"Hyde Park on the Hudson"


"Hyde Park on the Hudson"

Part-time Telluride local Laura Linney and Bill Murray: “Hyde Park on Hudson”

In a digital, real-time world, surprise is an endangered species. So, go ahead and try. Surprise me.

So far, no surprises at the RNC.  Same old pasteurized pap. It would surprise me if Romney made his entrance in a car with his dog tied to the roof – yes, with winks to Gail Collins – but that is unlikely. Too many Elephants in the room.

When the Dems meet next week, we will not be surprised if President Obama is upstaged by whatever the First Lady is wearing. (Likely lots of color and styled to reveal signature buff arms.)

We are inured to the headlines. The Big Picture on the world screen remains dark: bumbling politicians who (inadvertently) say what is all too true, economic crises, ongoing wars and genocide, madmen with guns, all continue to populate the vast landscape of the news.

Ready to give up?

Don’t. I set you up for the punch line.

It’s Labor Day weekend, Friday, August 31 – Monday, September 3. In Telluride, Labor Day twins with the Telluride Film Festival, celebrating 39 years of uncompromising adherence to the art, not the business, of filmmaking – and surprise.

Surprise is the Telluride Film Festival’s middle name.

In his book, “The Power of Movies,” Colin McGinn explores the way the silver screen interacts with our gray matter:

“Movies offer us a transformed reality in which the body is stripped of its material bonds and becomes unfired with our essential nature as centers of consciousness.”

Sounds like yoga.

High-fallutin’ hypotheses aside, one thing is certain, according to McGinn:

“Movies carry some sort of psychic charge that no other art form – perhaps no other spectacle – can quite match.”

Casting aside our cares and woes, it is time to give ourselves over to that charge.

Feel the frisson? Hear the buzz? The excitement in the air is primal. Palpable. Over the long Labor Day weekend, voyeurism is not considered kinky. It becomes a way of life. People who like to watch trade off Colorado blue skies for the silver screen, burrowing in dark theaters, where they get to watch other people making well-lit, larger-than-life spectacles of themselves.

The Telluride Film Festival is renowned for not playing the fame game. No prizes. No paparazzi. No swag. No big-budget pap. No pandering to the media or to The Industry (Hollywoodspeak for itself and the film biz). No petting celebrities. On the streets, actors, directors, producers, critics, cinematographers, and film buffs walk side by side talking. In lines, everyone freely discusses the films they have just seen or are about to see.

What Telluride Film Festival guests are about to see, however, is a very well kept secret. The aforementioned Big Surprise.

Film Fest is closemouthed about the list of films, filmmakers and tributees until the first day of the Labor Day weekend gathering. No one – well nearly no one besides the principal players on the team, co-directors  Tom Luddy, (a co-founder), Gary Meyer and Julie Huntsinger  –  know what’s in store at the annual event (this year, Friday, August 31 – Monday, September 3) that is the high-water mark of Telluride’s summer season. Until now.

Today is the day the cat is let out of the bag. Hole up and be enthralled as eros and thanatos duke it out on the silver screen.

"Paradise: Love"

“Paradise: Love”

Recent Internet buzz has singled out “Rust & Bone” starring tributee Marion Cotillard in a story of mismatched lovers; “Hyde Park on Hudson,” starring (part-time) local Laura Linney (as the shy young niece, Margaret Suckley) with Bill Murray as FDR; “The Central Park Five,” directed by Ken Burns, daughter Sarah Burns (who also wrote the book about the brutal assault on a banker, raped while jogging in Central Park) and David McMahon; Noah Baumbach’s “Frances Ha,” a joyous comedy about BFFs; and “At Any Price,” a David (farmer) versus Goliath (evil corporations) set in the heartlands and starring Dennis Quaid in an understated performance; and “Two Rode Together,” about two friends caught between family dramas and the larger world of the 1960s with a hot Cold War and an even hotter sexual revolution, with Elle Fanning getting singled out for an extraordinary performance along with Annette Benning and Christina Hendricks.

Will any of those ribbons of wonder go the way of “The Artist,” “The King’s Speech,” Slumdog Millionaire,” “Strictly Ballroom,” “Juno,” “The Lives of Others,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “The Crying Game,” “Blue Velvet,” “Inside Job,” “Black Swan,” and other winners launched in Telluride and win Oscar gold?

Doesn’t matter.

The point of the Festival is not trinkets. The SHOW is all about “the celebration of a sensorial experience, where picture and sound smoothly matched to conjure an event called Cinema.” (From the program.)

Rounding out the mix of features and documentaries, are silent films set to music, (including some picks by the Merlin of the Archives, Serge Bromberg), shorts, animations, and new works by promising young filmmakers.

Thirty-nine years ago, there was no Montreal or Sundance. No contest. No doubt about it. Among the world’s film festivals – and there are about 1,700 similar events –  The SHOW is in a league of its own: bulletproof.

Click the “play” button to listen to Gary Meyer’s interview about the features.

(And look for related interviews with Gary about documentaries, special programs and this year’s tributees and special guests.)

The Sapphires

“The Sapphires”

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