Marlow Stern

The Best of Sundance 2012

Article: The Best of Sundance 2012

Now that the 2012 Sundance Film Festival is just a snowy, hectic memory, it’s time to bestow our own awards on the films we can’t get out of our heads….

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD: Director and star dish on the making of the best movie at Sundance

Article: BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD: Director and star dish on the making of the best movie at Sundance

Benh Zeitlin, the 29-year-old director of the most talked-about movie—and now, winner of the coveted Grand Jury Prize—at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, is running late. So Quvenzhané “Nazie” Wallis, star of Zeitlin’s film, does what any other 8-year-old girl would do to pass the time—eats a couple oranges, guzzles a can of Sprite, extols the virtues of ‘Wizards of Waverly Place,’ and parks herself in front of my laptop computer for a rousing game of ‘Ninja Painter.’ It’s a far cry from the crawfish, vodka, and cardboard box-cave painting of her character, Hushpuppy.

Oscar-winning MAN ON WIRE director James Marsh rips Best Doc Oscar noms, talks brilliant new film SHADOW DANCER

Article: Oscar-winning MAN ON WIRE director James Marsh rips Best Doc Oscar noms, talks brilliant new film SHADOW DANCER

The opening salvo was fired on Nov. 18. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released their short list of 15 films for the Best Documentary Oscar, and many in the industry were up in arms. Where was THE INTERRUPTERS? No SENNA? Then, the actual nominees for the Academy Award for Best Documentary were announced on Jan. 24, and people were appropriately outraged.

One of the biggest snubs was PROJECT NIM, the poignant doc by Oscar-winning MAN ON WIRE filmmaker James Marsh about Nim, a chimpanzee who in the became the focus of a groundbreaking experiment in the 1970s attempting to teach apes to communicate. For a time, Nim was even raised in an apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Following MAN ON WIRE and PROJECT NIM, James Marsh is back at the Sundance Film Festival with SHADOW DANCER—a brilliant IRA drama set in 1990s Belfast about a young mother, played by Andrea Riseborough (in a spellbinding performance), who is forced to collaborate with an MI5 officer (Clive Owen) and act as an informant spying on her own brothers. The slow-burning thriller is already garnering comparisons to TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY, and is one of the best films to screen at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt opens up about hitRECord and DARK KNIGHT RISES’ Occupy Wall Street vibe

Article: Joseph Gordon-Levitt opens up about hitRECord and DARK KNIGHT RISES’ Occupy Wall Street vibe

It’s more than an hour ‘til show time and the ticketholder tent outside the 1,270-seat Eccles Theatre, the Grand Théâtre Lumière of Sundance, is bursting at the seams for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s hitRECord: A Night at the Movies. Thus, the less punctual attendees are forced to brave the heavy snow and form a long line wrapping around the theatre. Judging by the high volume of beanies, as well as girls dragging their boyfriends around like disgruntled parents, the crowd is skewing very young—save a handful of older men who look like Julian Schnabel.

THE HOUSE I LIVE IN: A fascinating expose on the (racist) war on drugs

Article: THE HOUSE I LIVE IN: A fascinating expose on the (racist) war on drugs

Since 1970, it has cost America $2.5 trillion and led to 44 million arrests.

Of the 2.3 million Americans behind bars, 500,000 have been arrested for it

Due in large part to its excessively draconian laws, with only five percent of the world’s population, the United States accounts for 25 percent of its prisoners.

Sundance 2012 trends: Women behaving badly, star-studded bombs, and physical handicaps

Article: Sundance 2012 trends: Women behaving badly, star-studded bombs, and physical handicaps

Now that we’ve reached the home stretch of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, it’s time to take a long, hard look at some of the major trends of this year’s fest…

Chris Rock and Julie Delpy on TWO DAYS IN NEW YORK, interracial relationships, and Rock’s Love For Melissa McCarthy

Article: Chris Rock and Julie Delpy on TWO DAYS IN NEW YORK, interracial relationships, and Rock’s Love For Melissa McCarthy

Oscar-nominated actress-cum-filmmaker Julie Delpy’s filmmaking debut 2 DAYS IN PARIS centered on Marion (Delpy), a photographer struggling in her relationship with her neurotic, American boyfriend, Jack (Adam Goldberg). The film went on to become a huge indie hit, grossing nearly $20 million worldwide.

The French-American filmmaker has returned with a sequel of sorts, and enlisted comedian Chris Rock to play Mingus, her new boyfriend. The couple lives together in New York with a child from Marion’s previous relationship with Jack and things are going smoothly—that is, until her family, including father Jeannot (Albert Delpy, her real-life Dad) and sister, Rose (Alexia Landeau), decides to pay the couple a visit following the death of Marion’s mother. Rose’s new boyfriend, who just happens to be one of Marion’s exes, ratchets up the awkwardness, attempting to impress Mingus by quoting Salt-n-Pepa and buying weed in plain sight. Adding to her anxiety, Marion has an upcoming make-or-break photo exhibition.

The wackiest sci-fi flick at Sundance: Paul Giamatti and filmmaker Don Coscarelli on JOHN DIES AT THE END

Article: The wackiest sci-fi flick at Sundance: Paul Giamatti and filmmaker Don Coscarelli on JOHN DIES AT THE END

JOHN DIES AT THE END, the latest bizarro sci-fi flick from genre filmmaker Don Coscarelli (of BUBBA HO-TEP fame), opens with a bang.

A designer drug called “soy sauce” grants users a paranormal, out-of-body experience, but also transforms them into disgusting, insect-filled zombie creatures. John (Rob Mayes) is frantic. He calls his best friend—and fellow slacker—Dave (Chase Williamson), who rushes over to his house. They soon encounter a cute, unassuming girl with a scar on her face. Before the two guys can say “soy sauce,” she explodes into hundreds of snakes that bite and tear at the two pals. John runs up the stairs to try and escape, but the door handle turns into a penis, which he refuses to turn. Then, various meats from the basement freezer—sausages, steaks, chickens, etc.—begin shooting across the floor, forming a “meat monster” with a turkey for a head who addresses the boys in a demonic voice.

Josh Radnor on LIBERAL ARTS, his film’s TWILIGHT aversion, and how much longer How I Met Your Mother will air

Article: Josh Radnor on LIBERAL ARTS, his film’s TWILIGHT aversion, and how much longer How I Met Your Mother will air

Two years ago, a tiny movie from a first-time filmmaker about a group of young, attractive New Yorkers struggling to balance their various romantic entanglements and impending adulthood, surprised festivalgoers by winning the coveted Audience Award at Sundance. Written and directed by Josh Radnor, best known as the lead on the hit CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother, HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE won over audiences in Park City, Utah. And his sophomore feature, LIBERAL ARTS, elicited a standing ovation at the press and industry screening I attended.

SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS: James Murphy on retiring his band LCD Soundsystem and almost writing for Seinfeld

Article: SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS: James Murphy on retiring his band LCD Soundsystem and almost writing for Seinfeld

“It’s better to burn out than to fade away,” Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain wrote in his suicide letter. The New York-based, electro-dance band LCD Soundsystem, which formed in 2001 and released three critically-acclaimed albums, took Cobain’s—by way of Neil Young’s—advice, choosing to abruptly retire at the height of their fame.

PREDISPOSED’s Melissa Leo on her wild ride and Tracy Morgan’s Sundance hospitalization

Article: PREDISPOSED’s Melissa Leo on her wild ride and Tracy Morgan’s Sundance hospitalization

“What happened to Tracy Morgan?”

That was the question on everyone’s mind Monday morning at the Sundance Film Festival after hearing the 30 Rock star had collapsed at the festival Sunday evening. He was in town promoting the ensemble comedy PREDISPOSED, but ended up at the hospital. People immediately began speculating that substance abuse was to blame—a rumor that was quickly debunked by a hospital spokesman, who said no alcohol or drugs were found in his system. Two years ago, Morgan had a kidney transplant and is a diabetic. Turns out it was the altitude.

EXCISION: Sundance’s gross-out spectacular featuring Traci Lords as AnnaLynne McCord's mom

Article: EXCISION: Sundance’s gross-out spectacular featuring Traci Lords as AnnaLynne McCord's mom

Mock necrophilia. Decapitated talking heads. Makeshift surgeries. Wild, uninhibited sex bathed in menstrual blood. The midnight film EXCISION, making its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, is without question the most mind-blowingly grotesque film to screen at this year’s fest—so much so that at the press and industry screening I attended, about half the audience walked out in disgust (I can make this assumption since each exit followed a particularly gruesome scene).

Pauline, played by 90210’s AnnaLynne McCord, it not your normal gal. An 18-year-old, Neanderthal-ish high school senior with bushy eyebrows, acne, hunched posture, and plagued by a herpes infection she contracted as a young child from her father performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, she’s an outcast at high school. She also desperately wants to lose her virginity…while she’s having her period.

Cillian Murphy and Rodrigo Cortés Go Paranormal

Article: Cillian Murphy and Rodrigo Cortés Go Paranormal

Filmmaker Rodrigo Cortés caused a feeding frenzy among buyers when his last film, BURIED, premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. The film starred Ryan Reynolds as an Iraq-based American truck driver who’s attacked, and finds himself buried alive in a coffin with only a lighter, flask, flashlight, knife, glowsticks, pencil and a mobile phone. His captor torments him via cell phone, making him perform a series of sadistic funny games in order to win his freedom.

Drake lights up Park City, eventually (Aziz Ansari, not so much)

Article: Drake lights up Park City, eventually (Aziz Ansari, not so much)

Two years ago, Microsoft’s search engine Bing occupied the basement of Cisero’s off of bustling Main Street, where it played host to the after party of the Sundance hit WAITING FOR SUPERMAN—a documentary about the failings of the U.S. public education system. In the restaurant’s cramped, caliginous basement, John Legend, the film’s co-producer, teamed up with The Roots to perform an intimate show for about one hundred-plus people. To the right of the stage, behind a VIP rope flanked by three colossal security guards, stood a bespectacled middle-aged white guy in a fleece, cradling a beer and doing the Macarena. It was Bill Gates.

“We love the spirit of independence at Sundance, encouraging up-and-coming filmmakers, and the indie nature around it,” said Bing director Lisa Gurry. “Our first year at Sundance, we had such a great reception from the Sundance community that we decided last year to make a bigger investment.”

“WHERE THE F–K IS DRAKE?”

YOUR SISTER’S SISTER: The funniest comedy at Sundance (so far)

Article: YOUR SISTER’S SISTER: The funniest comedy at Sundance (so far)

There were a plethora of highly touted comedies boasting heavy-hitting casts that had buyers—and audiences—salivating prior to the festival, but a little indie shot in just over ten days has emerged as the dark horse candidate for funniest film of Sundance 2012.

YOUR SISTER’S SISTER comes courtesy of “mumblecore” filmmaker Lynn Shelton, whose last film, HUMPDAY, premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival en route to a Special Jury Prize and critical raves for its uproarious portrait of two best friends locked in a no-holds-barred game of macho one-upmanship that leads to them agreeing to shoot a gay porn together.

Andy Samberg on CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER, Sundance and Lana Del Rey

Article: Andy Samberg on CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER, Sundance and Lana Del Rey

It was by all accounts a momentous occasion. Harvey Weinstein loitered in the hallway. Seth Rogen politely acknowledged some overzealous fans with his trademark chuckle. Shailene Woodley, with a gaggle of girlfriends in tow, waited patiently out in the cold to be let inside. The stars were aligned for the world premiere of CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER on Friday evening at the Sundance Film Festival’s 1,270-seat Eccles Theater.

Directed by Lee Toland Krieger (THE VICIOUS KIND, Sundance ’09), the film follows Celeste (Rashida Jones, who co-wrote the screenplay), a branding exec, and Jesse (Andy Samberg), an unemployed artist who, after a life-long friendship and six years of marriage, decide to split and see other people. Both parties, however, struggle to close the book on their storied past and start new, separate chapters in life.

Five winners & losers from Sundance 2011

Article: Five winners & losers from Sundance 2011

The 2011 Sundance Film Festival was banner year, introducing many awards-bait films into the fold, and one unique box office hit. There were, however, also some incredibly hyped films acquired at Sundance that, whether it be faulty marketing, a poor release strategy, or general disinterest, failed to connect with audiences. Here are the five winners (MARGIN CALL) and losers (LIKE CRAZY) among the films that were purchased at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. We’ve already seen one sale at Sundance 2012 (Sony Pictures Classics just picked SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN), so it will be interesting to see if there were any lessons learned from this lot:

THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES: Watch the throne

Article: THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES: Watch the throne

Kim Kardashian’s gaudy fairytale nuptials lasted just 72 days.

Louis XIV, in all his decadence, ruled France for just over 72 years, making him the longest-reigning monarch in European history.

Somewhere in between lies Jackie Siegel, the wonderfully tacky, basketball-bosomed protagonist of Lauren Greenfield’s rags-to-riches-to-rags documentary, QUEEN OF VERSAILLES, which made its world premiere the opening night of the Sundance Film Festival.

A conversation with Robert Redford

Article: A conversation with Robert Redford

First things first: at 75, actor, director, and Sundance Film Festival founder Robert Redford is as virile and dashing as ever.

Named after his character from BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, Sundance was known as the U.S./Utah Film Festival when he founded it in 1978. In 1981, the festival moved to Park City, and in 1984, it was renamed the Sundance Film Festival. It soon became the premier showcase for independent film.

Sony Pictures Classics' Tom Bernard on Sundance '12

Article: Sony Pictures Classics' Tom Bernard on Sundance '12

Ever since he co-founded Sony Pictures Classics, an autonomous division of Sony Pictures that specializes in independent films, back in 1991, SPC co-president Tom Bernard—along with co-president Michael Barker—has been a regular fixture at the Sundance Film Festival.

Over the past twenty years, his company has acquired 36 titles at Sundance, including WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE; JUNEBUG, which helped launch the career of Amy Adams; the British crime drama LAYER CAKE, which introduced the world to Daniel Craig; and the bildungsroman AN EDUCATION, which racked up three Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actress (Carey Mulligan).

Welcome to Sundance 2012 & The Daily Beast's Marlow Stern

Article: Welcome to Sundance 2012 & The Daily Beast's Marlow Stern

Hello! My name is Marlow Stern and I’m the assistant culture editor of Newsweek and The Daily Beast. I am very excited to be providing full (read: expansive) coverage of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for its entirety, from January 19th through the 29th, for Sundance Channel.