Category Archives: Telluride

Uncut Gems (Safdie, 2019):USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson

I had the good fortune of being at the 46th Telluride Film Festival and working in the Werner Herzog Theatre with a reserved seat. I didn’t know what to expect on Saturday afternoon, the 31st of August, 2019. But before I knew it….

Bam! Hard-hitting, independent filmmakers, Safdie Brothers (Good Time), Josh and Benny, screened a frenetic film, Uncut Gems,  starring, in an Oscar-caliber performance, funny-man Adam Sandler. The film is executively produced by legendary filmmaker, Martin Scorsese, and was one of my favorite films at this year’s film festival.

In Uncut Gems, Sandler plays a hustling, manic, charismatic Jewish jeweler, Howard Ratner, in New York City’s Diamond District. National Basketball Association’s future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett of the famed Boston Celtics, lends a supporting role with a remarkably cool performance as Ratner gets himself roiled into an ever-deepening crisis.

Think of Mean Streets in the Big Apple’s hustle and bustle of insatiable appetites and self-destructive behavior. Cinematographer Darius Khondji captures memorable visuals of the New York City skyline. The film’s narrative, however, belongs to Sandler via the Safdie Brothers. I found myself rooting for Ratner and then shook my head as the film’s tragic hero/anti-hero continued to hustle against all odds.

The musical score by Daniel Lopatin rocks. That’s all I can say. It rocks! Benny Safdie and co-writer Ronald Bronstein edit the film so that it mimics the roller-coaster-ride narrative. The younger viewers were gaga during the film while the older generation seemed to be going bananas with the frenetic pacing. Nevertheless, the Safdie Brothers are perfecting their art. The production values are strong and the mise-en-scene provides an abundance of detail to the film’s character and to the film’s narrative.

In the Q & A following the film, Benny and Josh Safdie discussed their love of the fast-paced, New York City Diamond District vendors and confessed their infatuation with the Saul Bellow and Phillip Roth tragic-comic novels of the Jewish-American experience. And, interestingly, in the same vein as Joel and Ethan Cohen, the Safdies do all facets of filmmaking in collaboration. Admittedly, the Safdies knew from the start they had a winner with Sandler.

Sandler, known mainly for his comedic roles, also participated in the Q & A revealing he pushed both brothers hard on his character, Howard Ratner. The result is a highly sophisticated performance that will stand as one of, if not the very best, of Adam Sandler’s career. Hats off to casting team of Francine Maisler and Jennifer Venditti. Also, Mr. Sandler’s agent’s persistence in getting his client and the Safdie’s to meet, was noted and gratefully acknowledged by Sandler himself.

With a run time of two hours and fifteen minutes the film moves at an extraordinary pace. And when it ended, it left me wanting more. More Safdie Brothers and more Howard Ratner. The film is scheduled to be released by A24 into theatres on Christmas Day, December 25th. My recommendation is after you finish shopping, catch the matinee or after dinner see the evening show. Either way you won’t be disappointed. Very warmly recommended.


The Assistant (Green, 2019):USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Viewed as part of the 46th Telluride Film Festival at the Werner Herzog Theatre.

Written and directed by Kitty Green (Casting JonBenet, The Face of Ukraine: Casting Oksana Baiul), The Assistant from Cinereach and Forensic Films, tells the story of Jane, a talented young production office assistant for a powerful corporate studio head. Actress Julia Garner (Ozark) portrays the young assistant freshly out of college and new to the industry. Other cast members included stars Matthew Macfadyen, Juliana Canfield, Kristine Froseth, Jon Orsini, Dagmara Domińczyk, Makenzie Leigh, Noah Robbins, and Purva Bedi.

The film follows a day in the life of an office assistant as Director Green allows the camera to capture the mundane tasks undertaken from preparing the coffee maker to ensuring the correct number of designer water bottles are readied for an upcoming visit. As the day progresses, an angry wife calls in and the assistant is passed the call. Despite suggestions from her co-workers to assuage the wife with a plausible meeting occupying the executives time, the assistant goes her own way offering no excuse fro the executives absence leading to a blistering rebuke from the executive over the telephone. This happens again later in the day and the executive takes an interest in the assistant telling her he will make her great.

A visit to the human resource office to explain the executive’s actions including flying a beautiful young waitress in from Idaho and putting the waitress up at a posh New York City hotel and handing her a production office assistant position for which the waitress has no clue in how to do. The human resource director stonewalls the assistant’s efforts and reminds her that she is new and needs to learn from the experience if she wants a career in the industry. A supermodel shows up to retrieve an ear ring lost inside a hotel room couch under the executive’s name. All this happens on the assistant’s father’s birthday who she eventually calls from a dingy coffee shop near the office. All in a day’s work.

Undoubtedly, Green was inspired by the media frenzy surrounding the Weinstein Company and the Harvey Weinstein meltdown as the studio executive’s past actions were brought into the public eye. Interestingly, Green tangentially allows the viewer to experience the uncomfortableness from an office assistant’s point of view who has aspirations of being a film producer. Shot in darker tones and at times in a chiaroscuro palette, Cinematographer Michael Latham captures the claustrophobic and stifling atmosphere of the work space. Fletcher Chancey handled the production design with John Arnos steering the art direction. In addition, Tamar-kali composed an original score for the film.

The Assistant, with a short run time of 85 minutes, is an underscored character study that speaks volumes of the degradation and abuse that occurred inside and outside the studio executive’s workplace. Green makes a statement providing the viewer with an introspective experience of the clammy and dank office atmospheric of a powerful studio executive driving a runaway locomotive. Warmly recommended.


The Aeronauts (Harper, 2019):USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Amazon Studios presented Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones in their newest film to an at capacity audience for the world premiere of The Aeronauts, written and directed by Tom Harper, at the 46th Telluride Film Festival at the Werner Herzog Theatre, August 30th, 2019. Set in 1862 London, Redmayne plays an weather scientist, James Glashier (pronounced like glacier) trying to gain the respect of his peers by attempting to establish a new discipline, meteorology, to predict weather patterns while Jones plays a well-to-do, wealthy, entertainer-adventuress, widower, Amelia Wren, dealing with the recent, tragic loss of her husband. What starts out a rather pleasant balloon ride with much fanfare – bringing to mind The Greatest Showman – turns into an epic journey with visual effects reminiscent of the Oscar-winning (7) film Gravity.

Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones in THE AERONAUTS Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios

As their ascent continues the tension between the Glashier and Wren mounts with intimate truths of each of their lives revealed. Redmayne and Jones are at their best here complementing and treating each other with the utmost respect. But not all in the air is cotton candy and marmalade skies as the elements and weather extract a magnificent toll on the balloonists as they venture ever higher as Glashier insists on continuing his weather readings and documentation while Wren sounds verbal warnings while lending a supporting hand that culminates in death-defying actions that allow the journey to continue with both lives in tact.

The Aeronauts is a fun film with adept visual effects and crafty make-up. Redmayne and Jones’s chemistry hasn’t missed a beat since they teamed up in the intimate relationship film, Theory of Everything, with Redmayne playing famous physicist, Stephen Hawking, with Jones portraying his wife, Jane. In addition, the special effects of rain, hail and snow pummeling the balloon are quite realistic and a kaleidoscope of butterflies is at once surreal and mesmerizing to behold well up into the earth’s atmosphere. Production design was handled by David Hindle and Christian Huband. Art direction was headed by Alice Sutton and George Steel was the film’s cinematographer.

This is a film that is best suited for the big screen – the bigger the better – as several of the scenes were shot with IMAX cameras. Moreover, it is a film the entire family can enjoy. Highly recommended!

The theatrical release of the film in the United States is scheduled on December 6, 2019. After a brief run in cinemas the film will debut on Amazon Prime December 20th, 2019.

Motherless Brooklyn (Norton, 2019):USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Viewed as part of the 46th Telluride Film Festival at the Palm Theatre. Motherless Brooklyn, a crime, drama film noir throwback by Edward Norton, tells the story of a gum shoe detective with Tourettes Syndrome, a disorder characterized by involuntary tics, investigating the death of his boss, mentor and adoptive father figure, Frank Minnis, played by Bruce Willis. Edward Norton wrote, directed, starred and produced the film.

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Edward Norton in Warner Brothers Pictures MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN. (Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures)


A passion project twenty years in the making, Motherless Brooklyn, attempts to re-imagine the famed film noir era. While most noir films were black and white, Norton chose to showcase his work in color. And with a cast including Leslie Mann, Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Bobby Cannavale, Alec Baldwin and Willem Dafoe, I can certainly understand and appreciate his decision with the film’s colorful characters. Norton’s performance as Lionel Essrog, the Touretted detective, reminded me of Norton’s Oscar nominated performance as Roy/Aaron in the 1996 crime drama, Primal Fear. It’s every bit as impressive though seemingly carries a lighter psychological heft.

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Alec Baldwin, left, and Edward Norton in Warner Brothers Pictures MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN. (Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures)

In Motherless Brooklyn, Lionel finds his legs in the world of detective investigations after the death/murder of his boss/mentor and adoptive father figure, Frank Minna. Driven to find the truth, Lionel navigates various scenes and worlds of New York City in the 1950’s with a rock-hard determination as the film’s peripheral characters are uninterested in who killed Frank Minna. Rather, each character has his or her selfish interests to pursue. Lionel, on the other hand, is steadfast and goes to any lengths to pursue the truth going so far as to impersonate a prominent and well-known New York Times newspaper reporter.

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Edward Norton in Warner Brothers Pictures MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN. (Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures)

Norton’s character, Lionel, carries the film from start to finish. Utilizing a traditional, signature noir element, the narrative voice-over, Lionel fills the audience in on background elements as the film dives, reminiscent of Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, into a world of gangland violence and shady real estate deals within a flourishing underground entertainment scene.

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Gugu Mbatha-Raw, left, and Edward Norton in Warner Brothers Pictures MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN. (Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures)

Several other aspects of the film push the work into the apex of top films. The film’s musical score by Daniel Pemberton takes a seat with the Miles Davis score in Elevator to the Gallows. Wynton Marsalis and Michael K. Williams deliver an astonishing, melodic trumpeting as Lionel and Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s character, Laura, a community, housing fairness activist, share a heartfelt, tender moment. The costuming from Amy Roth,  the cast of characters by Avy Kaufman and production design from Beth Mickle qualify the film as a solid period piece set in the 1950’s New York City. And while the mise-en-scene appears simple, it works magically with the calm, cool, polished voice-over narrative of a retrospective Lionel. Interestingly, Norton collaborated heavily with two-time Oscar nominee, Cinematographer Dick Pope.

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Edward Norton, right, and Willem Dafoe, center, in Warner Brothers Pictures MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN. (Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures)

Granted, with a A-list cast of Hollywood actors, Norton’s directorial work would seem to be a walk in the park. Yet, Norton not only directed the film, he also played the lead role adapting the Jonathan Lethem prize-winning novel of the same name to the screen, and was a major producing partner.

With a run time of 144 minutes, Motherless Brooklyn, comes in on time. Some editing and production choices allowed an emotional peek into the “broken brain” of Lionel and his coming to terms with his Tourettes that some viewers might find unsettling. Undoubtedly, the film, a Warner Brothers Picture production, is a vehicle for Edward Norton to showcase his talents. Yet, it also sheds light on a ruthless period in the urban planning of New York City providing an illumination into today’s socio-economic/political environment. Highly recommended.


Ford v Ferrari (Mangold, 2019):USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Viewed as part of the 46th Telluride Film Festival at the Werner Herzog Theatre, Ford v Ferrari (titled Le Mans ’66 in the UK and other destinations), directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line), tells the story of two obsessive artists, Matt Damon as car designer, Carroll Shelby, and Christian Bale as race car driver, Ken Miles, clashing and teaming up to build the world’s fastest race car after a verbal slight by Enzo Ferrari, owner of the then dominant Ferrari Formula One race car, towards Henry Ford II, proud Chairman of the Ford Motor Company.

Matt Damon in Twentieth Century Fox’s FORD V. FERRARI. (Photo Credit: Merrick Morton TM and © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.)

The film is driven almost exclusively by the powerful relationship dynamic of two strongly convicted characters who know how to win and have the will to do whatever it takes to do so – even going as far as paying the ultimate price for the love and exhilaration of the race car. Director Mangold skillfully manages the competing personalities not only of the film’s lead characters but also the egos and ambitions of the peripheral players from Ford as the managerial layers come to bear on the project.

Christian Bale in Twentieth Century Fox’s FORD V. FERRARI. (Photo Credit: Merrick Morton TM and © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

Complete with a dizzying array of tightly-framed close-ups of Bales’ character, Miles, behind the wheel, the audience is treated to a smiling, charismatic professional race car driver as he handles and brings to fruition a winning racing machinery with grace and expertise with mesmerizing cinematography from Phedon Papamichael (Nebraska, Walk the Line). Meanwhile, Damon crushes his “good ‘ol boy” Shelby character, often cutting the Ford Motor Company executives off in mid-stream as his self-determination to make the world’s fastest car becomes an obsession.

Christian Bale in Twentieth Century Fox’s FORD V. FERRARI. (Photo Credit: Merrick Morton TM and © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.)

One aspect of filmmaking often overlooked by moviegoers is the sound and the role it plays in augmenting the film’s emotional intent. With Ford v Ferrari, Sound Designer Ted Wilkinson, turns the onscreen car racing world into a virtual spin with an exceptional soundtrack putting the viewer into the driver’s seat of race car driving including several live pit stops in the heat of the LeMans ’66 racing competition.

And while Bale and Damon garner most of the screen time, four-time Golden Globe nominee, Caitrione Balfe (Outlander), keeps both lead characters in check as the boys wind up in fisticuffs as they struggle to make their shared dream a reality. In addition, Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place) carries a load as Peter Miles, Bales’ character, Ken Miles’ adoring son. Steady actor, Josh Lucas, delivers a strong performance as Leo Beebe, the Ford executive who, in trying to maintain a wholesome image for the motor company, almost single-handedly derails the project. Tracy Letts embodies the character of Henry Ford II in more than one memorable scene.

Ford v Ferrari has a fast run time of 152 minutes and is a family-friendly film produced by Chernin Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox (now owned by Disney). The release date is scheduled for November 15, 2019, putting the film right in the heart of the Oscar race. A must-see film, I highly recommend Ford v Ferrari be experienced with an advanced cinema sound system. You’ll be glad you did!

An important note: Through a long-term partnership with a goal of creating extraordinary film experiences, Meyer Sound and the Telluride Film Festival have collaborated to bring a custom designed Meyer Sound cinema sound system to a few of the festival major venues, including the Werner Herzog Theatre.

*Featured photo: Matt Damon and Christian Bale in Twentieth Century Fox’s FORD V. FERRARI. Photo Credit: Merrick Morton TM and © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation


JUDY (Goold, 2019):USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Viewed at the Werner Herzog Theatre as a part of the 46th Telluride Film Festival, Judy, directed by Rupert Goold (True Story), screen written by Tom Edge, and starring Renee Zellwegger (Chicago, Bridget Jones Diary, Jerry Maguire) made its world premiere, Saturday, August 31st, 2019, in Telluride, Colorado.

Renee Zellwegger’s performance as Judy Garland is not only spot-on as she brings out the humanity of one of America’s showbiz icons dealing with an overbearing Hollywood industry, conniving husbands and a overwhelming desire for normalcy, it is also heartfelt and disciplined as Zellwegger captures the spirit and tenacity of Garland’s stage persona and her withering attempts in living life on life’s terms.

Set in the winter months of 1968, showbiz legend Judy Garland arrives in Swinging London to perform a five-week, sold-out run at The Talk of the Town, formerly known as the London Hippodrome Theatre and Restaurant. It has been 30 years since Garland shot to global stardom in The Wizard of Oz and while her voice may have weakened, its dramatic intensity has only grown. As Garland prepares for the show, she battles with management, charms musicians and reminisces with friends and adoring fans. All the while, her wit and warmth shine brilliantly through the camera lens. Makeup and hair designer Jeremy Woodhead earns his pay and then some as Zellwegger’s likeness is uncanny – a real “spit n’ image” if there ever was one!

Director Goold cut his teeth directing stage performances and in creating the film Judy, adapts a musical, “End of the Rainbow,” dealing with a similar time frame of Garland’s career – stands to reason the most powerful scenes are those with Zellweger on stage performing as Judy Garland. Cinematogapher Ole Bratt Birkeland adds some crafty work here as well. Despite not singing onscreen since her performance in Chicago, Zellwegger’s voice in these moments themselves make the film truly extraordinary. Moreover, Goold adds a theatrical vision to his flashbacks of Garlands early years as a child performer under the auspices of an imposing studio head in the from of movie mogul, Luis B. Mayer that are surreal and disturbing to the sensibilities and lend credibility to Garland’s pill and alcohol addiction.

As the film delves into the dreamlike (nightmarish) flashbacks of Garland’s childhood-crushing experiences at the hands Mayer, Garland continues to forge forward with her London tour determined to regain custody of her children while her dreams of love seem undimmed as she embarks on a whirlwind romance with Mickey Deans, her soon-to-be fifth husband, all the while seeking to protect and raise her children.

Featuring some of Judy Garland’s best-known songs, the film celebrates the voice, the capacity for love, and the sheer pizzazz of “the world’s greatest entertainer.” Gabriel Yared handles the quiet, heartbreaking score while Zellwegger delivers stirring, moving Garland musical performances evoking an awareness of a thought, “Is this live or Memorex?” Hats off to Renee Zellwegger, the sound team and Adrian Bell (sound mixer).

Judy is set to be released into theatres September 27th, and is a highly recommended film.


Judy Director, Rupert Goold, explains his directorial style during a Q & A following a screening at the Werner Herzog Theatre in Telluride, Colo., on September 1, 2019. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)
*Featured Photo: Renée Zellweger, Bella Ramsey and Lewin Lloyd in JUDY (Photo credit: David Hindley Courtesy of LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions)

Critically Acclaimed Film ‘Moonlight’ Coming to U.K., Ireland

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Reuters and Variety

Altitude Film Distribution has acquired distribution rights in the U.K. and Ireland to Barry Jenkins’ critically acclaimed movie “Moonlight,” which is expected to be an awards contender. Altitude will release the film in early February, allowing the pic to be eligible for the BAFTAs.

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-9-39-32-amAltitude chief Will Clarke said: “‘Moonlight’ is one of those life-affirming films that immerses you in its universal themes and kaleidoscopic view of life, but told with such emotional intimacy, delicacy and beauty that no one could fail to be moved in a way that is surprising and unforgettable. It is pure cinema and a milestone in independent film.”

A24 is handling international sales on the film, and is also distributing in the U.S., where it has grossed $1.47 million to date from a limited release. A24 will expand the release in the coming weeks.

“Moonlight,” the second feature from writer-director Jenkins (“Medicine for Melancholy”), was a hit with critics at its premiere at Telluride Film Festival and subsequent festival screenings at Toronto and London.

The pic — about a young gay African-American man growing up in a tough neighborhood of Miami — won the Gotham Special Jury Award for the performances of its cast, including a breakout performance by former athlete Trevante Rhodes (“Westworld”) as the lead character, Chiron. Also starring are Andre Holland (“The Knick”), Janelle Monae (“The Equalizer”), Naomie Harris (“Skyfall”), Ashton Sanders (“Straight Outta Compton”), Jharrel Jerome (“Monster”) and Mahershala Ali (“House of Cards”).

The producers are Jeremy Kleiner, Dede Gardner, and Adele Romansk.