Sundance

Multi-hyphenate Josh Radnor has had a real nice time at the Sundance Film Festival. His debut film, happythankyoumoreplease, premiered at the festival in 2010, and he just brought his second feature, Liberal Arts, to Park City this past January. Both films star Radnor as a shiftless twentysomething who is, for a variety of reasons, unhappy with his current lot in life. But whereas happythankyoumoreplease tended to feel too twee, too naval-gazey, too unformed, Liberal Arts showed a tremendous progression in Radnor’s talents and execution. And now you can see it, too! IFC will release the film just in time for back to school on September 14 of this year. The film also stars Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, and Zac Efron, and should be the perfect way to ease back into fall drudgery after the fireworks of the summer season.

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Beasts of the Southern Wild received mostly acclaim from its Sundance debut earlier this year with several critics already calling it the best film of 2012. Our own Kevin Kelly called it “magical and moving” and “utterly amazing” in his review, and that guy’s only occasionally wrong. The film follows a young girl living in a a small, rural community just to the left of reality that receives word of an impending disaster caused by flood-ravaged levees. She sets out an adventure that sees imagination and the real world collide as she tries to save her father and town. And that’s even before the prehistoric porcine creatures arrive on scene. The trailer’s release has reportedly brought some bloggers to tears as they watched the images play across the screen, but while you (and I) may not have the same reaction there’s no denying its visual appeal. Think Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke meets Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are and you’ll have an idea what to expect. Maybe. Check out the trailer below. Just be sure you have some Kleenex handy. Or…not.

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To say that I have been eagerly anticipating Zal Batmanglij‘s Sound of My Voice is the understatement of the year. I’ve been rabid about seeing this thing ever since it premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival (where everyone loved it) and then followed that up with a run at last year’s SXSW Film Festival (where everyone loved it), and though I attended both festivals, I could never manage to fit the film in to my schedule. I even remember standing outside the Alamo, heartbroken and thunderstruck, after I missed a screening of the film by a mere five minutes. Batmanglij co-wrote the film with star Brit Marling, and while I’ve more than taken my lumps for hating Marling’s other Sundance 2011 film, Another Earth, I’ve been assured that I will love Sound of My Voice, so perhaps my indie cred isn’t dead just yet. That all said, the film stars Christopher Denham and Nicole Vicius as a couple/documentary filmmaking team who attempt to break into a Marling-led cult for a project, only to find themselves pulled under her sway. The film will finally hit theaters this April, and marketing is just beginning to roll out. Snap on over to Apple to watch the film’s first two minutes, and if that intrigues you (hint: it will), mark your calendars for Thursday, when you can watch the first twelve minutes (comprising the first of ten “chapters” that make up the film) of Sound of My Voice at the film’s official site […]

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With the Oscar nominations out terrorizing the community, we turn to IMDB Managing Editor Keith Simanton to discuss why the Academy Awards still matter, how the voting environment works, and why Harvey Weinstein always seems to control the conversation. Plus, Landon Palmer explores the death of the movie star and the rise of franchises. Could it help the revival in independent filmmaking? As if that weren’t enough, Cinema Blend‘s Editor-in-Chief Katey Rich squares off with Hollywood.com Movies Editor Matt Patches in a Movie News Pop Quiz that will change everything. Download This Episode

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John Hawkes in The Surrogate

John Hawkes has quickly became one of my favorite actors by giving my favorite supporting performances of the last two years. First he was the oddly intimidating Uncle Tear Drop in 2010’s Winter’s Bone, and last year he was the strangely charismatic cult leader in Martha Marcy May Marlene. Both of those films made their initial splashes at Sundance, and seeing as this year Hawkes returned to the festival, this time in a leading role, with the movie The Surrogate, I think there’s a good chance he could give my favorite performance of the year overall in 2012. That is, if reports of the film getting lengthy standing ovations and the glowing review of our own very helpful Allison Loring can be believed. The thing that strikes me about Hawkes is the absolute authority he’s able to command his characters with. He’s a slight man, but he made me fear him completely as Tear Drop. He’s not a pretty man, but he sold me completely on the spell he had those girls under in Martha Marcy May Marlene. In The Surrogate he plays Mark O’Brien, a poet who suffers from Polio, which has left him with a severely curved spine. Hawkes gave a pretty lengthy interview about the movie to Vulture, and the most interesting bits of it, to me, were the parts where he talks about how taxing it was physically to bring this character to life. It sounds like we’re getting another Hawkes performance where he goes all in.

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This year, we’re dedicated to bringing Sundance straight to you, dear reader, and that includes getting to know some of the faces that make up a stellar Sundance – critics (new and returning), publicists (ever-ready clipboard in hand), producers and distributors (looking for the next big hit to bring to a theater near you), and basically whoever else we stumble upon on the slick (and charming) hill that comprises Main Street. There may be hobos and inanimate objects included as interview subjects, but you’ll just have to wait and see on that one. First up, Sundance stalwart, James Rocchi. A dear personal friend and an impeccable professional mentor, the twelve-year (maybe?) veteran of the fest has covered Sundance for a variety of outlets, including MSN Movies, Cinematical (R.I.P.), Netflix, IFC, and Indiewire. This year, he’s back to cover the festival for MSN Movies and their magical The Hitlist blog (I say magical, because, hey, I write there too!) and Indiewire’s The Playlist. After the break, check out ten questions (and answers) about Sundance expectations and experiences with James Rocchi, the dapper, hat-wearing gentleman critic most likely to open a door for you while you discuss George Orwell, even in the middle of a blizzard.

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The annual week I spend in sleepy Park City, Utah, carousing with the rest of the online film criticism glitterati, eating criminally overpriced pizza, barely sleeping, and consistently worrying about early on-set frostbite is my favorite week of the year. Not just for the pals, the pizza, and the sleep deprivation, but for (shockingly!) the movies. I’ve been lucky enough to see some truly great stuff at Sundance over the past two years – The Freebie, Winter’s Bone, Martha Marcy May Marlene, and Take Shelter all come to mind quite quickly, particularly because those films all stuck with me long enough to make it on to my top ten lists for their respective years. That’s staying power, and that’s the power of Sundance – seeing films in January that stay top-of-mind (and top-of-top-ten-list) for eleven months (and beyond). So which films from this year’s Sundance will prove to be long-range winners? While I can certainly make some very educated guesses, there’s no way to know for sure until my eyeballs meet Park City’s theater screens. That said, it’s probably safe to assume my ultimate favorite is somewhere on the following list of my ten most anticipated films for this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

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It’s about time more lady-centric comedies popped up in theaters, and the success of Bridesmaids (and what appears to be an insatiable demand for a sequel) should usher in a bit of a golden age for the mini-genre. If that’s so, it’s no shock that such a female-driven sex comedy would show its goods at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Carrie Preston‘s That’s What She Said will surely be the butt of many jokes around Park City come next week, so it’s fitting that we’re getting the film’s first trailer to warm up the Michael Scott in all of us. The film stars Anne Heche as DeeDee (Heche was at last year’s Sundance with Cedar Rapids) and Marcia DeBonis as her best friend Bebe (you might recognize DeBonis as Jennifer Garner’s put-upon assistant from 13 Going On 30). Both unlucky in love, DeeDee is trying to heal herself up with bad habits (lots of smoking), while hopeless romantic Bebe thinks she might have finally met her match. A pretty standard plot, right? Well, that’s probably why Maeby Fünke herself, Alia Shawkat, gets tossed in with her own messed up notions about love. Shawkat’s Clementine is a sex addict, and it looks as if her boundary-pushing just might force DeeDee and Bebe to rethink their own choices. Plus, you know, sex and cigarettes. That’s What She Said will have its World Premiere at Sundance on Friday, January 20, with three additional screenings throughout the festival. Check out the film’s official trailer […]

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The story of the West Memphis Three (Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley) has already been, quite famously, immortalized in filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s Paradise Lost trilogy (which wrapped up this year after the Three were finally freed from prison), but Berligner and Sinofsky were not the only filmmakers captivated by the unbelievable story of the men, the murders, and the miscarriage of justice surrounding them. Peter Jackson and his wife and producing partner Fran Walsh have long been supporters of Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley, so it’s no surprise that the pair have helped produce a new documentary about the men and their case. West of Memphis is an investigative documentary by the Academy Award-nominated Amy Berg that “tells the untold story behind an extraordinary and desperate fight to bring the truth to light.” The film picks up with the official police investigation in 1993, covering the story “from the inside.” Filled with new information and new evidence, West of Memphis is a timely and welcome addition to this year’s Sundance Film Festival. West of Memphis will have its World Premiere at Sundance on Friday, January 20, with four additional screenings throughout the festival. Check out the film’s official trailer after the break, along with screening information for Sundance. See you there!

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Elizabeth Olsen

After standing tall upon the rubble of bones and ash, letting loose a hyena-like cackle and biting into the leg of an indie producer while the blood dripped down her cheeks, Elizabeth Olsen will now return to the land she conquered last year with two new features. The actress who crushed audiences in Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene and (to a lesser extent) Silent House heads back to Sundance with two new battle axes to grind. The first is Peace, Love and Misunderstanding where she continues her love of commas alongside co-stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chace Crawford and Catherine Keener. The dramedy focuses on a woman in the midst of a possible divorce who reunites with her estranged hippie mother (Jane Fonda) on her hippie farm with the kids in tow. It played at Toronto and apparently works well without being too difficult to digest. The other film is Josh Radnor‘s Liberal Arts. The How I Met Your Mother star’s second outing as feature writer/director sees him playing a man headed back to his old college only to fall in love with a bright, beautiful young woman played by Olsen. So, it seems like there’s nothing in the holster that’s as challenging as MMMM, but Olsen has already dominated that scene, and her return is a kind of victory lap on her way to even more work. Hopefully you enjoy watching her do what she does, because she’s going to be around for a while. And so will we because we’ll […]

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It’s really about time that the Sundance Film Festival honored perennial indie it-girl Parker Posey with some kind of, well, some kind of something! Wait, what? Posey has appeared in over a dozen Sundance films? Including one this year? Sorry, but for the star of Party Girl (a film I will defend until the day I die, falafels and rain-soaked books forever, amen), we really need to do something much, much bigger. An awards-hosting gig? Yes, yes, that will do just fine. Terrible and bizarre reporting gimmick aside, the Sundance Institute has today announced that Posey will serve as of host of this year’s Sundance Film Festival Awards Ceremony. The ceremony will take place on its traditional day – the last Saturday of the festival (this year, that’s January 28) at 7PM and will be available via live-stream to those not able to attend the festival. As ever, the Awards will be followed by the Closing Night Party, which is basically a good excuse for everyone still in attendance at the festival to get roaringly drunk and talk to each other (it’s also a bad excuse for everyone to get roaringly drunk and talk to each other). In addition to the announcement that Parker will host, the full list of the festival’s six juries has also been revealed. Names that will not surprise you – Fenton Bailey, Shari Berman, Cliff Martinez, Anthony Mackie, Cliff Martinez, Lynn Shelton, Mike Judge, and Dee Rees. Names that might surprise you – Justin Lin […]

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If you’ve seen the 2009 Greek release Dogtooth, then you know that Efthymis Filippou is a unique storyteller. That film, which details the lives of a family with an interesting take on child rearing, plays like an onion of crazy that makes your brain cry harder every layer of plot you peel away. If you haven’t seen Dogtooth, drop everything you’re doing and go watch that one before you read further here. It’s still streaming on Netflix…just prepare to be disturbed. Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s talk about this new movie, L. It’s a film about a man living in a car that’s set to debut at this year’s Sundance. Okay, to be more specific, it’s a film about a divorced man who lives in a car, whose family lives in another car, and who often has meetings with him in random parking lots. One of those meetings makes up the bulk of this trailer, which kind of plays like a weird microfilm. As you might imagine, this isn’t such a great way to live, even for a professional driver/honey delivery man, so the protagonist is also wrestling with the idea of giving up cars for motorcycles.

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With the 2012 Sundance Film Festival kicking off in, oh my, God, is that right? just one month, it’s time that the fest announce its straggler titles – four more picks joining the already-phenomenal line-up of films that, for whatever reason, weren’t quite ready to be announced when the listing of 117 other feature-length films were released. These four titles join three different sections – there’s one Premiere, two Spotlights (films that have shown at other festivals that the Sundance crew can’t help but share come January), and one Park City at Midnight title. At least one of these films made me stand up and cheer upon reading of its addition. I won’t tease you – it’s John Dies at the End. Don Coscarelli‘s take on David Wong‘s novel will have its World Premiere at the festival, and I cannot even remotely wait. Also joining the fest? Philip Dorling and Ron Nyswaner‘s Predisposed, starring Jesse Eisenberg, Melissa Leo, and Tracy Morgan, along with the North American premiere of Sean Penn fright wig drama This Must Be the Place and Norway’s own Oslo, August 31st. Check out the full listing details of all four additions after the break.

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Last week, the 2012 Sundance Film Festival announced their first wave of programming, featuring twenty-six titles that will be screening in competition. They followed that with the announcement of their Spotlight, Next, Park City at Midnight, and New Frontiers films. It was two days of absolute madness and glee, and the festival sagely waited a few days, giving us the buffer of a weekend to catch our collective breath, before breaking out the big guns. The Premiere and Documentary Premieres. That’s a bit clunky – so the Premieres! The Premieres are here! Per usual, here’s a list of films that immediately jump out at me: Julie Delpy’s follow-up to 2 Days in Paris, the Delpy and Chris Rock-starring 2 Days in New York, Nicholas Jarecki’s Abritrage (which stars one of last year’s break-out stars, Brit Marling, in her fist big-time feature role), Lee Toland Krieger’s Celeste and Jesse Forever (which stars co-writer Rashida Jones), Stephen Frears’ Lay the Favorite, Josh Radnor’s second film Liberal Arts (also starring one of last year’s big stars, Elizabeth Olsen), Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer, Stacy Peralta’s Bones Brigade: An Autobiography, and Amy Berg’s West of Memphis. Check out the full list of Sundance Film Festival Premiere picks after the break.

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Welcome to Day Two of Kate Christmas. Yesterday, the 2012 Sundance Film Festival announced their first wave of programming, featuring twenty-six titles that will be screening in competition. While the arrival of those titles was enough to send me into a tizzy I have still not recovered from, today the festival has only piled on the pre-holiday goodies with the announcement of their Spotlight, Next, Park City at Midnight, and New Frontiers films. A few titles of note to get your juices flowing – Gareth Evans‘ The Raid (also known round these parts as “oh, hell yeah”), Andrea Arnold‘s take on Wuthering Heights, Katie Aselton‘s second directorial outing Black Rock (scripted by her husband Mark Duplass), Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, Mike Birbiglia and Seth Barrish‘s Sleepwalk With Me (based on Birbiglia’s hilarious book), and Lynn Shelton‘s Your Sister’s Sister. Again, that’s just a taste, so check out the full list of Spotlight, Next, Park City at Midnight, and New Frontiers films after the break.

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This is my Christmas. Over the next couple of months, we’re going to real cozy with some of the titles listed here – the twenty-six films that make up the upcoming Sundance Film Festival‘s in-competition programming. There are some expected titles here – like Mark Webber‘s The End of Love, Ry Russo-Young‘s Nobody Walks, Colin Trevorrow‘s Safety Not Guaranteed, and James Ponsoldt‘s Smashed, to name a very slim few – and there are already a couple of surprises, most of which consist of films that I’ve just yet to hear of (like Ben Lewin‘s The Surrogate, which sounds fantastic). But the full list of these in competition titles is worth poring over, so I’ll set you to it in just a moment, after a couple of necessary bits of ‘dance info. This is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg, as a total of 110 feature-length films were picked for the festival, coming from 31 countries and 44 first-time filmmakers. No less than 88 films at the festival will be world premieres. More programming announcements will be arriving soon, with picks for the Spotlight, Park City at Midnight, NEXT <=> and New Frontier sections due to be announced tomorrow, December 1, with films in the Premieres and Documentary Premieres sections getting announced on Monday, December 5. This year’s festival runs from January 19 through 29 in Park City, Utah. Should the press-credential-givers be so kind (hi, press-credential-givers, we love you), your own Allison Loring and I will be there […]

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Watching Like Crazy was a frustrating experience for me. The whole time I was watching the film, I felt as if I should have been enjoying it much more than I actually was. Visually, the film is both intimate and gorgeous, kind of like watching a home movie if your dad was a virtuoso filmmaker. The performances are all strong, from top to bottom. But despite all of the obvious talent on the screen, I just couldn’t find myself connecting to the story or the characters as they were crafted. Maybe I’m not much of a romantic, but I found the relationship woes of the main characters Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones) to be less than compelling. In fact, they were pretty frustrating to get through. Who were these kids and why should I care that they treat their personal lives like the most important things in the world? We’re not so much introduced to Jacob and Anna as we watch as they’re introduced to each other. The film opens with their meeting in a college course in which Anna is a student and Jacob a teacher’s aid, followed by Anna’s bold decision to leave a note declaring her infatuation under Jacob’s windshield wiper, and the stilted conversation and stolen glances of their first date. The getting-to-know-you sequence is cute, but it doesn’t last long. Soon we’re informed through montage (we’re informed of a lot of things through montage in this film) that the two kids are now very […]

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It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of short films and of aspiring talent trying to get eyeballs on their work. That’s the very reason that we shine a bright spotlight on a short film every day of the work week, and it’s the same reason that we’re partnering with Playboy, Bombay Sapphire Gin and Talent House for a short film contest that will see one winner taken to Sundance 2012, handed a nice chunk of change, and featured at a private event at the festival. So how do you enter this glorious contest? It’s incredibly, ridiculously simple:

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Welcome back to Commentary Commentary, where we dive into the shiny backside of your favorite DVDs and bring you the magical insight that comes from hearing filmmakers talk. This week we’re going back to the woods, trekking through miles and miles of uncharted forest area, and looking for some lost film students. Not necessarily film school rejects. You can’t really be rejected if you wind up dead in the woods, right? Doesn’t matter. This week we’re listening to the commentary track for The Blair Witch Project, the infamous, no-budget shocker that became a cultural phenomenon in 1999. It also remains a sure-fire way to scare your friends or making them violently ill from all the shaky cam. Here’s what we learned from the commentary on this, the movie that kicked off the latest trend of found-footage moviemaking.

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Sundance veteran Drake Doremus returned to Park City this year with a very different film than 2010’s Douchebag. For his 2011 entry, Doremus brought along Like Crazy, a sensitive and romantic film that doesn’t rely on anyone taking their shirt off or ludicrous meet-cutes or casts packed with tween pop stars to make it work. I saw the film back in January at Sundance, and it is one of two romantic dramedies with a young, hip cast from the festival that has stuck in my mind these many months. The other one, the Freddie Highmore-starring The Art of Getting By (retitled from its Sundance name, Homework) has remained in my brain mainly due to how much I hated it. It’s frowned upon to spit when speaking about films, but that’s been the best way I’ve found to physically express how terrible that movie was, and how emotionally disingenuous. On the flipside, there was Doremus’s Like Crazy, which stars Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones (with co-starring appearances by Jennifer Lawrence and Charlie Bewley). Not to get emotional over here (because, you know, gross), but Like Crazy is one of the best films about long distance relationships I’ve ever seen (and I know from long distance relationships).

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