PARK CITY - Sundance is well under way and on opening day, acquisitions had already been announced.
PARK CITY - Sometimes things dovetail nicely and come full circle. As a University of North Carolina School of the Arts alumnus, I'm always interested to see how my former classmates and fellow Fighting Pickles are finding their way in the film industry, and a quick glance at this year's Sundance line-up revealed that, across a number of disciplines, the Winston-Salem-based school's afterglow is in full force. It seemed a story was worth pursuing. So I pursued it.
Director Jeff Nichols has built upon each film he's given us since his striking 2007 debut "Shotgun Stories." 2011's "Take Shelter" added deeper atmospheric considerations to an already adept handling of character relationships on screen in ways few artists this early in their careers seem to manage. "Mud," screening tonight at the Sundance Film Festival, is a masterful combination of both stews that rings a storybook note owing as much to Gary Paulsen as to Mark Twain, and with more on its mind than perhaps anything the director has offered so far.
The project's early film school seeds are a good reason for that thoughtfulness, springing from the mind of a young man stung by a failed relationship who set out to work through ideas of romance and the complexities of love so many years ago (stay tuned for an interview expanding on that later in the fest). But Nichols roots the enterprise in a world of Southern lore that speaks to an undercurrent of magical realism in his film; boats in trees, a unique community of river dwellers, it is a singular sense of place. And from the coming-of-age point of view of a young man, surely a surrogate for the director's former self, that atmosphere finds ample thematic footholds.
This year's Oscar nominees for Best Sound Editing were "Argo," "Django Unchained," "Life of Pi," "Skyfall" and "Zero Dark Thirty." Though intriguingly, even with inflated categories including eight nominees, Kathryn Bigelow's bin Laden manhunt effort failed to receive a notice in the Motion Picture Sound Editors' (MPSE) Golden Reel Awards nominations, revealed today.
The history of write-in votes -- which is to say, votes for a name not on the official list of nominees -- at the Academy Awards is a short but interesting one. In 1934, the fuss over Bette Davis's omission from the Best Actress lineup (for "Of Human Bondage") was enough to land her in third place on write-in votes; the next year, unnominated cinematographer Hal Mohr actually won for "A Midsummer Night's Dream." "Write-in voting has been banned almost ever since," notes Scott Feinberg. "It would require not only a signoff by the Academy’s board of governors, but also a major revamping of the already troubled online voting system." Feinberg argues that, in light of Ben Affleck's surprising non-nomination (determined by only 6% of the Academy membership) and subsequent precursor success, this would be the perfect year to reintroduce the process. [The Race]
PARK CITY - If the wedding really is, as certain excitable liberal types will tell you, a fusty tradition increasingly headed for social obsolescence, the movies will hear none of it. Whether in broad Hollywood comedy or finely etched indies, screenwriters seem continually drawn to the tidy structural tension and compressed human emotions brought about by impending nuptials -- as airtight a dramatic excuse as any to combine characters who wouldn't, or shouldn't, ordinarily spend much time together.
PARK CITY - A year ago this week an unassuming indie called "Beasts of the Southern Wild" came to Park City looking for an intimate audience here at the very least, a distribution deal and therefore a chance at a wider audience at the very most. Certainly things like Oscar nominations were way off the radar, and yet, a week ago, the film landed major nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay and, perhaps the most surprising nomination of the year, Best Director.
The Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics' Association, who announced their nominees last week, distinguished themselves with some idiosyncratic categories, handing indie relationship drama "Keep the Lights On" their Best LGBT Film award, and sharing their "Campy Flick" prize between "Magic Mike" (which isn't particularly campy) and "The Paperboy" (which very much is). In the top categories, however, they fell in line behind season-long favorites, opting for "Argo" as the year's best film, and further decorating the trophy cabinets of Daniel Day-Lewis and Anne Hathaway. Full list of film winners after the jump; everything else at The Circuit.
Traditionally the last of the guilds to announce their nominations, the Costume Designers' Guild stuck to their guns this year, meaning they unveiled their nominees a week after the Academy's unusually early reveal. The order may be reversed, but the degree of overlap seems to be unaffected, as all five Oscar nominees for Best Costume Design made the CDG's larger list, which includes 15 films across period, fantasy and contemporary categories.
Perhaps not everyone feels this way, but I’ve always seen a gratifying kind of dignity in films nominated for a single Academy Award. Granted, for some contenders it can be a disappointing underachievement. For other, more marginalized films, however, it can be a heartening sign of individual voting branches paying careful attention to work that excelled in their own craft, and not just rubber-stamping the buzz-hogging juggernauts.