Aretha kills ‘Amazing Grace,’ Malala charms and Meryl Streep rules at Telluride

TELLURIDE, CO – What a first day at the 2015 Telluride Film Festival.  There was a lot going on, but let”s get to the story that made national news: Ms. Franklin had her day in court.

At the last minute, lawyers for Aretha Franklin landed an injunction in Federal Court stopping the 7:30 world premiere of “Amazing Grace” at Telluride.  In fact, her lawyers cut it very close going before the judge around 3 PM MT.  Just a few hours before, the heads of the festival were convinced they would prevail with any potential court action.  Instead, Ms. Franklin (who reportedly testified by phone) was able to stop the documentary chronicling the live recording of her legendary 1972 album “Amazing Grace” from being seen.  It appears Franklin believes she”s not being properly compensated for the use off her likeness and performance although we”re wondering if she realizes how little music documentaries make these days.  Or, perhaps after the surprise success of “Sixty Feet From Stardom” and “Amy” she does and thinks she can get a better deal.  There simply has to be more to this story than what has been publicly revealed.

The 14-day injunction means the documentary won”t play during the rest of Telluride, but “Grace” is also supposed to screen on the opening night of the 2015 Toronto Film Festival this Thursday, Sept. 10.  Will Franklin”s lawyers be able to make the same claims in Canadian court?  TIFF says “Grace”s” screening is still on, but something tells us there will be more updates to this story on Monday.  The good news is the injunction doesn”t apply to the doc”s trailer that is still up on TIFF”s YouTube channel.  Check it out embedded at the bottom of this post.

As for the rest of Friday…

Rain worked for the annual Patron Brunch
The festival kicked off with the annual Patron Brunch that is always a mix of the 1% (well, maybe 10%), regular attendees, some big Hollywood talent, press and numerous industry peeps.  Michael Keaton, Laura Linney, Alexander Payne, Brad Bird, “45 Years” director Andrew Haigh, Aaron Sorkin and Todd Haynes were all on hand, among others.  I congratulated Keaton on “Spotlight” and connected with Haigh who thankfully didn”t bring up my pointed and very public disappointment with the second season of “Looking.”  Haigh, who has some acting contenders with “45 Years,” will spend most of the fall in San Francisco shooting the “Looking” wrap-up movie.  Last year”s talentl which included Steve Carell, Reese Witherspoon and Jon Stewart, was probably more fun, but most attendees didn't care.  Everybody loves free food.

Malala beams in for the “He Called Me Malala” Q&A
Malala Yousafzai, the subject of Davis Guggenheim”s new documentary “He Called Me Malala” couldn”t attend the film”s world premiere, but charmed the audience via satellite once some pesky sound issues was fixed.  The 17-year-old is keeping busy studying hard for the UK equivalent of college entrance exams.  Q&A moderator and longtime Telluride regular Ken Burns asked her what colleges she”d looking at?  Embarrassed, Malala smiled and mentioned Oxford and Stanford if her grades “are good enough”.  Something tells us either school would be delighted to have the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner attend their institutions.  As for the movie, its intentions are good, but the end result is something of a bore (just like Guggenheim's last doc, “Waiting for Superman”).  Malala”s story should be incredibly captivating and her work championing young women's rights to an education has to be more cinematic than this.  It doesn”t help matters that Guggenheim uses some very slow and uninspiring animation to re-tell much of Malala”s story.  To clarify, we”re all for giving Malala and her work the spotlight.  Not so sure this doc will truly further that or, frankly, if Guggenheim is really that good a filmmaker.

The one and only Meryl Streep has arrived
Sarah Gavron”s “Suffragette” premiered Friday evening and Focus Features held a casually chic cocktail party where none other than Meryl Streep held court. Streep reportedly isn”t in the movie that much (I”m seeing it Saturday morning), but the film”s subject matter is so near to her heart that she decided to trek to Telluride for the very first time (one of the last of her peers to do so).  She”ll be part of a post-screening Q&A tomorrow, but her party was the place to be late Friday night with Keaton and Brie Larson, fresh off rave reviews for “Room” (like this one), stopping by.  Clearly, this wasn”t the right time to ask Ms. Streep for a selfie, but who knows? The weekend is young and anything can happen.

Look for reviews of “Suffragette,” “Spotlight” and “Steve Jobs” later today on HitFix. For instant reaction and updates from the festival follow @TheGregoryE