The Telluride Film Festival has just concluded and here is some early buzz and predictions. I am reading and hearing a lot about La La Land coming later this year starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in a modern day but old world style song and dance movie with Los Angeles as the back drop. Getting rave reviews and serious Oscar 2017 talk. See more below.
The Oscar Race Is Taking Shape: 4 Takeaways from Telluride
What Richard Lawson learned about award season at the Colorado film festival, from La La Land’s ascendance to the magic of Moonlight.
BY RICHARD LAWSONSEPTEMBER 6, 2016 1:37 PM
From left, courtesy of Lionsgate, courtesy of TIFF, courtesy of Warner Bros.
As critics and journalists flee the mountains of Telluride (and the canals of Venice) and make their way to downtown Toronto—Vanity Fair will be covering that festival from all angles in the coming week—let’s take a little breather to assess what we know right now, before Toronto happens and shakes everything up again. Though we weren’t in Venice, we were in Telluride this past weekend; here’s what the festival taught us about the Oscar race so far.
La La Land Is a Big Deal
News. Hollywood. Style. Culture.
For more high-profile interviews, stunning photography, and thought-provoking features, subscribe now to Vanity Fair magazine.
We knew Damien Chazelle’s throwback musical would be something from the minute we saw that first alluring teaser trailer earlier this summer. (Or, really, the minute we heard it was being made.) But the film’s Oscar-iness wasn’t officially confirmed until critics saw it, first at Venice and then at Telluride. The film was rapturously received by most film journalists, while the hoity-toity Telluride crowd—many of them Hollywood heavy-hitters, plenty more just rich older folks with a Labor Day weekend and a few thousand dollars to spare—seemed equally enamored. Those latter fans are a good sign for the film, as rich older folks are exactly the kind of people who vote in the Academy. Beyond the film’s dazzling direction and technicals, Emma Stone gives a tremendous, eye-catching performance, one that ought to have her on many shortlists as the season unfolds. Stone has all but won the comedy/musical Golden Globe already, and seems almost assuredly on her way to an Oscar nomination. In fact, driven mad by altitude (and perhaps a glass or two of potent mountain wine), I went all in for Stone a few days ago:
Richard Lawson ✔ @rilaws
Bold prediction, pre-Toronto, pre-NYFF: Emma Stone is gonna win best actress at the damn Oscars
5:21 AM – 4 Sep 2016
39 39 Retweets 125 125 likes
Of course, there are many more big performances coming up, ones that no one’s seen yet, that could easily spoil Stone’s chances. The most promising among those is Stone’s The Help co-star Viola Davis in Fences. But! I heard an interesting rumor at a party in the mountains this weekend, a whisper that Davis is going to be run in the supporting category instead of lead—in order to guarantee her a win. This, despite the fact that Davis won a lead-actress Tony Award for the same role just six years ago. Who knows if this rumor has any truth to it—and even if it does, these things are subject to change—but that could certainly clear a path for Stone to ride the role of her career (so far) all the way to the Oscar stage.
Never Count Out Clint
Sure, Sully has an early September release, which isn’t really the most awards-friendly of slots. But Clint Eastwood’s dramatization of U.S. Airways pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s miraculous emergency landing on the Hudson in 2009, and the subsequent investigation it sparked, is surprisingly strong. The flight scenes are gripping and scary (though, of course, ultimately uplifting), and the N.T.S.B. hearing scenes are compelling—if you’re into slightly simplified airplane minutiae, anyway. (And I am. I’ve read Airframe more than once, for God’s sake.) So Sully isn’t exactly the Eastwood minor work its trailer and lack of buzz pre-Telluride made it seem. Most tellingly, the Telluride crowd loved it. They whooped and cheered and gave a standing ovation the morning I saw it, and it was the most consistently referenced film I heard in line all weekend. Again, not everyone at Telluride is an Academy voter—most aren’t, even—but they do reflect a certain taste that could be shared by those who do vote for this stuff. Eastwood is an Oscar favorite, and though Sully is certainly smaller than, say, American Sniper, its awards chances are not zero after its successful flight in Colorado. The film’s star, Tom Hanks, doesn’t have quite enough to do to put him much in the acting race, I don’t think, but with the 10-movie best-picture system firmly in place, Sully could sneak in there.
An Underdog Favorite Has Emerged
Telluride audiences were the first in the world to see Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight, an exquisite, moving portrait of a young gay black man that was certainly the art-house favorite at the festival. It’s strong on all fronts: it features superb acting from both newcomers and faces you know, the writing is simultaneously lyrical and precise, and it’s beautifully filmed. This is a strong, strong movie, one that ought to play very well at Toronto later this week. In any just world, it would be at the top of the awards conversation heap. And yet, its demographics—decidedly black, decidedly queer—don’t exactly align with the Academy’s. Sure, work is being done to avoid another #OscarsSoWhite; hopefully a more diverse array of films will be honored this year. But the intersectionality of Moonlight may prove too much for the more conservative members of the Academy. Which would be a shame. No doubt many people will be championing this film as the season progresses, and maybe that will be enough to secure its place in the narrative. Right now, I don’t think that will be the case—but a major splash in Toronto could change that.
Whoops. On Vanity Fair’s Little Gold Men podcast last week, I started beating a little drum for Una, a movie adapted from the acclaimed play Blackbird. It seemed telling to me that the film, which wasn’t really on anyone’s radar until a few weeks ago, was going to screen at Telluride before bowing at Toronto. A Telluride run seemed to indicate a slightly elevated level of quality, a specialness. Telluride is much more curated than Toronto, as it only has 4 days of programming to fill instead of 10. So Una seemed like maybe something unexpectedly significant, particularly for its star, Rooney Mara. But then I saw the movie. While it’s got its strengths—it sports a stylish look and murmurs in an eerily evocative tone—theater director Benedict Andrews’s first film is, for the most part, scattered and shaky. Playwright David Harrower did his own adaptation and, perhaps worried that two people talking in a room wasn’t enough, he added in a bunch of extra stuff, turning a juicy two-hander play into a meandering thriller. Mara, who can give a good performance in just about anything, gets a bit lost. Though some critics were impressed with the film, it left me feeling cold.