Matt Singer

The Sundance '12 opening night round-up

Article: The Sundance '12 opening night round-up

Have you filled all your travel size bottles of Purell? Looked online to find out how many packets of Emergen-C a human being can safely ingest without overdosing on potassium? Bought enough Powerbars to qualify as a minority investor in the company? Good, then you’re ready for Opening Night of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Which is fortunate, cause it starts in, like four hours.

SMASHED takes a shot at Sundance '12

Article: SMASHED takes a shot at Sundance '12

As one of the stars of Breaking Bad, if Aaron Paul’s acting like he’s under the influence of a controlled substance, it’s usually meth. But in the Sundance ’12 U.S. Dramatic Competition film SMASHED, Paul trades in the crank for the drank. He plays Charlie, one half of a young married couple who love to have a good time and get absolutely hammered. But when Charlie’s wife Kate (SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD’s Mary Elizabeth Winstead) realizes she needs to get sober, it not only changes her life, it changes their marriage as well.

The Review Revue: CONTRABAND

Article: The Review Revue: CONTRABAND

In “The Review Revue,” we turn dozens of movie reviews from all over the Internet into one handy blog post. It’s like super-concentrated orange juice for film criticism (with less pulp and Vitamin D). This week: we steal some critical perspective on CONTRABAND.

2012′s surprisingly strong start at the box office continued last weekend with CONTRABAND, which earned — or, I guess in this case, counterfeited — an estimated $28.8 million from Friday to Monday, making it one of star Mark Wahlberg’s strongest openings ever. But did CONTRABAND deserve that massive monetary haul? Or did it rip off its customers the way Wahlberg’s character rips off a priceless Jackson Pollock painting? (More on that later.) Let’s find out.

HELLO I MUST BE GOING to Sundance '12's U.S. Dramatic Competition

Article: HELLO I MUST BE GOING to Sundance '12's U.S. Dramatic Competition

HELLO I MUST BE GOING is a true Sundance film, and not just because it’s premiering later this week at Sundance ’12′s U.S. Dramatic Competition. Screenwriter Sarah Koskoff and director Todd Louiso — himself a Sundance alum from his 2002 feature directorial debut, LOVE LIZA — first developed the project at the Sundance Institute’s 2009 Screenwriters Lab and the 2010 Screenplay Reading Series. Then, as Louiso explains in his Meet the Artists interview below, Louiso went to the 2011 Sundance Film Festival looking to find a producer. On January 19th he gave the screenplay to Mary Jane Skalski. One year later, on January 19th, 2012, the film — produced by Skalski — makes it world premiere at the Eccles Theatre at Sundance.

WISH YOU WERE HERE — From Australia to Cambodia to Park City

Article: WISH YOU WERE HERE — From Australia to Cambodia to Park City

If the sudden influx of smart crime films from Australia is any indication of the quality of life in Oz, it might be time to start worrying about our friends down under. Hopefully it’s just an indication of the quality of cinema in Oz — which has risen sharply, along with the cinematic crime rate, in the last few years. In 2009, we were blown away by THE SQUARE, a sharp neo-noir from Aussie stuntman-slash-director Nash Edgerton. In 2010, David Michôd brought us ANIMAL KINGDOM, an epic tale of a Melbourne crime family in freefall; it won the World Cinema Jury Prize at that year’s Sundance Film Festival. This year’s Sundance’s World Dramatic competition features WISH YOU WERE HERE from writer/director Kieran Darcy-Smith, who appeared in both THE SQUARE and ANIMAL KINGDOM. All three films and all three filmmakers are part of an Australian collective called Blue-Tongue Films that also includes Luke Doolan and HESHER director Spencer Susser. Edgerton and Darcy-Smith’s partnership goes all the way back to the 1990s, when the duo co-directed their first short film together. It was called LOADED. And, hey, lookee! Here it is!

LUV – Common comes to Sundance's U.S. Dramatic Competition

Article: LUV – Common comes to Sundance's U.S. Dramatic Competition

In interviews, LUV co-writer/director Sheldon Candis likes to describe his film as a “driller” — part drama, part thriller. Candis, a USC grad and one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film for 2011, based the film’s coming of age story on his own life growing up on the streets of Baltimore. Looking for a father figure, he found one in an uncle — not realizing that, as he puts it in his Sundance ’12 Meet the Artists interview (see below), the man he idolized was “one of the most infamous and feared drug dealers” in the entire city.

Film intelligence: Documenting the new Best Documentary Oscar rules

Article: Film intelligence: Documenting the new Best Documentary Oscar rules

Every week there are dozens of film news stories. Every week, we read them all and bring you the five most important ones in the single most important blog post you’ll ever read (today [at this moment]).

1. Documenting Big Changes for the Best Documentary Oscar

Every year the movies that do and do not get nominated for the Best Documentary Academy Award become a huge source of contention. In 2011, popular and acclaimed documentaries THE INTERRUPTERS, SENNA, and BEING ELMO — and JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER, cried ten thousand beleaguered Beliebers — all missed the doc Oscar shortlist. To rectify the situation, the Academy announced this week they are overhauling the nomination process for the Best Documentary category: among the changes, films will now need a one-week commercial release in New York and Los Angeles and a review from the New York Times or Los Angeles Times. Hopefully these changes will help the best and most important docs get the recognition they deserve and we’ll never hear about Oscar documentary controversies again. On the other hand, you never say never. [Indiewire]

What Bruce Willis should expect when he's expecting to go to Sundance

Article: What Bruce Willis should expect when he's expecting to go to Sundance

To: bruce.willis@brucewillis.com
From: matt.singer@sundancechannel.com
Re: Sundance Preparedness List

Dear Bruce-

Your people asked my people to ask me to write up a list of things to remember before you head to the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. They know you’ve been to Sundance before — back in 2008, you walked the red carpet in support of Barry Levinson’s WHAT JUST HAPPENED — but they’re apparently a little worried you might be a little “What just happened?” about the whole experience and need a Park City refresher. You may decide you want to fire your people for that. That’s between you and them. I just do as I’m told. Don’t blame this on me and then drive a car into a helicopter into my living room, or run barefoot with a machine gun through my kitchen. Thanks.

SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED – Traveling through time with Mark Duplass and Aubrey Plaza

Article: SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED – Traveling through time with Mark Duplass and Aubrey Plaza

The September/October 1997 issue of Backwoods Home Magazine featured a curious classified ad. It read:
“WANTED: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 322, Oakview, CA 93022. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.”

The Review Revue: THE DEVIL INSIDE

Article: The Review Revue: THE DEVIL INSIDE

In “The Review Revue” we turn dozens of movie reviews from all over the Internet into one handy blog post. It’s like super-concentrated orange juice for film criticism (with less pulp and Vitamin D). This week: we exorcise the critical demons of THE DEVIL INSIDE.

Sundance Film Festival follow up: LIKE CRAZY

Article: Sundance Film Festival follow up: LIKE CRAZY

Appropriately for a movie about a long distance relationship, LIKE CRAZY has come a long way since its Park City debut almost one year ago. It was acquired by Paramount Pictures as “the first big sale” of last year’s Sundance Film Festival, then went on to receive the fest’s Grand Jury Prize from a group that included filmmakers Jason Reitman and Kimberly Peirce. After Sundance, it hit the festival circuit, playing Toronto, Vancouver, Amsterdam, Savannah, and Stockholm, then opened in limited release last fall. In ten weeks, without ever playing on more than 150 screens, it’s already recouped most of the reported $4 million Paramount paid to acquire the film. All in all, that’s, like, crazy. (An obvious joke, but I promise that’s the only time in this post I’ll make it. Maybe. I still have a few paragraphs to go.)

FILLY BROWN – Hustlers & flow in the story of rising rap artist

Article: FILLY BROWN – Hustlers & flow in the story of rising rap artist

The Sundance Film Festival is one of the world’s premiere venues for independent artists. If you’ve got a film playing Sundance, that means you had something to say and you begged, borrowed, and stole in order to say it. I suspect that’s a big reason why movies about independent artists — not just filmmakers, but painters, writers, and especially musicians — have done so well over the years in Park City. If you’re at Sundance, odds are you understand that story. Hell, if you’re at Sundance, you probably are that story.

Indie cred: The cast of Parks and Recreation

Article: Indie cred: The cast of Parks and Recreation

So many Parks and Recreation cast members have films at Sundance ’12 you’d think the Pawnee Parks Department was holding a winter company retreat in Park City. Ann, April, Ben, and the great Ron Swanson all appear in Sundance selections this January, though if you bump into any of them walking down Main Street they probably would appreciate it if you referred to them by their real names.

SAVE THE DATE – Mark your calendars for a Sundance premiere with Lizzy Caplan and Alison Brie

Article: SAVE THE DATE – Mark your calendars for a Sundance premiere with Lizzy Caplan and Alison Brie

Life is full of weird synchronicities. As I sat down to write this preview of the Sundance ’12 U.S. Dramatic Competition film SAVE THE DATE, I popped on Pickin’ Up the Pieces by Fitz and the Tantrums. Toes tapping as I researched, I looked up SAVE THE DATE director Michael Mohan. His first feature, ONE TOO MANY MORNINGS, premiered at Sundance in 2010. In intervening years he made a short film, EX-SEX, and a bunch of music videos for bands including — you guessed it — Fitz and the Tantrums. What’s that? You won’t believe me until you see the video embedded in this post right now? Well, okay.

Film intelligence: An online home for Sundance films and more

Article: Film intelligence: An online home for Sundance films and more

Every week there are dozens of film news stories. Every week, we read them all and bring you the five most important ones in the single most important blog post you’ll ever read (today [at this moment]).

1. Sundance Alumni Head Upstream for Distribution

Thousands of movies have premiered at the Sundance Film Festival over the years, but only a comparative handful of those movies ever find theatrical distribution. Now a new partnership between the Sundance Institute and film distributor New Video will offer hope to festival filmmakers whose work has fallen through the cracks of the studio system. Soon any director that’s ever played Park City will have the opportunity to release his or her film through Sundance/New Video onto one (or all) of six web portals: Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, iTunes, YouTube and SundanceNOW. Let the reconsideration of forgotten 90s indie gems begin. [The New York Times]

One to watch at Sundance: Lizzy Caplan

Article: One to watch at Sundance: Lizzy Caplan

She’s been working steadily in film and television since the early aughts, but Party Down star Lizzy Caplan first caught my eye in director Matt Reeves’ 2008 film CLOVERFIELD. She played Marlena, the girl who gets bitten by one of the weird bug aliens and then — SPOILER ALERT! — explodes. 2012 looks to be the year Caplan’s career does likewise, with a bunch of high profile starring roles including two at this month’s Sundance Film Festival.

Tim and Eric bring the drama to Sundance with THE COMEDY

Article: Tim and Eric bring the drama to Sundance with THE COMEDY

If Las Vegas was taking bets on the breakout stars of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, the short odds would belong to Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. The perennial cult favorites from the subversive Cartoon Network series Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job! (which is so subversive, it’s — GASP!! — not even a cartoon) head to Park City this month with two brand new projects in tow. They wrote, directed, and starred in TIM AND ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE, which is part of this year’s Midnight slate, and they both appear in Rick Alverson’s competition film THE COMEDY.

The Review Revue: THE IRON LADY

Article: The Review Revue: THE IRON LADY

In “The Review Revue,” we turn dozens of movie reviews from all over the Internet into one handy blog post. It’s like super-concentrated orange juice for film criticism (with less pulp and Vitamin D). This week: Meryl Streep stars as Margaret Thatcher in THE IRON LADY.

There are few metaphysical certainties in this world. I only know of three: death, taxes, and annual Oscar talk about Meryl Streep. Streep has won two Academy Awards (for KRAMER VERSUS KRAMER and SOPHIE’S CHOICE) and received a record sixteen nominations, including three in the last four years for THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, DOUBT, and JULIE & JULIA. Her latest film, THE IRON LADY, has Streep the focus of renewed Oscar buzz, and could easily bump her career total to an even more astonishing seventeen nominations. The title of the film refers to the nickname of Streep’s character, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. It — and its star’s incredible award track record — suggests a nickname for Streep: The Gold Lady.

But was The Gold Lady’s performance good enough to win over the critics? Or was THE IRON LADY’s reputation less than sterling? Let’s find out.

NOBODY WALKS — Journey to Sundance 2012 with Ry Russo-Young & Lena Dunham

Article: NOBODY WALKS — Journey to Sundance 2012 with Ry Russo-Young & Lena Dunham

Because writer/director Lena Dunham cast herself in the lead role of her impressive breakout film TINY FURNITURE and because she picked her real life mother and sister to play her character Aura’s mother and sister, and because she shot the whole thing in their family’s Tribeca loft, there was a tendency to assume it was an intensely autobiographical film. Maybe not. Aura was a directionless slacker. Dunham is anything but. Her new HBO series, Girls, debuts in April, while her first work as a co-writer, Ry Russo-Young’s NOBODY WALKS premieres later this month in competition at the Sundance Film Festival.