Hot Stove #233 – Rocky Mountain High – Baseball and Movies

On our way to Telluride for the film festival this year, Rita and I paused in Denver for two days so we could check off an item on our bucket list – a game at Coors Field.

Coors Field – Colorado Rockies: Coors Field is in the LoDo District (Lower Downtown) of Denver. The brick façade gives a good first impression, and the overall stadium deserves the high marks it gets in “best stadiums” lists.


Denver is known as the Mile-High City. The playing field at Coors Field is not that high, but the upper deck is, as highlighted by a row of purple seats.


One of the features of the stadium is the view of the mountains, especially when combined with a sunset. But on our night, the clouds rolled in, so no sunset photo.


The Rockies, buried in last place in the NL West, were hosting the best team in baseball, the Atlanta Braves. And Atlanta played that way, winning 14-4. The hitting star was Ronald Acuna who beefed up his likely MVP season with four hits and five RBIs. He hit his 29th homer and stole his 60th and 61st bases. A few days later, he hit his 30th homer and became the first player ever to have 30+ homers and 60+ stolen bases in the same season.

But Acuna’s stats were not why he was the lead story on sports news later that night. In the 7th inning, two enthusiastic fans stormed the field and attempted to take photos with their idol Acuna. Security was slow to handle the problem, and the scene appeared chaotic for a while. Acuna was accidentally knocked over, but he was not injured. The fans were arrested.

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One pundit came up with this junk stat for the night: Acuna is the first player in history to get tackled, hit a home run, steal a base and hit a bases-clearing double in the same game.

Stadium Bucket List Status: Rita and I have now seen home games for 24 MLB franchises. We plan to get #25 when we visit Larry and Diana Brewer later this month in Phoenix. Over the next year or two we hope to get the remaining five – Seattle, two in Texas and two in Florida.

[Bucket List Trivia: There are five teams in the NL East – Braves, Mets, Marlins, Nationals and Phillies. Donald Trump has been indicted in four of the five jurisdictions. Only Philadelphia remains on this bucket list.]

Telluride Film Festival – 2023: Rita and I have been going to the Telluride Film Festival since 2011, a total of 12 times (no festival in Covid 2020). In our first year in 2011, we were joined by Larry and Diana Brewer, and the four of us were taught the logistics of the festival by Telluride veterans Marsha Murphy and Bob Morantz.

We see from 12 to 15 movies each year, and that is why Rita refers to this at the sport of extreme sitting. Nick Ventola calls it our annual Hajj to Telluride.

We arrive in Telluride on Tuesday to acclimate to the altitude. The films usually begin on Friday and conclude on Labor Day. We got some bonus Thursday screenings this year in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the festival. Below, Rita in downtown Telluride.


The movies are not announced until the day before the festival starts. That’s when we pick up our program and passes.


Major treats for ticketholders at Telluride include Q&As, panel discussions and tributes featuring producers, directors, actors and writers. But not this year for actors and writers – they are on strike and not participating in the promotion of their movies. A small number of actors were there because of exemptions, but even those were low key.

Films are shown in nine venues, eight in downtown Telluride and one in Mountain Village, a 12-minute gondola ride over the mountain. We buy the pass for the Mountain Village venue (Chuck Jones Cinema). Other than Labor Day Weekend (when 500 seats are installed), the Chuck Jones venue is the convention center for the Madeleine Hotel. Below, with some of our KC pals: Kristi Wyatt, Kay Wallick (now of Wyoming), Jan Hodgson, Susan Stanton, Rita and Lonnie.

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And now for what we saw…

Nominations for Best Picture: There were several movies that are generating buzz for best picture nominations.

Poor Things: Emma Stone has quite the track record at Telluride. We have seen her in Birdman (2014), La La Land (2016), Battle of the Sexes (2017) and The Favourite (2018). She was nominated for best supporting actress in Birdman and The Favourite. She won best actress for La La Land, and she may repeat that this year with Poor Things.

Our screening of Poor Things was preceded by a tribute to its director, Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos. This included clips from his films and an on-stage interview about his body of work (including The Favourite, which also starred Emma Stone).

In his new movie, set in Victorian London, an eccentric scientist (William Dafoe), brings a young woman (Emma Stone as Bella) back to life by implanting an infant’s brain. Bella evolves from her infantile status – learning about reading, writing, motor skills, manners, etc. – as well finding how to pleasure her adolescent self. As one pundit described the process, Frankenstein meets Barbie.

Bella agrees to marry an associate of the scientist but first wants to find out more about sexual pleasure and the world. She sets off on a European tour with the scientist’s lawyer, a cad of the lowest form, played in an Oscar-worthy performance by Mark Ruffalo (below).

Bella grows intellectually and sexually, ultimately emancipating herself into an independent woman with a sincere belief in body autonomy (a battle still being fought today). The process of getting there is exhilarating as she parades in her beautiful dresses with sculptural sleeves and, very often, in no clothes at all. There are many other interesting parts to this movie – hybrid animals, working in a brothel, physical comedy, fantasy cities on Bella’s tour, etc. – all good stuff surrounding Emma Stone’s fearless performance.

As you can tell, I’m all in on this movie, as was the Venice Film Festival where it won the Golden Lion for best film. In his acceptance speech in Venice, Lanthimos said,  “Above all, this film is the central character of Isabela Baxter, this incredible creature, and she wouldn’t exist without Emma Stone, another incredible creature.” Amen.

The Holdovers: Remember the 2004 movie Sideways? Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church taking a road trip through California wine country. The director of that film was Alexander Payne whose films we have seen at Telluride (The Descendants, Nebraska), and now again with The Holdovers, reuniting Payne with his Sideways star Paul Giamatti.

Giamatti plays a professor at a boarding school that mostly closes down for a 2-week holiday season. A small group of students have no place to go (the “holdovers”), and Giamatti reluctantly agrees to be the professor who stays on as chaperone. A member of the kitchen staff (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) also stays to provide meals.

The curmudgeon professor is initially rough on the kids, and some get saved by one of the parents who helicopters in to take them skiing. One is left behind (Dominic Sessa). This leaves three at the school, and they learn about each other, and bonding ensues, highlighted by a road trip to Boston. Fun movie.

The Holdovers' Review: Alexander Payne Reunites With Paul Giamatti - Variety

In addition to the best picture buzz, look for potential nominations for Giamatti as best actor and Randolph in a supporting role.

[Giamatti Trivia: The seventh and final season of Billions is now on Showtime – love Giamatti as the DA.]

Rustin: The 1963 March on Washington is best known for Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the impact the march had on pushing Congress into action on civil rights.

Who conceived the march? Who organized the logistics that came together and drew 250,000 people to the Lincoln Memorial? Who had to overcome obstacles thrown up by those within and outside the movement?

Bayard Rustin, a name often lost in the telling of this event. Why? Rustin was gay and could not be the up-front person for media purposes. This was the ‘60s. Rustin tells this important story, and Colman Domingo in the title role may be the strongest challenger to Cillian Murphy (Oppenheimer) for best actor this year. The large cast includes Chris Rock as NAACP head Roy Wilkins.

Bayard Rustin film due this year | The Friend

The movie was directed by George C. Wolfe (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), and he attended our screening to introduce the film. Rustin is produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions, and Barack Obama did an introductory clip for the screenings at Telluride.

Anatomy of a Fall: French filmmaker Justine Triet merges Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage with a courtroom thriller. German novelist Sandra (Sandra Huller) is married to a French writer Samuel (Samuel Theis). They live in a chalet in the Alps with their vision-impaired son Daniel (Milo Machado-Graner).

Samuel falls to death from the third floor. Was it an accident, suicide or a push by Sandra? A murder trial reveals the story of their unhappy marriage, using flashbacks to show motive. The trial in the French court is nothing like I’ve seen before – they have very different rules. Daniel plays a key role as witness to the state of his parents’ marriage. The film won the Palme d’Or, the highest prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Anatomy of a Fall' Review: Justine Triet Weaves a Twisted Drama

Justine Triet, Sandra Huller and the producers did a Q&A after our screening. The movie was complicated to make. Child actor (very good). Shooting 60 versions of a crucial kitchen shouting match. An added factor – the film is trilingual (German, French and English).

Summary: Two thumbs way up for all four of the above films.

The Zone of Interest: This might have been a fifth film for the above list, but Rita and I took a break and missed it. Our KC friends liked it, and it is showing up on some best picture lists.

Brief Description: The commandant of Auschwitz and his cheerful wife (Sandra Huller, also in Anatomy of a Fall) live in fine home just outside the wall of the camp. The daily life of homemaking and gardening proceeds without open recognition of the horrors taking place nearby. In German.

Not Best Picture (But Some Say Otherwise): The next two movies are getting Oscar buzz, but they did not rise to that level with me. But I’m not always right. Last year, I did not like Everything Everywhere All at Once, and it won the Oscar for best picture.

All Of Us Strangers: Two lonely men living in an apartment building start a romantic relationship. One of the men is haunted by his childhood memory of the death of his parents in a car wreck. A ghost (dream?) story is involved. I see why the critics might find the acting and tone to be noteworthy, but the overall film did not work for me.

Saltburn: A rich/popular student at Oxford befriends a not rich/unpopular fellow student who he invites home with him for the summer. The home is a posh estate (named Saltburn). The manipulative visitor creates a bizarre set of issues with the family and friends populating Saltburn. There is fine cinematography and a talented cast (especially Rosamund Pike as the wickedly witty matriarch). And then there are the cringe-worthy moments, topped by two bodily fluid sex scenes that I’m trying to forget.

Here is a good description from a critic who liked the movie: “If you did a line of coke off a copy of ‘Brideshead Revisited’ you might approximate the ‘Saltburn’ experience.”

Below, some of our KC group, smiling and so not thinking about those bodily fluid scenes in Saltburn. Sitting, Kristi Wyatt. Standing, from left, Jan Hodgson, Jo Ellen Smith and Kay Wallick.

Potential Best Picture Candidates NOT At Telluride: The Telluride films will have strong competition. A partial list: Oppenheimer, Killers of the Flower Moon, Barbie, Maestro, The Killer, Past Lives, Ferrari and Napoleon. Most of these films have not yet been released, and the only one we have seen is Oppenheimer. It was excellent and appears to be the front-runner for the Oscar.

Best Actress Vehicle – Nyad: Annette Bening plays Diana Nyad, an elite marathon swimmer who retired at the age of 30 to write books and go into broadcasting (Wide World of Sports). At the age of 61, Nyad returned to the spotlight with an attempt to be the first person to swim the 110 miles from Cuba to Key West without the protection of a shark cage. She had failed in her attempt to do this when she was 28. She also failed at age 61 and in two attempts after that. But in 2013, at the age of 64 and some 53 hours in the water, she made it. Not a spoiler, it was in the papers.

Bening, at the age of 64, trained for a year for the role, building up her stamina and perfecting Nyad’s swimming technique. Combining this preparation with her usual great acting should put Bening in the mix for a best actress nomination. Another Oscar nomination could go to Jodie Foster who plays Bonnie Stoll, Nyad’s friend and coach who perseveres in working with the difficult and ego driven Nyad. Another key cast member is Rhys Ifans who plays the boat captain.

Annette Bening and Jodie Foster Are Major Oscar Contenders for 'Nyad' |  Vanity Fair

The directors are Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the husband/wife duo who previously brought two top documentaries to Telluride, Free Solo and The Rescue. Although Nyad is a narrative film, the directors evoke the same drama shown in their documentaries. The directors introduced the film at our screening on September 2, coincidentally ten years to the day Nyad finished her swim (9/2/13).

Epilogue: Although the movie pulls no punches on Nyad’s prickly personality, it does not address that many in the swimming community are not fans of Nyad. They believe she exaggerates her accomplishments and may have cheated on her swim to Key West. For example, she used a special suit through the bad jellyfish waters (improper equipment?). The swim has not been sanctioned as a record by any official body. My amateur take: Nyad swam through sharks and jellyfish at the age of 64 as witnessed by her team of 40 people (several of whom were at the screening in Telluride, including Bonnie Stoll). Still a triumph and a good movie.

Foreign Film – Perfect Days: Our Friday morning began with a tribute to German director Wim Wenders. After a series of clips on his films (Paris, Texas, Wings of Desire, etc.), Wenders was interviewed by author Pico Iyer. Wenders also called to the stage Koji Yakusho, the star of Wenders’ new movie Perfect Days and winner at Cannes for best actor. It is a Japanese language film and has been selected as Japan’s entry for the Academy Award for best foreign language film.

2023坎城影展】《Perfect Days》影評:文溫德斯與役所廣司的東京公廁,關於「變與不變」的浪漫日子- 第1 頁- The News Lens  關鍵評論網

The film follows Hirayama  (Kogi Yakusho) for several days, each of which starts and ends with Groundhog Day routines from his solitary life. He heads to work each morning to clean the architecturally distinct public toilets of Tokyo and fills out his days interacting with co-workers, bystanders and family. It’s a sweet performance, and the movie has a good soundtrack (more on that in Lonnie’s Jukebox). Two thumbs up.

Documentary – The Pigeon Tunnel: Documentarian Errol Morris (Thin Blue Line, Fog of War) is a regular at Telluride. His new film is an interview with David Cornwell who under the pen name John la Carre wrote a series of popular spy novels (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, etc.). This is Cornwell’s last interview. He died in 2020.

I like how Cornwell’s sons wrote about the movie. “The Pigeon Tunnel charts a conversation between two great minds, both consummate storytellers; one who wove extraordinary fiction from the events he experienced; the other whose interrogation of those events has led so often to greater truth…The layered and unorthodox film is a tete-a-tete between a filmmaker and a novelist – both masters of their craft – grappling with the roots of the creative process, the power of fiction and our responsibility to the truth.”

Our screening was the world premiere of the movie, and Errol Morris was there for an entertaining Q&A after the show.

Documentary Note: What was missing at Telluride this year was a documentary from Ken Burns. He is a long-time sponsor of the festival and often previews an episode of an upcoming PBS series. That was not the case this year, but I am looking forward to his new PBS series on October 16 and 17, The American Buffalo. Burns was not totally absent from Telluride. This signage on a downtown building appears to have his hairline.


Cassandro: Mexico’s pro wrestling style is known as lucha libre and features extravagant costumes, masks, etc. Some gender-bending wrestlers, known as exoticas, dress in drag (some gay, some not). Exoticas are not supposed to win in the staged wrestling matches, but Cassandro became so popular that the promoters decided his winning was good for business. The real Cassandro is internationally known and appears in exhibitions around the world.

Cassandro is played by Gael Garcia Bernal who we have seen in several films at Telluride (and as the delightful maestro in the Amazon Prime series Mozart in the Jungle). Cassandro is an entertaining slice of life that we enjoyed.

Watch Cassandro | Prime Video

Daddio: The entire movie is two people talking. Like My Dinner with Andre, but in a cab. The passenger is a career woman (Dakota Johnson), and the cab driver is played by Sean Penn. In the drive from JFK Airport to Manhattan, the two engage in a far ranging and often very personal discussion that is movie-length because they get caught in gridlock at the Midtown Tunnel. I liked the writing and the delivery by both actors, so recommend the movie.

Dakota Johnson, as a co-producer, and the writer/director Christy Hall participated in a Q&A after our screening. Johnson took credit for getting Sean Penn for the movie. She walked the script over to him – he is her next-door neighbor.

 Tuesday: In a departure from her comedic roles as Elaine Benes (Seinfeld) and Selina Meyer (Veep), Julia Louis-Dreyfus takes on a dramatic role as the mother of a dying daughter. The end is near as evidenced by a macaw (yes, the bird) who is on the scene as the angel of death. After mom fails in her attempt to eliminate the macaw, she turns to negotiating (yes, the macaw talks, sometimes humorously). Death is hard to beat.

Our initial reaction was negative. In hindsight, maybe the dark humor should have been more appreciated. I’m now agnostic on the movie. Proceed at your own risk.

The Royal Hotel: Canadians Liv (Jessica Henwick) and Hanna (Julia Garner) run out of money while vacationing in Australia. The best work they can find is tending bar in a mining town in the Outback. Very few women in town, but lots of lonely men. Misogyny, booze and losers are in abundance. Most of the movie kept us wondering what horrifying end would come for these Outback versions of Thelma and Louise. Some will like the edge-of-your-seat tension more than I did. Again, proceed at your own risk.

Between the Movies: After each show, we leave and get back in line outside. The masters of getting out and back in line are Susan and Sally Stanton. A good example is below where they scored the first slots (Sally on the left). They have experience. This was Susan’s 28th festival and Sally’s 19th.

Wildcat: Ethan Hawke directs this movie starring his daughter Maya as author Flannery O’Connor and Laura Linney as O’Connor’s mother. Hawke and both actors were on hand to introduce the movie (there was an exemption for the strike). I was not familiar with Flannery O’Connor’s work before this movie. And I think I will leave it at that and get back to reading Why We Love Baseball by Joe Posnanski.

Fingernails: This one sounded promising. Three good actors in the lead roles, including Jeremy Alan White, the chaotic chef in Hulu’s The Bear. The story is set at a company where scientific testing is used to determine compatibility of couples. It starts off with some humor (e.g., will both parachute out of a plane together). But all goes awry with the final test that involves fingernails, leading to an ending that was like fingernails on a chalkboard for me.

That’s a Wrap: We saw Fingernails on Labor Day afternoon and then Saltburn as our final show of the festival. Two cringe-worthy films that needed to be removed from our minds. So, we headed to the bar at the Hotel Madeline to bid farewell to this year’s festival. Somewhat bittersweet since several of us are considering 2023 to be our last trip to the movies in the mountains. But it’s been a great run.

Trailers And Release Dates: Here is what I could find on trailers and release dates.

Poor Things. Trailer. Theaters on December 8.

The Holdovers. Trailer. Theaters on October 27.

Rustin. Trailer. Theaters on November 3. Netflix on November 17.

Anatomy of a Fall. Trailer. Limited theatrical release on October 13.

The Zone of Interest. Theaters on December 8.

All of Us Strangers. Theaters on December 22.

Saltburn. Trailer. Theaters on November 24.

Nyad. Trailer. Theaters on October 20. Netflix on November 3.

Nyad (2023) - IMDb

Perfect Days. Trailer. Not yet a U.S. release date.

The Pigeon Tunnel. Trailer. Apple TV+ on October 20.

Cassandro. Trailer.  Amazon Prime on September 25.

The Royal Hotel. Trailer. Theaters on October 6.

Fingernails. Theaters on October 27. Apple TV+ on November 3.

Lonnie’s Jukebox – The Soundtrack of Perfect Days: The best rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack at the festival was in the Japanese movie Perfect Days. Each morning, Hirayama goes to work in his van filled with cleaning supplies. He plays classic rock ‘n’ roll from his stash of cassette tapes (no digital music for his analog existence). Some samples from Hirayama’s collection…

“House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals (1964). Also sung in Japanese in a restaurant frequented by Hirayama.

“Perfect Day” by Lou Reed (1972). Not exactly the title song but fits perfectly for the trailer.

“Pale Blue Eyes” by the Velvet Underground (1969). Written and sung by Lou Reed in his Velvet Underground days.

“Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison (1967).

“Sunny Afternoon” by the Kinks (1966).

“[Sittin’ On] the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding (1968).

“[Walkin’ Thru The] Sleepy City” by the Rolling Stones (1975).

“Feeling Good” by Nina Simone (1965). Quite the video. “It’s a new dawn, a new day…”

Thanks to filmmaker Wim Wenders for a cool soundtrack.