The Contenders: Telluride Buzz For 12 YEARS A SLAVE, GRAVITY And PRISONERS
Just as Labor Day weekend marks the official end of summer, the Telluride Film Festival, which wraps up today, marks the official start of Oscar season.
Coming out of the festival, it looks like three movies have gained the most momentum. First, Steve McQueen’s follow-up to Shame, 12 Years a Slave, is being called a masterpiece, with Chiwetel Ejiofor scoring big buzz as the film’s star. The no-hold-barred slavery drama is already being touted as the Oscar front-runner, albeit prematurely. If there’s one thing we know about Oscar it’s that movies that sound this good are hard sells to the Academy. I’m saying this sight unseen, of course, but that’s how the Oscar season works, isn’t it?
In addition to 12 Years a Slave, the festivals biggest surprise appears to be Prisoners, a missing child drama from French Canadian filmmaker Denis Veilleneuve. The film stars Hugh Jackman, in what is already being called his best performance, as a father whose daughter disappears and the slow-going police investigation that forces him to take matters into his own hands. Comparisons to Mystic River, the film that sadly lost to Return of the King in 2003, are being tossed around. While I don’t yet have the film on my Oscar charts, it may only be a matter of time before this movie breaks through as a real contender.
Finally, there’s Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, the space thriller starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. It, too, is being touted as a masterpiece, something that from the trailers along seemed a long time coming. The same could be said for Inside Llewyn Davis, which screened to raves at the fest, just like it did at Cannes.
Of course, while all this was going on in Colorado, Lee Daniels’ The Butler appears to have won the four-day holiday weekend box office, getting it that much closer to the $100 million mark. While many pundits are still holding back on the film’s Oscar chances, it seems to be in the right place at the right time with the right critical reception and box office to boot.
While there’s a lot of room for movement at these early stages in the Oscar race, one thing is for sure: Between The Butler and 12 Years a Slave we could be looking at a historic year for black cinema at the Oscars.