The Telluride Film Festival, a Labor Day holiday weekend tradition in the mountains of Colorado, wrapped Monday after showering accolades on awards hopefuls starring the likes of George Clooney and Viggo Mortensen.
Given the commercial and critical momentum it launched for Juno and Slumdog Millionaire in 2007 and 2008, expectations are high that Telluride will duplicate that feat again this year.
Jason Reitman's Up in the Air, which sneak-premiered Saturday afternoon, is the likeliest candidate as it heads to the high-profile springboard at the Toronto International Film Festival later this week. The film's critical and commercial prospects look strong, with a much-praised performance from Clooney and a timely theme about an American culture hurting for connection and basic humanity.
Another high-profile feature, The Road, which had screened a few days before at the Venice International Film Festival, unspooled to ovations Sunday night. That it was paired with a special fest tribute to star Mortensen, who was on hand to field questions, encouraged warm feelings for the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's bleak, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
But many viewers, some in tears, found the stark depiction of a father and son trying to survive the end of the world moving and well directed on its own terms.
Many of the other films that received kudos over the weekend -- including Jane Campion's Bright Star and Jacques Audiard's A Prophet -- will now move on to test their mettle at Toronto, which starts Thursday. Michael Hoffman's The Last Station also evoked consistent praise, as did Christian Carion's Farewell.
More-split reactions met Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank, Todd Solondz's Life During Wartime and Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon, all of which now move on to Toronto as well.
Approached mostly as a curiosity or guilty pleasure, Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans seemed to please moviegoers looking for a down-and-dirty B-movie experience. Star Nicolas Cage and Herzog will now take their film to Port of Call Toronto.
Working in the same pulpy, modern noir vein were the Red Riding trilogy, a product of British television based on the novels of David Peace. Plans for an American release of the three films are still being worked out.
And the festival's one horror entry -- excepting the existentially terrifying The Road -- was Paranormal Activity, a super-low-budget spookfest that screened late each night with attendant pouring rain. Audiences responded to the bare-bones story of a couple dealing with unexplained and increasingly violent phenomena with shrieking verve. Paramount plans a theatrical rollout that, if paired with an effective marketing campaign, could scare up sizable box office returns.