Sundance

sundance survival kit

Whenever Sundance begins again and I prepare to head back to Park City, one word comes to my mind: early. Because every time I have headed off to the snowy mountains that surround this festival, I find myself — and I know many others do as well — setting my alarm for the wee hours to get up, get to the airport, and get to the festival with hopes of making the most of those precious few hours left in the day by the time I arrive. This is especially true for me, as I usually get in on the official third day of the festival and screenings are well under way. But the second I’m here, that early wake up call is a distant memory and it feels like I’m back in a home away from home (granted this home is a bit colder and I have to be even more careful not to slip and fall while walking), getting back into the festival swing of things.

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Sundance Day 1

“The plane is overfueled for such a short flight, so we’re too heavy to take off right now, so we’re going to drain some fuel and bring up some baggage from underneath to redistribute what we’ve got.” These are not the words that any sane person wants to hear on any sort of flight, especially on a plane so small that the one flight attendant has to sit on a jump seat that, by all accounts, unfolds straight off the cockpit door (does that seem safe to you? it doesn’t seem safe to me) or on a plane so small that drink service is limited to only five Coca-Cola products (no booze) or even on a plane so small that the one bathroom is enclosed by a folding door that accordions in (no room to even open up a door completely on this flight). And no person who is headed to her fourth Sundance wants to hear those words from a tense-looking flight attendant who mutters to the gate agent who has somehow popped up inside the front galley, “How many children are on the flight? Are there any babies?” Do the babies know something we don’t know? I would very much like to get to Sundance, tonight if possible, but I am not entirely sure that I want to die in the process. And that’s how my fourth Sundance kicked off.

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S-VHS

What the hell is that? And that, horror fans, is the best way to leave your audience salivating for more when it comes to premiering a first trailer for the newest entry in your burgeoning horror anthology film franchise. Over at ShockTillYouDrop, the first trailer for S-VHS has popped up mere days before the film premieres at this week’s Sundance Film Festival. It’s a slim little number, but it kicks off with a slice of what I’m guessing might be my favorite section from the new film – a child’s birthday party at what looks to be a family’s cabin in the woods, interrupted by something that likes to screech like a combination banshee and T.Rex. Banshrex. T.Shee. Either way, I can’t wait to meet it. This time around, the directing talent behind the anthology film includes Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Edúardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Evans, and Jason Eisener, so yes, there’s probably going to be something here for everyone. I saw and reviewed the first VHS at last year’s Sundance and flipped for it (and screamed and cried and tried to hide in my sweater and scarf to no avail), so my hopes are quite high for this next entry. Ready to see some of what the next chapter in the VHS franchise holds? Take a look at the first trailer for S-VHS after the break. Have your sweaters and scarves at the ready.

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Christopher Nolan at Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival is one of the largest independent fests in the country, but it probably has the best reputation for launching filmmaking careers and being the only thing in January that will be remembered around Oscar time 13 months later. It’s debatable just how “indie” it is — especially with studio shingles routinely picking up audience favorites for distribution — but it’s difficult to deny the raw directorial power that’s moved through Park City over the years. Names like Christopher Nolan, Kevin Smith, The Coen Brothers and Steven Soderbergh can count themselves amongst the Sundance ranks, but there are many, many more. In that (independent) spirit, here’s a double-size list of tips (for fans and filmmakers alike) from 12 directors who made a name at Sundance.

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The East

With the year’s first large scale film fest, the Sundance Film Festival, kicking off later this week, it’s high time that we started making some predictions about some of the films that are most likely to explode off the screen up in snowy Park City. Every Sundance (and, really, every major film festival) churns out its darlings, its favorites, its gems, those films that take weary festival-loving audiences by storm and become not only the talk of the festival, but the talk of the cinematic world. Of course, anyone who has ever attended even a massive festival like Sundance knows that festival buzz doesn’t exactly spell out mainstream success, but it’s sure as hell a nice place to start. While our intrepid Sundance team – myself, Allison, and Rob – have already weighed in our individual “most anticipated” films of the festival, those personal picks don’t cover the full gamut of films poised to become the big ticket films at this year’s festival. Here’s our attempt to sniff those babies out. After the break, check out the fifteen films we’re banking on to light up this year’s Sundance.

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Prince Avalanche

Expectations? This is my first Sundance Film Festival, so the only things I know I’ll encounter are movies, cold snow, overpriced sandwiches, and familiar faces. It should be a great time provided the movies are good, the snow is outside my boots, the sandwiches are tasty and the faces are friendly. Prepare for some very disgruntled tweets otherwise. Looking through the list of titles playing Sundance this year, I tallied a whopping thirty-eight films that I want to see. Kate Erbland said that made her too nervous, presumably because it’s so close to her age (something she’s very conscious of, EDIT: not even close, Hunter!), so she asked me to drop it to a more youthful number. It wasn’t easy to do, but through a complicated series of algorithms and drinking games, I knocked off twenty-eight. What remains are my ten most anticipated films of Sundance 2013! Read them, and be as excited as I am at the prospect of maybe getting in to see them!

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C.O.G.

Film festival scheduling is a delicate art, a precarious balance of needs and desires, a rigorous exercise in making puzzle pieces fit. It’s hard, is what I’m saying, and it’s harder still when a fest’s programming is rounded out with so many films that sound so good – like this year’s Sundance Film Festival slate. As the fest rolled out their picks late last year, I’d spend whole mornings squealing over their listings, getting jazzed weeks in advance for films I hoped I’d be able to see. After all that, I’ve narrowed down my picks to ten films I cannot wait to see, a list that includes some Sundance favorites, some returning stars, Canada’s best film of the year, a possible break-out hit or two, and even a doc about mountain climbing, because those are just the sorts of films I wait all year to see at Sundance. Take a look at the ten films I’m most likely to shiv someone in order to see, after the break.

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Mud

The prospect of heading back to the snowy mountain that houses the Sundance Film Festival brings up many questions – is my jacket warm enough? Do I have boots with good traction so I do not slip on the ice? Will I be able to use my iPhone with gloves on? But beyond these basic survival questions, the one major question is: what films do I want to see? The Sundance lineup gets increasingly more impressive with each passing year and the festival program for 2013 certainly lives up to that standard. After putting together the puzzle that is a festival schedule (a task not for the faint of heart) I am genuinely looking forward to all the films on my list, but these are the ten films I am most looking forward to plopping down in a (hopefully) warm theater to watch. Stay tuned to FSR for my reviews and see if these films end up being ones that should be added to your own “must-see” lists for the year.

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IL FUTURO

If you’re attending Sundance this year and have already started thinking, “man, I would really love to see a dramatic feature that stars Rutger Hauer as an aging and blind B-movie star who is also a hermit and who was also Mr. Universe and who also lives in a rococo mansion in Rome,” then we have got the only film you’ll need to see at this month’s film festival. Based on Roberto Bolano‘s novel “Una Novelita Lumpen,” Alicia Scherson‘s Il Futuro stars Hauer as, well, an aging and blind B-movie star who is also a hermit and who was also Mr. Universe and who also lives in a rococo mansion in Rome – but wait! there’s also romantic intrigue here! Co-starring Manuela Martelli as a recently-orphaned adolescent who is tricked by her dirtbag friends into seducing Hauer’s Maciste, the film centers on the unexpected relationship that blossoms between the pair. The film will have its World Premiere later this month at Sundance and, as such, has rolled out that lovely new poster above, which we are pleased to premiere here on FSR. The future is now! And, also, retroactively back then!

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Sundance Logo 2013

Just when we thought the 2013 Sundance Film Festival was done rolling out exciting new cinematic gems for us to get, well, excited about, the festival has just announced four late-breaking additions to the January festival. These titles include a newly struck preservation print of Robert Rodriquez’s El Mariachi (which premiered at the 1993 festival and will show as part of their “From the Collection” series), the world premiere of music doc Muscle Shoals, and yet another new Sebastián Silva joint (Magic Magic). The film is actually the second Michael Cera-starring Silva film we’re getting at the festival (what a bromance!), as the pair’s Crystal Fairy was previously announced as an in-competition title. Though Magic also centers on some American kids on a road trip in Chile, Crystal Fairy is classified as a comedy; Magic Magic, a horror flick that will show as part of Park City at Midnight, sounds like its nightmarish cousin. Now that sounds like it could be a good time. And then there is Wrong Cops, Quentin Dupieux‘s still-in-the-making New Frontier film, which sounds bonkers in only the best way. The Wrong and Rubber filmmaker again returns to the festival with the new feature, starring Mark Burnham, Marilyn Manson, Steve Little, and Eric Wareheim, which centers on a Los Angeles that’s so crime-free that it’s the cops who have to break the law. Yes. Basically, just yes. Check out the full list of the just-added titles after the break.

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Ashton Kutcher in jOBS

While some of might still be holding out for that Aaron Sorkin-penned Steve Jobs biopic, there’s still Joshua Michael Stern‘s Sundance-premiering, Ashton Kutcher-starring jOBS to look forward to. Yet, surely, no one is looking forward to this one quite as much as Kutcher, who looks tickled pink to not only be starring in what sounds like a quality film (sorry, Just Married!), but pretty excited by how much he looks like the Apple founder, as evidenced by a brand new still from the film. We can’t wait for Kutcher to fill out those black turtlenecks later in the film, however. jOBS will serve as the Closing Night Film of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, and its official fest synopsis tells us: “The true story of one of the greatest entrepreneurs in American history, jOBS chronicles the defining 30 years of Steve Jobs’ life. jOBS is a candid, inspiring and personal portrait of the one who saw things differently.” The film also stars Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Lukas Haas, J.K. Simmons, and Matthew Modine. The film was just picked up for Canadian distribution by Remstar Films, in collaboration with Entertainment One. The film also has Swiss and Italian distribution lined up. While there is no word yet on domestic distribution or release, it seems like a safe bet that won’t last soon, as jOBS will surely sell very soon, likely before it even bows at Sundance. [ComingSoon]

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And with that, that Sundance Film Festival ended a week of truly exciting programming announcements. The venerable fest has now released the full listing of their Short Film program, and it’s rounded out with all sorts of recognizable names (including Nash Edgerton, Spencer Susser, Kat Candler, and Morgan Spurlock) and a pack of up-and-comers that might just be The Next Big Thing. The shorts run the gamut in terms of subject matter – synopsis-friendly buzzwords that pop out us include “metal band,” “problem child,” “tragic consequences,” “cinematic tweets,” “fallen-from-grace artisan,” and “self-serving fantasies” – so there’s definitely something here for everyone. We’re most excited about those cinematic tweets, truth be told. After the break, check out all a comprehensive listing of all the short films that will show at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival, including U.S. Narrative Shorts, International Narrative Shorts, Documentary Shorts, Animated Shorts, and New Frontier Shorts.

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Upstream Color Teaser Trailer

If you were that expecting the first teaser trailer for Shane Carruth‘s newest film to answer any questions you may have about the filmmaker’s first project since he gave the world Primer, well, you might want to go back and watch Primer again, just to remind yourself what you’re dealing with here. Carruth’s latest film, Upstream Color, will premiere at Sundance in January, and while the project certainly didn’t need to put out such a stunning, unsettling, foreboding, intriguing, and just flat out well-made first teaser trailer to get cinephiles on board with the new film, we’re not complaining that such a teaser trailer exists. After the break, get a look at what Carruth has cooked up for us this time and, don’t worry, you don’t need to avert your eyes.

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While today’s movie news has been dominated by all manner of 2012 awards and nominations, the Sundance Film Festival implores us to look forward to 2013, rolling out a fresh new announcement of Premiere films for the fest’s 2013 edition. And while this may sound like old hat after the one-two punch of last week’s programming announcements, what a wonderful list. The list of Premieres titles is rife with returning Sundance stars, including Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Kate Bosworth, Drake Doremus, Ben York Jones, Felicity Jones, Zal Batmanglij, Brit Marling, David Gordon Green, and many (no, seriously, many more). The programming list is also packed with genuinely unexpected treats, such as the premiere of Joshua Michael Stern‘s jOBS, Park Chan-Wook‘s Stoker, and a one-screening-only showing of Jane Campion‘s six-hour seven-part series Top of the Lake (a screening that I am fully prepared to build my entire schedule around). Consider our Sundance excitement level to be at already-boggling heights. After the break, take a look at the full list of Premieres bowing at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

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Hot on the heels of yesterday’s massive announcement of programming picks for the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, the fest has rolled out yet another listing of titles that will screen in Park City in January, including the Spotlight, Park City at Midnight, and New Frontiers sections. While Sundance usually plays host to new films premiering for the first time, the fest’s Spotlight section is comprised of films that have screened elsewhere, in service to being “a tribute to the cinema we love.” Park City at Midnight is a frisky spin on Midnight films, as it’s made up of more than just horror flicks, but movies that “defy any genre.” Sundance’s ever-expanding New Frontiers section continues to both push and explore boundaries, with films and “experiences” that center on artistic convergence of all sorts. Some of the most eye-catching of these programming picks include Jeff Nichols’ Mud (Nichols makes his return to Sundance after the success of his 2011 entry, Take Shelter), Pablo Larraín‘s No, Ben Wheatley‘s Sightseers (yes!), Sarah Polley‘s Stories We Tell (the actress and director’s first documentary, which we’ve covered quite often already), everyone’s S-VHS (that’s another big “yes!”), and Jim Mickle‘s English-language remake of We Are What We Are (you know, the family-o-cannibals movie). Programming for the feature-length films in the Premieres and Documentary Premieres sections, along with picks for the Short Film section, will be announced soon. Check out the just-announced list of film selections (with cast lists and synopses!), including the Spotlight, Park City at […]

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Cue the giddy glee of film nerds everywhere. With the Sundance Film Festival lingering just over the horizon, the festival has today announced their first wave of programming – and they’ve pulled absolutely no punches when it comes to this first big wave of information. Today’s announcement includes the in-competition films for the U.S. and World Cinema Dramatic and Documentary sections, along with the out-of-competition films of the NEXT <=> section. Make no mistake, this is a giant swath of programming, a list filled to bursting with titles that will be the talk of the festival come January. These are the big guns, kids. While we attempt to tone down our excitement, here are a list of titles that immediately pop out at us from today’s list: David Lowery‘s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck), Kyle Patrick Alvarez‘s C.O.G. (Alvarez first earned our admiration with his Easier With Practice, now he’s bringing us the first film adaptation of a David Sedaris story), Lake Bell‘s In a World… (the actress’ feature directorial debut), James Ponsoldt‘s The Spectacular Now (the Smashed helmer returns with a surefire winner), Shane Carruth‘s Upstream Color (the director finally follows up his Primer with a new film), Lynn Shelton‘s Touchy Feely (it’s Shelton, come on), 99% – The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film (co-directed by Audrey Ewell and Aaron Aites, the filmmakers behind the wonderful and underseen Until the Light Takes Us), Martha Shane and Lana Wilson‘s After Tiller, Greg Barker‘s Manhunt, Sebastián Silva‘s […]

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Actor Pat Healy doesn’t have an easy role in Craig Zobel‘s Compliance. In the controversial Sundance hit, Healy is mostly seen alone in his scenes, doing one of the most dull cinematic acts around: talking on the phone. Not only that, the character’s reasoning is all a mystery, motivations which Healy has to completely internalize. Those feelings he has to capture aren’t the most pleasant ones as well. “Officer Daniels” (as he likes to go by) is a self-loathing emasculated man who revels in power, or at least that’s how Healy sees him. Zobel doesn’t give plain answers for the many of the characters’ bone-headed and disturbing actions. Compliance could be about how far misogyny can drive an emasculated dweeb or, as our Kate Erbland put it, an “exceedingly well-made interpersonal drama that hinges on the limits (and, oftentimes, depths) of human nature and people’s response to certain carefully calibrated psychological tricks.” Here’s what actor Pat Healy had to say about having to carry around feelings of self-loathing, why he couldn’t do his scenes in his pajamas, and the childlike wonder of Werner Herzog:

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Craig Zobel Interview

Compliance caused quite a stir at this year’s Sundance. Many labeled the film exploitative, finding its subject matter too much to bare. There were also other viewers, such as our Kate Erbland, who perfectly described the film as “an exceedingly well-made interpersonal drama that hinges on the limits (and, oftentimes, depths) of human nature and people’s response to certain carefully calibrated psychological tricks.” It’s a fine line between exploitation and conveying the harsh reality of the true story, but that’s not the sole challenge director Craig Zobel faced. A majority of Compliance features one of the most dullest acts to watch on screen: characters talking on the phone. There’s rarely anything cinematic about it, but Zobel managed to make every phone call ooze with dread, which probably helped him land a pretty nice gig with Tobey Maguire… Here’s what Compliance director Craig Zobel had to say about the film’s exploration of authority, never giving clear answers for the truly terrible decisions made in the film, and making one long phone call between a psycho and an average joe manager exciting:

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Buried in my viewing notes from Craig Zobel‘s Sundance premiere, Compliance, is a one-line note from a fellow journalist. Scrawled out, almost angrily, it reads “no one is this stupid!!!” Oh, but they are. Zobel’s film was one of the most controversial of the festival – subject to walk-outs and heated Q&A sessions – but it was also one of the absolute best productions unveiled in Park City this past January. The film is based on a true story (no matter how confounding and bizarre that story may be) and one that Zobel distills down into one singular event. Compliance centers on fast food worker Becky (Dreama Walker) and her generally nice (if a bit of overbearing) boss Sandra (Ann Dowd). On a day like any other, Sandra receives a phone call from a police officer who says he’s working on a case that involves Becky, and would Sandra be so kind as to help him detain Becky until he can get there? And could she possibly search Becky? And she possibly help him out with a full strip search of Becky? And…well, you get the idea. Compliance is as uncomfortable and riveting as cinema gets, and so is its first trailer. Get ready to get uncomfortable, and check out the first trailer for Compliance after the break.

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What is Movie News After Dark? Tonight, it’s hanging on by a thread, as we enter Day Four of Dear Leader Neil Miller’s Mental Health Break Staycation. While he’s off eating the finest BBQ that FSR’s hometown of Austin, Texas has to offer and Instagraming all the way, the rest of us are slaving over our keyboards and monitors to bring you the best content we possibly can. Of course, for tonight’s round of MNAD, that includes kitty GIFs, Battleship love letters, and something about the world’s most green soda missing the boat on a marketing opportunity and saddling up with the wrong superhero (to super-sad effect). It’s Movie News After Dark! And, man, is it tired. I won’t bury the lede here, folks, some people love Peter Berg‘s Battleship. Our Cole Abaius is not one of them. But guess who is! Huffington Post’s Mike Ryan! The scribbler has penned a love letter to the film, and while I can’t quite agree with the sentiment, he brings up some interesting and articulate points. And, as Ryan is both a friend and a colleague, I can assure you – he’s not joking and he’s not trolling.

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published: 12.23.2014
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