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Tag: Sundance Film Festival (11-20 of 431)

Roger Ebert documentary 'Life Itself' picked up for distribution

After premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Life Itself, a documentary about the life of film critic Roger Ebert, will be distributed theatrically by Magnolia Pictures. Directed by Steve James (Hoop Dreams), the film will also be broadcast exclusively on CNN later this year after its scheduled summer release. This is the second such deal with Magnolia and CNN after their collaboration last year on the documentary Blackfish, which also premiered at Sundance.

“Roger Ebert gets the tribute he deserves with Life Itself,” said Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles. “Steve James has done a beautiful job capturing Roger’s complexity and energy in a loving but wonderfully clear-eyed portrait.”

Based on his memoir of the same name, Life Itself explores the fascinating and flawed journey of Ebert from school newspaperman to the movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, and from Pulitzer Prize winner to finding love later in life. Ebert died last year after a decade-long battle with papillary thyroid cancer that left him no longer able to speak. In his “third act,” the first critic to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame emerged as a major voice on the Internet.

“Magnolia is the perfect partner for bringing this film on such a seminal figure in film to the big screen,” said Steve James. “Roger’s story deserves it.”

Sundance 2014: 'Whiplash' takes home Grand Jury and Audience Awards

Whiplash, director Damien Chazelle’s story of a young jazz drummer, took home both the U.S. Grand Jury and Audience Dramatic awards at the Sundance Film Festival awards Saturday night. The film grew out of a short from Chazelle that won the Short Film Jury Award at Sundance in 2013.

Rich Hill, a story about a community in rural Missouri, won the U.S. Documentary Grand Jury award and Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory, about how music can help dementia patients, won the U.S. Audience Documentary award. Co-screenwriters Craig Johnson and Mark Heyman were honored with the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for The Skeleton Twins, starring Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. Cutter Hodierne won the U.S. Dramatic Award for Direction for Fishing Without Nets, his first feature film. The Prop 8 documentary The Case Against 8 brought home the U.S. Documentary Award for Direction for directors Ryan White and Ben Cotner. The Angelina Jolie-produced film about Ethiopia, Difret, won the Audience Award in the World Dramatic Competition.

Husband and wife hosts Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally brought the sexual innuendo and a ukulele to the ceremony in Park City, Utah, where this year’s crop of 186 independent films were celebrated. Presenters included Felicity Huffman, William H. Macy, Tracy Chapman, and film critic Leonard Maltin.

Check out the full list of winner’s below. You can also watch the replay of the awards ceremony, which streamed live on YouTube.

Sundance at 30: Robert Redford opens up about the festival and his upcoming projects -- EXCLUSIVE

When Robert Redford set out to create a place for independent filmmakers to show their wares 30 years ago, he didn’t know it would become the behemoth star-filled event that is Sundance today. Coming to the festival for the first time this year, I had my own preconceived notions and thought, like many people, that Sundance has gotten too big, too commercial. But even with the fancy parties and the major movie stars strolling down Main Street, I was still blown away by the wealth of new and groundbreaking films at my fingertips this week. While Redford acknowledges that the marketers and the glitz have taken something away from the festival’s roots, he is still able to see it through a first-timer’s eyes, and says that there is opportunity in its success – and that this might just be the best year yet.

“When we started this process back 30 years ago, when I had the idea for the festival and to put it in Park City, I thought it’d be a good idea to maybe make it a little weird because maybe that would attract people,” Redford says. “We just sort of went along and tried to stay true to our core beliefs about who we were, what our mission was in terms of providing a platform for new filmmakers to have a place where their voices could be seen. And at the beginning, there were a lot of people who saw this as kind of a crazy thing. I would have to go on the stage at the opening of the festival and sort of explain who we were, what we were trying to do, but now the nice thing is we don’t have to explain anything—we just are and I think people understand what we are.”


Sundance 2014: With tons of movies sold, the lack of a mega deal was no big deal

I can testify that when you go to a film festival, and someone inquires about how the movies were that year, the answer you end up giving — “Really terrific!” “Lousy!” “They were okay!” — is often dictated by exactly one movie. If you saw something that totally knocked you out, the sort of film that you think is going to get major play in the real world, and you’re already dusting off a place on your 10 Best list for it, then that one movie can determine your entire perception of the festival. That’s what happened to me last year at Sundance when I saw Fruitvale (they hadn’t added the Station yet). The fact that you’ve witnessed a certified home run makes the festival feel to you, in hindsight, like…well, a baseball game in which your team hit a home run. It’s more than a good movie; it’s why you came — to see an unheralded filmmaker knock one out of the park. A single movie that rocks your world can define, year in and year out, the Sundance experience — the reason that a festival like this one exists. Some of the films I’ve seen at Sundance that have had that effect include Crumb (1995), Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995), I Shot Andy Warhol (1996), Buffalo 66 (1998), The Blair Witch Project (1999), Chuck & Buck (2000), Wet Hot American Summer (2001), American Splendor (2003), Capturing the Friedmans (2003), Thirteen (2003), Hustle & Flow (2005), Precious (2009), and Fruitvale (2013). READ FULL STORY

Sundance 2014: In Iran, a schoolgirl shoots for the stars in 'Sepideh'

Danish director Berit Madsen didn’t set out to tell a story about feminism in Iran. She just met a pretty amazing 14-year-old girl who wanted to learn about the stars, and hoped to do justice to her story.

“I’d heard about this place which had an astronomy club going on and this teacher who wanted to build an observatory, and that boys and girls would go out alone to watch the stars,” Madsen, director of the Sundance documentary Sepideh, tells EW. “Even knowing Iran it was  bizarre to me, because you’re not supposed to expect stuff like that to happen.”

Madsen’s film follows the life of the titular teenager, who grows from a young girl obsessed with Albert Einstein into a woman engaged to be married and heading to university to study astronomy.

Sepideh is screening this week at the Sundance Film Festival, and is also being released exclusively on iTunes in the U.S. and Canada, coinciding with its Sundance premiere.

We talked to Madsen about how she connected with Sepideh and how making this film over the past five years has lead her to work on new projects about the Middle East:

Sundance 2014: Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler give rom coms an 'Airplane!' twist in 'They Came Together'


If Airplane! and You’ve Got Mail went on a blind date, got liquored up, and had a baby…that baby would look like David Wain’s rom-com spoof They Came Together. Making its world premiere on Friday night at Sundance and adding some star power to the tail end of the festival, the silly send-up of formulaic Meg Ryan-Tom Hanks meet-cute movies and their ilk reunites the gang from Wet Hot American Summer — with some new faces sprinkled in.

Wain’s Wet Hot American Summer had its debut at Sundance 13 years ago. And it’s good to see that Wain hasn’t grown up much since then. They Came Together feels like a movie made by a guy who still thinks like a 13 year old and that rapid-fire Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker sight gags and “Don’t call me Shirley”-style puns are the height of comedy gold. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that some of his old pals have become really famous since his cult summer-camp flick came out in 2001.

The film kicks off in typical genre style with Paul Rudd’s Joel and Amy Poehler’s Molly on a double date with Bill Hader and Ellie Kemper, recounting how they met. Rudd explains how if it were a corny movie he’d be the not overtly Jewish, handsome leading man. Molly adds that she’d be the adorable klutz leading woman. From there, it’s an 82-minute rat-a-tat riff-fest on every cliche you’ve ever seen Nora Ephron and company commit to celluloid.

Molly owns a small-business candy shop with a quirky, punny name (Upper Sweet Side); Joel works for a ruthless candy conglomerate that wants to put her out of business. Molly’s a single mom; Joel’s just been jilted by his icy girlfriend. But when they meet, it’s love-hate at first sight. How could it not be? They’re both dressed like Benjamin Franklin for a Halloween party…and they both like “fiction books”!

Some of Wain and cowriter Michael Showalter’s gags are real groaners. But most mildly land near the target, and a few hit the bullseye. It doesn’t hurt when you have folks like Rudd and Poehler selling them. Plus, when you’re throwing this much spaghetti at the wall, some of it’s gotta stick, right?

With a cast that includes Ed Helms, Cobie Smulders, Chris Meloni, Max Greenfield, and Michael Ian Black, They Came Together is never quite as laugh-out-loud funny as you want it to be. But if you’re a fan of Wain’s knowing brand of sophomoric slapstick silliness, his “When Joel Met Molly” satire will send you into “I’ll have what she’s having” fits of ecstasy.

Sundance 2014: 'Ping Pong Summer' parties like it's 1985

The mid-’80s are an easy source of comedy. Boomboxes the size of Samsonites. John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band. Pac Man Fever. White teens trying to moonwalk. All of these sonic and visual punchlines get a workout in writer-director Michael Tully’s Ping Pong Summer — a fun-but-slight coming-of-age story about an awkward Maryland teenager who becomes, well, not a man exactly, but a slightly more comfortable teenager, on a family vacation during the magical summer of 1985.

If that description sounds familiar, that’s probably because Ping Pong Summer has the misfortune of coming after two similar — and better — indies: 2009’s Adventureland and last year’s The Way Way Back. But Tully’s film gets by on its quirky charm and time-capsule nostalgia. It’s like an indie film riff on VH1’s I Love the ’80s. And after watching it, you may find yourself with an inexplicable urge to rummage through an old Adidas shoebox full of cracked cassettes looking for your copy of “The Fat Boys Are Back” or attempting to beatbox in the shower.

The film chronicles several pivotal pubescent weeks in the life of Radford Miracle (played by newcomer — and young Roger Federer lookalike — Marcello Conte). Radford’s friends call him “Rad”, but since he doesn’t really have any friends to speak of, it’s sort of a moot point. With his glum, goth older sister and his parents (John Hannah and Leah Thompson, another of the film’s nods to the Reagan era), he packs up his beloved red parachute pants and prized ping pong paddle for a summer in a shabby rental in Ocean City. There, he makes quick friends with an eager, Jheri-curled wannabe rapper named Teddy, crushes on a Cabriolet-driving Pop Rocks-addict dream girl, and runs afoul of the local preppy bully, who he will eventually put in his place over an epic game of table tennis at the local video arcade thanks to the tutelage of a wise, mysterious neighbor (Susan Sarandon, reprising her zen sensei schtick from Bull Durham).

If you didn’t live through the ’80s, my guess is that Ping Pong Summer will feel like a ridiculous trip to an alien planet — an alien planet where there’s “no parking on the dance floor”. But if you did (guilty as charged), then the film is guaranteed to make you smile and possibly overlook its corny thinness. It doesn’t hurt that the message of Ping Pong Summer — the importance of appreciating the most awesome moment of your life as its happening — is as timeless as Mr. Mister’s pop anthem “Broken Wings”.


As a footnote, I’d like to echo my colleague Owen Gleiberman’s take on two of the best films at Sundance this year: Steve James’ documentary Life Itself, about the life and legacy of film critic Roger Ebert, and Damien Chazelle’s electrifying jazzworld drama Whiplash.

Life Itself is an inspiring, heartbreaking portrait of a complex man who has always, unfairly,  been best known for his thumb. James takes the cartoonish curmudgeon in the owlish glasses and humanizes him for better and worse. Mostly better. The film is a testament to passion that drives us, the resilience that sustains us, and the love that makes life something worth fighting to hold onto.

Whiplash is, hands down, the best film I’ve seen so far at this year’s festival. Miles Teller gives one of the most impressive and fully-realized performances I’ve seen in my decade and a half covering Sundance as a gifted jazz drummer who’s put through the wringer by his drill-sergeant conservatory teacher (a feral and ferocious J.K. Simmons). Walking out of last night’s screening, I felt as if my nerve endings were on fire and that I had witnessed something truly original and special. Not only is Whiplash a great Sundance film, it’s a great film period. If it had come out last year, it would have easily been one of my 10 Best.

Sundance 2014: South Central L.A. is the Wild West in 'Imperial Dreams' -- EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS


It’s hard to believe that John Singleton’s generation-defining film Boyz n the Hood came out 23 years ago, in 1991, introducing audiences to a part of Los Angeles that’s a world away from Hollywood. It’s even harder to believe that South Central is still just as hard a place to live and thrive now as it was then. Malik Vitthal’s first feature, Imperial Dreams, which grew out of a Sundance Lab project and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this week, aims to tell a modern story of hope amidst the gang-ridden streets of Watts, and it largely succeeds. It’s received standing ovations at screenings and the praise keeps mounting for its star, 21-year-old British actor John Boyega (Attack the Block).

“There’s always going to be poverty,” the film’s producer Jonathan Schwartz, who has also been behind Sundance hits in previous years including Like Crazy and Smashed, tells EW. “We wanted to make a film that’s socially important, but not preachy and not cliché.”


Sundance 2014: What happened at Penn State was not anomalous at all, says 'Happy Valley' director

The passion for college football in certain parts of our country almost resembles a cult in its intensity. And perhaps no team had a more devoted following than Joe Paterno’s Penn State program, which proudly won “the right way” on and off the field ever since he became head coach in 1966. His reputation was nonpareil in the sports world — until former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was indicted in Nov. 2011 for molesting young boys on the Penn State campus. Paterno, then 85 years old, was fired, along with three other top University administrators, rocking the Penn State community, a.k.a. Happy Valley, to its core.

Into that storm came filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev (The Tillman Story). Happy Valley, which premiered this week at the Sundance Film Festival, captures the pain, the outrage, and the conflicting passions of people caught in the maelstrom. With interviews with State College locals, Penn State students, the Paterno family, and Sandusky’s adopted son, Matt, the film paints a complicated portrait of a community still recovering. There are powerful scenes in which an artist paints over Sandusky in a Penn State mural, adds a halo to Paterno’s portrait… and then takes it off as more sad news breaks. There is another sequence where a man protests by standing near the stadium’s Paterno statue with a sign calling the coach an enabler, and the angry reaction it elicits from loyal fans who drove miles to pay homage to their hero is all you need to know about the town’s torn soul.

“What I tried to do is give the audience the puzzle I’ve been working with for 18 months, and turn it around in your head and maybe conclude the same things I did — and maybe different things,” Bar-Lev said after an early screening. In fact, the early reactions to the film were all across the board. Some viewers concluded that Paterno and his superiors were complicit and that our universal obsession with athletics blinded well-intentioned people. But one member of the audience, who identified himself as a relative of Penn State benefactors Louis and Mildred Lasch, walked away with a different impression. “I was very nervous coming into this documentary, but I want to applaud you because I think you did find the truth in what’s a very, very difficult thing,” he said.

The truth. I’m not even sure Bar-Lev would agree that he’s found it. But Happy Valley is a powerful portrait of a wounded community that might not be so different from your own.

The director chatted with EW about his film: READ FULL STORY

RADiUS-TWC acquires worldwide rights to 'The One I Love'

Director Charlie McDowell is starting his feature film career on a good note: RADiUS-TWC nabbed the rights to his debut The One I Love, which premiered at Sundance Tuesday night.

The film focuses on Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss), a married couple who go on a retreat to try to sort out some problems. This isn’t an ordinary romantic comedy though: Things get weird. No one knows how weird though, because the film’s cast and crew are keeping the bizarre twist a secret.

Written by Justin Lader, The One I Love is slated for a fourth quarter 2014 release. 

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