Telluride 2016: A Star-studded Beginning
Friday, September 2
The day started off cold and gloomy in the box canyon that shelters the old mining town of Telluride -- not an auspicious start to 43rd Telluride Film Festival (TFF). But as the stars began to come out -- at TFF the stars appear during the day -- by mid-day what had been gloom turned glorious and bright.
This transition was certainly helped by the fluffy confection that kicked off the festival, 'La La Land', an homage to the great movie musicals of the golden age. The film stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as star-crossed lovers in modern day Los Angeles. And while I have to give the movie props for good intentions, this is not the golden age, and Stone and Gosling are not Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly (even though Gosling DOES do the classic swing around the light pole). With thin voices and an evident lack of dance training, the film just does not rise to its aspirations. The music is excellent, but the sound mix overwrought; the settings quite beautiful in and around LA; and the 'meet cute/separate cute' story would work well as a traditional rom-com. In the end, however, the film is a bit too disjointed -- and at least 20 minutes too long. I'm sure it will do good business thanks to its engaging stars, but for my money, give me 'Singing in the Rain' on cable anytime.
This minor letdown was quickly dispelled by the taut, thrilling and suspenseful retelling of the only plane ever to survive a Hudson River crash landing. 'Sully', starring Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart and Laura Linney, and directed by Clint Eastwood, will easily become the popular movie to beat this fall -- and for good reason. From the opening sequence that portrays what could have happened if hero captain Chelsey 'Sully' Sullenberg had not made the split second decision NOT to return to LaGuardia Arport after a rouge flock of birds destroyed both of his plane's engines; to the final scenes in which Sullenberg and his co-pilot are struggling to vindicate themselves before the suits of the NTSB, 'Sully' is a perfect balance of real life action, internal monologue of the main characters, and procedural filmmaking questioning the 'should he or shouldn't he' have taken the actions he did. Hanks is outstanding as another hero/everyman, portraying Sully as confident in his actions, but conflicted by the public and bureaucratic response. Eckhart and Linney are excellent foils, the former the loyal sidekick and the latter the conflicted domestic face of potential tragedy replaced by instant celebrity. Eastwood delivers another outstanding film, keeping things moving and exciting, but never neglecting the humanity in the story. This is a film you will definitely want to see.
To close the evening, the late show was a stunning achievement in acting by Bryan Cranston in a fascinating film, 'Wakefield'. As a drone of a lawyer in New York, Cranston comes home one day to his wife (Jennifer Garner) and twin daughters, but decides to, literally, step out of his life. Instead of going into the house, he takes up residence in the neglected attic of his garage, observing his family and neighbors through the peephole windows. And there he stays -- for almost a year. This is virtually a two-hour monolouge for Cranston, which for a lesser actor could be among the most boring things you would ever witness. But Bryan Cranston is NOT a lesser actor. He makes the journey of his character consistently engaging, even if periodically creepy. With a very ambiguous ending, this film will have you thinking, talking and debating for days after you see it.
OK, time for bed, since I have to be up early for 'Manchester by the Sea' with Casey Affleck. I'll keep posting through the weekend as time permits. And if you want to see some pictures of the TFF street people, you can check out my Instagram page at @rowlyme.
(the picture above is of the father and daughter team featured in 'The Eagle Huntress' which I will comment on tomorrow)