In his debut Deadline posting, Pete Hammond reports that he ran into Alexander Payne, director of the forthcoming The Descendants, during his trip to the Telluride Film Festival, and that Payne said “he was coming back this time as a fan just to ‘see movies.'”

George Clooney, Alexander Payne during shooting of The Descendants, in a photo taken last March.

Hammond apparently didn’t ask Payne about The Descendants, his Hawaiian dysfunctional family drama starring George Clooney, or decided not to report this if he did. I’d been holding out hope that The Descendants might be given a last-minute December release by Fox Searchlight and — who knows? — become this year’s Million Dollar Baby. 2010 is regarded as a weak year, Payne was finished shooting last April or so and there’s plenty of room for a last-minute December entry to dive in and snag attention.

If I was Payne I would be slaving away 18 hours a day with my two editors and trying to talk Fox Searchlight into a late-inning release instead of galavanting around Telluride with all the lah-lahs. That’s what you do after you’ve finished your work, not before. Life is about what you can man up and accomplish in the short time you have on this planet, and not what you can…whatever, kick back and enjoy. That’s the dilletante’s approach.

The fact that Payne is in a kick-back mode tells us The Descendants will almost certainly not be coming out this year, but I wonder if any strong films are going to parachute into the awards race four or five weeks before the end?