Telluride Film Festival 2014: No Pass? Don't Pass

“No matter what kind of year I have had, if I come to Telluride, it’s been a good year,” Werner Herzog, honored by Film Fest’s newest venue

Lights! Camera! Action!

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The 41st annual Telluride Film Festival officially begins with the start of Labor Day weekend, Friday, 8/29 – Monday, 9/1, when the legacy of Georges Melies will be parading all over town.

For those unfamiliar about the history of the medium (and for all you trivia buffs), at the dawn of the 20th century Melies became the first filmmaker to realize the potential of Thomas Edison’s new technology, the motion picture camera, for telling stories, not just for record-keeping, the Lumiere brothers’ application.

Without a pass? Don’t pass: this year as every year there’s something for everyone as always at Film Fest.

Abel Gance Open Air Cinema:

In the roll up to the main event, enjoy the free films, sponsored by Ralph and Ricky Lauren, in the the Abel Gance Open Air Cinema in Elks Park,  just across the street from the court house. The program begins at sunset, about 8:30 p.m. A word to the wise: Bring blankets, tarps and chairs and dress warm.

The film showing Wednesday, August 27, is Clint Eastwood’s Academy Award winner “Million Dollar Baby” (2004).

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Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) is a veteran boxing trainer who has devoted his life to the ring, but can’t get out of his own way.

His daughter never answers his letters and a fighter he’s groomed into contender status paid him back by signing with another manager, leaving Frankie with his pockets turned out.

His best friend and faithful employee Eddie Dupris is a former fighter whom Frankie trained, but in his last fight, Eddie suffered a severe injury.

Then into his dark life (and seedy gym) walks Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), who announces she needs a trainer. Reluctantly Frankie takes the lady on and as she slowly grows into a viable fighter, an emotional bond develops between the two. 

The screenplay was written by Paul Haggis based on short stories by F.X. Toole, the pen name of fight manager and “cutman” Jerry Boyd. Originally published under the title “Rope Burns,” the stories have since been republished under the film’s title.

“Million Dollar Baby” won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and also stars Morgan Freeman, Anthony Mackie, and Mike Colter.

“Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby” is a masterpiece, pure and simple, deep and true. It tells the story of an aging fight trainer and a hillbilly girl who thinks she can be a boxer. It is narrated by a former boxer who is the trainer’s best friend. But it’s not a boxing movie. It is a movie about a boxer. What else it is, all it is, how deep it goes, what emotional power it contains, I cannot suggest in this review, because I will not spoil the experience of following this story into the deepest secrets of life and death. This is the best film of the year,” raved long-time Film Fest regular, the dearly departed critic and social commentator Roger Ebert.

For a preview, watch this trailer:

Speaking of whom, the Thursday film is a documentary about the life and career of Roger Ebert” “Life Itself” (2014).

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Acclaimed director Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) along with executive producers Martin Scorsese (“The Departed”) and Steven Zaillian (“Moneyball”), recounts the inspiring, entertaining and colorful life of the world-renowned film critic.

The story that unfolds is by turns personal, funny, moving and transcendent. Based on his bestselling memoir of the same name, “Life Itself” explores Ebert’s legacy: his Pulitzer Prize-winning film criticism at the Chicago Sun-Times, his turn as screenwriter of “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” his on-and-off screen relationship with Gene Siskel, all culminating in his ascension as one of the most influential cultural voices in America.

“A remarkably intimate portrait of a life well lived,” raves Chicago Sun-Times.

“It’s incredibly touching, a must-see for anyone who loves movies. It’s not just a celebration of Ebert, it’s a valentine to why movies matter,” Kristen Meinzer, WNYC/NPR

“A celebratory but unstinting portrait. A paradoxical and vitally overflowing character emerges: a compassionate moralist with vast appetites, a raucous public performer whose confessional candor had a nearly religious purity,” Richard Brody, The New Yorker 

For a preview, watch this trailer:


Other Telluride Film Festival freebies include:

• Noon Seminars in Elks Park

• “Conversations” in the County Courthouse (although passholders are admitted first)

•  Filmmakers of Tomorrow programs

•  Films at the Backlot, located in the Wilkinson Public Library (admission on a first-come, first-served basis)

Late Show Passes:

The Late Show Pass, (just $60) provides entry into the final shows Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights at Chuck Jones Cinema, Mountain Village, and the Palm. They can be purchased at the Festival box office across from Brigadoon or at either of the venues. Late show ticket holders are admitted with regular passholders.

All eight indoor theaters put individual tickets on sale 10 minutes before showtime if there are seats available after passholders have been seated. Best to try the larger venues: The Palm, the Chuck Jones, the Galaxy and the new Werner Herzog in Town Park. The price is $25 per ticket, cash only.

In conclusion:

Visit Brigadoon during the Telluride Film Festival for a detailed handout of shows and tips or go to the Telluride Film Festival’s official website.

Editor’s note: Thursday at 8 a.m., when the embargo is lifted, Telluride Inside… and Out releases a Festival overview.

While most festivals offer sightings of filmmakers as well as films, the population of Telluride — festival and town — is small enough that the ratio of auteurs to filmgoers may be higher than anywhere in the world, The New York Press

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