There seems to be some consensus around and abouts on the Interwebz that this year’s Telluride Film Festival line-up is a non-starter. Its collection of foreign films, documentaries and classic films – along with a smattering of the more usual fare – seems to fly in the face of the perception of the festival as a launching pad for the next great independent-minded-but-mainstream-accessible crossover hit. Considering last year’s festival included first looks at Juno, There Will Be Blood, The Savages and others that went on to some mainstream success, such reaction is to be expected.

But the – let’s generously say “oddly”  – formed 2008 list doesn’t mean a crossover success is completely outside the realm of possibility. Let’s look at five movies that could wind up getting some decent buzz coming out of Telluride and heading into the remainder of festivals and awares season.

Happy-Go-Lucky: Anything from director Mike Leigh is sure to come with some expectations around it and this is likely to be no exception. While the odds are good this will be somewhat lighter in tone than some of Leigh’s previous films I wouldn’t bet on it being any less a sharp character study. And never underestimate the power of a powerfully perky female lead, which could help Happy-Go-Lucky become a feel-good hit in the non-entertainment areas of the country that are looking for an endearing story featuring a strong love story.

Adam Resurrected: The perception – at least among the staffers at here at Spout HQ – is that a good deal of Jeff Goldblum’s appeal comes from his unpredictability. So with a career that’s had him saving the world, dodging dinosaurs and turning into a fly his latest turn is as a Jewish entertainer in Nazi Germany who survives because of his ability to entertain the children being held at the concentration camps. Combine that with the fact that he and co-star Willem Dafoe are directed by Paul Schrader and you have a film that could make a decent splash with audiences and awards voters.

I’ve Loved You So Long: Kristen Scott-Thomas stars in a story about the members of an estranged family who find themselves coming together after one of them spends 15 years in prison. The emotional arc the story is sure to take Scott-Thomas on is one that is, at least on paper, seemingly tailor-made to please critics (there’s a lot of “Best Actress Oscar” talk from those who’ve seen it). While not a crowd-pleaser it could turn out to be something along the lines of There Will Be Blood should enough critics get behind it and turn the story of someone who might not be completely likable into a must-see movie.

Youssou Ndour – I Bring What I Love: Known primarily in the U.S., I’m guessing, for his work with Peter Gabriel in the late 80’s, Youssou Ndour’s story is certainly a compelling one. There’s usually one documentary that breaks out from the pack and earns a place in the queues of people who don’t normally watch them and since the subject matter here is a tad more accessible than that of some other docs, this could be that one.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: No, it’s not actually screening at Telluride, but a sneak peak of it is being included in the presentation of Zodiac: The Director’s Cut that’s happening. If the footage that’s shown of the movie, which stars Brad Pitt as a man who ages in reverse, is any good at all, Telluride could become the launching pad for a lot of buzz going into the remainder of the year.

One thought on “Telluride 2008 line-up reactions

  1. I had the same impression when I first got here; that the line-up this year was a non-stellar one, which has happened sometimes over the history of the TFF. But, as I sat looking over the program, it didn’t seem so bad. Not as bad as my original impression. As was mentioned, it is heavy on foreign films this year, more so than usual, I think. It may seem this way because of fewer U.S. offerings this year…not sure which is true- yet. Still looking over the program, waiting for “The Feed” to start in a couple of hours. Great weather (but thunderstorms are coming), friendly people. A great way to spend the Labor Day weekend.

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