Telluride: Who got an Oscar bounce and who didn’t?

TELLURIDE – There is a big reason stars like George Clooney, Glenn Close and Tilda Swinton trekked to Colorado over Labor Day weekend.  Sure, their films are being screened (or premiered) at a world renowned film festival.  Sure, Clooney and Swinton received lifetime tributes and a fancy silver medallion for their respective bodies of work.  What it’s really about, however, is creating substantial buzz among Academy members and industry influencers.  This sort of word-of-mouth fuels industry guild interest, the media and therefore box office prospects (which is what the season is really all about in this era).  Remember those big Academy players “The King’s Speech,” “Black Swan” and “127 Hours” last year?  Their campaigns basically began at Telluride a year ago.  So, with that in mind, let’s run down the expected players who screened at the festival and the resulting buzz was after a long weekend of movie going.

“A Dangerous Method,” (movie)
Category: best picture
Buzz: Audiences were respectful of “Dangerous,” but the film sacrifices dramatic flow for long (um, very long) conversations about intellectual ideas.  Even in a year with 10 nominees this might be a tough in.

Keira Knightley, “A Dangerous Method”
Category: best actress
Buzz: It’s all gonna decide on the critics. Personally I think it’s the best thing she’s done so far. Not everyone at the festival agreed.

Viggo Mortensen, “A Dangerous Method”

Category: best supporting actor
Buzz: Mortensen’s Freud is the only comic relief in “Dangerous,” but it’s not the most memorable turn in the film.  If the category turns out to be weak, he’s in.  If not…

Tilda Swinton, “We Need to Talk About Kevin”
Category: best actress
Buzz: Swinton, who also received a tribute at the festival, is the best thing about the Cannes drama.  Audiences appreciated her performance, but Oscilloscope Films is going to need to mount a serious campaign to get her in.

“In Darkness” (movie)
Category: foreign language film
Buzz: Appreciated, but not as moving as you might expect considering it’s based on a startling true story.  A few Academy members I spoke to were confused about what was going on during the film’s chaotic beginnings.  Still, ( ) passion project feels like it has a strong chance of getting into the foreign five.

Michael Fassbender, “A Dangerous Method,” “Shame”
Category: best actor
Buzz: Fassbender shows great range and is phenomenal in “Shame,” but he’s unlikely to find Academy love for either role (assuming the latter is released this year).

George Clooney, “The Descendants”

Category: best actor
Buzz: Probably the best performance of his career.  He’s in.

“The Descendants” (movie)
Category: best picture
Buzz: Many industry and Academy members loved it.  Great win for Fox Searchlight to bring it to Telluride before it’s “official” Toronto premiere.  And it would be shocking not to see director and co-writer Alexander Payne rewarded in those respective categories.

“Albert Nobbs” (movie)
Category: best picture
Buzz: Mixed reviews won’t help this tough sell for Roadside.  It’s absolutely not a best picture contender, but screenplay, actress and costumes are possible.

Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs”
Category: best actress
Buzz: The five-time nominee earned a lot of respect for getting “Nobbs” made and for a performance where you absolutely buy she’s a man at times.  Is she a slam dunk for an nod though? No, she’s gonna have to fight for it.

“A Separation” (movie)
Category: foreign language film
Buzz:  This pundit was a bit mixed on the Berlin Golden Bear winner, but it played incredibly well here which is a good omen for Academy qualifying screenings.

“The Kid With the Bike” (movie)
Category: foreign language film
Buzz: Wasn’t the first or absolutely favorite movie off most attendees lips, but didn’t hear one negative word about it.  With this crowd, that’s pretty good.

“The Artist” (movie)

Category: best picture
Buzz: As many suspected it played and it played big.  Unlike “Descendants,” which received a standing ovation, it didn’t get that “Slumdog” or “King’s Speech” euphoric reaction.

Films that could have benefited from a Labor Day detour:  “Melancholia,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” “The Ides of March” and “War Horse” (yep, it’s done).*

*Assuming they would have made Telluride’s eclectic cut, but if the commercial “Butter” could make it. Well, you get the point.

Toronto will reveal awards season prospects for contenders such as “The Ides of March,” “W.E” (it’s got one more shot), “50/50” and more.  Look for full coverage on HitFix and Awards Campaign beginning on Thursday.

For year round entertainment commentary and awards season news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter @HitFixGregory.