I had a great time attending this year’s 42nd annual Telluride Film Festival. Although I didn’t get to see as many films as I ultimately wanted, the rest of my time was spent on beautiful hikes and excursions with my family and Miho. A few quick reviews of the films I did manage to see this year.
Only the Dead See the End of War
From the LA Times: “An on-the-ground diary with narrative shape, “Only the Dead” follows Ware from his early days in Iraq during a brief period of 2003-era optimism, after the deposal of Saddam Hussein, to the increasing chaos and violence over the years that followed, the journalist staying in the country nearly continuously for seven years. Backed with an almost-constant stream of narration by the baritone-voiced Ware, the footage places the viewer uncommonly — often uncomfortably — in the middle of battle scenes, thrusting in front of us the region’s daily confusion and fear.”
This is the winner of the Telluride Film Festival. If there’s one film you go see, this is the one. Only the Dead is engaging, real, frightening, honest, intense, gritty, and unblinking. The filmmaking is raw and real. Reporter Michael Ware is real and honest, and makes an incredibly compelling documentary about the horrors, politics, mechanics, and viewpoints of the war in Iraq.
Link – LA Times Writeup
Should you go? Yes, definitely. Go to the theater as soon as it’s available. Get it online. Whatever you do, go see it.
Johnny Depp is expert at playing a creepy, seedy, uncomfortable character. Mark Ruffalo is honestly likable. The story is twisted, creepy and engaging. The cinematography is beautifully shot, with spot-on color, feeling, and depth. The length of the film was just right, and by the time it ended, I was thoroughly absorbed in Whitey Bulger’s scary world. Benedict Cumberbatch also delivered a spot-on performance.
Link – Black Mass on Wikipedia
Should you go? Yes, definitely go see this in theaters. The cinematography is beautiful and immersive. Whitey Bulger has to be seen on the b
The story is gripping, acting is spot on, but the filmmaking is uninspired. Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Michael Keaton, and Mark Ruffalo all give very solid performances, the storyline is compelling and interesting, and actually, although uninspired, the cinematography fits in with the straight-ahead story. It was interesting to watch and engaging. However, not memorable for any particular aspect.
Link – Spotlight on Wikipedia
Should you go? Yes, go see this with your parents or mature friends for a good interesting story and some potential serious discussion at the end. But don’t expect a big thriller, beautiful trip, or life changing story.
A helpless rich kid gets randomly trapped in the middle of a terrorist takeover of the hotel she’s staying at in Mumbai, India. Through no fault of her own, she’s not discovered, captured, or killed by the terrorist. Then by sheer luck, she’s rescued by a firetruck ladder off the balcony of her burning hotel room. Done. Sure, the situation was terrible, and it’s a damn miracle she survived – but her personal journey was uninspiring and vaguely annoying, and certainly not worth recounting in cinematic form. I’m glad the girl was ok, but I didn’t need to see her whole ordeal.
Link – Taj Mahal on IMDB
Should you go? Definitely no.
Filmmaker, and Taxi driver Jafar Panahi made this fake reality movie brilliantly. There were seemingly 2 or 3 movable cameras mounted in a taxi he was driving for a day, with a bunch of other viewpoints provided by mobile phones and handheld consumer cameras operated by him and his riders. The film takes the viewer through the roller coaster ride of Jafar’s day driving a cab – picking up friends and family, solving business disputes, saving people, and ultimately becoming the victim. The film was original, engaging, and had real heart, despite it’s relatively slim plot line. I admire Panahi for his creativity and resourcefulness in making a film in his difficult situation.
Link – Taxi on Wikipedia
Should you go? Watch it at home, in one sitting, when you can concentrate the whole time. It’s not necessary to see this in theaters.
Cinema: A Public Affair
This was so cool seeing the fight of the Moscow Film Museum to remain relevant, funded, and with a roof over its head. By far the selling point of this was the zeal and dedication of the musuem’s staff. Also notable, I loved seeing film of normal life in moscow – street scenes, random buildings, etc -it’s “everyman” footage like this that makes me want to travel there myself, and puts it into a more realistic perspective.
Should you go? Watch this one at home, in parts, as you eat take out.
In the Shadow of the Great Oaks
By far the most interesting part of this long, drawn out slog through Able Gance’s career is the fleeting few minutes of bonus footage screened at the beginning of the presentation, showing Able Gance strolling through Telluride, Colorado in the 70’s. And even then, the footage was only interesting to see what Telluride looked like in the 70’s. Able Gance is an interesting, creative talent, but there’s only so much black and white footage, endless talking heads, and randoms Ken Burns’d stills I can sit through. The man is still a great filmmaker, but this doc is not all it could be.
Should you go? No, don’t bother. Spend that time watching one of Gance’s many works – I’d recommend J’accuse.
Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict
I never knew what an interesting career and life Peggy Guggenheim had – and this cleared that right up. The documentary was a great blend of music, art, and footage of Peggy Guggenheim’s life and work. I was especially interested to learn about her relationship with her uncle Solomon, and the events leading up to her exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC. The filmmaking was straightforward, with lots of focus on archival footage to help tell the story. I think it probably could have been shortened by a solid 20 minutes if it cut to the point a bit more. Finally, I was surprised by how many partners she had – intense!
Should you go? Don’t go see this in the theater, but watch in your living room as you eat takeout on your couch, and don’t worry if you need to watch it in a few parts.
In addition to seeing lots of films and documentaries, I also had a great time exploring Telluride.
The drive from Boulder to Telluride…
See ya next year at Telluride Film Festival 43