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Telluride XL Day Five: 'Nebraska,' 'Gravity,' 'Prisoners' and a Toast to the 40th Anniversary Fest

Photo of Meredith Brody By Meredith Brody | Thompson on Hollywood September 6, 2013 at 12:54PM

I try not to beat myself up during a film festival. I try to adopt the Zen-like mantra of "wherever you are is the place you're supposed to be." Choosing one movie over another is not a life-or-death situation, and eventually one can usually see anything one wants.

Sandra Bullock in 'Gravity'
Sandra Bullock in 'Gravity'

I trot over to the appropriately-named Galaxy to see "Gravity," the lost-in-space 3-D epic helmed by Alfonso Cuaron and co-written with his son Jonas, starring George Clooney and (mostly) Sandra Bullock.  (The night before, we'd been treated at the "Tracks" screening to a mysterious and unsettling short, "Aningaaq," directed by Jonas Cuaron, set in Greenland, it seems, in which an Inuit fisherman miscommunicates over a failing two-way radio with an astronaut lost in space, voiced by Sandra Bullock. It's a bit of a shaggy-dog story, more so seen in light of "Gravity.") "Gravity" is preceded by a charming new 3-D Mickey Mouse short, entitled "Get a Horse!," which appears to be a witty combination of an old black-and-white Mickey cartoon with new color 3-D footage, but is actually all brand-new footage. 

A friend had earlier remarked to me that she was struck by how many of the new movies at Telluride dealt with the theme of solitude.  I go one further -- it seems to me that "All is Lost," "Tracks," and "Gravity" are basically the same movie: a lone soul struggling to survive against impossible odds. 

I guess it's big-movie-day: I take the 12-minute gondola up to the Chuck Jones Cinema for the first time all weekend to see "Prisoners,"  a starry thriller -- Hugh Jackman, Ben Affleck, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano -- about Jackman's desperate efforts to find his daughter and her friend, kidnapped on Thanksgiving, when he feels that detective Affleck and the police aren't doing enough. Denis Villeneuve (whose "Incendies" played in Telluride in 2010) manages to keep things dark (ably assisted by genius cinematographer Roger Deakins) and taut for 2 hours and 26 minutes.  It's so thoroughly noir that I'm surprised it's still light outside when we exit.


When I ride the gondola down, admiring the toy-box picturesque Telluride valley below -- we see deer and porcupines threading their way through the aspens -- I don't realize that "Prisoners" is my last Telluride XL screening.  I'd toyed with the idea of finishing up with "12 Years a Slave."  But a quick drink at the New Sheridan bar with the criminally charming Mark Cousins; Charles Tabesh, the Senior VP of programming at TCM who's been largely responsible for acquiring the many titles that are supporting Cousins' 15-hour "The Story of Film," unspooling one hour a week on TCM for the next three months; Nicolas Philibert, director of "La Maison de la Radio," about Radio France; Ritesh Batra, director of "The Lunchbox"; and Sebastian Lelio and Paulina Garcia, director and star of "Gloria," segues into a festive final dinner at a lively place called, I think, "Oak The New Fat Alley BBQ," (there is some disagreement, even on its own signage).  

Anyway there are several long tables, I enjoy my fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and succotash tiptop (it is only the third actual sit-down meal I have had in five days, counting today's picnic, which was not exactly leisurely), and I get to tell Pawel Pawlikoski how much I loved "Ida," again -- he says he was too overcome at his initial screening to remember much of anything -- and thank Buck Henry for programming Mike Hodges' "Terminal Man," again, and Phillip Lopate for programming two movies by Maurice Pialat, again.  Monique Montgomery delivers a charming and sentimental speech about meeting Tom Luddy a week before the first Telluride, forty years ago, and never missing a one since -- "Luckily his profession was my passion." Luckily for us, Tom's passion -- along with that of his colleagues -- has once again provided us with a magical few days of total immersion in the joys of cinephilia.  We toast to Telluride.  I'm kinda drunk on half a (big) gin and tonic, but totally soused with cinema.

This article is related to: Festivals, Telluride Film Festival, Telluride, Nebraska, Gravity, Prisoners

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.