Final Day at Telluride

When the final day of a film festival rolls around, pass holders typically try to pack in as many films as possible. For example, at my first film festival in Cannes, I saw four films without a break: Melancholia, Tree of Life, The Skin I Live In, and Drive. If you’ve seen all of those films, you can understand that that is a lot of emotion for one day. By the end of Sundance, a film festival in which I attended 21 screenings, I was mentally exhausted. While the 8 films I’ve seen at Telluride does not compare, I still managed to reach that point. I decided to sleep in on my last day and take my time in the morning. My first stop of the day was the Labor Day Picnic.

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I took my time eating and tried to enjoy being outside in the mountains before I had to return to smoggy and crowded LA. This place really is beautiful and I was so lucky to be introduced to it in the first place. Now I can’t imagine not coming back.

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Phillip waited to get into The Past for a showing around noon, while I still had a longer wait to see Ida at 2:15. My first Polish film. I had heard wonderful things and at 80 minutes, I was excited to see a short film. An hour and a half before the film, and the line at the Nugget Theatre in the center of town was around the corner. Although I was worried because this was the only film I had planned for the day, I knew that I wouldn’t be too upset and I would still enjoy my last day at Telluride with or without a film. Luckily, I was let in and was able to watch this black-and-white feature. I feel as if I can’t give an accurate review of this film. It was beautiful and unique, but my heart wasn’t in it for some reason. Maybe another day I would have enjoyed the film and raved about it as I had done for The Past, but not this day.

Phillip and I finished our volunteer duties with a dinner shift at the clubhouse. There were only three of us working and it went smoothly. I think all Clubhouse shifts should only have three people.

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My thoughts on this clubhouse shift.

With our friends attending one last film, Phillip and I bought another bottle of wine and enjoyed it on our patio for the last time. Once the films started to end, we met up with Cole at the staff party in Mountain Village. After many glasses of wine and lots of great conversations, we had to leave the party before the gondola stopped running for the night. We had reached the end of our second Telluride trip all together.

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Two of my favorite film-lovers!

Until next time, Telluride! Thanks for a great trip!

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12 Years a Slave

Phillip and I woke up early enough to head to the Le Pierre theatre to see the documentary The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden. After grabbing some coffee and sitting in our seats, we realized that we would rather go to the courthouse and watch a Q&A with Ralph Fiennes. After grabbing breakfast and relaxing in the park, we made our way to the courthouse to see everyone’s favorite actor from Maid in Manhattan. The courthouse was tight, but there were four open chairs directly in front of Ralph. No one had taken the chairs, assuming they were reserved. When they were announced as open seating, it was like the Hunger Games of moms fighting for their spot in front of Ralph. After the talk, it was a little comical to find these women almost in tears approaching him. I’m sure we will all be this way when we’re 50 and meeting Ryan Gosling or Joseph Gordon-Levitt for the first time, right?

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Actors Q&A, including the cast of The Invisible Woman, 12 Years a Slave, and Blue is the Warmest Color

Actors Q&A, including the cast of The Invisible Woman, 12 Years a Slave, and Blue is the Warmest Color

After getting some lunch and grabbing our clothes for the Mid Fest Party, we got into line at the Palm for 12 Years a Slave with close to 2 hours to spare. We knew this was going to be a popular film, and we were right. We were excited to see Steve McQueen again introducing the film, I was excited to hear a score by Hans Zimmer, and we spent the next 2 and half hours involved in one of the most powerful films about our country’s past. It was terrifically acted and wonderfully produced.

I rushed out of 12 Years a Slave and jumped back in line for The Past. I have heard wonderful things about this film, so I think it was worth being late to the Mid Fest Party. When you attend a film festival, you will find the people who only go to documentaries, or only go to foreign films, or only attend screenings of films that will not get wide distribution, or distribution at all. At film festivals, especially at Telluride, you will find films that WILL get wide distribution. For example, two years ago The Artist screened at Telluride. Last year, it was Argo. I do not have a problem seeing these more popular films in the least bit. I do like to mix it up, but I’ve been so concerned about catching these films, like Gravity and Labor Day, that I could  just wait to see. What was worse is that I was not enjoying these films. I decided that The Past, an Iranian film with French subtitles, was just what I needed. The writing! Oh, the writing! And the performances! Although the film was in no way, shape, or form a happy film, I felt refreshed walking out of the theatre.

It was time for the Mid Fest Party, from 8pm to 2am. I really tested my love for cold weather by standing outside for the majority of the night. I was working the coat check, right behind the check in table. I think the eye contact with Fassy, followed by the head nod and the hello made the night worth it. Of course, I answered the beautiful man with the world’s shakiest voice. It’s fine. I was most interested in speaking with Jason Reitman, but alas it did not occur. As the night was coming to an end, we were allowed to dive into the leftover party food and drink. All things delicious.

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Ice cream shot mustaches

Phillip and I ended our night, as always, with a glass of wine on the patio. One more day.

12 Years a Slave Historical studio films like this are what we call “perfect.” With a gorgeous score from Hans Zimmer and a life-changing performance from Chiwetel Ejiofor, this film captures the cruelties faced during this historically embarrassing time period in our country. Steve McQueen is extremely talented and he will surely receive an Oscar nomination for his work. I always enjoy the consistent work of an auteur and am a huge fan of Shame, McQueen’s previous film; therefore, my only complaint is that I wish I could have seen more of McQueen’s style in his directing of this film. A

The Past Asghar Farhadi, the man who brought us A Seperation, has succeeded yet again with this film. The performances are nothing short of outstanding and every character, even the littlest, brings much to the story. Although this film is “just a family drama,” the writing makes it much more than that. Even with the somber story, you will leave the film feeling relieved that they still make films as beautiful as this. A

Prisoners & Gravity

The two of us successfully woke up early enough to reserve a front spot in line for Prisoners. While waiting in line, we learned that there was a typo in the program and the film runs at 2h40. Although we were nervous that we were going to be late to our Clubhouse lunch shift, we decided to stick it out and enjoy the film. This film was a lot to handle at 8:30am, but it was a nice departure from films you would typically find at a film festival. It was quick, but predictable. The best part about the film? Terrence Howard’s sweater in the Thanksgiving scene. Everyone loves a good fall sweater.

Our clubhouse shift was slow and we were able to leave early. Phillip and I rushed over to the Galaxy Theatre in hopes of catching The Invisible Woman, Ralph Fienne’s directorial debut. He would be there for a Q&A and, as expected, the theatre was overflowing with women over the age of 50 hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite actor. We were toward the back of the line and all of the “moms” were cutting, so we decided that it was no longer worth it. Later, we read that The Invisible Woman plays like A Dangerous Method, a film that I slept through at Telluride 2011. I do not feel guilty for sleeping through that film either.

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We made our way to the park to view a Q&A with Steve McQueen and the cast of 12 Years a Slave. Without seeing the film, we weren’t able to truly understand their conversation, but boy were people excited to see Fassy. He is a very charming man in person. Steve McQueen directed one of my favorite films from 2011, Shame. Fassbender was also the star. With that, I was interested in catching their next collaboration, but also their first: Hunger.

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Everyone’s excited to see Fassy!

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There he is. Fassy, himself!

We found Cole in the park and left the Q&A early to go to a bar and get a drink before dinner. It was great to catch up and listen to his stories from the Symposium. He was seeing a lot of films that I wasn’t entirely interested in seeing at first glance of the program, but now I was intrigued.

Following dinner at the clubhouse, we made our way to the Galaxy to see Gravity. Alfonso Cuaron’s new space thriller with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Like all space thrillers, the theme would focus on survival and isolation. The last time I saw a 3D movie was also in the Galaxy and that film was Wim Wenders’ Pina. For some reason, because Cole had a student pass, he was not able to wait in the same line as us and unfortunately did not get into the film. He was the lucky one.

Following the film, Phillip and I returned to our condo and indulged in some wine before heading to bed. We had an open morning, but we knew it would be important to make it to 12 Years a Slave in the afternoon.

Prisoners Hugh Jackman plays a father of a missing child who does a lot of shouting. Maria Bello plays his wife and she does a lot of crying and sleeping. We’ve seen this story before, but that does not make it less entertaining. Unfortunately, the story is predictable as long as you consider all of the dialogue to be important (and if you’re a good screenwriter, all dialogue should be important). Although the film is quick, when you know the ending, you just want it to be revealed already. B-

Gravity Indiewire has listed Gravity as a top contender for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Director for the Oscar race. When I read this, my head fell into my hands. Never have I been exposed to such poor writing and directing for a film that has such potential. It is difficult not to compare Bullock’s isolating performance to that of Sigourney Weaver’s in Alien. Weaver carries the film, while Bullock causes it to drag. She doesn’t have much help, as the dialogue is laughable (“I hate space.”) and the 3D effects could rival an attraction at Disneyland. This film plays as a studio feature and it is evident that Cuaron’s heart was not in it. D+

The Best Directors

With a scheduled event, the UCLA Gallery party, from 2:30-6:30 pm, Phillip and I were able to choose a film for the morning and the evening. We chose to attend the Q&A screening of Alexander Payne’s new film Nebraska at the Palm. Following the black-and-white comedy was a Q&A with Alexander Payne and Bruce Dern. The director and lead actor were greeted with a standing ovation as the film was nothing short of spectacular. Bruce Dern gives the performance of his career and Alexander Payne continues to connect with audiences providing the perfect balance of laughs and tears. Jason Reitman, a hero of mine, led the Q&A. I thoroughly enjoyed their responses. Some were more emotional than others, and thus triggering some watery eyes.

After the film, Phillip and I had time to grab some lunch and change into our Event clothes before working the UCLA Gallery Party. The party consisted of wine, beer, Moscow Mules, and sushi. Once the party cleared out, we were able to start eating and drinking ourselves and managed to get out of the Gallery fairly early.

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The King of Linens

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A Stella and a Moscow Mule

After dinner at the clubhouse, we proceeded to the Palm for Jason Reitman’s Labor Day. I have to admit, I was feeling an equal mixture of two emotions: nervous and excited. I have always been a fan of his work, but this was his first departure from the comedy genre. Jason Reitman always manages to work with some of my favorite artists and this time it was no different. Kate Winslet is the star of this film. There wasn’t a dry eye in the theater and the only complaint I have for the film were elements of the story, based on a book of the same name by Joyce Maynard. However, I was impressed with Reitman’s storytelling (if that even makes sense). I loved the production design and I loved the little boy.

Back to the condo earlier than the previous night, Phillip and I sat outside on our patio and enjoyed the stars as we did our own research on the announced sneak previews: Prisoners and 12 Years a Slave. We decided on Prisoners, which meant that we needed to be standing in line at the Palm by 7:30am.

Nebraska Bruce Dern gives the performance of his career and we see a return from June Squibb, who has previously appeared in another Alexander Payne film About Schimdt. Will Forte joins the cast and we are taken on a father/son road trip with these lovable characters. Payne succeeds in bringing his audience a quirky story filled with both laughs and tears. The best adjective to use when describing this journey is delightful. A-

Labor Day Jason Reitman adapts Joyce Maynard’s novel Labor Day in this romantic tale of isolation and finding love in expected places. Narrated by Tobey Maguire, we follow Kate Winslet’s quest for love and acceptance through the eyes of her young son. Josh Brolin, an escaped prisoner offers her a chance at starting over together… if they can outsmart the police. Powerfully performed by the cast, Labor Day leaves the audience with a feeling of hope at the film’s end. B

First Day of Films

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I started my morning working the clubhouse breakfast shift. After meeting with Cole and Phillip for lunch, we traveled back to our condo and took a little rest before the festival actually began. After planning out our screenings for the week, we settled on a top ten must-see list. In no particular order:
1. Nebraska
2. Labor Day
3. Gravity
4. Tracks
5. Under the Skin
6. Blue is the Warmest Color
7. The Invisible Woman
8. Palo Alto
9. All Is Lost
10. Inside Llewyn Davis.

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Scheduling on the patio

I miss this view!

I miss this view!

The Opening Night Feed was our second shift. It was mess due to a thunderstorm, but it was also my first thunderstorm of the summer, so can’t say I was disappointed.

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We spent the end of our shift drinking the last of the alcohol and discussing which films we were going to be able to catch that night. If we saw Inside Llewyn Davis, we wouldn’t be able to see any other film. However, it would be the only chance to catch it.

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With thoughts of being rejected from the line, we made our way to the Palm and waited for Palo Alto. This is Gia Coppola’s first film and it is based on James Franco’s short stories entitled Palo Alto Stories. Gia was there to introduce. The film follows two seniors in high school… and there is not much of a plot besides that. At least it gave a realistic representation of high schools, but I think the older crowd of Telluride was a bit disturbed by the characters’ behaviors. Immediately following Palo Alto, we landed a spot in line for the “sci fi horror” film by the same director that brought us Sexy Beast. Scarlett Johansson is the lone star of this film, who portrays an alien taking over a beautiful woman’s body. For me, this film was long, pretentious, and unnecessary. If it was not a midnight showing, I would have walked out at about a half hour in. Alas, I made it to the end of the film, and Phillip and I disagreed the whole way home to our condo.

Palo Alto The only worthwhile segment of this high school story is the young girl with low self-esteem who uses males attention and sex to feel better about herself (a vicious cycle). It’s a problem that is discussed frequently, but hardly portrayed. Otherwise, these stories are ones we have seen time and time again. The film needs a little help in the sound department, as there were multiple glitches that need to be addressed. C+

Under the Skin ScarJo is fearless and beautiful, but it is not going to save this story. Not only does nothing interesting happen in this film, but nothing happens at all. This story of empowerment quickly changes to a story of isolation, but don’t ask me how the plot progressed because I still don’t know what the plot was. Add in a drowning dog, an abandoned drowning baby, and a rape scene to end the film and you have one of the most unnecessary violent films I’ve ever seen. D

 

Telluride Film Festival, 8/27 & 8/28

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I have arrived at my favorite film festival, and I can confidently make that statement. It is my fourth film festival of the year and I’m excited to dive into another pool of independent features. Telluride required quite a bit of planning and a few vacation days, but I know that I made the right decision by volunteering for the Labor Day fest. You know when you have those “once in a lifetime” experiences? I thought that the Student Symposium was one of those moments. When I was an undergrad Cinema student entering my final year, I never would have guessed that I would be able to return. Here I am, though, with two of my favorite people in the world: Phillip and Cole. It’s been two years since our brief time together, but we managed to pull together an awesome trip! Now all in the workforce, we couldn’t wait to enjoy a vacation with friends and film, and in such a beautiful place. The happiest place on Earth? Possibly?

Phillip and I arrived at the Denver airport close to midnight on Tuesday. We stayed in a hotel and waited the arrival of our dear friend Cole to come save us from the empty and boring Aurora, CO. In the meantime, of course, a Brooklyn man and an LA woman managed to find a bar and were shocked at the drink prices. For us, a $2.50 draft beer and $5 margarita was unheard of!

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Post margaritas…

This margarita? Only $5.

This margarita? Only $5.

 With the altitude, we might have not been our freshest at 4pm when Cole came to pick us up. The three of us drove the six hour journey through beautiful mountains and canyons to Telluride. We arrived around 11pm, missing the Volunteer screening. After settling into our condo, it was time for bed. Phillip and I had a shift at 7am.

So excited to be in this beautiful place!

So excited to be in this beautiful place!

8 Reasons Why The Spectacular Now Isn’t a Stereotypical High School Movie

I had the opportunity to see The Spectacular Now at Sundance and the LA Film Fest and it has quickly become one of my favorite films of the year. Directed by James Ponsoldt and written by these two geniuses: Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber, The Spectacular Now is a raw and realistic take on high school relationships. Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller give excellent and already award-winning (Special Jury Prize for Acting at Sundance) performances as Aimee and Sutter as they explore the emotional and naive experience of falling in love for the first time. The film opened in New York and LA on August 2. If you in the Los Angeles area, you can catch The Spectacular Now at the Laemmle Monica 4, The Landmark, and The Arclight (Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, Beach Cities). The release is getting wider as the month goes on, so check your local movie times to see when/where it is playing. Or just click this link: http://spectacularnowmovie.com/tickets

This film isn’t so much of a love story between Aimee and Sutter, but a love story between Sutter, himself, and the now. I’m so excited for my friends, family, and future audiences to discover what it means to live in the now thanks to some jaw-dropping adaptation by Weber and Neustadter. While you might go into this film expecting to find an unoriginal coming-of-age story, you will walk away with more of a connection to these characters than you have ever imagined. High school movies are typically unrealistic, but this one finds itself to be relatable with three dimensional characters. Here are my reasons why The Spectacular Now isn’t your stereotypical high school movie:

1. The poster is an Instagram.
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2. Shailene Woodley did not wear any makeup for her role as Aimee. You see some natural sweat and blemishes on her face. It’s pretty awesome. Girl power. Make-up sucks.
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3. Until she goes to prom… and she clearly doesn’t know what she’s doing. Purple eyeshadow?
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4. Sutter might be “popular” and Aimee might be “nerdy,” but the costume designers knew that no high schooler is trendy… ever. The hot, red dress from She’s All That? Totally unrealistic. Red-striped, baggy shirt with pocket? Totally realistic.
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5. The sex scene is just as awkward as your first time. It is not cute, awkward like The Notebook. It’s like, “Should I even be watching this right now? I kind of want this scene to end.” awkward.
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6. Their first kiss might be adorable. And by adorable, I mean, neither of them knew what to do with each other afterward.

Note: During a Q&A, Shailene and Miles said their favorite ad-lib moment from the film was when Aimee moved the leaf from Sutter’s head.

7. Isn’t this how we all spent our high school days doing our homework and waiting for your ex-girlfriend to come online so you could IM your way back into her heart?
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8. These guys wrote it. Remember, they brought 500 Days of Summer into our world and then stabbed us in the heart when Summer and Tom didn’t actually end up together… because GUESS WHAT. When people aren’t right for each other in real life, they actually don’t end up together. We hate/love them for reminding us that our lives are not a romantic comedy.
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Watch the trailer and go support this amazing indie: 

3 Reasons to Watch Sebastian Silva’s Magic Magic

There are three very simple reasons why you should go to Redbox and rent Magic Magic on DVD this weekend.

1. This sweater flannel combo
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2. This sweater with pocket
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3. This sweater pattern
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Congratulations to Mark Grattan (wardrobe) for creating the most desirable wardrobe of any film this year. Brink’s character really has the best fashion sense. Don’t you want to take a trip to southern Chile and pick up a cable knit sweater with pocket? Watch Magic Magic‘s trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjKTTYOlkGg

HELP THE INDIES

http://www.buzzfeed.com/jordanzakarin/how-superheroes-and-sequels-keep-indies-off-summer-movie-scr

Through film festivals, I have had the opportunity to see some great indies. Just this year, I was able to attend both Sundance and LA Film Fest. I’m attending Telluride over Labor Day weekend, and in 2011, I spent time in both Cannes and Telluride. When I’m not at a festival, I like learning about indie films that are buzzing and doing my best to catch them at the theater. To be honest though, most of the indies I watch outside of film festivals are ones that earn an Oscar or Golden Globe nom. It’s that film’s last chance to get an audience. Before that, it has a small theatrical release in NY and LA, or is released on VOD.

I’ve attached a great read about studio films vs. indie films. With such a small budget, indie films rely on word of mouth, which is why it is important to share with your friends, family, social media followers a film you love. If you are interested in seeing a film, it is not enough to talk about it. You need to spend the money and go see it. If it’s not in your area, VOD has a 90 day window with theatrical releases, so look out for when it comes to VOD. Don’t forget about it, and spread the word. Indie films don’t have a large marketing budget, and what is unfortunate is that the film needs to make money in order for it to stay in theaters or earn a wider release. Unlike studio flops that can hold screens without an audience. So just do me a favor, and check out some indies this summer 🙂

Forev

I ended my time at the LA Film Fest with a festival mixer and a small independent film called Forev.  They added a third screening of the film, so it seemed promising.  After some time in the filmmaker’s lounge, I made it to the 9:50pm screening of Forev.  It was the only screening where I didn’t have to arrive early and/or fight for a good seat.  The film doesn’t have any recognizable faces or filmmakers.  It was written and directer by a young pair almost fresh out of college and they cast two of their close friends as the leads.  The film was a modern take on “making things official” in relationships.  The two main characters are neighbors and decide to go on a short road trip together to Phoenix and then back to LA.  On the trip, they decide to get married (feeling like no one else will marry them).  The audience never really understands if it is serious or all of a joke… and I don’t want to give away the ending.  I had heard good things about the film, but I wasn’t entirely impressed.  The writer/director pair did a Q&A after the film and I was impressed to find it that it was their first feature and they shot it with their friends and only on weekends.  That takes some dedication and I am definitely on board with that.  Being in the LA Film Fest is an amazing accomplishment for them!

I left the LA Film Fest aware that I would not be returning for its final day and the closing film, The Way Way Back.  However, it is a film I have already seen and loved.  Don’t forget to check that one when it comes to theaters this summer.

So long, LA Film Fest.  Telluride, I am coming for you in September!

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