The Sapphires director Wayne Blair at yesterday’s Telluride Film Festival patron picnic. A healthy portion of his film, which I caught in Cannes, “is cool, snappy, rousing, well-cut and enormously likable,” I said on 5.20. “And dancable.”

(l. to r.) Also at yesterday’s brunch: Ezra Scott, N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott, Focus Features honcho James Schamus, Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson.

Another Road Tap

Walter SallesOn The Road “is masterful and rich and lusty, meditative and sensual and adventurous and lamenting all at once. It has Bernardo Bertolucci‘s ‘nostalgia for the present’ except the present is 1949 to 1951 — it feels completely alive in that time. No hazy gauze, no bop nostalgia. Beautifully shot and cut, excitingly performed and deeply felt.

“It’s much, much better than I thought it would be given the long shoot and…I forget how long it’s been in post but it feels like ages. It’s so full of life and serene...

Argo Wins & Satisfies But…

We gondola-ed down from the Argo screening at the top of the mountain, but it took a while and by the time we got to the Masons theatre, the 4:30 pm screening of Dror Moreh‘s The Gatekeepers — one of the big buzz films so far — was sold out and locked down. So we sauntered over to a coffee cafe so I could write a little something about Argo.

Ben Affleck‘s period drama, set during the 1979 and ’80 Iran hostage crisis and based on fact, is a partly light-hearted, partly riveting drama about a kind of Mission Impossible scam about smuggling six American foreign-service workers who had taken shelter in Tehran’s Canadian embassy after the storming of the U.S. embassy and the taking of hostages.

An enterprising CIA guy named Tony Mendez (Affleck) devises a plan to hoodwink Iranian...

Telluride Patron’s Brunch

Argo director-costar Ben Affleck, Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy — Friday, 11:40 am.

Frances Ha star/cowriter Greta Gerwig, director/cowriter Noah Baumbach — Friday, 11:55 am.

Leonard Maltin, Alexander Payne.

Affleck on To The Wonder, Malick

My brief chat with Argo director-costar Ben Affleck at today’s Telluride Film Festival patron’s brunch was mostly about Terrence Malick‘s To The Wonder, in which Affleck “stars,” so to speak. A friend who’s seen Malick’s film tells me Affleck has been all but cut out of it, just as Adrien Brody was edited out of Malick’s The Thin Red Line and Sean Penn‘s role was reduced to almost nothing in The Tree of Life.

In any event I asked Affleck if he’s seen To The Wonder and he said, “Yes, I’ve seen it”….(beat) (beat) (beat)…”and it makes The Tree of Life look like Transformers.” I didn’t take notes so the remainder of his comments are only approximately recalled, but he basically said it’s not a commercial film, that it’s the kind of...

You Don’t Say?

At a dinner party last night I listened to the views of a hardcore Obama hater, an older woman who was otherwise perfectly agreeable. I say “hardcore” because she not only embraces the nonsensical view that we’re currently worse off than we were four years ago (when the country was teetering on the brink of financial catastrophe, caused entirely by a Republican-enabled Wall Street gangsta free-for-all), but she’s also a bit of a birther. Sorry, but I rarely come into first-hand contact with these people. They’re out there by the millions, I realize. I had to suppress the urge.

Low Whining Beast

I’m staying at the home of producer Glenn Zoller in Telluride so I can’t complain, but my son Jett and I are staying in a large room with three bunk beds plus a 15-foot-high loft, and one of the worst snoring incidents of my life occured at 2 am. I’m hardly one to talk since I snore, I’m told, but I’m also a very deep sleeper — right at the bottom of the lake — and I was nonetheless awoken by some truly grotesque noises coming from one of the bunks.

It was like that howling satanic growl heard in the third act of The Exorcist. Something beastly, appalling…a human couldn’t be the source.

I’ve found that if you clap your hands and go “hey!” the snorer will shut up for a while, and that technique worked for a while this morning, but the snoring returned two or three minutes later. I finally had to grab the blankets and sheets and throw them down on...

“You Need An American”

During his acceptance speech this evening before the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney blew another dog whistle by saying “when the world needs someone to do really big stuff, you need an American.” I’m presuming the import of that statement doesn’t need explaining. (And no, I can’t figure why the embed code won’t adapt to the 460 pixel width I’ve assigned it.)

Telluride Lite

Update: I’ve just hit Telluride and I’ve learned that Ben Affleck‘s Argo is indeed playing here, albeit as a sneak preview.

Earlier: I got out the iPhone the instant my Phoenix-to-Durango plane landed (about 50 minutes ago) to review the final Telluride 2012 lineup…and I was soon feeling faint. The blood had drained from my cheeks. This?

Why isn’t David O. Russell‘s Silver Linings Playbook showing here? There’s a reason, of course, but I wanted that kind of film here and it’s not. What happened to the rumor about Trouble With The Curve and a possible Clint drop-by? People were tweeting “wait, wait…this is it?”

No Master, no Malick, no Clint, not even DePalma…no established power-hitters.

In recent...

Telluride Departure

The Telluride flight is a two-legger — LAX to Phoenix leaving at 10:05 am, arriving at 11:25 am. (Arizona doesn’t observe daylight savings.) The Pheonix to Durango flight leaves at 12:20 and arrives in Durango, Colorado (which does roll with daylight savings) at 2:30 pm, or 1:30 pm Arizona time. And then a rental car and a 100-minute drive to Telluride. Or something like that.

What Have You Gone Cold On?

What films did you once love or have a thing for, but which you’ve lately or gradually come to regard as over-valued or somewhat less charming? Films you’ve grown past and/or seen through. Or, if you want to be buoyant about it, films you didn’t much care for when young, but which you’ve come to appreciate with age and experience or whatnot.

Straight Story

I’ve never told this story before, but I experienced it first-hand in Manhattan about 30 years ago. Sit me down with a lie detector and I’ll pass with flying colors because it’s all perfectly true. The details won’t stagger anyone, but I want it fully understood I’m not making it up. It’s just one of those life-lesson stories that repeats the old adage about “you are your friends and vice versa.”

I was inside a new Italian restaurant on Columbus Ave., a block or two south of the Museum of Natural History. It had opened maybe a day or two earlier, and I remember sipping a vodka and lemonade (my drink back then) and talking to the bartender. There was a big noisy party at a big table in the main dining room, and I asked the bartender what the ruckus was and he said, “Oh, that’s the owners and their investors…big dinner.”

I stuck my head inside and noticed that one of the guys at the table was...

Looper Security Goon

At 3 pm this afternoon I attended a Sony Studios screening of Rian Johnson‘s Looper (9.28). I can’t discuss this imaginative sci-fi actioner until it plays Toronto next week, but I can at least get into the fact that Sony felt obliged to hire a security guy to stand on the side aisle of the screening room (#23 inside the Jimmy Stewart building) and stare intently at the viewers, most of whom appeared to be veteran editors, journos and columnists.

I understand about security goons keeping an eye on all-media invitees inside large theatres, but inside a small screening room? What are the odds that Hitfix‘s Greg Ellwood or MCN‘s David Poland or TheWrap‘s Steve Pond or Deadline‘s Pete Hammond (who were there this...

Greatness is Transitory

Yesterday afternoon I drove out to Universal to watch a new DCP of Vertigo, which is the basis of the forthcoming Bluray. I’m not going to share my reactions until later, but it did leave me wondering if Vertigo really and truly deserves its #1 position in the 2012 Sight and Sound poll. Every time I see it it gets a little creakier, just a little bit harder to get lost in. I used to think this 1958 film was eerily haunting and slightly spooky and totally swimming in emotional obsession like few other films in history, but it’s getting old and the Eisenhower-era seams are showing.

Maybe it’s because I’ve seen Vertigo too many times, but more and more I’m noticing and getting stopped by the exasperating, flat-footed aspects. That expository dialogue in that early scene in Midge’s apartment. James...

Not Buying It

Apart from noting that four costars in Terrence Malick‘s To The WonderRachel Weisz, Barry Pepper, Michael Sheen and Amanda Peet — have been cut out of the final version, Deadline‘s Nancy Tartaglione is reporting from the Venice Film Festival that the film, due to screen on Sunday, “more closely resembles Badlands rather than, say, Tree of Life.”

This, at least, is what Tartaglione “understand[s]” from having spoken to some buyer or distributor or tipster of some kind.

If To The Wonder was some kind of...