Ten years ago, indie films were shown primarily at The Sundance Film Festival, never to be heard from again. But with the popularity of sleeper hits like Little Miss Sunshine and Push based on the novel by Sapphire and the smorgasbord of fascinating documentaries-think Man on Wire and The Cove-Sundance movies are becoming mainstream. Indeed four of this year's five Oscar-nominated films for best documentary made their debut at Sundance 2010. Here are some 2011 Sundance films you will hear more of this year.
For documentaries, I loved The Troubadours which looks back at the songwriter/singers of the 1970s who got their start at the Troubadours Club in L.A. Prepare yourself for a walk down memory lane as you see Carole King, James Taylor, The Eagles, Elton John, and Jackson Browne sing their early hits. Look for that on DVD and a possible showing on PBS. Other documentaries that will be talked about include - Page One: Inside the New York Times which had unprecedented access to its writers and editorial staff for a year as the paper moves into digital media (this has been bought and will be screened later this year). Rebirth tells the story of five survivors of 9/11 as they try to move on with their lives over an eight year period. It is both emotionally painful and soaringly uplifting to watch. How to Die in Oregon (2011 winner for Best Documentary) is a brilliant movie that examines Oregon's physician assisted suicide law and how it plays out through one dynamic terminally ill cancer patient. It has been bought by HBO and will premiere this summer.
You will never look at a product placement the same in a movie after seeing Morgan Spurlock's The Greatest Movie Ever Sold-guaranteed to be a hit due to its sense of the absurd and willingness to make fun of everyone and everything. (Slated April 2011)
Although I hated Project Nim (brought to you by the Director of award-winning Man on Wire) about a family raising a chimp as a child, and its attendant cruelty of passing the chimp from home to an animal testing facility and, finally, to another home, it will debut to limited release and later on HBO. I predict it will win the documentary Oscar next year.
For dramas, Vera Farmigla's (George Clooney's co-star in Up in the Air) directing debut Higher Ground is a highly nuanced, exquisite film about a woman's search for faith. It has not been bought yet but if it is, my bet is it catapults her to a different level as both actor and director. (Recently bought by Sony Picture Classics with a release date TBA.)
Like Crazy, winner of Best Dramatic Film, was acquired by Paramount Pictures in a robust bidding war. It's the story of a long-distance relationship between Anna and Jacob who meet at a Los Angeles college but are separated by Anna's visa issues. Look for it this summer and expect a major buzz.
On the other hand, I Melt with You stars Rob Lowe, Thomas Jane, and Jeremy Piven, whose annual boys-weekend only goes from bad to worse and focuses so heavily on drugs that one critic said "the characters had more lines of cocaine than they did dialogue". This is one of those movies that was so awful that it might be a cult classic. Some of the press walked out while some of the audience giggled at how awful the characters were and a few, like me, hoped Rob Lowe would show up to answer questions. This movie was acquired by Mark Cuban's indie distribution company - expect a limited release and simultaneous DVD release, but not at a movie theater that will count me as a viewer.
Ok, the lights are dimming and the curtain is coming down on my short-lived career as a movie critic. Back to executive search. Next up: "The Candidate."
See the links below for more reviews: