Sundance

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Winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at Sundance just 10 weeks ago, so it goes without saying we need to take this very seriously. No poster yet, but my gosh, whoever designed the cover of the book two years ago already chose a classic ready-made Fox Searchlight color scheme. Opens June 12.

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“A critical hit and audience favorite out of the Sundance Film Festival, in DOPE, Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is carefully surviving life in a tough neighborhood in Los Angeles while juggling college applications, academic interviews, and the SAT. A chance invitation to an underground party leads him into an adventure that could allow him to go from being a geek, to being dope, to ultimately being himself.”

Sundance will premiere 16 American narrative feature films, and 26 films in the world cinema dramatic and documentary competitions. (via LATimes)

U.S. Dramatic Competition:

“Beasts of the Southern Wild”: In this mythological tale inspired by the coastal erosion crisis facing the communities of southern Louisiana, a 6-year-old Bayou Don Quixote sets out to find her long-lost mother when her father is beset by a mysterious illness. Director: Benh Zeitlin. Screenwriters: Benh Zeitlin, Lucy Alibar. Cast: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry.

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THR has details of a project mounted by Ridley Scott and Kevin Macdonald being billed as the first user-generated documentary. Individuals whose footage make it into the finished film will be credited as co-directors, and 20 of them will be flown to Sundance for the movie’s bow.

“Life in a Day is a time capsule that will tell future generations what it was like to be alive on the 24th of July, 2010. It is a unique experiment in social filmmaking, and what better way to gather a limitless array of footage than to engage the world’s online community,” Macdonald said.

“A vital part of our mission is to support individual storytelling around the globe and to provide a platform for expression and experimentation,” Sundance director John Cooper said. “This is a great way to engage the YouTube community and to provide festival audiences with something new and unexpected.”

Scott Free productions intends to distribute cameras to participants in remote corners of the world to help ensure the film is as diverse and inclusive as possible. For those of you already equipped, guidance about uploading footage can be found at youtube’s Life in a Day. Ridley Scott offers some inspiring personal video advice after the cut.

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Emerging as one of the critic’s consensus hits at Sundance, writer-director Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are Alright stars Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as lesbian partners whose teenage children are on a quest to meet their biological father (Mark Ruffalo).

Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir says its one of the hottest tickets in Park City:

All those people showed up because of Cholodenko’s reputation as one of American cinema’s best-kept secrets… Given the red-hot politics of the gay marriage issue, her timing is arguably perfect, and at any rate the movie is worth the wait. Cholodenko gets memorable performances from Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as the flawed, self-involved but profoundly human partners in a long-running relationship that’s hitting one of those slippery, middle-age danger zones…

I’d describe Cholodenko as an old-fashioned dramatist (in the best possible sense) whose heart and imagination are big enough for all these people. Each of the five principal characters takes a turn at the center of the story; each of them makes ferocious mistakes and must struggle to overcome them. It would be easy for her to cast Paul as the story’s comic villain, the blithe, privileged, good-looking straight white guy who screws up the happy lesbian household. But Cholodenko draws out one of Ruffalo’s best performances, capturing Paul as a sweet, sad Peter Pan figure whose principal sin is a sudden longing for what he can’t have.

Nic and Jules were doing a fine job of screwing up their happy lesbian household before Paul’s arrival, of course, but “The Kids Are All Right” ranks with the most compelling portraits of an American marriage, regardless of sexuality, in film history.

Not to ramp up expectations too high or anything, right? It’s not often that Best Actress hopefuls coming out of Sundance can sustain their buzz for a full 12 months. oh, wait…

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Andrew O’Hehir, Salon:

Debra Granik’s blend of low-budget regional realism and crime thriller (adapted from the novel by Daniel Woodrell) is an absolute knockout, for me the narrative film of the festival so far. Young Jennifer Lawrence is sensational as Ree, fierce teenage scion of an Ozark family of bootleggers, outlaws and meth-cookers…

Granik captures the details of life in the ruined and beautiful backwoods villages of Missouri in thoroughly convincing, documentary-like detail, but there’s not much meandering or contemplation. This is a woman who knows how to direct a damn movie; “Winter’s Bone” builds to an ominous, almost breathless tension, every moment pregnant with violence and disaster.

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Put down the pitchforks, and slowly back away from the ballots. Maybe now’s a good time to take a deep breath, look around, and see what’s been happening at Sundance this week.

THR: “Howl” proved the perfect film to kick off Sundance 2010, a festival that means to rededicate itself to “cinematic rebellion” and indie experimentation. “Howl” fairly howls its proud defiance of commercial filmmaking norms. It’s a heady flight into not just a particular poem but into the act of creativity itself, into how an artist breaks down barriers between himself and his art…

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