Oscars 2013: Telluride festival emerges as best picture predictor

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Oscar pundits love to debate the best forecaster of the Academy Awards. Is it the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild ensemble trophy or some obscure film critics organization?

Here’s a new theory: the Telluride Film Festival.

If “Argo” takes home the top trophy in Sunday night’s Oscars, Telluride will have hosted the world or North American premieres of four of the last five best picture winners.

Last Labor Day, the festival hosted a sneak preview of Ben Affleck’s thriller, and the previous year, Telluride showed “The Artist” for the first time in North America (the mostly silent film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival).


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In 2010, Telluride showed “The King’s Speech” for the first time, and in 2008, the festival in the Colorado mountain resort was the first to screen “Slumdog Millionaire.” The one best picture winner from the last five years that didn’t play at Telluride was “The Hurt Locker,” which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Although many festivals might be flattered to show such acumen in selecting critically acclaimed movies, Telluride’s programmers are almost embarrassed by their Oscar track record.

“We don’t boast about it,” said Gary Meyer, who directs the festival, celebrating its 40th anniversary this fall, along with Tom Luddy and Julie Huntsinger. “And it doesn’t make sense to keep track of these things.”

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Governed by idiosyncratic programming choices that are as likely to favor obscure foreign-language titles and unusual documentaries, Telluride doesn’t even release its film program until the festival starts, so that attendees purchase passes on faith.


In addition to showing “Argo” for the first time last year, Telluride also hosted the North American premiere of “Amour,” likely to win the foreign-language Oscar.

“We’re pleased for the films and filmmakers that get [Oscar nominations], but it’s not what we’re about,” said Meyer, who will be attending the Academy Awards for the first time. “We’re about showing a great selection of movies to our audience.”


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