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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.
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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

Miles Teller offered role of Dan Aykroyd in John Belushi biopic

Miles Teller—the in-demand star of The Spectacular Now, the upcoming Divergent franchise, and this month’s Sundance opener Whiplash—has been offered the role of Dan Aykroyd in the upcoming biopic of John Belushi, EW has confirmed. Emile Hirsch is set to star as the late comedian, with Steve Conrad writing and directing, and Aykroyd on board as executive producer. Teller’s rep says that the actor is going to hold off on making a final decision until he finishes promotional duties for That Awkward Moment, a rom-com with Zac Efron and Michael B. Jordan that opens in U.S. theaters on Jan. 31.

The Hollywood Reporter first revealed that Hirsch broke the casting news on Saturday night at a Sundance party for the Creative Coalition. “A shout-out to Miles Teller!” he reportedly told the room, where Teller was in attendance. “We’re going to be working together soon. He’s playing Dan Aykroyd in the Belushi movie.”

Meanwhile, Sony Pictures Classic snapped up distribution rights to Whiplash for just under $3 million on Friday.

'Whiplash' stars Miles Teller and Paul Reiser talk about their buzzy Sundance movie

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Fresh off their festival-opening premiere, 28-year-old director Damien Chazelle, and actors Miles Teller, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist, and Auston Stowell dropped by EW’s Sundance Lounge to chat about their buzzy new film Whiplash.

Teller and Chazelle described the prep work the 26-year-old actor (who also has a role in the upcoming Divergent movie) had to put in on the drums to play his character Andrew Neiman, a brilliant, driven young jazz drummer under the tutelage of an abusive maestro played by J.K. Simmons. (EW’s Owen Gleiberman describes the film as “a jazz version of the very good inside-classical-music drama Mr. Holland’s Opus crossed with a drill-sergeant-from-hell classic like An Officer and a Gentleman, with Simmons in the Lou Gossett Jr. role.”) READ FULL STORY

Sundance 2014: 'Whiplash' is the movie that could make Miles Teller a star

The opening-night movie at the Sundance Film Festival is often, almost by design, a mild, light, forgettable affair. A lof of filmmakers don’t want the opening slot, and the basic idea is that the bar can’t be raised too high, because then you’ll risk making all the movies that come afterward look disappointing. But Whiplash, which opened the 30th anniversary edition of Sundance last night, didn’t just raise the bar — it electrified the spirits of everyone who saw it, including me. It stars Miles Teller, who had his breakthrough role in last year’s Sundance favorite The Spectacular Now (and will soon be seen in Divergent), and Whiplash confirms that he’s truly a spectacular actor, with a slightly damaged glamour and a face you can’t stop watching because of all the feelings it registers. Last year, I said that Teller reminded me of Elvis Presley. In Whiplash, he’s more like the young John Cusack, but with a cockiness that never hardens into attitude; it’s open and shifting. He plays Andrew Neiman, a brilliant, driven young jazz drummer who is attending the Schaffer Academy in Manhattan, a (fictional) performing-arts institution that, as presented, is one of the best music schools in the country. There, he comes under the tutelage of the school’s fearsome and legendary taskmaster — a scarily exacting maestro of jazz named Terence Fletcher, played, in a bravura performance, by J.K. Simmons. This isn’t the cuddly, twinkly Simmons we’ve grown used to in recent years. In skin-tight black T-shirts, his shaved head set off by mad-dog eyes and a squiggly vein running down the side of his temple like an electric wire, he’s more like Bruce Willis with three times the ferocity. READ FULL STORY

Sundance 2014: 'Whiplash' director on the price of greatness and the intensity of J.K. Simmons

It’s going to be a memorable Sundance Film Festival if the rest of the movies can keep up with the beat that Whiplash laid down last night. The opening-night premiere from 28-year-old director Damien Chazelle tells the story of an ambitious jazz-drummer prodigy (Miles Teller) who bumps up against an intimidating tyrant of a music teacher played by J.K. Simmons. Bad-ass bald, with bulging biceps that fill his fashionable black t-shirts, Simmons’ Terrence Fletcher is a cruel taskmaster who bludgeons his students with torrents of mocking, often homophobic, invective in his mission to create true genius. Fletcher toys with them psychologically and bullies them physically, like some musical Bobby Knight. “I remember when I first met [J.K.], I just sort of told him, “Remember how you were in Oz? I want to make that guy look like the teacher in Mr. Holland’s Opus,” Chazelle said to the audience after last night’s premiere.

Chazelle himself was a serious jazz drummer in high school, and he based the poisenous relationship on one he had with one of his own mentors. “Drums had always been like a fun hobby for me, and for four years, when I was in that ensemble, it became just a source of constant dread,” he said last night. “Just looking back, it was an interesting experience because I became a much better drummer than I know I ever would’ve, but I also didn’t enjoy it at all. And maybe for people who feel that music should be about joy and fun, it was missing the point. So those were certain questions that I was grasping with and I just wanted to write about it.”

That Whiplash — which refers to a jazz composition composed by Hank Levy — got a prime Sundance showcase is a great tribute to Chazelle’s crew, and an honor to the festival’s spirit. Last year, Whiplash won the Sundance price for Best Short film, and Chazelle spent the last 12 months turning an 18 minute short, that was specially created as a sample to show potential investors, into a deeper, richer two-hander that questions all the blood, sweat, and tears that seem to be the price of greatness. Sony Pictures quickly picked up the distribution rights to some international markets. A big number for the price of the domestic rights would not surprise anyone who witnessed last night’s premiere. (Though if the film becomes a hit, Simmons’ future as a comforting, vest-wearing pitch-man for Farmers Insurance might soon need to be rethought.)

Chazelle, who also wrote the screenplay for Grand Piano, spoke to EW before the premiere about his movie. READ FULL STORY

Sundance 2014: Sony nabs international rights for festival opener 'Whiplash'

After writer-director Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash had a successful night as the opening film for Sundance, Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions acquired rights to several international territories to the movie.

Whiplash, starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, is adapted from a short film that won the jury award for fiction at last year’s festival. The movie follows new college student Andrew (Teller) as he struggles to become the core drummer of an esteemed jazz orchestra with the help of a tough instructor (Simmons).

Casting Net: 'Ong-bak' star Tony Jaa added to 'Fast and Furious 7', more

Ong-bak star and martial arts expert Tony Jaa is in talks to make his English-language and studio film debut in James Wan’s Fast and Furious 7.  He’ll be joining the large returning ensemble that includes Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Tyrese, and Paul Walker. Chris Morgan, who penned the first, fifth, and sixth movies, is currently working on the script, but there’s no word on the character Jaa will be portraying. This seventh installment of the franchise is being fast-tracked for a July 11, 2014 release. [THR]

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Casting Net: Paul Reiser cast as Miles Teller's father; Plus, Ed Westwick as a vampire?, Kaley Cuoco, more

• After being subjected to an absentee father in the form of Kyle Chandler in The Spectacular Now, there’s a new dad in Miles Teller‘s life.  Paul Reiser has signed on to writer-director Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, the feature version of his Sundance-winning short, which is expected to begin shooting in the next few weeks. The Aliens actor recently appeared in Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra and is currently filming the comedy Life After Beth, starring Aubrey Plaza, Anna Kendrick, and Dane DeHaan. [THR]

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Casting Net: Miles Teller destined for 'Whiplash'; Plus, Sam Rockwell, Mireille Enos, more

• Miles Teller is making waves. The soulful Spectacular Now star can add another notch to his indie belt. Teller will play the lead role in Whiplash — the Sundance-winning short from writer-director Damien Chazelle (Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench) that’s getting the feature treatment. Teller will play a novice drummer in an elite jazz conservatory who is subjected to the wrath of his merciless instructor, played by J.K. Simmons (who will reprise the role that he originated in Chazelle’s short). [Deadline]
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