Daily Buzz: Most of the distribution bigwigs had left Park City by late Wednesday, yet a flurry of last-minute deal-making convinces tHollywood Reporter that the market for indie films is strong. So why did it take so long to see more than a handful of big deals made? Because distributors have become a lot more cautious and eager to do due diligence on a film's prospect's before buying it, the Reporter says.
One reason distributors may be cautious is that a lot of the films feature big stars behaving very badly. As the Hollywood Reporter points out, at a time when mainstream audiences are apoplectic over Sigourney Weaver smoking a cigarette in 'Avatar,' it may be hard to market Joseph Gordon-Levitt using a cigarette to commit arson in 'Hesher,' or Kristen Stewart prostituting herself in 'Welcome to the Rileys,' or Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson having sadomasochistic sex with Casey Affleck in 'The Killer Inside Me.' (Gee, at another time, those might all have been big selling points.)
Still, some Sundance films, like Akerman's, are fairly benign romantic comedies. As an actress with more than one film at the festival, Akerman could be said to wear many hats, but in a literal sense, she seems to have just one, which she even wears indoors to Sundance screenings. More on Sundance stars and their crazy winter hats can be found in this photo gallery at Huffington Post. (Hat tip, no pun intended, to Cinematical, which posts links to this gallery and other celebrity sightings and festival buzz in its daily digest, "Sundance in 60 Seconds.")
News: Biggest deal of the festival so far may have been the sale of 'The Kids Are All Right' to Focus Features, for a figure the Hollywood Reporter cites as slightly under $5 million. The dramedy from Sundance perennial Lisa Cholodenko ('High Art,' "Laurel Canyon') is about a lesbian couple (Julianne Moore and Annette Bening), their teenage kids (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson), and the kids' birth father (Mark Ruffalo). The film is reportedly an audience-pleaser with a star-making performance by Wasikowska, so Focus' money may be well-spent.
The Reporter documents other sales, including Akerman's 'happythankyoumoreplease' to Myriad Pictures and backwoods slasher spoof 'Tucker & Dale vs. Evil' to Maple Pictures. Plus, there were some other sales of foreign rights for some off-the-radar movies.
'Splice,' a sci-fi/horror film with some strong buzz, has sparked a bidding war and may sell soon, says the Hollywood Reporter, but as a service deal -- an increasingly popular option for indie films, in which the producers keep the rights (and assume most of the risk) but hire a distributor to market and release the movie, paying a fee upfront and a percentage of the gross. Another alternative method, cited by indieWIRE, is the Film Collaborative, which has a presence at Sundance this week. It's a nonprofit group that sells marketing, distribution and other services to indie filmmakers while letting them retain the rights.
According to Variety (subscription required), the last 24 hours also saw deals for 'Hesher' (sold for $1 million to Newmarket) and for 'Twelve' (sold to Hannover House, a publisher new to the major theatrical marketplace, for $2 million). The deal for 'Twelve' follows a disastrous screening for the film, a drama directed by Hollywood vet Joel Schumacher, about drugs and debauchery among wealthy New York teens. (Think of it as an R-rated 'Gossip Girl,' especially since it stars Chace Crawford.) By all accounts, the film had the audience laughing hysterically. Probably not the response Schumacher was going for.
Interviews: 'Blue Valentine''s Ryan Gosling and director Derek Cianfrance sit for a video interview with indieWIRE's Anne Thompson. Co-star Michelle Williams joins the guys for an audio interview with Cinematical.
The New York Times has a brief talk, over mushroom risotto, with 'I Am Love''s Tilda Swinton.
IndieWIRE learned 10 things it didn't know about Joan Rivers from the comedy legend's frank and profane Q&A after the screening of 'Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.' If the video is too NSFW for you, you can read IndieWIRE's cleaned-up highlights summary here.
Reviews: Akerman's wedding comedy 'The Romantics' gets a thumbs-up from USA Today, while the Hollywood Reporter calls it "forgettable fun."
Why did critics find 'Twelve' so (unintentionally) hilarious? Ask the reviewers at IFC's Independent Eye and Cinema Blend.
Cinematical geeks out over 'Splice,' finds stoner comedy 'HIGH School' funny enough not to mind the rough patches, and considers 'Lucky,' a documentary about what happens to lottery winners after the windfall, "slick and simple."
IndieWIRE finds 'North Face,' a German drama about a real-life mountain-climbing adventure, breathtaking in technique but overwrought in plotting. IndieWIRE also rounds up reviewer responses to 3-D documentary 'Cane Toads: The Conquest,' Gurinder Chadha's ('Bend It Like Beckham') dark comedy 'It's a Wonderful Afterlife,' and 'Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.' The site also has the rundown on the three films in Sundance's 'Africa First' program, including 'Pumzi,' a cool-looking sci-fi short from Kenya's Wahuri Kahiu. (Inside Movies posted the trailer here.)
Filmmaker magazine ponders the mystery of Banksy's street art documentary 'Exit Through the Gift Shop': How do we know the elusive and pseudonymous graffiti artist actually made this movie himself (and didn't farm it out to, say, Spike Jonze)? And is it a real doc or a Sacha Baron Cohen-style docu-prank?
Roger Ebert weighs in with praise for 'Smash His Camera,' the documentary about veteran celebrity shutterbug Ron Galella.
Video: A newbie celebrity shutterbug, just 13 years old, snapped Adrian Grenier's picture, so the 'Entourage' star decided to make a documentary about him and about the extremes of our fascination with the famous. Grenier talks about his film, 'Teenage Paparazzo,' here.
Here are some clips from 'Sympathy for Delicious,' a drama about a paralyzed DJ who seeks help from faith healers, featuring Mark Ruffalo (who also directed), Juliette Lewis, Laura Linney, and Orlando Bloom. (Video contains NSFW language.)