PARK CITY - Over the past few years, there have been an increasing number of pictures that were questionable inclusions to Sundance's premieres slate. A few them were actually good films ("The Company Men," "Smart People," "Cedar Rapids," ), but many were star-filled pseudo indies seemingly intended to satisfy sponsor attendees and the affluent contributors looking for a little bit of Hollywood during their Park City festival vacation ("The Great Buck Howard," "Brooklyn's Finest," "Motherhood," "The Butterfly Effect," "My Idiot Brother" and "The Son of No One" come to mind). A good deal of these films would have been more appropriate at the more commercial Toronto Film Festival (and it's worth noting the opposite is true with pictures such as "My Sister's Sister" debuting at Toronto this past year). Saturday night featured two of these broad, star-filled premieres: "Arbitrage" and "Lay the Favorite." The former was clearly the better of the two, but it still another disappointment for an edition of the festival where that's become the operative word.
Gere and Brit Marling can't save the thriller from a convoluted script
Plus: All the TV winners
One major guild win down for "The Artist," two more to go?
Ira Sachs semi-autobiographical film his best to date
You likely haven't heard of Danish actor Thure Lindhardt, but after Ira Sachs' new drama "Keep the Lights On" finds distribution after its premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival his studio and English-speaking roles should substantially increase. Lindhardt has had small roles in American films such as "Into the Wild" and "Angels & Demons," but is best known for his critically acclaimed role in the Dutch feature "Brotherhood." He has a reputation for becoming a chameleon-like ability to physically transform himself for a role and in "Lights" he has been given a substantial opportunity to show his vast array of acting skills.
A semi-autobiographical drama from Sachs, who won the Grand Jury Prize in 2005 for "Forty Shades of Blue," "Lights" begins in 1998 where we find gay New York resident Erik (Lindhard) satisfying himself on a now antiquated phone sex line. He ends up connecting and hooking up for the first time with Paul (Zachary Booth), a closeted publishing industry lawyer. To say they have enough chemistry for more than a one time shag is an understatement and the film goes on to chronicle the ups and downs over the next 10 years of their unexpected relationship.
Story issues aside director Behn Zeitlin shows true talent
PARK CITY - It's rare that a first-time feature filmmaker delivers something truly memorable with their debut - even at a festival such as Sundance - but Benh Zeitlin has done just that with "Beasts of the Southern Wild" which premiered Friday on the first full day of the festival.
Newcomer Christopher Abbott makes a strong impression
PARK CITY - It may be time to seriously take a look at the creative process of the Sundance Institute's Sundance Lab. Originally founded to help foster new screenwriters and directos trying to develop independent features, it has also become a major source for films debuting at the festival over the past 10 years (a not unexpected byproduct). Sometimes, that allows features such as Dee Rees' "Pariah" to find an audience, but other times it seems to create a homogenized product of recognizable indie film themes and story lines. One of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival's four debuts tonight, "Hello I Must Be Going," unfortunately falls into the latter category.
The Brits love 'Drive,' 'The Help' and 'Bridesmaids'
If there is any yearly awards event that usually reflects this writer's cinematic leanings it would be the BAFTA Film Awards. In fact, the U.K.'s version of the Academy Awards has had a special place in my heart since they awarded Sigourney Weaver for a best supporting actress honor for the "Ice Storm" in 1998 after the U.S. Academy didn't even nominate her (sigh). This year's 2012 BAFTA nominations delivered lots of love for "The Artist," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "The Descendants" and "My Week with Marilyn" as expected, but there were some major surprises as well. Considering there is significant overlap between BAFTA and Academy membership (enough that studio consultants take the nods very seriously), today's nominations may be a sign of some intriguing surprises when the Oscar nods are announced seven days from now. Let's review, shall we?
How close will the Oscar best actress race get?
When the 69th Golden Globes began Sunday night, this pundit wasn't at a viewing party at the Beverly Hilton. He wasn't live-blogging the show from the comfort of home (less than two miles from the Hilton) either. Instead, and no disrespect to the never met a cologne they didn't like Hollywood Foreign Press Association, but Awards Campaign was in the middle of a championship final at a Las Vegas basketball tourney that was a tad more pressing (we all need lives people). And while the LA United pulled out an impressive win in over time (booyah), "The Iron Lady's" Meryl Streep found herself pulling away with an equally impressive win for best actress drama.
Did the broadcast critics provide any surprises?
Ah, the Critics Choice Awards. It's hard to put what the Critics Choice Awards really mean. They've sort of become a marketing tool for studios, but beyond a nice early red carpet we're not sure what they really are for. Plus, with the Globes on Sunday, you'll forget who won what by Friday at noon. And of course, these are the broadcast film critics. You really don't want me to start listing their names*
Plus: Some last minute considerations
Tomorrow, Friday Jan. 13, at 5 PM, it will be all over. Well, sort of. The first half of the Oscar season will be complete as the Academy's mailbox will slam shut and no more nomination ballots will be accepted for the 84th Academy Awards. And, in so doing, another strange awards season will start the final turn towards completion. While many of the nominees seem secure in their standing there is an air of uncertainty over almost every category. In fact, its been quite a long time since the feeling of upset was in the air after so many weeks of critics lists and precursor awards.
A frank conversation with the underdog best supporting actor candidate
Tuesday night I had the pleasure of moderating a conversation with Andy Serkis, director Rupert Wyatt and supervising sound supervisors Chuck Michael and John Larsen about their work bringing Caesar to live in the critically acclaimed "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." The evening was part of 20th Century Fox's campaign to land Serkis a best supporting actor nomination for his role as Caesar, an ape with extreme intelligence who falls victim to the prejudices and fears of man. If Serkis finds himself among the five nominees announced a week from Tuesday, it will make history as the first motion-capture performance recognized by the Academy (let alone any major awards organization). Can he surprise the pundits? Co-star James Franco, who played Caesar's adoptive human father Will, certainly thinks so.