By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 7, 2009 at 4:34AM
I've been running around seeing movies, doing interviews, attending the terrific Viggo Mortensen tribute and going to various social events with filmmakers. IFC and SPC held back-to-back dinners Saturday night, while Sunday night the Steinbergs hosted their annual closing night bash.
Sunday is the closing brunch in the town park, where I'm conducting a panel called The Edge of Humor: Where Does the Laughter Start and Stop? The panelists should know: Nic Cage's performance as a drug-addicted out-of-control police lieutenant in Werner Herzog's remake of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, is one of his best: outrageous, over-the-top and hilarious. And you're rooting for him, no matter how far off the edge he goes, no mean feat.
Writer-director Alexander Payne (Oscar-winner with Jim Taylor of 2004's Sideways) was Telluride's guest director this year. His program included one of the festival favorites, Leo McCarey's 1937 tearjerker Make Way for Tomorrow and the 12-minute Caroll Ballard 1969 short The Perils of Priscilla, which Payne had seen as a UCLA student and wanted to see again. It's about a cat left behind. Payne contacted Ballard, who no longer had a print. So Payne posted a query on eBay, and some months ago, it turned up. Nobody else wanted it and he purchased a 16 mm print for six dollars. Audiences at Telluride adored it.
Also on the panel is American Paul Schneider (Lars and the Real Girl), who plays a pivotal role in Jane Campion's Bright Star as poet John Keat's Scottish friend Mr. Brown, who fights the romance between Keats and his neighbor Fanny Brawne.
Writer-director Jason Reitman just finished Up in the Air; his follow-up to Juno expertly balances humor and emotion as Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) moves from a life of blissfully controlled isolation to starting to make real human contact.
Australian George Gittoes is a self-described "war artist" who puts himself in dangerous places around the world. In his third film, The Miscreants of Taliwood, the filmmaker took his cameras and one 23-year-old Pashtoon assistant into Islamabad and the Northwest frontier town of Peshawar. He documented the Taliban fundamentalists opposed to freedom of creative expression, at war with the West and with Peshawar's filmmaking center, Taliwood, which churns out popular entertainment. He even stars as a journalist villain in one of the films. This movie is terrifying--he's in real danger of getting killed--and it's also colorfully entertaining. Gittoes puts himself front and center, in more ways than one.
Here's a clip: