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Telluride Film Festival: Best Picture Contenders in Colorado?

UPDATED: The fest where two of the last three best picture Oscar winners -- "Slumdog Millionaire" (2008) and "The King Speech" (2010) -- were first screened has officially kicked off.

Telluride, Colorado
Mark Schoneveld/Flickr Creative Commons

The 38th annual Telluride Film Festival is now underway in the small Colorado village that serves as the event's namesake. The town's population, which numbers around 2,300 for 51 weeks of the year, increases markedly each September when filmmakers, publicists, and journalists come from near and far to take in -- and take in the reactions to -- the first screenings of many of the films that will ultimately contend for Oscars.

I left the darkness of my home in Connecticut early yesterday morning (we have yet to get back power after Hurricane Irene) and only just rolled into town a short while ago, three flights (Hartford-->Washington D.C.-->Denver-->Durango), a creepy motel stay (thanks Durango Super 8), and a long car ride (Durango-->Telluride) later. No matter how arduous the journey to get here, though, there's nowhere that I or any other Oscar follower would rather be.

This is where two of the last three best picture Oscar winners -- Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and The King Speech (2010) -- were first screened. It's where Lost in Translation (2003), Brokeback Mountain (2005), Juno (2007), and dozens of other awards contenders began their Oscar marches. And we now know (Telluride schedules are only revealed days before the event, if that) that it is where Alexander Payne's The Descendants (featuring George Clooney), Glenn Close's Albert Nobbs (starring the 5-time Oscar nominee herself), Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin (in which Tilda Swinton is said to be great), and -- according to rumors -- Bruce Robinson's The Rum Diary (with Johnny Depp) hope to begin theirs. They'll be joined by Michel Hazanavicius's The Artist, which debuted in Cannes in May, Steve McQueen's Shame and David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method, which screened earlier this week in Venice, and undoubtedly a few other surprises. Clooney and Swinton will also receive special tributes during the week.

We'll have complete coverage of all of the above and much more right here on "The Race" throughout the week. For now, though, I've got to run to catch the tail-end of the Patron's brunch and get this party started!