Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Previewing The 2023 Telluride Film Festival

With the Venice Film Festival set to begin on August 30th, the Telluride Film Festival will start a day later on August 31st and run until September 4th, adding an extra day to its run this year for its 50th anniversary. There has been a ton of speculation over what will screen at this year’s festival due to this milestone, even more so than usual, as the festival has always been notoriously tightlipped about its lineup until the day before the festival begins. Unlike Toronto, Venice, or New York, Telluride is the only film festival that charges for the press to attend and doesn’t reveal its lineup in advance. An aura of exclusivity and uniqueness, combined with a consistently high level of quality in their programming, is what makes the Telluride Film Festival stand out as not only one of the best film festivals in the world but also as a launching pad for many of the year’s top awards season contenders.

Since the Best Picture lineup expanded in 2009, here is the Telluride Film Festival’s track record with providing us with the eventual Oscar nominees…

Best Picture
2022: TARWomen Talking
2021BelfastKing Richard & The Power Of The Dog
2020: The Father & Nomadland
2019Ford v Ferrari, Marriage Story & Parasite
2018: The Favourite & Roma
2017Darkest HourLady Bird & The Shape Of Water
2016: Arrival, La La Land, Manchester By The SeaMoonlight
2015Room & Spotlight
2014: BirdmanThe Imitation Game
201312 Years A Slave, Gravity & Nebraska
2012: AmourArgo
2011: The Artist & The Descendants
2010: 127 Hours, Black Swan & The King’s Speech
2009: An Education & Up In The Air

So, you can expect at least two Best Picture contenders to screen in Telluride, with an unlikely maximum of four and a nearly 50-50 chance there will be three. But which three will it be?

One way you can tell in advance what’s going to play at Telluride ahead of the official announcement of the programming is to read the premiere distinction labels for each film that gets announced for one of the other fall film festivals, most notably the Toronto International Film Festival and the New York Film Festival. Based on that, we’ve determined the following will be screened at Telluride this year…

All Of Us Strangers (World Premiere)
Anatomy Of A Fall
Daddio (World Premiere)
A Difficult Year
Fallen Leaves
Fingernails (World Premiere)
The Holdovers (World Premiere)
Janet Planet (World Premiere)
The Monk And The Gun (World Premiere)
Mr. Dressup: The Magic Of Make-Believe (World Premiere)
Nyad (World Premiere)
Occupied City
Orlando, My Political Biography
Perfect Days
The Pidgeon Tunnel (World Premiere)
The Royal Hotel (World Premiere)
Rustin (World Premiere)
The Taste Of Things
They Shot The Piano Player (World Premiere)
Wildcat (World Premiere)
The Zone Of Interest

In an interview with ScreenDaily, Venice Film Festival artistic director Alberto Barbera revealed Academy Award winner Emerald Fennell’s follow-up film to “Promising Young Woman,” titled “Saltburn,” would be premiering at Telluride instead of Venice. Each year, the Venice Film Festival has several films that screen the first 2-3 days of the festival and thus have enough time to make their way over from Italy all the way back to the States in time to screen for those up in the Colorado mountains. The films this year that could make the trip based on the festival’s scheduling are Pablo Larraín’s “El Conde,” Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Poor Things,” Nikolaj Arcel’s “The Promised Land,” and Wes Anderson’s short film “The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar.” Each filmmaker has had one of their films screen at Telluride before, which makes their supposed appearances all the more likely. Lanthimos and Arcel’s films were confirmed based on their NYFF and TIFF premiere statuses, respectively, while the other two are simply guesses on my part due to the filmmakers’ histories with the festival. Michael Mann’s “Ferrari” is playing in Venice during this time, and some have questioned if that means a Telluride appearance is possible. However, its NYFF Closing Night designation as a North American premiere pretty much ruled that possibility out.

And then there are the contradictory premiere designations between TIFF and NYFF where both Cannes titles, Alice Rohrwacher’s “La Chimera” and Felipe Gálvez’s “The Settlers,” are listed as North American Premieres for Toronto, thus rendering them ineligible to screen at Telluride first. However, their NYFF listing shows no premiere designation, implying that a U.S. premiere has already occurred by the time they make their way to the Big Apple. So, there’s a chance either TIFF or NYFF has made a mistake here, but for now, we need to consider that these two films might show up (and they should, for they’re both excellent films worth watching) at Telluride.

So, that puts us up to 29 films. Usually, this would be enough to fill up an entire lineup for Telluride. However, this year’s Telluride Film Festival will mark the 50th anniversary of the festival, so they’ve added an extra day for this year’s programming, which should allow for roughly the same amount of films that screened at the festival in 2021, which was the last time they had a four day festival (due to the pandemic). That number was 36. Based on some additional intel I’ve received, I currently have 37 films predicted for this year’s lineup, but to honor the embargo on these titles, I’m choosing not to reveal them. However, there are two additional points I want to bring up.

One is the curious lack of Martin Scorsese’s “Killers Of The Flower Moon,” not just from Telluride but also from NYFF and the entire fall film festival season in general. There was initial hope the over three-hour-long, $200 million American crime epic from our greatest living film director would make a resurgence during at least one of the fall film festivals before its limited theatrical run on October 6th. Telluride seemed like an ideal spot considering Scorsese has been to the festival before, given tributes, and this marking the 50th anniversary of the festival would seem like a perfect time to honor the legend himself with a Tribute and screen his film. However, whether it’s due to the scheduling challenges programming a film of that length puts on a small festival such as Telluride or maybe it’s because Telluride has never screened a new film with such a hefty price tag before (“Gravity” remains the most expensive film to ever screen at Telluride with a budget of $100 million) or maybe this is all part of Apple’s strategy following their successful world premiere screening at Cannes to build up anticipation and drive audiences to seek the film out in the theater upon its theatrical release. Whatever the reason is, Scorsese’s latest will likely not be screening in Telluride.

But there is one film that does have a large price tag, that does come out in theaters pretty soon and was given a curious premiere designation recently at Fantastic Fest, listing it as a Texas Prmeiere before its theatrical release on September 29th and that’s Gareth Edwards’ “The Creator.” Like “Gravity,” “The Aeronauts,” “First Man,” or “Arrival” before it, Telluride is not opposed to programming large-scale, visual effects-heavy films with thrills. Festival Executive Director Julie Huntsinger knows her audience well, and if she believes Edwards’ latest has the goods to deliver on both an entertainment and artistic level, I wouldn’t put it past her to program the sci-fi film. It may seem uncharacteristic for the festival to program a film such as this to a certain degree, but given it’s the festival’s 50th anniversary, perhaps some risks are worth taking.

The final note is another possible world premiere from 20th Century Studios, and that’s Jeff Nichols’ fictional story inspired by the 1968 photo book of the same name by Danny Lyon, titled “The Bikeriders.” With an all-star cast that includes Tom Hardy, Austin Butler, Jodie Comer, Michael Shannon, and Boyd Holbrook, it’s kind of a surprise the film does not have any promotional marketing material or hasn’t at least been announced for a single festival. Considering all of Nichols’ films previous films premiered at a film festival before, whether it was Berline, Cannes, or Sundance, the modest, critically acclaimed filmmaker has benefited from having his films organically build buzz over time, starting with a blitz of early positive word at a film festival. Now, granted, his previous films were all smaller than his latest, and none of them were distributed by a studio quite as large as 20th Century Studios. However, if Telluride wanted to add one more high-profile “surprise” world premiere to their lineup, if it’s not going to be “The Creator,” then “The Bikeriders” makes the most sense.

Should my predictions end up becoming true sight unseen, I would wager that “Anatomy Of A Fall” and “Poor Things” are the likeliest to find their way into the Academy’s Best Picture lineup. Increasing that number to three next up would be Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers.” And if I had to pick a fourth to fully max out, I’d likely go with either “Nyad,” “The Zone Of Interest,” or one of the 20th Century Studio titles. If neither of the 20th Century Studio films shows up in Telluride, then depending on the reception toward “Nyad” and whether it is the crowdpleaser we’re all expecting it to be with awards-worthy work from Annette Bening and Jodie Foster, that will determine if I go with Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s first narrative feature film or Jonathan Glazer’s acclaimed Cannes-prize winning psychologically disturbing period film.

Telluride is a festival of surprises. Many did not expect it to give us “Room” or “Moonlight” as Oscar contenders or host surprise secret world premiere screenings of “Argo” or “12 Years A Slave” or steal another film festival’s world premiere designation as it did with “Belfast” in 2021. In the absence of actors or writers attending the festival this year due to the ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, all of the buzz surrounding the movies will be limited to the films themselves (as it always should be, but we all know how an actor’s presence at a screening can magnify audiences’ appreciation for a film) and with patrons spending thousands of dollars for the passes to attend and the high cost of travel and lodging over the Labor Day weekend, you have to believe, on top of the fact it’s the 50th anniversary, this year’s festival will be going all out with its programming to ensure this milestone year is one for the history books.

What do you think will screen at this year’s Telluride Film Festival this year? Have you ever been to the festival before? If so, what was your experience like? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or over on our Twitter account and check out Next Best Picture’s latest Oscar predictions here.

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Matt Neglia
Matt Negliahttps://nextbestpicture.com/
Obsessed about the Oscars, Criterion Collection and all things film 24/7. Critics Choice Member.

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