January 23, 2017

Tag Archives: sundance film festival

2016 Sundance Film Festival Award Winners include “The Birth of a Nation”

Though many were obviously keeping a close eye on the guild awards over the weekend, something else of note also went down. Yes, the Sundance Film Festival announced their awards for 2016. As a general rule, it helps to take some sort of prize from Sundance if you want to be an Oscar contender, but it’s not a requirement. Still, what it does is build buzz, and that’s essential in translating acclaim from Park City to the precursor season. That’s a long way away for 2016 titles, but at least one movie managed to set itself nicely to contend all year long. As you’ll see below, it’s no guarantee of success, but it’s hardly a harbinger of doom either. As such, the winners here now have something solid to hand their hats on.
Basically, the big winner was Nate Parker’s passion project The Birth of a Nation. His long brewing biopic of Nat Turner and the slave rebellion he led was well received at Sundance, so this result wasn’t a huge shock. Still, it received both the prestigious Grand Jury Prize as well as the Audience Award, so that’s a strong feather in its cap for the moment. Also doing well was the coming of age story Morris from America as well as the political documentary Weiner, the hybrid work Kate Plays Christine, and more. These are potentially some of the flicks to watch out for as the year progresses. They’re not automatically in the Academy Award hunt, but they have at least a temporary leg up. If you’re looking out for strong contenders, look out for The Birth of a Nation.
Keep in mind, there were other big time awards contenders that weren’t honored, such as Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea, so this is hardly the be all end all (I especially think that Casey Affleck is going to be a huge contender from that film in the Best Actor race). It’s just one early glimpse at some potentially strong Sundance titles. There’s also the documentary Newtown, along with plenty of others that just weren’t cited here over the weekend. Again, this bodes well for The Birth of a Nation and Weiner, no doubt abut that, but don’t in any way count out Manchester by the Sea. It could wind up being as big a player this upcoming season as any other indie release. We’ll just have to sit tight […]

The most interesting movies playing at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival

One of the highlights for me each January is getting to see what emerges from the Sundance Film Festival with awards buzz. I was lucky enough to attend once a few years back and it’s an experience unlike anything else, both in terms of the festival circuit and just life in general. This year, Sundance 2016 seems to be a fairly mellow year in terms of things set to appeal to Oscar voters, but that doesn’t mean that that the fest doesn’t have a ton of interesting things to anticipate. As such, I’ve listed just 12 of the most interesting in my eyes. Your mileage may vary, but these are the flicks that I most want to see when they move from Park City to a theater near you…
Here now are a dozen movies from Sundance that are worth keeping an eye out for:
The Birth of a Nation – Nate Parker’s passion project, a biopic of Nat Turner, has set records at Sundance for how financially large an acquisition it was. Fox Searchlight forked over a ton for this look at the slave who led an uprising, so expect this to be a contender in 2016, especially for Parker, who writes, directs, and plays Turner as well here.
Captain Fantastic – A supposedly crowd pleasing look at an off the grid family with a performance by Viggo Mortensen as the patriarch that’s generating a bit of buzz, this could have some definite crossover appeal. You never can tell what will successfully go from Park City to New York City, but this one sounds like it has a pretty decent shot at making the move, which is ironic, considering the material.
Christine – This biopic of doomed 1970s television news reporter Christine Chubbuck (look her up to see why) was one of the big titles to watch before the fest started. Well, reviews have been solid enough, with Rebecca Hall getting some excellent notices for her turn as the title character. A potential player in Best Actress, perhaps? We’ll have to stay tuned to find out…
Goat – Fraternity hazing and the many types of impact that it can have on a person is given a dramatized look here in a film that’s been developing for years. It was once a David Gordon Green project (he still is listed as a co-writer), for what that’s worth. Reviews have been decent enough, though it sounds […]

The Sundance Film Festival announces their first 2016 titles, including Kevin Smith’s “Yoga Hosers”

There’s no place quite like Park City, Utah during the Sundance Film Festival. I’ve been lucky enough to attend and it’s really something to behold. The fest is this bustling adventure in a small mountain town, filled to the brim with independent films of all types. It also takes place right in the heart of Oscar season, so as we close the book on one year, another begins to sprout up with their would be Academy players. We can’t know yet if any will be there this year, but Sundance has announced the first wave of their genre fare, including the movie from Kevin Smith, one of their biggest indie success stories…

Smith is one of my favorite filmmakers ever, a unique voice if ever there was one. Recently, he’s gone back down a very indie road, starting at Sundance about five years ago or so when he screened his terrific film Red State and then announced it would be his last effort. He quickly came out of retirement, but he’s shunned studio work by and large, instead concentrating on making his “True North Trilogy” of horror/comedy hybrids. That begin last year with the underrated Tusk, will continue next year (beginning in Park City) with Yoga Hosers, and then finish with Moose Jaws. He’ll still work with studios on upcoming sequels like Clerks III and Mallrats 2, but Smith is back to his indie roots, with the results being unlike anything else out in cinemas these days. Fingers crossed that Yoga Hosers continues that trend.
Here’s what the festival has to say about the nine selections for their “Midnight” section:
31 / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Rob Zombie) — Five friends are kidnapped on the day before Halloween and are held hostage in a terrifying place named Murder World. While trapped, they must play a violent game called 31, in which the mission is to survive 12 hours against a gang of evil clowns. Cast: Sheri Moon Zombie, Malcolm McDowell, Richard Brake, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Meg Foster. World Premiere
Antibirth / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Danny Perez) — In a desolate community full of drug-addled marines and rumors of kidnapping, a wild-eyed stoner named Lou wakes up after a crazy night of partying with symptoms of a strange illness and recurring visions. As she struggles to get a grip on reality, the stories of conspiracy spread. Cast: Natasha Lyonne, Chloë Sevigny, Mark […]

Movies to look forward to at the Sundance Film Festival

This week, the Sundance Film Festival gets underway, seeking to highlight the best in independent film. I won’t be in Park City this year, sadly, though I have been in the past and can vouch for it as a really unique and enjoyable (if exhausting) festival to attend. In honor of its 2015 start, I wanted to run down some of the higher profile titles that could make a dent on the awards season later on this year. If not Oscar players, these could at least become the indie darlings of the season, or perhaps just crossover successes. Had I been in attendance at Sundance, there’s almost two dozen movies that I’d be hoping to catch, but I whittled a list down to just ten of the ones I want to highlight most. Take a look…
Here are ten films to look forward to once they leave Sundance:
10. Digging For Fire – In the last few years, Joe Swanberg has really upped his game, not only in terms of casting bigger names, but also coming up with compelling plots that still fit his unique filmmaking personality. Hopefully he continues the trend with this latest venture, which features a great cast, including Rosemarie DeWit, Jake Johnson (who co-wrote the script), Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Ron Livingston, Chris Messina, Sam Rockwell, and Jenny Slate, along with many others. Swanberg is on a high, so fingers crossed here.
9. I Smile Back – I was impressed by Sarah Silverman’s partly dramatic turn a couple years ago in Take This Waltz, so a full on serious role has me very intrigued. Silverman co-stars with Josh Charles and Thomas Sodoski in the story of an unhappy married woman lashing out with numerous vices. Silverman deserves this sort of a role, so I’ll be eager to see if she aces it.
8. A Walk in the Woods – Festival godfather Robert Redford stars here with Nick Nolte in a movie about old men talking, essentially. Doesn’t immediately sound too amazing, but I have to say, the chance to witness them going back and forth is rather appealing. It’ll likely be a mellow film, but I’m down to check it out.
7. Brooklyn – The latest script from novelist turned screenwriter Nick Hornby is a period piece set in 1950’s Ireland. Saoirse Ronan is the star, along with supporting players Jim Broadbent, Emory Cohen, and Domhnall Gleeson. This one seems to […]

Could Richard Linklater have a masterpiece on his hands with Boyhood?

Ever since it debuted to a near rapturous reception at the most recent Sundance Film Festival, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood has been at the top of almost everyone’s “must see” lists, including mine. Not only does it look like a beautiful coming of age story, but the way it was actually made only makes you want to embrace Linklater’s work even more. I’ll be doing a more thorough look at its awards chances when the release gets closer, but since the trailer hit today (which I’ll embed below), I wanted to discuss the film a bit. At the very least, it looks like one movie that everyone really should be aware of. The flick could be something very special.
For those of you who aren’t aware, Linklater took an unprecedented route in making this movie. Basically, in 2002 he started filming a story about a young boy and his family. He cast six year old Ellar Coltrane in the lead role, along with Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as his parents, and would film scenes for a few days each year with them. Here now, he’s got a completed flick that depicts Coltrane growing up literally onscreen into an 18 year old. He transforms from a boy into a young man, coming of age in all the ways a kid normally will. It’s amazing that nothing went wrong and Linklater was able to achieve what he set out to do. What’s more, apparently he’s made something that a few of my colleagues at Sundance called his masterpiece.
It clearly remains to be seen if the Academy will embrace the work, but the initial reviews suggest that it’s worthy. A near three hour character study in which part of the power of the tale comes in knowing its backstory isn’t usually an easy sell to Oscar voters, but my fellow critics have already begun to rally behind it. At the very least, it should be in contention early for a number of categories, though a lot will depend on how the rest of the year goes. At the very least, currently it’s impossible not to be really excited to see the final product when it comes out this summer.
Below you can see the trailer for Boyhood, which should make you pretty much obsessed with seeing it as soon as possible. I know that’s how I responded. Anyway, take a look at it now:

Stay tuned […]

Jon Fitzgerald is the new Executive Director of the Hollywood Film Festival

The Hollywood Film Festival announces the appointment of Fest veteran Jon Fitzgerald as Executive Director of the 17th Annual Hollywood Film Festival.
“Jon’s experience in the online, film festival, and worldwide film communities will be a great asset to the growth and new direction of our Festival,” said Carlos de Abreu, founder of the Hollywood Film Festival.
As a co-founder and former executive director of Slamdance, AFI Fest, Santa Barbara and Abu Dhabi film festivals among others. In addition, in 2012 he launched CineCause, a philanthropic platform, connecting socially relevant films to related causes.
Fitzgerald will be working closely with festival founder Carlos de Abreu, and will be in charge of development, artistic direction, programming, marketing and overall Festival management, as well as the Hollywood Gives Back® Project.


The Festival is excited about the integration of several new components for the 2013 edition, led by Fitzgerald. One of the core missions has always been to “bridge the gap” between Hollywood and the global creative community. The Festival will take this concept to the next level with the new Hollywood Network® program. With film presentations taking place in the heart of Hollywood, the Festival presents a valuable screening platform for independent filmmakers, while providing for access to the studios and industry at large. The event will initiate a series of meetings between independent filmmakers and Hollywood industry professionals.
In addition, the Festival will combine sister organization Hollywood Gives Back® with CineCause, showcasing the other side of Hollywood, celebrating the Industry’s creative artists who have supported causes around the world. These efforts will be presented through the CineCause Spotlight section of the Festival, connecting social impact films with related causes.
The third new element will take place online. With filmmakers always looking for broad exposure, this year the Festival is pleased to be offering a select number of short films to Internet audiences, providing streaming opportunities to industry professionals and the online community.
“I’m very excited to have the chance to build on the success of the Hollywood Film Festival, and look forward to incorporating these new elements. Filmmakers will have opportunities to expand their connections, leverage entertainment to recognize important causes and broaden their reach to the online community, here in the film capital of the world,” says Fitzgerald.
The 17th Annual Hollywood Film Festival is now open for submissions in the follow genres: Features (all genres […]

Hot Docs Announces 28 Films in Special Presentations Program

Hot Docs is pleased to announce 28 documentary features that will be part of the Special Presentations program at the 2013 Hot Docs Festival, April 25 to May 5.
The program will include three world premieres: AJ Schnack’s CAUCUS, a behind-the-scenes look at the Republican candidates of the Iowa caucus; Barry Avrich’s PREPARE FOR THE WORST, a portrait of comedy icon David Steinberg; and Gus Holwerda’s THE UNBELIEVERS, which follows Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss as they spread the word about the importance of science and reason.
Award-winners from the recent international festival circuit include BLOOD BROTHER (Grand Jury Prize: Documentary, and Audience Choice Award: Documentary, Sundance 2013), GIDEON’S ARMY (Documentary Editing Award, Sundance 2013), PUSSY RIOT-A PUNK PRAYER (World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Prize, Sundance 2013), THE MACHINE WHICH MAKES EVERYTHING DISAPPEAR (World Cinema Directing Award: Dramatic, Sundance 2013), and WHO IS DAYANI CRISTAL? (World Cinema Cinematography Award: Documentary, Sundance 2013).
The program will also present a special 20th anniversary screening of THE WAR ROOM, with filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus in attendance.
The full selection of films to screen at Hot Docs 2013 will be announced on March 19, including the 2013 opening night film.
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Drumroll… Sundance Film Festival Awards Announced

Sundance Film Festival announces the 2013 awards. Congratulations award winners!
U. S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic – Fruitvale
U. S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary – Blood Brother
World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic – Jiseul
World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary – A River Changes Course
Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic – Metro Manila
Audience Award: World Cinema: Documentary – The Square
Audience Award: U. S. Dramatic presented by Acura – Fruitvale
Audience Award: U.S. Documentary presented by Acura – Blood Brother
Audience Award: Best of NEXT – This is Martin Bonner
Directing Award: U. S. Dramatic – Afternoon Delight
Directing Award: U. S. Documentary – Cutie and the Boxer
Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic – Crystal Fairy
Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary – The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear
Cinematography Award: World Cinema Dramatic – Lasting
Cinematography Award: U. S. Documentary – Dirty Wars
Cinematography Award: U. S. Dramatic – Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Cinematography Award: U. S. Dramatic – Mother of George
Cinematography Award: World Cinema Documentary – Who Is Dayani Cristal?
U. S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Achievement in Filmmaking – Inequality for All
U. S. Documentary Special Jury award for Achievement in Filmmaking – American Promise
U. S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting – Miles Teller & Shailene Woodley, The Spectacular Now
U. S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Sound Design – Shane Carruth & Johnny Marshall, Upstream Color
World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award – Circles
World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Punk Spirit – Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer
Editing Award: World Cinema Documentary – The Summit
Editing Award: U. S. Documentary – Gideon’s Army
Screenwriting Award: World Cinema Dramatic – Wajma (An Afghan Love Story)
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic – In A World…
Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize – Computer Chess
Short Film Grand Jury Prize – The Whistle
Short Film Jury Award: US Fiction – Whiplash
Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction – The Date
Short Film Jury Award: Non-fiction – Skinningrove
Short Film Jury Award: Animation – Irish Folk Furniture
Short Film Special Jury Award for Acting – Joel Nagle, Palimpsest
Short Film Special Jury Award – Kahlil Joseph, Until the Quiet Comes
Short Film Audience Award, Presented by YouTube – Catnip: Egress to Oblivion
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Robert Redford on Sundance Film Festival, Awards Live Stream and More

Day Nine of the Festival was dominated by a film that garnered significant conjecture even prior to its Friday night premiere at Eccles.
Ashton Kutcher and Josh Gad offered a pair of thoughtful and idiosyncratic performances portraying Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in Joshua Michael Stern’s poignant biopic, jOBS.
Also featured on the eve of closing night coverage is the first-ever adaptation of a David Sedaris story in Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s slick drama C.O.G…
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Sundance Film Festival: Toy’s House, Meet Brie Larson, Live Streams, Photos, and More – Day 8

Isaiah Washington Thrills in Blue Caprice, Toy’s House Teems with Nostalgia
Day Eight of our 2013 Sundance Film Festival coverage examines an incongruent slate of films in terms of both style and story. Alexandre Moors’ taut sniper thriller Blue Caprice manages a slick recreation of the Beltway sniper rampage, while Jordan Vogt-Roberts crafts a thoughtful coming-of-age comedy with Toy’s House.
Also featured is first-timer Randy Moore’s enigmatic and provocative drama Escape From Tomorrow …
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