<p>&nbsp;Quvenzhan&eacute; Wallis in &quot;Beasts of the Southern Wild.&quot;</p>

 Quvenzhané Wallis in "Beasts of the Southern Wild."

Review: 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' is a cinematic wonder

HitFix
B+
Readers
A
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.

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<p>&nbsp;Melanie Lynskey and Christopher Abbott in &quot;Hello I Must Be Going.&quot;</p>

 Melanie Lynskey and Christopher Abbott in "Hello I Must Be Going."

Review: Melanie Lynskey can't keep 'Hello I Must Be Going' from indie cliches

HitFix
C+
Readers
n/a
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. 

Director Todd Louiso, who is also known for his acting roles in films such as "Jerry Maguire" and " High Fidelity," made his feature film debut at Sundance 10 years ago with the Philip Seymour Hoffman dramedy "Love Liza."  He then had a massive misfire with the Paramount  Vantage title "The Marc Pease Experience" which finally was dumped in 2009.  Now, he returns to Park City with "Going," a dramedy about a thirty something woman, Amy (Melanie Lynskey), who is trying to recover from a painful divorce while staying at her parent's impressive mansion, er, home in Bridgeport, CT.  The picture is the first produced screenplay for Sarah Koskoff, a longtime collaborator of Louiso's, and according to Festival Director John Cooper's opening remarks, it was developed at the Sundance Screenwriters Lab.  
 
It takes quite awhile for the audience to find out what Amy's life was like before her New York husband divorced her which is something of a problem because she mostly seems like a dysfunctional ghost.  Lynskey has been fantastic recently in "Win Win," "The Informant" and "Up in the Air," but "Going" spends so much time initially having fun with Amy's obsessive and meddling mother Ruth (a going for it Blythe Danner) and her overly concerned family members including a  dad who constantly comes to sit on her bed with sage advice (John Rubinstein) that she's the one seemingly dragging the story down.  Additionally, the more you learn about Amy's life the harder it is to believe Lynskey as the character.  It's only when newcomer Christopher Abbott (the upcoming HBO series "Girls") comes on screen as 19-year-old love interest Jeremy that the film even starts to get interesting.
 
While the cougar-esque storyline is doomed to fail, Abbot makes you believe Jeremy's affections for Amy are genuine and his youthful charisma's is a nice counterpoint to the more established actors onscreen. And for a good 20 minutes or so, Amy's romantic blossoming and some hilarious scenes with Jeremy's mom (a fantastic Julie White) allows the film to find an entertaining rhythm.  Unfortunately, Louiso and Kaskoff feel the need to wrap up every one of the film's story lines with a bow and "Going" just putters awkwardly to the finish line. The movie's characters would have been much better served by leaving some of the story's secondary conflicts open to the audience's imagination.
 
Three films in, its also hard to determine Louiso's voice as a filmmaker.  At times "Going" feels like it could have been directed by Rodrigo Garcia,  Nicole Holofcener or Miguel Arteta or someone trying to emulate their styles.  Other times it "Going" seems as though it could have been directed by a random indie director and no, that's not a compliment.
 
Cinematographer Julie Kirkwood shows some talent giving the picture a grittier look than the material necessarily required.  On the other hand, the film suffers from a seemingly never ending rotation of indie music song cliches. You can't recognize them and they are no doubt original, but boy they sure sound familiar.
 
As for acquisition potential, "Gone" isn't commercially friendly enough for a mini-major and likely in the IFC Films or Magnolia Films category. 
 
For year round entertainment commentary and awards season news follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter.

 

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<p>Carey Mulligan and Ryan Gosling in &quot;Drive.&quot;&nbsp; The film landed four BAFTA Film&nbsp;Awards nominations.</p>

Carey Mulligan and Ryan Gosling in "Drive."  The film landed four BAFTA Film Awards nominations.

Credit: FilmDistrict

10 surprises from the 2012 BAFTA Film Awards nominations

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?

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<p>&nbsp;Meryl Streep celebrates her win for best actress - drama backstage at the 2012 Golden Globes.</p>

 Meryl Streep celebrates her win for best actress - drama backstage at the 2012 Golden Globes.

Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Analysis: Meryl Streep the biggest winner after 2012 Golden Globe Awards

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.

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<p>&nbsp;Viola Davis and Tilda Swinton on the red carpet at the 2012 Critics Choice Awards.</p>

 Viola Davis and Tilda Swinton on the red carpet at the 2012 Critics Choice Awards.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Quick reax: 2012 Critics Choice Awards Winners

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*

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<p>Oscar is waiting.&nbsp; Who will make the list?</p>

Oscar is waiting.  Who will make the list?

Contender Countdown: 24 hours till Oscar nominee voting deadline

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. 

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<p>&nbsp;Andy Serkis shooting an emotional scene as Caesar in his motion-capture suit in &quot;Rise of the Planet of the Apes.&quot;</p>

 Andy Serkis shooting an emotional scene as Caesar in his motion-capture suit in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Exclusive: Andy Serkis' emotional goodbye as Caesar in 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes'

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.

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<p>Natalie Portman</p>

Natalie Portman

Credit: AP Photo

Natalie Portman and Ed Helms among SAG Award presenters

Julianna Margulies, Armie Hammer and Regina King will also present

The upcoming SAG Awards have lined up a formidable array of stars to act as presenters at the televised 18th Annual event. Natalie Portman, Ed Helms, Julianna Margulies, Armie Hammer and Regina King will hand out trophies to the winners.

SAG President Ken Howard will also act as a presenter.

Portman received The Actor last year for her mesmerizing turn in Darren Aronofsky's “Black Swan, and has recently appeared in "No Strings Attached” and “Thor." Portman may be re-teaming with her "V For Vendetta" producers The Wachowskis for the upcoming "Jupiter Ascending." She'll also be among the presenters at this coming Sunday's Golden Globe Awards show,.

Hammer is nominated this year for his supporting performance in “J. Edgar” opposite Leonardo DiCaprio and was nominated last year as a member of “The Social Network” ensemble. He'll soon be seen in the Snow White riff “Mirror Mirror,” opposite Julia Roberts and Lily Collins.

SAG award winner Helms is nominated again this year as part of the ensemble of NBC's "The Office.” He was also recently seen in "The Hangover Part II," and will appear opposite Jason Segel in the upcoming comedy "Jeff Who Lives at Home."

As an eight-time winner (and sixteen-time nominee), Margulies holds the SAG Awards’ record for the most awards received. She's taken home awards both for her current show "The Good Wife,” and for her work on NBC's long-running “ER.”

Regina King currently stars in TNT’s “Southland” and serves as the SAG Awards social network ambassador. She was nominated as a cast member of “Ray,” alongside Jamie Foxx.

The 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will air on TNT and TBS Sunday, January 29 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT from the Shrine Exposition Center in Los Angeles.

See the complete list of nominees
here.

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<p>&nbsp;Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth in &quot;Thor.&quot;</p>

 Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth in "Thor."

Credit: Marvel Studios

It's Loki vs. Thor for the BAFTA Orange Rising Star Award

A 'Bridesmaids' star makes the cut too

BAFTA announced the five candidates for the always popular BAFTA Orange Wednesdays rising star award this year and the publicly voted honor features a face-off between the God of Mischief, the God of Thunder, a "Bridesmaids" star and a one-week lover of Marilyn Monroe.

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<p>&nbsp;Parker Posey winning her special acting prize for &quot;The House of Yes&quot; in 1997.</p>

 Parker Posey winning her special acting prize for "The House of Yes" in 1997.

Credit: AP Photo

Sundance Queen Parker Posey's royal visit to Park City is now official

Julia Ormond, Justin Lin, Cliff Martinez among festival jury members

 

There have been many pretenders of the years, but there is only one Queen of Sundance and after a two-year absences she's finally returning to her kingdom.  

Parker Posey became the face of Sundance in the late '90s early '00s thanks to acclaimed roles in films such as the indie classic "Party Girl," "The House of Yes" and "Personal Velocity." The irony of course, is that those were the only three features she had at the festival in that period, but boy did they hit a nerve.  But the moniker has stuck mostly because she represents a time when the festival hit a tipping point in recognition amongst the media and its peer festivals.  Posey has returned since then, most notably with the under-appreciated "Broken English" in 2007, but is back for one more go around this year with the out-of-competition comedy "Price Check."  In an attempt to possibly keep press or sponsors in town past the traditional mid-week departure date, the festival announced today that Posey will host this year's Awards Ceremony, set to take place on Sunday, January 28.  It also means Posey will be around the fest a good chunk of the week which can only be a good thing.

The Festival also announced this year's competitive juries and, as always, it's an intriguing and political mix (and by that we mean festival politics). Finding appropriate jury members is never easy, but the festival seems to have found enough indie cred amongst the selections to satisfy most.

The grand jury dramatic will include Anthony Mackie who starred in Sundance selections "Night Catches Us," "Half Nelson" and "Brother to Brother"; acclaimed composer Cliff Martinez; previous jury prize winner Lynn Shelton ("Humpday") who returns with "Your Sister's Sister" out of competition; cinematographer Amy Vincent ("Eve's Bayou," "Hustle & Flow"); and Justin Lin.  The latter is best known for directing "Fast Five" and "Fast & Furious," but got his start with Sundance selection "Better Luck Tomorrow" in 2002. 

The documentary jury features filmmakers Fenton Bailey ("Party Monster," "Becoming Chaz"), Shari Berman ("American Splendor"), Charles Ferguson ("No End in Sight"), Kim Roberts ("Waiting for Superman," "Food, Inc.") and noted UK doc programmer Heather Croall.

The world dramatic jury is a bit smaller with Julia Ormond ("Legends of the Fall," "My Week with Marilyn"), screenwriter Alexei Popogrebsky and New York Film Festival director Richard Pena judging the field. 

The world documentary jury includes journalist Nick Fraser, film curator Clara Kim and filmmaker and professor Jean-Marie Teno. 

The jury for the Alfred P. Sloan award - given to films showcasing science and technology - will include screenwriter Scott Burns ("Contagion"), journalist and programmer Tracy Day and biological Anthropologist Helen Fisher.

The short film jury includes Mike Judge (yes, the "Beavis and Butthead" one), director and screenwriter Dee Rees ("Paraiah") and Toronto International Film Festival programmer Shane Smith.

Look for complete coverage of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival beginning Thursday, Jan. 19 on HitFix.

For year round entertainment commentary and awards season news follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter.

 

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