Friday, 29 January 2010

Keeping an eye on Sundance - Updated.

Every year the Sundance film festival comes along and delivers what is sure to be a future Oscar nominated film/performance/documentary.

'The Cove', 'Precious', 'The Messenger', 'An Education', 'The Maid', '(500) Days of Summer' and a few more all were shown at the festival. Who could be the film or performance that gets the most buzz and awards traction this year?

Things of note (Performances, Films, blah-di-blah) that could translate into the 2010 Awards race.

Australian crime drama 'Animal Kingdom' is getting rather splendid reviews out of Sundance. From Variety's Todd McCarthy:

"An ambitious and powerful study of the disintegration of an Australian crime family, "Animal Kingdom" is orchestrated with a grandiosity that invokes operatic and Greek dimensions. Writer-director David Michod's unusually accomplished feature debut unfolds with a confident, almost antiquated sense of deliberation as the family incrementally implodes, taking others down with it."

And for the performers:

"Performances are rich, led by Jacki Weaver in the unusual role of the blond ringleader with iron under her pert veneer and Ben Mendelsohn as her unnerving, mentally ill-equipped eldest son. Joel Edgerton dominates the action in the early going, while Guy Pearce, wearing a mustache, takes up the baton in the latter stages."

Australian films do not usually make it to the Oscars, but with the right distribution and critical response this could be a surprise hit.

Shari Springer Berman directs 'The Extra Man' which has premiered at Sundance to very strong reviews, especially for its actors Paul Dano and Kevin Kline. The film is about a man who escorts wealthy widows in New York's Upper East Side takes a young aspiring playwright under his wing.
From Todd McCarthy at Variety:

"The same holds true for the viewer, given the mesmerizing allure of Kline's outsized but impeccably calibrated performance. Perhaps no contemporary American actor can carry off the sort of classical stage enunciation he can, and here he applies it to a character who uses it both for the effect he knows it creates but, even moreso, out of personal affinity. Henry has a tremendous sense of style, only it's a style of 80 years ago, which is what makes him so funny, an effect compounded by Kline's exceptional sense of timing.
By contrast, Dano soft-pedals his characterization to excellent effect; Louis seems like a rather calculated sort of misfit on paper, but Dano's underplaying and innate physical oddness make him not only palatable but oddly sympathetic. The actresses playing the women in the men's social orbit, including Marian Seldes, Celia Weston, Patti D'Arbanville and Lynn Cohen, are all delights.

This seems like a very particular film, but with Celia Weston in it I am so there.

'The Romantics' is an angsty film about college friends meeting right before a marriage. What is interesting is when Screen International says of it's star:

"As the deeply wounded Laura, Katie Holmes does some of her strongest acting in years. Her tabloid-friendly marriage to Tom Cruise may have obscured the fact that she was once considered an actress of some promise, but withThe Romantics she returns to the direct, honest performances of her early career."

Another film directed by a woman (was 2009 the start of a wave?) we have another buzz worthy film called 'The Kids Are All Right'.
It stars Julianne Moore and Annette Bening as lesbian moms who are thrown off kilter by the arrival of their hippie sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo) who their children (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) have sought out.
The performances are all supposed to be delightful.
From The Hollywood Reporter:

"Despite some key character-motivation omissions, Moore, Bening and Ruffalo all deliver endearingly quirky comic performances, with Wasikowska also particularly effective as the confused and resentful Joni. "

And from Screen International:

"Moore and Bening have been guilty in the past of producing overly studied performances, but they make Jules and Nic thoroughly convincing as an ordinary, devoted long-term couple. Ruffalo is superb as a free spirit who has gotten through life on his carnal appeal. And Wasikowska and Hutcherson do great work as siblings facing questions of identity and maturity, which, like the film’s final moments, are extremely touching without being heavy-handed."

Owen Gleiberman have given a rave for 'Blue Valentine'. The film is told in fractured timelines and follows the falling apart of a relationship.
It stars Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling who are supposed to give amazing performances.

"No one, including me, doubts that Blue Valentine will land a distributor. With stars like Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams giving performances that sear, delight, and break your heart, it would be sheer madness if this movie languished — and, frankly, it won’t happen. "

Would love to see Williams get some more recognition as she is one of the best young actresses working today.

The movies told entirely from the perspective of Ryan Reynolds buried underground has had a feeding frenzy of interest from distributors. The reviews have been good as have the notices for Reynolds, but not good enough for major awards talk (that could change if box office is great - ahem * Sandra Bullock * ahem)

'Exit Through the Gift Shop'
An art documentary focusing on Banksy but then turning itself around to look at the film makers. This doc is getting good notices, and as per usual, the biggest buzz and best reviews are focused on the documentaries. Variety loved it

'Sympathy for Delicious'

Mark Ruffalo directs this story about wheelchair bound DJ who discovers he has miraculous healing powers. The response is mixed, but there have been some rather good notices for Juliette Lewis who really needs to be cast in something she can really her her teeth around. She is supposed to be a scene stealer which can work, but the film needs critical support to carry her. From Variety:

"But it's a hilariously zonked-out Lewis who steals every scene she's in.."

As much as I love the woman, I do think that she is not really the taste of the Academy. The film also stars Laura Linney, Orlando Bloom (who is supposed to be a ton of fun), and Mark Ruffalo

'The Tillman Story'
When pro football star turned post-9/11 Army enlistee Pat Tillman was killed in the course of duty, the embarrassing actual circumstances were covered up and turned into a flag-waving story of heroism that the Bush administration happily -- and knowingly -- used for propaganda purposes. The documentary looks at this to apparently brilliant results.

'Countdown to Zero'
Nuclear security. That is the premise in a nut shell. This doc is supposed to be terrifying.


If the cast is not interesting enough (John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener, Matt Walsh) or the premise (a woman and her unusual - read icky -relationship with her son) then the fact that it is directed by The Duplass Brothers and Variety just gave it a very positive review saying about on the of actors:

"Still, it's Hill's movie to steal. With his sad-sack posture and chilly glare, Cyrus looks like one of those Aardman creations whose every blink earns a chuckle. The film's semi-scripted approach may deprive the character of catchphrases, but auds won't be forgetting him anytime soon."

Should get you at least curious enough to watch it closely with the other critics. Never really loved Hill, but an slightly curious about how this performance will translate, especially if and when the film is picked up and distributed.

'Winters Bone'
Directed by Debra Granik whose first film, 'Down to the Bone' got Vera Farmiga a lot of buzz, is also getting rather shining notices, especially for star Jennifer Lawrence. From Variety's Justin Chang:

"The film's atmosphere of suspicion, foreboding and everyday misery would be too much to bear if not for the rich emotional anchor supplied by Lawrence. Emphasizing Ree's patience, maturity and love for her siblings as much as her tenacity and courage, Lawrence delivers a striking portrait of someone who, though looked down upon by many for her youth and gender, alone seems to possess the guts and smarts necessary to survive and possibly even escape her surroundings."

Not that this will translate to major awards, but perhaps a Spirit nom, and who know what can happen if handled correctly by whatever studio picks it up.

'The Company Men'

Another downsizing movie. After 'Up in the Air' will people even really notice this one, or want to see it? Regardless the film has gotten some good notices, especially from Owen Gleiberman over at Entertainment Weekly.

Although this seems like the type of film that could do well with critics, Variety was less kind in its review, which will likely be a hurdle.
Perhaps this is where some of the supporting actors can shine, especially since the cast is very '"Oscar" friendly.

'The Runaways'

I am so excited about this movie after reading this review.
Sure the film is called formulaic, but it is also called electrifying. We will have to wait to see what the more high brow critics think, but this made me nearly wet myself:

"Indeed, "The Runaways" is owned and just about swallowed up by Fanning's riveting portrayal of the singer (not too dissimilar from the way Currie overwhelmed the group). First glimpsed as a teen literally transforming into a woman, this is the performance that seems sure to launch Fanning into a new thrilling phase of her career. From a sulking broodish David Bowie enthusiast to a howling rock goddess Fanning sells sells sells.....Stewart as Joan Jett physically embodies the role and curses and growls as the part demands. It's Jett of course who first launches the band under the manic watchful eye of Michael Shannon's Kim Fowley. But the film find's its legs and central mesmerizing performance when Fanning's Cherie auditions for the band in a crappy trailer."

Now tell me you are not a little bit excited.

'Get Low'
But we all know about this one. Robert Duvall looks for get another Oscar nomination in 2011.

'Welcome to the Rileys'

The story of a couple (Melissa Leo, James Gandolfini) who adopt a stripper )Kristen Stewart). The film is bagged down with some narrative problems, but the performances are said to be extremely strong.
From Variety:
"Hiding behind raccoon-eye mascara and electrical-tape pasties, Stewart is the perfect wretch, utterly convincing as a lost girl leveraging her sexuality to compensate for her complete powerlessness.......(Gandolfini and Leo) are downright dynamite in the pic's more confrontational scenes, as well as quiet moments, such as Gandolfini sobbing alone in his garage, or Leo enjoying her first night in years under the stars."
More praise is heaped on the actresses over at the MTV review

'Teenage Paparazzo'
'Entourage' actor Adrian Grenier follows a 13 year old paparazzo for a year. The results apparently make for an excellent film.

'The Oath'
Another documentary which follows Osama bin Laden's former bodyguard. Sundance is always the festival where the documentaries come from, and this year looks like it could be an embarrassment of riches.

'Waiting for Superman'
A documentary on the US school system that Variety just gave a bloody rave to.

The Allen Ginsberg film with James Franco. The film got slightly mixed reviews but there was praise for James Franco. Highly doubt it is translatable to awards, but you never know.

'Please Give'
Nicole Holofcener delivers another one of her gems, and again with the ever amazing Catherine Keener. However this time the praise falls on Rebecca Hall - From Variety:

"But it's the ever-winsome Hall whose fine-grained performance impresses the most, largely because her Rebecca is the one least defined by a set of traits as she moves from social withdrawal to a more open appreciation of life's unexpected little gifts."

This documentary has gotten great reviews, even if the premise is a little hard to understand (facebook, 8 year old painting, yadda yadda).

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