They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?

Telluride Film Festival Parts 2 & 3

By J. Don Birnam

September 7, 2017

Sally Hawkins should play Sandra Bullock's sister.

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The Telluride Film Festival drew to a close as quickly as it began, and for the first time in recent memory, no clear picture of the Academy Awards emerged at the end of it.

I discussed here the comings and goings of my first day at Telluride and which movies were well-positioned for the Oscars. Let’s take a look now at the rest of the weekend movie slate, the winners and losers, and what we can expect moving forward from TIFF and on through the 90th Academy Awards. Follow extended coverage of the festivals on Twitter: @jdonbirnam and Instagram: @awards_predix

First They Killed My Father: Could Be a (Controversial) Player

Saturday early morning began with the World Premiere (if you don’t count its screening in Cambodia first) of Angelina Jolie’s new brutal film First They Killed My Father. The story of one young girl during the reign of terror of the Khmer Rouge, the film is not exactly what you would expect from the topic, but it is nevertheless difficult and challenging to watch at times.


However, Jolie has clearly learned from her past mistakes (think Unbroken), even if she still ambles around the edges a tad here and there. The movie packs a hard emotional punch and is an important story by an important and growing filmmaker. It will be hard to ignore.

The controversial question is whether the film will be submitted as Cambodia’s Foreign Language Film nominee. How could this be so, you may wonder? Jolie produced the movie but she is a Cambodian citizen, the film is entirely set and spoken in Cambodian, and, indeed, most of the crew (including Jolie’s two sons) are Cambodians. In Telluride, Angelina explained that she asked for permission from each of the affected factions - the former Khmer Rouge, the survivors, the current government - to make the film, and says that they all gave their blessings.

So why does it feel wrong, somehow, if Angelina Jolie becomes nominated for producing and directing the best Foreign Language Film of the Year? What will the Academy even do if the Academy submits this film as they are likely to do?

Oscar potential: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Score, Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Sound

Battle of the Sexes: One To Watch Out For?

This film, before Telluride, seemed to me to be basically a joke, the equivalent of a facile movie, think along the lines of TIFF movies such as Queen of Katwe. But Battle of the Sexes is actually much much more.

Although it is for sure billed as a quirky comedy between Emma Stone and Steve Carell about the historical tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, this movie is only about a third of its total dedicated directly to that happening. The story really is about the demons and challenges that both of them face internally, with the focus decisively but only slightly so, on Stone’s superb King.

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