<p>Kelly Reilly and Brendan Gleeson in &quot;The Calvary.&quot;</p>

Kelly Reilly and Brendan Gleeson in "The Calvary."

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Did Oscar return to the Sundance Film Festival this year?

Did the 2015 season sprout in Park City?

Did you know that over the past seven years, six films that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival have been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars? Or, that last year "Beasts of the Southern Wild's" Benh Zeitlin became only the third Sundance helmer after Peter Cattaneo ("The Fully Monty") and Lee Daniels ("Precious") to earn a Best Director nod? Were you aware of the impressive number of nominated actors whose performances first played Park City, including Melissa Leo ("Frozen River"), Jennifer Lawrence ("Winter's Bone"), Mo'Nique ("Precious"), Terrence Howard ("Hustle & Flow"), Michelle Williams ("Blue Valentine"), Carey Mulligan ("An Education") and Laura Linney ("The Savages")?

Sure, there have been some off years, but in general, Sundance has been a major player in the awards season ever since "Little Miss Sunshine" shook the annual indie conclave in 2006. And its influence appeared to be on the upswing. Emphasis on "appeared."

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Q&A with 'The Case Against 8's' Ben Cotner and Ryan White

Q&A with 'The Case Against 8's' Ben Cotner and Ryan White

Sundance documentary jury winners discuss their five-year journey

PARK CITY - One of the most heartwarming stories of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival was the success of Ben Cotner and Ryan White's documentary "The Case Against 8."  The duo began working on the film almost five years ago and spent four years following the legal case to strike down Proposition 8, a California ballot measure against gay marriage that surprised many by passing on the same night Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.  

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<p>Murray Bartlett, Jonathan Groff and Frankie J. Alvarez walk the streets of San Francisco in the second episode of &quot;Looking.&quot;</p>

Murray Bartlett, Jonathan Groff and Frankie J. Alvarez walk the streets of San Francisco in the second episode of "Looking."

Credit: HBO

Review: 'Looking' - 'Looking for Uncut'

Did Patrick just ruin his chances with Richie?

After some surprising controversy following the first episode, "Looking" is back for round 2. If I personally hadn't been in the middle of the 24/7 Sundance whirlwind I would have ripped off a whole essay on writers who wouldn't know a good TV show on gay men if it hit them, but movies and bronchitis got in this way.  Please, tear this one down. Lord knows we need more "Will & Grace" and "Modern Family." Perhaps someone can bring the godawful U.S. "Queer as Folk" back.  But, I digress...

The good news is this week's episode was written and directed by co-series producer Andrew Haigh who earned critical acclaim a few years ago for his independent film "Weekend."  Having seen the first four episodes, series creator Michael Lannan is unfortunately the series' weakest link on the writing staff so far. Heigh and episode 4 writer Allan Heinberg just seem a bit more on point.  So, if you were actually disappointed by episode 1, the second go around might get you on board.

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<p>Miles Teller in <span class="st">Damien Chazelle's &quot;Whiplash.&quot;<br />
</span></p>

Miles Teller in Damien Chazelle's "Whiplash."

'Whiplash,' 'Rich Hill' and 'The Case Against 8' lead 2014 Sundance Film Festival winners

Who gets the big boost out on closing night?

The competition juries and audiences have spoken from Park City. "Whiplash" earned two key awards Saturday night, the U.S. dramatic grand jury prize and the U.S. dramatic audience award. These were impressive wins for director Damien Chazelle and distributor Sony Pictures Classics, who acquired the drama during the festival. Featuring impressive performances by Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, the film focuses on a young music student (Teller) who is willing to go above and beyond to make it into a competitive jazz band at one of New York City's most prestigious music schools. It's the rare opening night film to take home the festival's top prize.

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Review: 'The One I Love' with Elisabeth Moss is a sensational surprise

Review: 'The One I Love' with Elisabeth Moss is a sensational surprise

HitFix
A-
Readers
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Don't spoil the secret, well...

PARK CITY - During the Q&A for Charlie McDaniel's "The One I Love," an audience member asked the director and cast how would anyone be able to market this film without giving its big secret away? McDaniel, stars Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss and screenwriter Justin Lader laughed it off, but the same question could also be asked of someone reviewing the film. How do you attempt to review a movie where part of its success is not knowing a major key ingredient to the story? Perhaps that's why the term "spoiler alert" was invented. In any case, we're going to give it the old college try. And, provide an out if you'd like to stay ignorant of the set-up because this is one movie with more surprises than you could ever imagine.

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'Dear White People' cast consider: Could Tyler Perry present our movie?

'Dear White People' cast consider: Could Tyler Perry present our movie?

Oh, and about this talented new director Justin Simien...

PARK CITY - I'm not entirely sure when I first met Justin Simien. Actually, correct that.  It was four and a half years ago ( found the E-mail introducing him as the new online publicist for Paramount Pictures from 2009). Having worked for the venerable studio one time myself, we immediately had a number of similar acquaintances both socially and professionally.  And in my position I ended up talking to him about work related items usually once  week.  But, as we chatted about more interesting topics than say the latest publicity opportunities for "The Last Airbender" (you poor child) I quickly realized something about this young twentysomething: He was way too smart for the room and he wouldn't be there long. And within two years, he'd moved on to bigger and better things. 

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<p>Anne Hathaway and Johnny Flynn in &quot;Sound One.&quot;</p>

Anne Hathaway and Johnny Flynn in "Sound One."

Review: 'Song One' with Anne Hathaway won't strike a chord with everyone

HitFix
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Readers
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So, you like white guys with guitars?

PARK CITY - No matter what the original intent, some movies inherently are made for a specific audience. And it's not the genre we're talking about, either. A horror movie can have broad appeal just as a comedy may only make a select few laugh. Instead, some films will just touch a nerve with a very small, specific audience. Kate Barker-Froyland's directorial debut, "Song One," is one of those films. And it's probably an audience of white-guy-with-a-guitar fans.

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Exclusive Clip: Sundance doc 'Watchers of the Sky' and the word genocide

Exclusive Clip: Sundance doc 'Watchers of the Sky' and the word genocide

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power discusses its importance

PARK CITY - Even with four critics reviewing movies it's hard to catch everything at a festival as big as Sundance. One movie that we'll be reviewing over the next few days is Edet Belzberg's new documentary "Watchers of the Sky."  The film debuted last weekend in the U.S. documentary competition and follows four modern day humanitarians who all owe something to the legendary Raphael Lemkin, the man who first termed the word genocide (and that was just the beginning of his legacy).

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<p>Cameron Monaghan and Noah silver in Carter Smith's &quot;Jamie Marks is Dead.&quot;</p>

Cameron Monaghan and Noah silver in Carter Smith's "Jamie Marks is Dead."

Review: 'Jamie Marks is Dead' is a very unexpected supernatural drama

Young stars from 'Homeland' and 'Shameless' get the spotlight

PARK CITY - One of the more intriguing aspects of the U.S. dramatic competition at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival is just how unconventional it has been. Dramedies and films with slight sci-fi elements have been a mainstay of the festival's premier category, but straight comedies, zombies and supernatural horror? Well, that's something very new to the mix. One picture that mixes serious drama and supernatural elements in this year's dramatic competition premiered Sunday night, "Jamie Marks is Dead."

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<p>Frankie J. Alvarez, Jonathan Groff and Murray Bartlett in HBO's &quot;Looking.&quot;</p>

Frankie J. Alvarez, Jonathan Groff and Murray Bartlett in HBO's "Looking."

Credit: HBO

Review: 'Looking' - 'Looking for Now'

Who wants to move to San Francisco?

HBO's highly anticipated new series "Looking" finally debuted tonight and my biggest fear is there will now be a deluge of gay men who decide that San Francisco is now the city for them. We'll only be talking about the first episode in this post, but the overall series is so good that guys who really shouldn't be heading to the Bay Area will pack up that truck, er, KIA and head west in hopes of finding their own Patrick (Jonathan Groff). Wait until they find out how much he's paying in rent.

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