Telluride Film Festival — ranking the festival films I was able to catch

Every festival is a crap shoot. Even with an All Access Pass, you’re never going to see or hear everything you want to attend…unless the festival runs for weeks and you don’t eat or sleep. This year’s 46th Telluride Film Festival featured numerous programs that ran over 2 hours, Tributes that ran 3 hours and a 5-hour screening of 2 parts of Mark Cousin’s epic 14-hour documentary Women Make Film. With just four days to squeeze in 33 films plus shorts programs, filmmaker talks and outdoor screenings, there’s no way you could see it all.

I love the way the film program is kept secret till the day before the Festival and the unusual screening lottery that allows popular films to fill the TBA slots on the final days. However, the program isn’t staggered in a way that allows festival goers to see a different film if they’re shut out of their first selection. If say, you’d been waiting to get into the 9am screening of Ford v Ferrari at The Palm Theater (at the far end of town), you’d have been in line by 8am to collect your “Q” card. If you didn’t make it in, there’d be no way you could make it to any other first screening at any other theater and your next chance to see a film isn’t till 1pm.

Another programming glitch was to have one of the bigger films playing simultaneously in more than one theater. If you didn’t make it to the Adam Driver Tribute, you only had two other chances to see A Marriage Story because the other screenings were happening at the same time; 5 screenings in 3 days. As opposed to Judy, starring Renée Zellweger, which played 5 different times in 4 days. Similarly, The Assistant only screened in the smaller theaters and one screening was packed with crew, publicists and filmmakers.

It’s part of the fun of the festival to try to strategize which film to see where and to discuss with other film fans what they’ve seen and loved (or hated) and talk film, see film, listen to filmmakers talk. If only I could enjoy the festival without working it one year!

TFF 2019 Films ranked (1 being lowest, 5 being highest)

  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire (5) — I was spellbound by the beauty, the acting, the soundtrack, and it was such an unusual story
  • Varda by Agnès (5) — more on this wonderful film and her tribute here
  • The Two Popes (5) — what a fascinating film with great performances by Anthony Hopkins and Jonathon Pyrce, I would not have suspected I would love it so much!
  • Lyrebird (3 1/2) — I loved Guy Pearce in this film and it was a fun who-done-it based on a true story
  • Parasite (3 1/2) — an amazing story, a dark fantasy about social strata, but I’m not a fan of gore and though the violence was played for laughs, it made me super uncomfortable
  • Waves (4) — didn’t like it for a full 30 minutes, warmed to the filmmaker’s unusual techniques and ultimately was won over, needed a good 10-15 minute trim
  • The Aeronauts (3) — an adventure film that’s both breathtaking and lacking much character development, Felicity Jones is great in it
  • Pain and Glory (Dolor y Gloria) (3) — I’m a huge Almodovar fan, great acting if the story is a little slow; a muted retrospective film
  • Unbearable Lightness of Being (2 1/2) — I remember loving this film, I liked seeing the restored version but found it left me a little cold
  • The Kingmaker (2) — Lauren Greenfield is a good documentarian, this one about Imelda Marcos seemed to ramble on and on
  • Uncut Gems (1/2) — would have walked out if I could’ve (stuck in the center of the theater), I applaud the audacity, hated the soundtrack and the stereotypes, never want to see a film that takes me inside Adam Sandler’s colon…or blood. Thanks, but no thanks to the Safdie brothers

Films I was sad to miss–I hope to catch these at other festivals or next year when they finally screen in theaters:

Judy, Marriage Story, The Climb, Tell Me Who I Am, A Hidden Life, First Cow, Family Romance LLC, Motherless Brooklyn, Ford v Ferrari, The Assistant and the whole 14 hours of Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema

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