PARK CITY — The Sundance Film Festival has transformed the careers of many actors over the years. Parker Posey, Mo'Nique, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jesse Eisenberg, Miles Teller, Amy Adams and Vera Farminga are just a few who had their lives changed after a phenomenal performance shook the festival faithful. Today, another name should be added to that list: Bel Powley. The 22-year-old Brit has her coming out party in Marielle Heller's directorial debut, "The Diary of a Teenage Girl," which premiered Saturday at the 2015 edition of the festival.
PARK CITY — There is a moment in Rupert Goold's "True Story" that is truly captivating. After watching her husband be manipulated from afar, Jill Finkel (played marvelously by Felicity Jones), goes to meet accused murderer Christian Longo (James Franco) at the county jail where he's incarcerated. In less than five minutes Jill uses the tale of 16th century composer Carlo Gesualdo, who murdered his wife and baby in cold blood, to unmask Longo as the killer she knows he is and to make it clear his charade will only get so far as long as she's around. It's a moment that demonstrates how talented the current Oscar nominee for Best Actress is in what has been a thankless role up until his point in the film. It also underlines how frustrating a film "True Story" is that the best scene in the movie doesn't include star Jonah Hill and barely involves Franco.
PARK CITY — The concept of "The D Train," which premiered Friday at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, may sound somewhat familiar. An everyday family man who has never moved out of his hometown discovers the most popular guy in high school is now a successful actor in Hollywood. Our hero decides to go to Los Angeles to convince his idol to return for their high school reunion. If he comes back, said hero will finally be "the man" and earn some respect from his former schoolmates. Sure, it hasn't exactly been made before, but there are numerous elements in the premise you've no doubt seen over the past few decades on both the small and big screen. What makes "D Train" unique is the commitment from directors Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul to center the storyline around one outrageous moment and then completely ride it out to an even more jaw-dropping conclusion.
PARK CITY — Nikole Beckwith's new drama, "Stockholm, Pennsylvania," which premiered Friday at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, asks a number of questions surrounding the provocative subject matter of child abductees. How would a young woman who has spent 17 of her 23 years captive in a basement adjust to living in the real world? And, more controversially, is this a better "life" than what she was experiencing before?
PARK CITY — It's probably somewhat remarkable that in 2015 a tale of summer romance between two teenage girls feels awfully familiar. Since gay-themed indies began to increase in notoriety in the '90s, there have been many of these dramas set both stateside and overseas. Director Alanté Kavaïté has a unique and talented eye, but she can only do so much to make this compelling material beyond its aesthetic charms.
PARK CITY — Robert Redford and the Sundance Film Festival brain trust reconvened once again for the festival's annual press conference kick-off Thursday afternoon. While this year's edition features documentaries on controversial topics such as Scientology ("Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief") and the ex-gay movement ("I Am Michael"), the panel instead bounced around the subject of "change," diversity and the impact of modern day television.
It's been a week since the nominations for the 87th Academy Awards were announced and, well, there certainly isn't euphoria in the air for those residing in the 323 or 310 area codes. The controversy over the lack of nominations for "Selma" still stings (as it should) and following the embarrassing hacked Sony E-mails, it's just another round of considerably negative press for Hollywood. There is almost a sense that another shoe is going to drop and somehow things will get even uglier. Of course, there was a lot of celebrating over the massive box office success for "American Sniper" this past weekend, but it's going to take a lot more blockbusters (they are coming) for Hollywood to feel the weight of all this drama lift off its shoulders. And the Oscars, meant as a time of celebration, may not bring much relief.
There has been a lot of heat going into Sundance that this year's festival could be another buyer's market for mini-majors and indie distributors looking to fill out their 2015 slates. Fox Searchlight already picked up Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig's "Mistress America" and now Lionsgate has surprised by acquiring another premiere title, Jared Hess' "Don Verdean."
Awards season is tailor-made for disappointment, but you can add Anne Dorval to the list of actresses who clearly did not get the praise they were due. The 54-year-old French Canadian collaborated with writer/director Xavier Dolan for the fourth time with "Mommy," a drama which finally hits U.S. theaters on Friday and, boy, she's pretty damn great in it.
If last week's season premiere was a refuge from the reality of our character's lives, "Looking for Results" was almost a jarring reminder of where they really are all in their lives back in S.F. At the forefront is the blatant fact that Patrick ("American Sniper" star Jonathan Groff!) and Kevin ("Pride" cameo star Russell Tovey!) are both having awkward realizations about what they have been up to. And then there's good ol' Augustin, but we'll get to him in a minute.