Critics are divided on FILLY BROWN, but they agree on Gina Rodriguez, the actress who plays Filly and is being hailed as one of the breakout stars of this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Response to FILLY — a drama about a young woman trying to navigate the morally murky waters of the hip-hop game — has been decidedly mixed, but response to Rodriguez has been decidedly positive, suggesting she is one to watch, even if the film itself might not be.
The cast of LIBERAL ARTS is like the independent film version of a rock and roll supergroup. You’ve got your road-tested veterans, Richard Jenkins and Allison Janney, and two of the hottest talents to come out of Sundance in recent years: Elizabeth Olsen from MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE and writer/director/star Josh Radnor, whose HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE won the Sundance audience award back in 2010. And, yeah, Zac Efron’s in there too. Admittedly, he sabotages the theory just wee bit.
Article: The Sundance Review Revue: ROOM 237
In the last couple years, technology has totally changed the world of film criticism. Affordable, easy-to-use editing software has empowered critics to become filmmakers themselves. You can see their work on YouTube, blogs like Press Play, and in movies like Sundance ’12 selection ROOM 237, a film entirely about another film, Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING.
With the clock winding down on Sundance ’12, the market for distribution titles is starting to look like a domino course. Once the first couple titles fell, they all started to fall. We’ve got a lot of news since our last roundup, so let’s get to it.
The latest domino to drop is V/H/S, the found footage horror anthology from a whole mess of directors including Adam Wingard (YOU’RE NEXT), Joe Swanberg (SILVER BULLETS), and Ti West (THE INNKEEPERS). According to The Hollywood Reporter, Magnolia Pictures picked the film (which is supposedly so intense that it made several audience members pass out) for approximately $1 million. Their plans for V/H/S are said to include a video-on-demand preview and then a theatrical release and then, I imagine, a kitschy release on VHS.
Article: The Sundance Review Revue: SMASHED
It’s possible that a movie like James Ponsoldt’s SMASHED takes on a special resonance at the Sundance Film Festival. It’s a film about a hard-partying married couple — Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul and Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World’s Mary Elizabeth Winstead — whose lives are turned upside down when one of them decides to get sober. During Sundance, Park City is practically swimming in booze. Client dinners, cocktail parties, after-parties; there are working distilleries pouring less alcohol than this town right now. It’s probably safe to assume a hefty percentage of the people watching SMASHED were drunk when they watched it. Is it any wonder the critics dug it so much?
The 2012 Sundance Film Festival has had no shortage of well-received movies. BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, DETROPIA, THE RAID and more have drawn very strong, very positive reactions from both audiences and critics. But they all pale before the response to THE SURROGATE, whose reception in Park City has been nothing less than orgasmic.…
Timing is everything. It doesn’t seem to matter much that BACHELORETTE was first staged as an Off-Brodway play back in 2010. Every — and I mean every — review of BACHELORETTE compares it to BRIDESMAIDS, last year’s runaway smash hit (and now Oscar-nominated smash hit) about the wacky misadventures of a crazed bridal party. When you hear what it’s about — the wacky (and kinda druggy) misadventures of a crazed (and kinda mean) bridal party — the comparison makes sense. But that doesn’t necessarily make it any more fair.
The market at Sundance ’12 was predicted to be “wild,” but started out “cautiously.” Now it looks to be heating up. After just a handful of acquisitions in the first few days of the festival, we’ve gotten a handful of acquisitions in the last few hours. Here’s a few more films that should be coming soon to an arthouse theater near you.
Nothing in this world is guaranteed, especially not a positive response at the Sundance Film Festival. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED came to Sundance with a great premise and a better cast, but films with more impressive pedigrees riding bigger waves of buzz have crashed and burned in Park City.
The Oscar nominations are in and, frankly, it was not Sundance’s best year at the Academy Awards. Though independent films made a very strong showing across the board, capturing some 60 total nominations, by and large Sundance alumni got lost in the shuffle. Films from the 2011 festival scored just four nominations. Et tu, Academy?
Article: Bingham Ray (1954 – 2012)
The independent film world lost one of its champions today. Bingham Ray, executive director of the San Francisco Film Society, died of complications following a stroke he suffered late last week while attending the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He was 57.
Spike Lee’s best movies are always polarizing. DO THE RIGHT THING, MALCOLM X, BAMBOOZLED; Lee has built his reputation on provocative, controversial cinema. In that regard at least, Lee’s new film, RED HOOK SUMMER, finds the director in fine form. It divided the Park City crowd, and then Lee himself took the stage for a Q&A that got them really riled up.
30 Rock star Tracy Morgan was in Park City this week to promote his new film PREDISPOSED. Unfortunately, it seems like there are other things Morgan is predisposed to, like altitude sickness. According to various reports, the comedian collapsed at Sundance last night and was rushed to the hospital for treatment.
Article: The Sundance Review Revue: DETROPIA
Indie directors looking to shoot a post-apocalyptic film on the cheap: head to Detroit. The reviews — mostly ecstatic reviews — are pouring in for Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s DETROPIA, and they are awash with heartbreaking descriptions of the once-great city’s crumbling infrastructure. At Film Threat, Don R. Lewis describes Detroit as looking like something “from a parallel universe that was hit by an Armageddon.” Others describe how absurdly cheap real estate has become in the area; you can buy a downtown loft for $25,000 because demand is so incredibly low. A director needs to take advantage of this sort of free production value.
Some in the industry predicted Sundance ’12 would be a “wild” year for sales, but so far it hasn’t turned out that way. As of this morning (four days into the festival), just two films, both from opening night, had managed to secure distribution deals. Things do seem to be heating up a little today in the snowy climes of Park City, with a, ahem, flurry of acquisitions coming over the wire in just the last few hours.
The Sundance Film Festival is known as a haven for indie filmmakers, but over its history it’s also been a very welcoming venue for indie-minded TV-makers as well. A surprising number of films spun off from television shows have premiered in Park City over the years, from WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER (from the creators of The State) to RUN RONNIE RUN (from the creators of Mr. Show) to STRANGERS WITH CANDY (from the creators of either Temptation Island or Strangers With Candy, I forget.). To that great tradition, we now add TIM AND ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE, written and directed by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, and made in the style of their beloved cult Adult Swim series, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! If you’re not familiar with Tim and Eric, I’m not inserting superlatives into the title; that’s the name of the show. And if you’re not familiar with Tim and Eric at this point, you probably don’t need to rush out to see their BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE, as word out of Park City indicates it’s largely a for-die-hard-fans-only affair.
Article: The Sundance Review Revue: THE RAID
Just because a film plays well at a festival doesn’t mean it’s going to play well everywhere. We can all think of examples of movies that made big impressions on the crowds in Park City, or Cannes, or wherever, and didn’t make a similarly big impressions on mainstream audiences. So when you see a movie receive wild, ecstatic praise at a festival, you always have to keep that in the back of your mind. Was some part of the positive response a reaction to the combination of too little sleep and too much alcohol? Or will this thing travel?
The tragic case of the West Memphis Three, three teenagers accused, tried, and convicted of a crime they did not commit, is a story that simply must be told. But it already has been told: in a trilogy of superb documentaries entitled PARADISE LOST by directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. Over the course of almost twenty years, Berlinger and Sinofsky chronicled the lives of the West Memphis Three — Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin — and systematically disproved the case against them. So the news of a brand-new documentary on the subject entitled WEST OF MEMPHIS was met by many with skepticism and confusion. Even with its impressive creative pedigree — it was produced by Peter Jackson (THE LORD OF THE RINGS) and directed by Amy Berg (DELIVER US FROM EVIL) — some observers worried this documentary would simply rehash elements from the other three films. As a follower of the West Memphis Three’s case and a fan of the PARADISE LOST series (you can read my review of the last film here), I know I was.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “arbitrage” is “the nearly simultaneous purchase and sale of securities or foreign exchange in different markets in order to profit from price discrepancies.” I don’t really understand what that means, so I am providing an alternate definition for the intelligence impaired. ARBITRAGE is “a dramatic thriller set in the world of high finance that is also one of the most buzzed about titles at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.” That’s a lot easier to understand, right? I think so. Let’s give Mr. Merriam and Lord Webster or whoever it is a ring and tell them it’s time to update that book.
On my computer at home, I keep a running list of every movie I watch (in a related story: I didn’t have a girlfriend until I was 18. Can you believe it?). Beneath that list, I keep a second running list of all the movies I need to watch. When I can’t make it to a festival like Sundance, I look at reviews and tweets and take note of the stuff that I need to keep on my radar. This morning I added the first Sundance ’12 movie to that second running list: BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD.
Every year at Sundance there are the actors and actresses who “break out.” Last night, Melanie Lynskey made a strong early play for the title of Breakout Star of the 2012 festival, earning ecstatic reviews for her performance in the U.S. Dramatic Competition film HELLO I MUST BE GOING. After her impressive debut in Peter Jackson’s HEAVENLY CREATURES eighteen years ago, Lynskey embarked on a long and successful career as a character actress. HELLO I MUST BE GOING pushes her into the spotlight in a leading role that is garnering raves from critics across the board.
If you watched THE HANGOVER and thought it would work better as a thriller, then last night’s opening night premiere from Sundance 2012′s World Dramatic Competition, WISH YOU WERE HERE, will be right up your alley. Numerous critics out of Park City, including David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter and Steven Zeitchik from The Los Angeles Times, have drawn comparisons between the blockbuster American comedy about a bunch of buddies who wake up after a night of partying they can’t remember to find one of their ranks missing, and this Australian import from writer/director Kieran Darcy-Smith about two couples who wake up after a night of partying they can’t remember to find one of their ranks missing. In other words, throw in Zach Galifianakis and a Mike Tyson tattoo, and we’re in Todd Phillips territory.
If you’re a fan of independent film, there’s nothing better than being at the Sundance Film Festival. And if you’re a fan of independent film, there’s nothing worse than not being at the Sundance Film Festival. The future of indie cinema is unspooling before the eyes of your fellow cinephiles, and all you can do is sit back and read about it on Facebook. The Internet is a double-edged sword in this regard. Social media gives you instant and constant access to festival buzz — but for a long time you couldn’t act on that buzz until those buzzy movies found distribution and made their way to your local theater. Slowly but surely, though, the Internet is starting to bring Sundance films, old and new, right into your home. Now while Park City’s bustling, you can do a lot more than just refresh your Twitter feed for hours on end while you cry into a pint of ice cream (not that I would, y’know, do something like that. I have a very rich and full life of, uh, other things).
Well, it has started. So, what should we be looking forward to at Sundance this year? Besides, y’know, festival flu, exhaustion, and malnutrition.
Even before the festival officially began, The New York Times had already figured out this year’s Sundance. It’s basically The Year of the Bummer at Park City. “If the Sundance Film Festival is a mirror of America,” writes The Times’ Brooks Barnes, “this year’s installment depicts an unusually stark image of a broken place filled with broken people.” There are four films about corporate greed and more than a dozen movies about what Brooks terms “moral decay.” I hope you remembered to pack your sense of outrage along with your ear muffs, because it sounds like you’re going to need it to appreciate this year’s lineup. Trevor Groth, director of programming at Sundance, agreed, telling Barnes, that much of Sundance ’12 paints a picture of our “midlife crisis as a country.” Suddenly that Ferrari I saw Sundance driving around in last week makes a lot more sense.