How I spent my summer vacation was pretty much what I do for a living, searching for the next big things in movies.
When those movies are playing at the 39th annual Telluride Film Festival in Colorado's Rocky Mountains, who can really blame me?
Telluride is the best movie showcase you may have never heard of, which is how 2,000 residents of this box canyon mining town like it. The lineups of films and celebrity guests are never announced until the day before the festival begins, to keep away prying paparazzi and gossip vultures.
Only true movie lovers make this blind-faith trip to a box canyon mining town in southwest Colorado – and we're rarely disappointed.
This year, patrons rubbed elbows with surprise guest Bill Murray, touting his uncanny portrayal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Hyde Park on Hudson, one of several world premieres at Telluride. It's a creative leap for Murray, pulled off in high fashion.
Ben Affleck was in town for the debut of his third movie as a director after Gone Baby Gone and The Town. This time it's the tense and hilarious Argo, the true story of a CIA plot to rescue six Americans during the Iran hostage crisis in 1980. Affleck stars as the lead agent, concocting a scheme to pass off the Americans as a production crew planning to film a sci-fi flick in Iran.
It's crazy but true, and Argo emerged as the hottest ticket in Telluride, and a likely best picture Oscar contender.
That isn't unusual. In past years at Telluride I've first seen such future Academy Award winners as The Artist, The King's Speech, Slumdog Millionaire and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I've listened to Al Pacino, Sean Penn and George Clooney and others discussing their art, often in the outdoors Abel Gance Theater in Elks Park, surrounded by cineastes and the Rockies.
And you wouldn't believe that two public school gymnasiums could be transformed into state-of-the-art theaters with better projection and sound than your local multiplex. But they are, and that's just one aspect to this blissful retreat.
Roger Ebert describes the Telluride Film Festival as "like Cannes died and went to heaven." Couldn't have said it better myself.