I looked at each other with blank expressions. She then quickly blurted out, “I’m so sorry. I really have to pee. Maybe after the screening? She may have said “use the toilet”, I can’t be sure, but she was 100% doing the pee dance. But she shook my hand, and that was enough for me. Once we found our seats, Sasha apologized profusely for embarrassing me, and I must have looked embarrassed as I was very quiet, which is not like me. But I was not embarrassed. I was shocked. That’s kind of how Telluride goes, I think. You never know when you’ll get a random encounter like this. You have to be ready for anything.
Women Talking by Sarah Polley is a very good film. It’s a movie that had to sit with me for a few hours to fully absorb its message and merits, but it’s one I’m still gazing at a day later. That’s no small feat considering all the information and sensory input you’re confronted with at a fast-paced film festival. A likely trigger for some viewers, the film details a day-long debate between women in an isolated Mennonite community about how they want to respond to years of targeted sexual abuse. Flee or fight are the topics of discussion.
Polley’s direction and script generate a lot of intriguing debate, and the film is at times very surprising in its unfolding. I quibbled with a few plot points and the choices Polley makes with the film, but in the end, it’s impossible not to appreciate the incredible skill and talent on display. I particularly admired the moment when she shockingly uses a pop song (The Monkees’ Daydream Believer) to pierce the timeless world these characters inhabit. Really interesting and smart choice, I thought.
My personal favorite performances were, of course, Claire Foy and Judith Ivey, but the entire cast is uniformly good and looks like a likely candidate for the SAG set early next year. On the Oscar side, it probably receives several nominations, in particular for the screenplay by Polley, certain performances and the beautiful score by Hildur Guðnadóttir. Best Picture and Best Director will be a “wait and see” for me right now. I find it hard to imagine the Academy, which recently shunned the complex and brilliant The Power of the Dog in favor of the warm CODA, broadly embracing the film. It’ll get number one votes for sure, but I’m not sure it’s a “Best Picture Favorite.” We will see however. Overall, Women Talking does what it sets out to do, and it should be celebrated for it.
Bardo – my great white whale from Telluride, my Everest – followed.
Reviews from Venice were not good. Certainly not what director Alejandro González Iñárritu wanted for what is clearly an intensely personal labor of love for him. Still, I knew I had to see it, and in particular, I had to see it on the big screen without the distractions that might be present when watching on Netflix. Bardo is full of great ideas. Iñárritu discusses Mexican culture and history, immigration, Mexican-American relations, the impact of cultural assimilation on the family, and much more. All is not well. Prior to the screening, Iñárritu described the film as a traditional Mexican soup (whose name I didn’t catch) that has a bit of everything in it. It’s 100% accurate. This feast of ideas will work for some and not for many. For me, the scenes with Silverio (an incredible Daniel Giménez Cacho) and his central family worked so well that I yearned for a cut of the film that focused solely on them. I didn’t even really care for the infamous newborn baby, because the intent of these scenes – treated strictly in a broad and metaphorical way – becomes heartbreakingly clear later in the film.
Bardo is the work of an incredibly talented filmmaker who has more ideas than most directors working today, but I wanted to focus. I longed for a step back on its great scope. In just under 3 hours, Bardo delivers several scenes that are simply breathtaking in their execution and cinematic vibrancy. In the end, it was just too much for this viewer, though I’m proud to say I managed to stay wide awake the entire time even seeing it near midnight.
I can’t say the same for some of the writers sitting next to me, but I don’t kiss and tell…
Today sees the world premiere of Empire of Light by Sam Mendes, Emmy nominee Emma Corrin in Lady Chatterly’s Lover, and a tribute to Cate Blanchett followed by a screening of TAR.
Busy day. Big party. I can’t wait any longer.