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Sundance Winners: Will "Fruitvale" and "Blood Brother" March On to Oscar Glory?

Here is Amanda Seyfried with some paparazzi at Sundance. Amanda is great at being a celebrity. 

So even if Lovelace didn't exactly light the world on fire, she still wins.

But I suppose we should discuss actual festival winners, now that the fest has wrapped and the journos have all exited the snowy peaks of Park City, Utah. Before we list the winners, let's look at the context of how well they usually fare come Oscar time the following year. Are there any patterns?

2012 Beasts of the Southern Wild & The Sessions split the jury & audience prizes for drama, respectively. Beasts went on to major Oscar nominations and The Sessions (which also won a prize for its ensemble acting held on for one Oscar nomination in the form of the title character played by Helen Hunt (back then it was called "The Surrogate" remember?). The House I Live In and The Invisible War split the juried & audience prizes for doc and the reverse happened: Oscar went with the audience fav rather than the jury fav. (Personally I think The House I Live In is a much stronger documentary so that outcome disappointed me). 

Total Oscar nods from Sundance prize-winning films:  9
Most Predictive: Best Documentary. 3 of the eventual 5 nominees won prizes here 

2011 This year produced a lot of disparate favorites but most of the hot films in the cold climate of Park City like How to Die in Oregon, Tyrannosaur, Project NIM, Like Crazy, Buck, Circumstance, Martha Marcy May Marlene, failed to win any Oscar nominations.

Total Oscar nods from Sundance prize-winning films:  2
Most PredictiveBest Documentary. 2 of the eventual nominees won prizes here 

More after the jump including this year's winning Sundance films. Obviously, congratulations for now and well done, can't wait to see you. Etcetera. (But will we be talking about them at Oscar time next year?) 

2010 Winter's Bone and Restrepo won the juried awards for drama and documentary and both went on to Oscar favor. The Kids Are All Right caused a bidding war and raves (but no prizes) and also went on to Oscar glory. The festival's audience favs happythankyoumoreplease and Waiting for "Superman" failed to win Oscar love. Animal Kingdom, which took the World Cinema Drama prize, went on to win one hard-earned and hugely deserved supporting actress nomination for Jacki Weaver.

Total Oscar nods from Sundance prize-winning films:  7
Most Predictive: Best Documentary. 3 of the eventual nominees won prizes here.

2009 In a rare feat, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' By Sapphire won both the Audience and the Jury prize (this feat was duplicated again this weekend!). It went on to big-time Oscar success with six nominations and two statues. We Live in Public and The Cove split the Jury and the Audience prizes for documentaries. Only The Cove lived on to see Oscar glory. 

Total Oscar nods from Sundance prize-winning films:  10
Most PredictiveBest Actress. Precious and An Education introduced us to new young actress stars.

2008 Frozen River and the brilliant Katrina doc Trouble the Water won the jury prizes and The Wackness and Fuel won over the audiences. Oscar noticed both the jury winners and the other two didn't register.

Total Oscar nods from Sundance prize-winning films:  4
Most Predictive: Best Documentary. 2 of the eventual nominees won prizes here.

That's enough for a bit of context. What did we learn? WATCH OUT FOR THE WINNING DOCUMENTARIES A YEAR FROM NOW. The rest of Sundance winners each year are hit and miss once they hit the larger world though they tend to fare best in the Actress categories... and what's more those nominees tend to be some of the most deserving. I'll leave that to you to determine why...


Michael B Jordan, who was so terrific on Friday Night Lights and recently co-starred on Parenthood, stars in "Fruitvale", a true story about a young man who was famously shot by police on New Year's Day 2009 in the Bay Area.

  • Grand Jury Prize: Documentary - Blood Brother
  • Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic - Fruitvale
  • World Cinema Jury Prize: Documentary - A River Changes Course
  • World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic - Jiseul
  • Audience Award: U.S. Documentary - Blood Brother
  • Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic - Fruitvale
  • World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary - The Square
  • World Cinema Audience Award: Dramatic - Metro Manila
  • Best of NEXT Audience Award - This is Martin Bonner
  • U.S. Directing Award: Documentary - Cutie & The Boxer
  • U.S. Directing Award: Dramatic - Afternoon Delight
  • World Cinema Directing Award: Documentary - The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear
  • World Cinema Directing Award: Dramatic - Crystal Fairy
  • Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award - In a World...
  • World Cinema Screenwriting Award - Wajma (An Afghan Love Story)
  • U.S. Documentary Editing Award - Gideon's Army
  • World Cinema Documentary Editing Award - The Summit
  • Excellence in Cinematography Award: U.S. Documentary - Dirty Wars

    The amazing DP Bradford Young (Pariah, Middle of Nowhere) picked up yet another cinematography prize. When will Oscar notice him. He's surely the greatest newish cinematographer not named Greig Fraser (who has incidentally ALSO never been Oscar nominated.)
  • Excellence in Cinematography Award: U.S. Dramatic - Bradford Young (who we've been raving about on the podcasts) for Mother of George and Aint Them Bodies Saints
  • World Cinema Cinematography Award: Documentary - Who is Dayani Cristal?
  • World Cinema Cinematography Award: Dramatic - Lasting
  • U.S. Documentary Special Jury Prize for Achievement in Filmmaking - Inequality for All and American Promise
  • U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Sound Design: Shane Carruth & Johnny Marshall - Upstream Color
  • U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Acting - Miles Teller & Shailene Woodley in The Spectacular Now
  • World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award - Circles
  • World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Prize for Punk Spirit - Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer
  • Alfred P Sloane Feature Film Prize: Computer Chess
  • Grand Jury Prize: Short Filmmaking - The Whistle
  • Short Film Jury Award: US Fiction - Whiplash
  • Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction - The Date
  • Short Film Jury Award: Non-Fiction - Skinnningrove
  • Short Film Jury Award: Animation - Irish Folk Furniture
  • Short Film Special Jury Award for Acting: Joel Nagle in Palimpsest
  • Short Film Special Jury Award: Kahlil Joseph for Until the Quiet Comes
  • Short Film Audience Award - Catnip: Egress to Oblivion

Well, if history is any indication expect to see some of the documentary winners march on to Oscar nods. Sundance loved the emotional Blood Brother most (Rocky Braat & Steve Hoover are pictured, left, accepting the prize), which is a film about Rocky Braat's travels to India to work with orphans with HIV. Since Sundance usually ends up heralding the arrival of more than one future Best Documentary Feature Oscar Nominee we should all try to catch The River Changes Course, The Square, Cutie and the Boxer, Gideon's Army, Who is Dayani Cristal? if we get a chance... just in case. (An uncelebrated bonus of Oscar fever: you seek out movies you might otherwise miss all the time!)

Fruitvale is a debut film from African-American director Ryan Coogler and though only two African American directors have ever been Oscar nominated (Lee Daniels for Precious and John Singleton for Boyz in the Hood) both were nominated very early in their feature film careers. And Oscar loves a noble-minded true story so perhaps we'll see Fruitvale making a splash at the Oscars. First it will have to pass the theatrical test and that's always tricky with festival hits which often flounder by either waiting too long until people have forgotten about their big initial festival splash or by getting half-hearted or under-funded releases. Fruitvale was picked up by the Weinstein Co which might be a good sign (I say might because people always forget that for every acquisition they push relentlessly to awards glory there are 2 on the shelf gathering dust and 2 dumped in theaters and barely pushed at all.) 

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Reader Comments (11)

Is there any buzz on Octavia Spencer in Fruitvale. Can she get a second Oscar nomination?

January 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRamification

Michael B. Jordan will always be Wallace from "The Wire" to me. So happy to see him doing well.

January 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTB

This year, the films that didn't end up winning were the ones I was most curious about from the reviews and interviews.

January 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBia

I love Amanda Seyfried and I want her to have a big career.

January 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Is there any buzz on Octavia Spencer in Fruitvale. Can she get a second Oscar nomination?

God, I hope not. She didn't deserve the first.

January 27, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

@3rtful, lol. I'm not sure who you wanted to win that year, but the nominees weren't particularly strong. If Octavia gives a great performance, I don't see why not.

January 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

THANK YOU TB --- I've been trying to figure out where I knew Michael P. Jordan from. Wallace is all grown up now.

January 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

OMG, Amanda Seyfried's hair is so pretty. It looks like spun gold is just cascading from her head!

January 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

What about "Don Jon's Addiction" and "Before Midnight"? They were both out of competition, but are they Oscary enough? Critics loved these ones and both star some major names (JGL, ScarJo, Julianne Moore, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy)

January 27, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjake

I want to see a trailer for Fruitvale now!

January 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

Thanks to Sundance, I'm very keen to see Michael B Jordan and Octavia Spencer in FRUITVALE, Shailene Woodley in THE SPECTACULAR NOW, Amanda Seyfried in LOVELACE, and BEFORE MIDNIGHT, all of which seemed to get good buzz.

I know Thompson on Hollywood characterised the reviews of LOVELACE as mixed to negative, but the ones I read all praised Seyfried and suggested the movie was better than expected.

January 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve G

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