Boy Erased, Front Runner and Six Other Must-See Telluride Premieres

There is only one film festival that has screened nine of the last 10 Best Picture winners. It’s not TIFF. It’s not Venice. No, it’s that tiny little institution in the Colorado mountains, the Telluride Film Festival.

READ MORE: ‘Front Runner,’ ‘The Favourite’ & ‘First Man’ Among Official 2018 Telluride Selections

Founded in 1974, Telluride is a unique mix of cinephiles, wealthy patrons (usually over 50) and a smattering of college students. Until you attend it’s hard to understand the appeal beyond the town’s beautiful vistas and quaint shops and restaurants that line its “Main St,” Colorado Ave. It’s an expensive festival to get to and it only runs for four days. But founder Tom Luddy and Julie Huntsinger, the primary programmers, have exquisite taste and often delight in challenging their audience’s expectations. Over the past decade, Jonathan Glazer‘s “Under the Skin,” Barry Jenkins‘ “Moonlight” and Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson‘s “Anomalisa” all created a unique conversation for attendees sharing a gondola to and from one of the festival’s theaters at the nearby Mountain Lodge.

Oh, and then there are the Academy members.

AMPAS has been a fixture at Telluride for years (there is even an official festival archive at the Academy Archives) and not only does the leadership attend to get a kickstart on the fall festival films, but many influential members do as well. Venice and TIFF may get more worldwide press attention with their red carpets and gala openings (things are decidedly more down to earth at the higher altitude), but Telluride starts the Oscar buzz. That’s why it’s sort of shocking two highly anticipated awards season films, Bradley Cooper‘s “A Star is Born” and Barry Jenkins‘ “If Beale Street Could Talk,” aren’t screening at the festival. Telluride doesn’t officially announce its lineup until the day before, but despite the head-scratching lack of Lady Gaga and Jenkins (a longtime Telluride programmer, no less) there are a ton of highly anticipated movies that are still heading to Colorado.

After their Venice premieres Yorgos Lanthimos‘ “The Favourite,” Damien Chazelle‘s “First Man,” Mike Leigh’s “Peterloo,” Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” Oliver Assayas’ “Non Fiction” and Orson Welles‘ long-awaited “The Other Side of the Moon” will make their North American debuts at Telluride. Other festival favorites include Cannes winners such as Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War,” Lukas Dhont’s “Girl” (can’t wait for the Q&A on that one), Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman” and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters, the recipient of the Palme d’Or.

There will also be new docs from Peter Bogdanovich and Morgan Neville, among others. Oh, and considering Telluride’s minimal slate (usually around 35 films) the eight world premieres on tap are uniquely noteworthy and demand your attention. Let’s take a few minutes and review them, shall we?

“Boy Erased”
Director: Joel Edgerton
Cast: Lucas Hedges, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Troye Sivan, Xavier Dolan, Cherry Jones, Flea
Release date: Nov. 2 (Limited)
Lowdown: Adapted from Garrard Conley‘s lauded 2016 memoir, “Boy Erased” follows 19-year-old Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) as he’s forced into a gay conversion program by his Baptist preacher father Marshall (Russell Crowe) and mother Nancy (Nicole Kidman). During his time in the program he clashes with the head of ex-gay ministry (Joel Edgerton). The film also features publicly out talent such as Xavier Dolan and Troy Sivan in supporting roles.

“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Director: Marielle Heller
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Jane Curtin, Jennifer Westfeldt
Release date: Oct. 19 (Limited)
Lowdown: Marielle Heller had a stunning feature debut with 2015’s “Diary of a Teenage Girl” and her follow up finds her chronicling the later life of celebrity biographer Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy). Two decades ago Israel resorted to stealing and then forging letters of notable people for profit. “Forgive” tells the crazy story of how she survived it all.  Richard E. Grant is supposedly a major stand out as her longtime friend Jack.

Director: Karyn Kusama
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Sebastian Stan, Tatiana Maslany, Toby Kebbell, Scoot McNairy
Release date: Dec. 25 (limited)
Lowdown: Are you ready for another Nicole Kidman transformation? She appears to have done it again in Karyn Kusama‘s new thriller. The longline has Kidman playing an LAPD detective who went undercover with a California gang years before. When that gang leader reappears it turns her life upside down. Kusama recently directed the very underrated thriller “The Invitation,” but is still best known in the industry for her 2000 Sundance flick “Girlfight.” Kidman continues to challenge convention by taking on one unexpected role after another. Her performance has been generating chatter for months. If there is anywhere to kickoff a Best Actress campaign it’s certainly Telluride.