Indie producers at Sundance would be wise to steer your film editor away from their screenings, since (for the second year in a row, to say nothing of Tribeca and SXSW) practically none of the films I saw over my six days in Park City managed to grab any prizes at Saturday night’s big award ceremony. I’m all out of theories for why I’m so bad at picking these things — but it’s something we’re all going to have to come to terms with, apparently. Not to worry, though; many of the very good films I did manage to see will be coming your way over the next few months, so let’s take a look at films that won both awards and big-money deals. … Read More
This time last year, the out-of-nowhere indie Beasts of the Southern Wild emerged at the Sundance Film Festival, knocked out everyone who saw it, and embarked on a thrilling year-long ride to become a critical fave, indie smash, and multiple Oscar nominee. Of course, when you have a big hit, everyone’s looking for a sequel — and most of the press out of Park City has been eager to buzzkill, assuring us that no, there’s not another Beasts in this year’s bunch. But that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t an incredible… Read More
At a Sundance event earlier this week promoting his new music documentary Sound City, I had the chance to ask Foo Fighters frontman (and now filmmaker) Dave Grohl about some of his favorite music documentaries. His thoughtful and wide-ranging answer was interesting enough, I thought, to warrant including in its entirety. … Read More
PARK CITY, UTAH: Dave Grohl is the first one to tell you that he is not a filmmaker. And yet, here he is at Sundance, chatting up the documentary Sound City, which marks his directorial debut. “I don’t even know what directing means,” he laughed at a press conference Monday. “I’m not a director. I’m not a drummer. I’m not a guitar player. I fake all of these things. I never took lessons to do any of this shit. I don’t know — I can’t read music. I hold my drumsticks backwards. I don’t know what a director is. But I do know, if you sit down with a clear idea of what you want to do, if it’s in your head and you can actualize it or visualize it… well, then, you wind up with something that makes sense.” … Read More
PARK CITY, UTAH: In Before Midnight, the latest chapter of Richard Linklater’s romantic chronicle, Jesse (the writer played again by Ethan Hawke) is told of his third novel: “It’s a better book! It’s so much more ambitious!” It plays like an in-joke, but an accurate one; Before Midnight has all the best qualities of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset (a love of conversational dialogue, long takes that value the joy of performance and interaction, gorgeous European locations), yet it is a grander and more complicated achievement. There are some supporting characters this time, for example, and a fuller sense of the protagonists’ lives outside the narrow timeframe. But it also reflects, beautifully, how romance in your 40s is a very different beast from romance in your 20s, or 30s. … Read More
PARK CITY, UTAH: Before C.O.G., the new comedy/drama from Kyle Patrick Alvarez that premiered last night at the Sundance Film Festival, David Sedaris had never allowed his work to be adapted into a feature film. There were plenty of offers, which Sedaris usually turned down to protect his family. But Alvarez had two feathers in his cap: the story he wanted to adapt (from Sedaris’s essay collection Naked) didn’t include the family, and Sedaris “just loved” Alvarez’s first movie, Easier with Practice. Once he gave the project the go-ahead, however, Sedaris stayed out of the way — so much so that he saw the film for the first time at Sunday night’s Sundance premiere. … Read More
PARK CITY, UT: Let’s get this right out in the open: Don Jon’s Addiction, the new comedy from Joseph Gordon-Levitt premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, is filthy. It concerns a womanizing New Jersey ladies’ man whose dependence on hardcore Internet porn is so intense that he actually prefers it to the real thing. His voice-over narration, explaining in graphic detail exactly why he feels that way, is one of the film’s funniest scenes; his precise description of the porn/masturbation process will probably ring a bit too comfortably true for some gentlemen in its audience. Both of those scenes, and others throughout the movie, are illustrated by the pornography in question. It may very well be the most hardcore porn we’ve ever seen in a mainstream movie (there’s even a credit for a “pornography consultant,” which sounds like good work if you can get it). But, as Mr. Gordon-Levitt explained following a Saturday morning screening, the film’s not as graphic as it sounds. … Read More
PARK CITY, UT: When the Michael Cera vehicle Youth in Revolt was released in January of 2009, its commercial failure had observers sniffing a backlash to the likable young actor, who’d presumably built up an audience via his work in the hits Superbad and Juno, and on the cult fave Arrested Development. But when the much-loved, much-hyped Scott Pilgrim vs. the World met with similarly underwhelming box office the following year, the verdict was in: it was looking less and less likely the Cera was going to be carrying films the way his Superbad co-star Jonah Hill was. So he did the only sensible thing: he went off to Chile and made a movie about a mescaline trip. Wait, what? … Read More
The 2012 Sundance Film Festival drew to a close over the weekend with a flurry of additional distribution deals, as well as a Saturday night awards ceremony. The fest’s out-of-nowhere buzz hit Beasts of the Southern Wild was among the big winners, nabbing not only the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize, but the US Dramatic Excellence in Cinematography award. The Documentary Grand Jury Prize went to The House I Live In, an examination of the war on drugs from director Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight). The Israeli film The Law in These Parts won the World Cinema Jury Prize for Documentary, while the Latin American musical drama Violeta Went to Heaven won the Dramatic World Cinema Jury Prize.
True to my history of excellent scheduling judgment, your humble correspondent saw not one of those films during my eight days in Park City, though I did take in — and greatly enjoy — the US Audience award winners The Invisible War (Documentary) and The Surrogate (Drama); the latter film also won a richly-deserved US Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting. My favorite film of the fest, Mike Birbiglia’s warm, winning comedy Sleepwalk With Me, won the Best of NEXT Audience Award; another favorite, the wry time-travel comedy/drama Safety Not Guaranteed, won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. … Read More
PARK CITY, UT: Attendees of the Sundance Film Festival are expressing shock and sadness over the passing of independent film biz legend Bingham Ray, who suffered a pair of strokes over the past week and died today. He was 58.
Ray’s career in movies began humbly, as a projectionist at New York’s Bleecker Street cinema. In 1991, Ray and Jeff Lipsky co-founded October Films, which became one of the seminal independent film distributors of the 1990s; their slate included Lost Highway, Breaking the Waves, Secrets & Lies, and The Apostle. He later served as president of United Artists and was an adjunct professor at NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts. Ray was also the executive director of the San Francisco Film Society. … Read More