Today was the first day of the Telluride Film Festival. I have lots of lovely pics sitting on my digital camera to show you; unfortunately, the cable I need to download the pics is in Seattle, and the closest place to buy a replacement is 40 miles from here. Telluride is beautiful, but very isolated. Never fear, though, for the charming and delightful Eugene Hernandez, one of Cinematical's pals from indieWIRE, has a cable with him that he's going to let me borrow. If we can work out the complexities of our respective viewing schedules long enough for me to download my images tomorrow, then tomorrow night's dispatch will be decidedly more visual.
So, Day One. I got in Thursday evening after a full day of travel that included a three-hour drive from Gunnison after several hours of plane travel. The drive was lovely, so it went quickly enough, but I was too tired Thursday night to do anything other than check in at the Press Office, mosey up the mountain to my lodgings, order dinner in and collapse for the night. Friday dawned bright and sunny after Thursday's menacing clouds and occasional rain, and I can honestly say I've never seen anywhere prettier than Telluride on a clear and sunny day, not even Seattle. It's just majestic. I took the gondola down to the Press Orientation, where I picked up the official bright yellow "press" lanyard that distinguishes press from everyone else with a bright yellow badge. Much like at Sundance, every is always eyeballing each other's badges to see if you're someone important -- especially the blue badges, which are for guests, many of whom are filmmakers.
After the orientation, we headed over to a sneak preview screening of Todd Field's Little Children -- the first time the film has been shown publicly. Some business was handing out free champagne and truffles by the Chuck Jones theater, and while I was a good girl and passed on the truffles since I hadn't had any breakfast, I decided to snatch a glass of the champagne. Hey, it's Telluride, and it was 5PM somewhere in the world. I've been hot to see Little Children for a while now, so I was thrilled that it was the preview film. Field did a little intro -- very cute because he was nervous about this being the first screening. My review will be coming, but suffice it to say the film didn't disappoint, and it's probably nothing like what you think, unless you've read the book by Tom Perotta on which it is based.
The other excitement at that screening was that another writer I was hanging out with spotted Mira Nair a couple rows up from us. "Is that Mira Nair?" she stage whispered, and both of us, looking very professional, of course, were all in a tizzy. Nair heard her name, turned and saw us gawking, and smiled warmly. I, being the dork that I am and having little or no fear of making an utter fool of myself, went right on up to her and calmly and cooly introduced myself. Actually, I think it went more like, "You're Mira Nair, right? Omigosh, I am SUCH a fan of your work!" That's me, ever the pro.
Fortunately for me, Nair turned out to be marvelously gracious and even pretended to know Cinematical (heck, she may very well read the site, but if she was faking she did so remarkably well). And as a result of my bumbling nerdiness, I found out from Nair herself that she's in town because her film The Namesake, which I was planning to catch in Toronto, is one of the special "TBA" screenings here at Telluride. I also introduced myself to Nair's handlers from Fox Searchlight (I think they are two of the only people from Searchlight I haven't previously corresponded with, oddly enough), and secured the promise of an interview with Nair. So keep your eyes peeled for both my review of The Namesake and an interview with Nair (although the latter may not actually happen until Toronto, we'll see).
I was about as happy as a film-geek girl could be after meeting Nair and seeing a great film, but there was more to come. After the film, we headed over to Chair 8 where Anne Thompson from The Hollywood Reporter was moderating a panel called "The New Media Future: The Impact of Broadband on the Creative Process and Content Distribution." The panel included Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, Josh Goldman from Akimbo Systems, Yair Landau, President of Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment, director Kevin MacDonald (Touching the Void, Last King of Scotland) and Dan Scheinman, SVP of Corporate Development for Cisco Systems, which sponsored the event. This was a lively panel with a full crowd, with lots of interesting things to say about digital media, the impact of YOU TUBE, blogger versus journalists and more. The very nice Cisco folks told me the entire panel will be podcast on the Cisco site, so as soon as they send me the link, I'll point you to it so you can check it out.
The little brochure for the panel promised "cocktails and appetizers" to follow. In my house, that means we break out the good wine without the screw top and maybe some chips and salsa; for the Cisco folks, it meant a full spread of (yes, yes) chips and salsa, hummus and pitas, marinated grilled veggies, yummy au gratin potatoes, baked beans, and shrimp skewers, steak and barbecued chicken. Oh, and s'mores! And something called the "House Drink" which consisted of lots of vodka and something purple -- whatever, it was good. All this, when the Telluride free "Feed" was going to happen in an hour. But it all looked so good, and I hadn't had a chance to eat anything all day, and there were no lines or crowds at the panel buffet, so I ended up just eating there, and the Cisco chicks took pity on me sitting by my lonesome and ate with me. I also had the pleasure of chatting with Anne Thompson briefly as well, and she is every bit as sharp and charming in person as she is on her Risky Biz Blog. She's also one of the hardest working writers I know -- she even beat me to the punch getting a Day One Telluride dispatch out.
One more film-geek girl moment for me: One of the people listening ardently to the panel discussion was actor Forest Whitaker; I ended up standing next to him after having to step outside and deal with a minor asthma attack. I recognized him right away (shocking for me, because I am so bad at recognizing celebs) but did manage to curtail my enthusiasm until after the panel, when I introduced myself. Lo and behold, his handler was one of the Searchlight chicks from the Little Children screening, who quickly moved in to tell me she'd be glad to set up an interview. Whitaker turned out to be one of those "nice guy" actors, and the two of us ended up having a brief but interesting discussion about Little Children, which he'd also just seen. I told Whitaker I was planning to attend his film, The Last King of Scotland, later that night, and so I did. That review is also in progress, but I'll just tantalize you with this much: Whitaker's performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin is every bit as good as you've been hearing, and then some. I was completely riveted for the duration of the film.
Due to a snafu around me not getting a "W2" cue slip for Fur, which was screening after Last King at the Chuck Jones theater, I wasn't guaranteed a seat, and the line of other saps like me who'd forgotten to get their slips was very long, so I decided to call it a night and head back to my room to work on reviews and prep for my interview tomorrow with Roger Michell, director of Venus. Who else might I see tomorrow? Robert Downey Jr. is rumored to be here, Laura Linney definitely is, everyone keeps saying Brad Pitt is going to show up even though he's not supposed to, so I'm not holding my breath on that one. Check back tomorrow for my next Telluride dispatch, because, hey -- I'm suffering here at the Telluride Film Festival for you, Cinematical readers. It's a damn tough job, but someone's gotta do it.