Saturday was interesting. I was supposed to go to an early screening, but didn't sleep well (the altitude is getting to me a bit) and decided to stay in this morning to write reviews instead, while slurping down what passes for coffee here at the lodge. I'd pay serious cash for Seattle's 24/7 access to a latte right about now -- my blood-to-caffeine ratio has dipped dangerously low at this point.
Possibly because of that, I forgot to mention an interesting story in yesterday's report. On the gondola ride back to the lodge, I met a woman who had just been to the Emmys. She is a "seat filler" at the awards shows, primarily the Oscars and Emmys. She's done this for years -- she doesn't get paid for it, but she has a blast. What's a "seat filler," you ask? A seat filler sits in empty seats next to stars whose spouses or dates have gone off to the bathroom or to sneak a smoke, so that when the camera pans their way it doesn't look like they're alone.
Over the years, she's sat next to everyone from Tom Cruise (who she says used to be much more normal), John Travolta (smart, nice and rational, in spite of being a Scientologist), Harrison Ford (very shy and quiet, but obviously deeply in love with Calista Flockheart), Nicolas Cage (rather odd in a "DeNiro" way, whatever that means) and many, many more. According to her, the nicest star in Hollywood is Tom Hanks, who, she says, always stays late after awards shows to let all the awards show staff, catering folks and cleaning crew get their pics taken with him. The biggest jerk award from her goes to Steven Seagal, who she says struts around everywhere with a huge entourage as if he's actually someone anyone cares about. It was one of the more interesting gondola conversations I've had at Telluride. These days, in case you were getting your hopes up, it's next to impossible to get a seat filler gig without being connected, due to terrorist threats against awards shows.
Anyhow, back to Saturday. I headed out to the 1:30PM screening of Venus at the Sheridan Opera House, where I waited in line for over an hour -- in drizzling rain -- only to have it sell out with only five people ahead of me. Bah. I was supposed to interview the director, Roger Michell, following the screening, but since I couldn't get in we rescheduled for Sunday. Jayna, the very sweet Miramax rep, gave me a ticket to get me into the 7PM screening (in the patron line, even, so I got in first) so it all worked out in the end.
I really enjoyed Venus, which was a relief, because of the impending interview. It's always awkward to interview someone if you hated their movie -- what can you say? "Why on earth did you make such a godawful film?" Following Venus, I trudged wearily to the end of the passholder line to go see Babel, my posh patron line privileges used up for the day. I'd really been looking forward to Babel ever since James saw it at Cannes. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu gave a fairly lengthy intro to the film, talking about how Babel is the third in what he considers a trilogy of films, the other two, of courses, being Amores Perros and 21 Grams. They all have similar themes about parents and children he said; Amores Perros was told from a Mexican point of view, 21 Grams from an American one, and Babel was on a global scale. Iñárritu talked about how life-changing the process of making Babel was for everyone involved; it took a year to shoot in Morocco, Mexico and Japan. The film, he said, is about the relationships between parents and children, but it is also about borders -- borders between countries, but more importantly, the borders within ourselves, and way those borders affect our communication with each other. He said he started out with Babel intending to make a film about the differences between people, but as they filmed, it changed, and became instead a film about the ways in which we are alike across cultures. The intro was great -- it gave a perspective on the film that I otherwise might not have had.
I'll have reviews of both films up soon, along with the Michell interview. Not sure what's on today's agenda as the next two days on the schedule are full of "TBAs". I've been asking lots of people in line what they've seen that they liked. Steven Shainberg's Fur, starring Nicole Kidman, is getting a mixed response. The Hollywood Reporter's Anne Thompson liked it. Generally, people I've chatted up either seem to love it or hate it, so now I want to see it for myself. Films I've heard strong buzz on include The Italian, Little Children and The Last King of Scotland. I expect to hear positive buzz on Venus by tomorrow, audience response was strong tonight. I want to catch The Italian, 12:08 East of Bucharest, The US vs John Lennon, Infamous and Ghosts of Cité Soleil, but we'll have to see what's showing when. Check back tomorrow for more reviews and another update, and perhaps eventually some pictures.
In other Telluride-related news, David Poland is calling Little Children the best film of 2006, and I come pretty darn close to agreeing with him on that. I definitely agree with Poland that Kate Winslet's performance is a career-high that very well might finally win her the Oscar, and I'd also have to second his motion that Phyllis Somerville's turn as the mother of a pedophile is sublime; she brought so much depth and emotion to that role, and the combined power of Somerville and Jackie Earle Haley in making an easily vilified and stereotypical character so full of depth and emotion was just remarkable. When this film comes your way, do NOT miss it.