With the summer movie season coming to an end, the attention in the industry now shifts focus to the start of the fall festival season. The Venice, Toronto, and Telluride film festivals bring about an onslaught of world premieres and media attention to hundreds of movies, many of which are vying for potential awards consideration. With that comes a complicated web of decisions on the part of festival programmers, distributors, and independently-financed features all hoping to generate much-needed buzz for the films themselves. While the Toronto and Venice festivals have announced their official selections, one question looms as to what may be included in the 2014 Telluride Film Festival line-up. The Colorado institution famously doesn’t unveil its line-up until the first day of the film festival (this Friday, for those wondering), but the writing may be on the wall for what we’ll find included.
Telluride takes place August 29-September 1st this year and has recently become a major spot for filmmakers and distributors hoping to garner awards consideration for their titles. In the past, eventual Best Picture Oscar-winners like 12 Years a Slave, Argo, The Artist and The King’s Speech have won over Telluride festival-goers, making the film festival something of a beacon for the industry and American film media. After all, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to send critics and other journalists to Colorado for the Labor Day weekend versus traveling to Toronto or Venice. That competitive drive has prompted Toronto, for the first time this year, to warn filmmakers and distributors that any film planning on playing Telluride will not be allowed to play at the Toronto fest during the first weekend of play, the most coveted and media-saturated time of that festival. As a result, some titles, including The Judge starring Robert Downey, Jr. (which will open Toronto), The Equalizer starring Denzel Washington, and Jason Reitman’s Men, Women and Children are a few of the titles that will not appear in the Telluride line-up. All of those films will be premiering for the first time at Toronto, which runs from September 4th-14th.
Yet other films might still make a Telluride appearance. One of the big movies expected is Wild, Reese Witherspoon’s survival drama from Dallas Buyers Club director Jean-Marc Vallée. That film, which also stars Laura Dern and Gaby Hoffmann and was written by Oscar nominee Nick Hornby (An Education), will play at Toronto, but was annotated as being an international premiere, meaning the awards-bound Fox Searchlight title is likely making its world premiere at Telluride. Other such films with the same asterisks playing at Toronto include Jon Stewart’s anticipated drama Rosewater starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Ramin Bahrani’s drama 99 Homes starring Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon, and The Imitation Game, a WWII biopic starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. A couple of films that premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival that look like likely Telluride plays include Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, and the Argentinean film Wild Tales. Whiplash, the 2014 Sundance Film Festival winner of the Grand Jury Prize may also show up at Telluride.
It also may not be surprising to see Alejandro González Inárritu’s Birdman show up at Telluride. The film will have its world premiere as the opening night selection for the Venice Film Festival, however that won’t restrict the film from playing Telluride. Last year, Gravity opened Venice and then played at Telluride as the start of its run to an eventual winner of seven Academy Awards and in 2010, Oscar winner Black Swan (like Birdman, a Fox Searchlight release) opened Venice and played Telluride. Birdman is also slated to close the New York Film Festival, a festival that includes the world premieres of buzzy titles like David Fincher’s Gone Girl and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, so don’t expect either film to play Telluride.
Aside from that, there’s always the hope for a few surprises to show on the opening day roster. Acclaimed filmmaker/iconoclast Werner Herzog is a favorite of the festival (and even has a local theater named after him), so that may come in the form of his latest feature Queen of the Desert, his biographical feature of Gertrude Belle starring Nicole Kidman. Or perhaps in the form of Tim Burton’s Big Eyes, another biopic of painter Margaret Keane. That film stars Amy Adams and is expected in theaters on Christmas Day, courtesy of The Weinstein Company. Other possibilities include the Brad Pitt WWII feature Fury, the musical Into the Woods starring Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp, and Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken.