So which films were upped, elevated and enhanced by showings at the Telluride and Venice film festivals (i.e., the first half of the latter), and which ones were dinged, damaged or dismissed?

The praise showered upon Joe Wright‘s Atonement at Venice has apparently put it into the running for the Best Picture Oscar race. (Although, as I’ve said, that status won’t be confirmed until Toronto reactions are fully absorbed and considered.) Sean Penn‘s Into The Wild flew pretty well at Telluride with just about everyone calling it Penn’s best film ever. And the pleasures (or is “contentments” a better word?) generated at Telluride by Jason Reitman‘s Juno is sending it into Toronto with a full head of steam.

The hard-to-classify trio of Woody Allen, Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach took some lumps. Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream and Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited suffered severe Venice slapdowns. Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding didn’t fare very well at Telluride either.

Ang Lee‘s Lust, Caution, which played Venice, took some serious hits also.

Andrew Dominik‘s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford emerged as a hotly debated title although the vast majority offered ecstatic raves. Reactions to Brian DePalma‘s Redacted were sharply divided at both Telluride and Venice with a slight majority tipping negative.

Todd HaynesI’m Not There is another title awaiting further discussion at Toronto, although the Telluride reactions seemed to elicit a fair share of half-and-halfs, whatevs and passive-aggressive chortles. Nobody I read or heard from was doing cartwheels, I can tell you that.

Julian Schnabel‘s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly picked up refrains of the deserved praise that came its way during Cannes, but Alison Eastwood‘s Rails and Ties pretty much went thud in Telluride.

The strongest buzz after Atonement was generated by the 20-minute Telluride reel of Paul Thomas Anderson‘s There Will Be Blood. Hard festival experience has taught time and again that reels can’t be trusted, of course, but that hasn’t curtailed expectations about this reportedly longish (155 to 160 minutes?) epic about greed and black gold (“really, really, really, really loosely based on Upton Sinclair‘s “Oil“, according to star Daniel ).