Oscars buzz at the Telluride and Venice Film Festivals
• Jeff Wells of Hollywood-Elsewhere.com reports the response of two chums who saw the 20-minute preview of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (photo, right) at the Telluride Film Festival: "Their reactions to the 'Button' footage, and, frankly, the reactions of others they spoke to as they left the theatre (including a couple of journo-critics and a respected director of an '07 political documentary), were not all that good." Cinematical echoes that report, saying the 20-minute preview "wasn't so compelling."
• At Telluride, Hollywood Reporter's Risky Business blog notes: "Fox Searchlight will try to mount another derby ambush like it did over the previous two years with those crowd-cheering indies "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Juno." Based upon wild audience huzzahs to "Slumdog Millionaire" at Telluride, the studio is excited about this tale of a contestant on India's TV version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" and it is planning "an elaborate campaign for the smart but feelgood dramedy (which, incidentally, was shot in India and features an all-Indian cast)."
• Upping the best-actress hopes of Kristin Scott Thomas at Telluride Film Festival, Cinematical swoons over "I've Loved You So Long," (photo, left) hailing the first feature of French novelist-turned-director Phillipe Claudel "art at the level that makes independent cinema worthwhile." It's a drama about a woman caring for her sister (Kristin Scott Thomas) who has just been released from prison after serving a 15-year sentence for murder. "Thomas's performance here has been generating Oscar buzz for a while now, and deservedly so," says the site. "She will almost certainly garner a Best Actress Oscar nod for this film."
• Ever since the split-up of writer Guillermo Arriaga and director Alejandro González Iñárritu ("Amores Perros," "21 Grams," "Babel"), Arriaga's debut as the director of his own next script has been highly anticipated. So far verdict on "The Burning Plain," which debuted at the Venice Film Festival, is split. Screen International loves it, calling it "a powerful contemporary melodrama, more restrained but also much cleaner, in dramatic focus and emotional thrust, than the three films Arriaga penned for Inarritu."
However, Variety blasts "The Burning Plain": "Multicharacter head-scratcher, yo-yoing between New Mexico and Oregon, and back and forth in time, doesn't finally reveal much beneath the emperor's clothes to repay viewers' concentration during the first half. Despite an OK-to-good cast led by Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger, plus a handsome tech package, this remains an elaborate writing exercise with few emotional hooks." READ MORE So does the Hollywood Reporter, calling it "an ambitious, visually handsome production which fails to ignite. The star power of Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger may attract initial business for the directing bow of Guillermo Arriaga . . . but the two actresses' sensitive performances don’t make the emotional connection to audiences that the story yearns for."
(Photos: Paramount, Sony Pictures Classics)