Daily Buzz: Attempts to summarize the character of this year's festival come from NY Times critic Manohla Dargis, who abandons the task to focus on the films she liked, and from Todd McCarthy, the critic from Variety (subscription required), who finds the festival a lot less rebellious than it's billing suggested. Perhaps the best summary comes from critic Marshall Fine at Hollywood and Fine, who grasps the paradox of a festival that wants to promote challenging art as well as provide a commercial marketplace. It's pretty much impossible to do both at the same time, Fine observes, since it's usually the least challenging films that prove the most commercial. Still, it seems everyone continues to come to Park City every year in the hope of discovering a film that both takes artistic risks and attracts large audiences, because every once in a while, such films do show up at Sundance.
To sum up the fest, IndieWIRE takes a number-crunching approach, polling many critics and bloggers to determine the best and worst films of the festival. Surprisingly, the little-buzzed-about documentary 'GasLand' topped the list of films in competition; among films out of competition, the highest-rated was graffiti artist Banksy's 'Exit Through the Gift Shop.' Topping the worst list was spoiled-teen drama 'Twelve' (no surprise, given how badly the screening went). Read the full list here.
Meanwhile, celebrity winter fashion patrol continues; today, instead of hats, it's scarves, in this one-page gallery of Sundance star sightings at the Chicago Sun-Times. These and more celeb spottings -- here's Elton John, displaying his own winter neckwear, as he attends the premiere of 'Nowhere Boy,' the biopic of his old pal John Lennon -- come courtesy of Cinematical's daily digest, "Sundance in 60 Seconds."
News: In what may be the last of the big deals at this year's Sundance, Variety (subscription required) reports that the Weinstein Company has paid $1 million for the Ryan Gosling-Michelle Williams marital drama 'Blue Valentine' and is close to a deal for Afghan War documentary 'The Tillman Story.' Screen Daily says a deal is near for controversial noir 'The Killer Inside Me.' And indieWIRE gives details on this year's biggest deal, the $5 million sale of family dramedy 'The Kids Are All Right' to Focus.
The big awards ceremony isn't until Saturday night (it'll stream live at 8PM MST on the Sundance website), but indieWIRE has the lowdown on some early awards. Leading the pack of Short Film prizewinners is 'Drunk History: Lincoln and Douglass,' starring Will Ferrell and Don Cheadle. It's the latest in a series of 'Drunk History' shorts directed by Jeremy Konner and posted at Ferrell's Funny or Die. IndieWIRE also notes the winners of the Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Awards.
While it happened outside Park City, Disney's shuttering of Miramax Thursday has to be hitting Sundance festival-goers hard. Sundance and Miramax put each other on the map in 1989 when Miramax's Harvey and Bob Weinstein purchased Sundance entry 'sex, lies, and videotape' and marketed it into a box-office hit. After that, Sundance suddenly became the place to go to find talented, original, yet commercial filmmakers, and Miramax became the distributor that could find an audience for any indie film, no matter how offbeat.
The next 20 years for the Weinstein brothers were the stuff of classic Hollywood rise-and-fall stories, with the familiar glories ('Pulp Fiction,' 'The English Patient'), excesses, awards (the 'Shakespeare in Love' upset victory at the 1999 Oscars), failures, controversies and disappointments. In 2004, Disney wrested the company away from the Weinsteins, and while Miramax continued to have some successes ('No Country for Old Men,' 'There Will Be Blood'), those successes were often shared with other distribution partners. Little money was coming in, and it seemed clear the company's days were numbered.
Meanwhile, the brothers' Weinstein Company is still a player at Sundance (with the 'Blue Valentine' purchase) and within the indie world, though they don't have the deep pockets they used to have. Maybe they'll buy the Miramax name back from Disney, and maybe the half-dozen unreleased Miramax films will eventually see the light of a projector. Still, for the Weinsteins and everyone else at Sundance, this has to seem like the end of an era. A good obituary for Miramax is at The Hot Blog.
Interviews: IndieWIRE's Anne Thompson has a lengthy video Q&A with 'The Kids Are All Right' writer/director Lisa Cholodenko. IndieWIRE also has a profile of 'Lovers of Hate' writer/director Bryan Poyser. Cinematical talks to Mark and Jay Duplass, the makers of the John. C. Reilly-Marisa Tomei-Jonah Hill romantic comedy 'Cyrus.'
Reviews: IndieWIRE likes 'The Kids Are All Right,' despite its conventional suburban melodrama. IndieWIRE also has a roundup of critics' responses to backwoods drama 'Winter's Bone,' 'Blue Valentine,' and road comedy 'Douchebag.' Cinematical has high praise for 'Blue Valentine,' especially Gosling's and Williams' performances. Cinematical also reviews Manhattan real-estate comedy 'Please Give' ("a movie you'll like but probably not love"), Kristen Stewart's stripper drama 'Welcome to the Rileys' (James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo are great but Stewart resorts to her usual tics), and 'Exit Through the Gift Shop' (the site's favorite documentary at Sundance).
The terrorist comedy 'Four Lions' has earned lavish praise so far; it gets a more measured, in-depth response from the Guardian. The article also contains a two-minute video excerpt, which is very funny.
Video: Why has 'GasLand,' Josh Fox's documentary about the environmental effects of natural gas drilling, topped indieWIRE's poll as the best film in this year's competition? Maybe it's the humor and horror of scenes like this one, in the film's teaser trailer.
Teaser Trailer for 'GasLand'
CAN YOU DO THIS WITH YOUR TAP WATER? from JOSHFOX on Vimeo.
Cinematical presents two clips of Riley and Hill in 'Cyrus.'
'Cyrus' Clip No. 2