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DIETRICH in BLONDE VENUS (1932) or MOROCCO (1930)
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Entries in Sundance (88)

Thursday
Apr072016

Does A24's Swiss Army Man Trailer Sink Or Swim?

When the raucous survival film Swiss Army Man set Sundance aflame this January – aided in no small part from some infamously inflammatory methane – the only tidbit more shocking than hearing secondhand strands from its preposterous plot was the news that indie dynamo distributer A24 picked up its check to jet ski it across cinemas nationwide. Prompting walkouts that don’t sound too dissimilar from recently announced Tribeca juror and enfant terrible Sebastian Silva’s 2015 submission Nasty Baby, Swiss Army Man was immediately accused of churlish, childish, and undeniably crass crimes against good taste – what else would one expect from a buddy film about Paul Dano enduring starvation and isolation on a desert isle thanks to the multipronged malleability of Daniel Radcliffe’s flatulent, tumescent corpse? Certainly not a Directing Award, which the film’s directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinhart scooped up nonetheless; together, they go by the monicker Daniels…please make us proud.

Well, the trailer landed this week and it’s a doozy. Alternating between the bracing and bizarro, its Robinson Crusoe by way of Weekend At Bernie’s vision is sure to split audiences, test their endurance, and leave them wondering if it belongs with the sublime or subpar. Feast your eyes; clutch your stomach.

A few stray thoughts…

  • Surely I can’t be the only one clamoring for a Moonrise Kingdom beachside boogie with those two dudes amongst the sand and rocks. I have plenty of quibbles with both of their heavily mannered works the past few years but that almost makes it more enticing.
  • On that same point, their chemistry makes me long for their buddy cop film. Let's call it Love & Mercy.
  • While Radcliffe’s face is sort of frozen in that I’m A Conflicted Man! way that featured heavily in the post-puberty Potter films, at least MacGyvering him into a karate chop trebuchet, bulletproof vest, and eternal spring puts it to good use.
  • I know it’s the tongue-in-cheek inspirational tune, but the combination of fun house imagery and unconventional companionship warms my heart.
  • If a Paul Dano screams in the woods with no living soul around to hear it, does it still make a sound?

Gotta say, I’m kind of into it. The slapdash inventiveness, bold visuals, and blowing up of the rote genre volleyball hooked me. Does this look like a page one wash or does the audacity strike a chord with you?

Thursday
Mar102016

IFC Films Acquires Kelly Reichardt's Certain Women

Daniel Crooke here, with the news that Kelly Reichardt’s sixth feature film, Certain Women, has found a home at IFC Films after screening at this year’s Sundance Film Festival to great acclaim but no immediate buyer. While some of her (unnamed) louder, male peers from the American indie scene of the ‘90s have gone on to beat their chests across multiplexes with Great Big Cinema, Reichardt has kept fixing nitrogenous empathy to her storytelling roots over the years and elevated them into a premiere form of living, breathing naturalism. Certain Women stars Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, and Kristen Stewart as an intersecting triptych of Montana ladies, whose “performance style is as casually organic and democratic as in any of her more scrappily cast early projects,” according to Guy Lodge at Variety.

For longtime fans or recent converts evangelized by Wendy and Lucy, Meek’s Cutoff, or Night Moves, this distribution partnership is a particularly exciting one as it promises Reichardt her largest release platform to date – with no offense to sage curatorial lookouts Oscilloscope Laboratories and Cinedigm, this is a big bump in maximizing eyes on the screen and seats in the theater. IFC Films has yet to announce a specific release date but assures that it will hit theaters at the tail end of 2016.

As if upping the ante for exposure weren’t enough, this puts Certain Women in the excellent company of other, ahem, certain exemplary women from female-forward stories in the IFC Catalogue. At their poker table of daring heroines with complex agendas, you find no less than: 45 Years’ shatter-glass Kate Mercer holding a royal flush (which she’ll soon discover is actually just an Ace high); Maria Enders and Valentine of Clouds of Sils Maria bluffing one another under the table; and the ultimate in unpredictable poker faces, Phoenix’s Nelly. So welcome to the IFC Films party, Certain Women, and know going in that Two Days, One Night’s Sandra has already paved the way in pressuring them to sacrifice a little extra dough when it comes to Oscar campaigning for a critic’s favorite. But above all else, per Amelia, watch out for The Babadook!

Sunday
Jan312016

Sundance Buzz Pt 3: The Jury & Audience Winners

Sundance wraps up today with screenings of winners. So who took home the prizes? And what does it all mean...?

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Saturday
Jan302016

Retro Sundance: John Carney and "Once"

John Carney at the Spirit AwardsLynn Lee revisits the 2007 Sundance hit Once as the current festival wraps up.

I was at Sundance in 2007—the only time I’ve ever been.  It was one of the highlights of my life as a moviegoer, albeit more for the experience than the actual movies.  While I enjoyed most of the films I saw there, few really stuck with me beyond the festival, with the exception of the lovely character study Starting Out in the Evening (which really should have gotten Frank Langella an Oscar nomination). 

Somehow, I missed the true breakout success of Sundance that year—the low-budget Irish musical Once, which won the festival’s World Cinema Audience Award.  It went on to become a critical darling, a sleeper indie hit, and even an Oscar winner for Best Original Song. How could I have bypassed being one of the first in the U.S. to see it?  Well, somehow I did, even though I became a fan when it arrived in theaters later that year. 

More...

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Friday
Jan292016

Sundance Buzz: Short Film Winners

The Czech queer short "Peacock" won Best DirectorWith the Academy Award short nominees opening in theaters today, it's a good time to note that the Sundance short film jury handed out their awards this week. This year's jury of three was Key & Peele's Keegan-Michael Key, MTV's chief film critic Amy Nicholson, and Amazon Studio's Gina Kwon. Since Sundance is a qualifying festival for Academy Awards you might hear the name of some of these shorts again in about a year. One of last year's big winners, for example, was World of Tomorrow by Don Hertzfeldt. That's an Oscar nominee right now for Best Animated Short. 

The 2016 Short Film Winners are as follows:

 

Grand Jury Prize Thunder Road (USA, Jim Cummings) an officer eulogizes his mother. Cummings is a producer/director with some shorts under his belt.
U.S. Fiction The Procedure (USA, Calvin Lee Reeder) a horror short about a captive man. Reeder has made several horror shorts and directed one of the segments in that anthology V/H/S
International Fiction Maman(s) (France, Maïmouna Doucouré) This one is about a young girl in a Parisian suburb whose father returns from Senegal with a surprise, a second wife
Non-FictionBacon & God's Wrath (Canada, Sol Friedman)  an elderly Jewish woman cooking bacon for the first time and reflecting on her life. This short also received an honorable mention from the jury at TIFF in September so perhaps it's a legit long list contender for next year's Documentary Short competition?


AnimationEdmond (UK, Nina Gantz) see the teaser above. This short has been making the rounds for a bit now. It recently won the BIFA and it's a BAFTA nominee this year but it did not make the longlist cut to 10 finalists for the current Oscar competition
Outstanding Performance Grace Glowicki won for Her Friend Adam (Canada, Benjamin Petrie) in which her boyfriend's jealousy spirals out of control.
Special Jury Award for Best Direction: Peacock (Czech Republic, Ondřej Hudeček). Peacock bills itself as "a twisted queer romance" it's set in the 19th century and has something to do with the birth of an influential writer. The film promises "Suspense, laughter, violence, hope, nudity, sex, and a happy ending—mostly a happy ending."

 

Thursday
Jan282016

Retro Sundance: 2001's Hedwig and the Angry Inch

2001 was the comeback year for the musical. As the massively-scaled Moulin Rouge was reinventing the genre for the post MTV era, John Cameron Mitchell's Hedwig and the Angry Inch was an unassuming small scale success that didn't disappoint its cult following from its Off Broadway run and the cult grew rapidly after its Sundance debut. Still a genre anomaly for Sundance, this musical was awarded the Audience Award (Dramatic) and Mitchell won Best Director for his first time behind the camera.

The dramatic Audience Award winners are typically optimistic, but rarely this uniting - Hedwig is a musical that reflects our deepest human needs. Nothing brings together a crowd of strangers like music (or film) we can all connect to and Hedwig's score is packed with emotional insight. Composer Stephen Trask fills the songs with rage, wit, and a hard-won optimism that burns through whatever baggage we as an audience bring to the table. [More...]

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Wednesday
Jan272016

Retro Sundance: 2001's Memento

When Memento arrived in 2001, it was a total buzzfest: Everyone was talking about it. It had a Wachowski level of cool (even co-starring Wachowski favorites Joe Pantoliano and Carrie-Anne Moss), it had a gritty noir sensibility, and an innovative time-bending structure deftly designed to get you inside the brain-damaged mind of Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce). It left Sundance that January with the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, hit movie theaters in March, and when awards season came it was nominated for an Oscar for the Screenplay (Chris Nolan's first Oscar nomination) as well as the Editing prize. The movie has lost none of its cachet in the intervening years, retaining a 92% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and clocking in at #46 on the IMDb Top 250.

But I have a personal reason for loving this movie, as well as a story (I always have a story) if you'll indulge me after the jump...

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