Telluride: The Lineup, Packed With Awards Contenders, Is Unveiled

The Imitation Game Film Still - H 2014

The Imitation Game Film Still - H 2014

The lineup of the 41st Telluride Film Festival, which its organizers unveiled today, is packed with some of the most buzzed-about Oscar hopefuls. Among the films that are set to screen in the Rocky Mountains over Labor Day weekend are the world premieres of The Imitation Game, perhaps The Weinstein Co.'s most promising contender; Fox Searchlight's Wild, one of several Reese Witherspoon vehicles vying for attention this awards season; Open Road's Rosewater, Jon Stewart's directorial debut; another take on Madame Bovary, this one starring Mia Wasikowska, which is still seeking U.S. distribution; and Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi's HBO-bound New York Review of Books doc The 50 Year Argument.

Numerous films that debuted at other fests this year also are among the offerings: There is Birdman, the new film from Telluride regular Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu that opened the Venice Film Festival on Wednesday and was met with glowing reviews. There's the Cannes grand jury prize co-winner Mommy. And there are four award winners being distributed by Sony Pictures Classics: Sundance grand jury and audience award winner Whiplash, plus Foxcatcher, Mr. Turner and Leviathan, which claimed Cannes prizes for best director (Bennett Miller), best actor (Timothy Spall) and best screenplay, respectively.

Also coming from Cannes: Tommy Lee Jones' The Homesman (whose star Hilary Swank will receive a Telluride tribute this year); brothers Luc Dardenne and Jean-Pierre Dardenne's Two Days, One Night; and the hockey doc Red Army. 

Although Telluride traditionally doesn't reveal its lineup until just before the fest itself begins, this year its selections come as less of a surprise than in years past because the Toronto Film Festival, which follows Telluride by a few days, is insisting for the first time that films that screen at Telluride cannot screen at Toronto until after that fest's first weekend. And so the Toronto schedule, released in several installments over the past few weeks, designated some films playing in Toronto as "World Premiere" or "North American Premiere," in the process indicating that they would not be at Telluride. Movies that Toronto identified as "Canadian premieres" were expected to make a detour through Colorado first.

As it turns out, the requirement of a later Toronto screening date did not dissuade the distributors of the aforementioned films from playing both fests — except, perhaps, those behind Birdman and The Homesman, which, after screening at Telluride, will skip Toronto. Interestingly, Birdman, which is closing the New York Film Festival on Oct. 12, will follow the same course that All Is Lost, Inside Llewyn Davis and Nebraska took last year: play Telluride, skip Toronto and then play New York.

As always, this year's carefully curated Telluride lineup is comprised of films old and new, ranging from Orson Welles' recently rediscovered 1938 film Too Much Johnson (as well as Magician, Chuck Workman's new doc about Welles) to Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (with Coppola and others who worked on the film on hand to celebrate its 35th anniversary). There's also the 1992 doc Billy, How Did You Do It? (which features the late Billy Wilder and 2014 Telluride tribute recipient Volker Schlondorff) and Joshua Oppenheimer's The Look of Silence (a sequel, of sorts, to The Act of Killing, which received an Oscar nomination earlier this year).

The rest of the field: Seymour, Ethan Hawke's documentary about piano teacher Seymour Bernstein, plus Tales of the Grim Sleeper, '71, The Decent One, Children of No Importance, Diplomacy, 99 Homes, Wild Tales, Dancing Arabs, The Salt of the Earth, Merchants of Doubt, The Gate, The Price of Fame, Hearts of Darkness, Bertolucci on Bertolucci, Forbidden Films, I Stop Time, Socialism, Night Will Fall, How to Smell a Rose and best documentary feature Oscar hopeful Keep on Keepin' On (with the film's producer Quincy Jones and its subject, blind piano-playing prodigy Justin Kauflin, appearing for a concert on Sunday night).

The weekend will also feature conversations: Sony Classics co-chief and Telluride regular Michael Barker will join Schlondorff in one, while author Mark Danner will take part in another with Rosewater's Stewart; the film's star, Gael Garcia Bernal; and its inspiration, journalist Maziar Bahari. There will be book signings, including Telluride regular Werner Herzog signing his new collection of interviews A Guide for the Perplexed, and an open-air screening of the 1968 film Where Eagles Dare, the director of which, Brian Hutton, recently died. (That screening will be presented in partnership with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a major sponsor of the fest.)

This year's guest directors are husband-and-wife team Guy Maddin (a filmmaker) and Kim Morgan (a journalist), who each picked three films that will screen, and this year's Special Medallion recipient will be the Italian film archive Cineteca di Bologna and its chief, Gian Luca Farinelli.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg