Films to watch out for at this year’s Telluride Film Festival

August 29, 2014
Photo: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum
The Telluride Film Festival is underway this weekend in the mountains.
Now in its 41st year, the prestigious international film event only reveals its lineup at the 11th hour.

I’ve attended more than 25 Telluride Film Festivals. I’m not going to this year’s edition. But even when I’m not in Telluride, I scope out the program, looking for films I wouldn’t miss had I headed for the hills.

I’m always interested, of course, in the unexpected art-house surprise -- a film that arrives without fanfare yet earns critical and audience respect, like last year’s “Ida.”

But there are other more mainstream concerns that I’d be interested in if I were waiting this weekend in some of Telluride’s famously long lines. And the films I’m interested in are particularly a draw because of the actors and directors involved.

First on my list is a film starring Michael Keaton.

Remember when this actor was a major box office draw? His Batman years of the late 80s and early 90s have dimmed in memory at this point.  

Now, Keaton reportedly makes a stunning comeback in director Alejandro G. Innaritu’s “Birdman.”

The movie, fittingly, tells the story of a Hollywood star who made his reputation playing a superhero and who’s trying to make a comeback on Broadway.

Writing in the Hollywood Reporter, film critic Todd McCarthy glows about Keaton’s performance.

An actor who himself has waited a very long time, and perhaps with diminishing hope, to make a comeback, Keaton soars perhaps higher than ever as a thespian with something to prove when not wearing a funny suit.

Then there’s Steve Carell, who stars in “Foxcatcher.’’ The movie was well-received last May at Cannes.

In the film, director Bennett Miller (“Capote,” “Moneyball”) tells the story of John du Pont, a wealthy man and benefactor of amateur wrestling who was convicted in the murder of an Olympic freestyle wrestler named Dave Schultz (Channing Tatum.)

Carell, who reportedly donned a prosthetic nose to play du Pont, may well have positioned himself for an Oscar nod in what Variety’s Justin Chang calls “a great, brooding true crime saga.”

Another question looming at Telluride: Can the satirical “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart direct a good movie?

Stewart’s “Rosewater” has divided the trade press in reviews that broke over the last couple of days.

“Stewart’s confident, superbly acted debut feature works as both a stirring account of human endurance and a topical reminder of the risks faced by journalists in the pursuit of truth,” Variety’s Scott Foundas says.

The film, which deals with the 118-day imprisonment of Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari (Gael Garcia Bernal) received a cooler reception in The Hollywood Reporter.

The Reporter’s McCarthy acknowledged that Stewart’s movie would get lots of attention on the festival circuit. “But if the very same film had been made by an unknown director, it would pass in the night with only scant notice,” McCarthy says.

Of all the films on the Telluride roster this year, I’m also rooting for “Wild” because it stars and is produced by Reese Witherspoon.

“Wild” is based on the story of author Cheryl Strayed’s 1,110 mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail.

Witherspoon was guided in her effort by director Jean-Marc Vallee, fresh off 2013’s “Dallas Buyers Club.”

The actress could use a hit. She hasn’t really wowed audiences since 2005’s “Walk the Line.”