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Sundance 2011 Daily Blog: Day 11

We're jetting home so while we sit in the airport we muse on our Park City experience...

Things We've Learnt At Sundance:

Your hands will look multi-coloured for a week thanks to the constant stamps for leaving the cinema for toilet breaks.

There's a reason no-one's walked in the enticingly pristine snow - it's deep. And now you've fallen in it.

Hollywood types never turn off their phones during films.

If walk-outs start in the first 10 minutes of a film, it's a good time to have a nap.

Eating is a military operation requiring forward planning, snack stock-piling and reservations. (Or just eating lots of Cheetos)

You can tell the folks from out of town - they wear a uniform. Hence their local nickname 'PIBs' (people in black)

You can tell the locals - like Newcastle and Leeds, they're the onces wearing less clothes than anyone else.

Wearing sunglasses indoors is perfectly ok during a festival.

An invitation and confirmation on the door of a party never guarantees entrance.

High altitude makes booze stronger and your thirst insatiable.

Chris Hemsworth and Ashton Kutcher are good snowboarders.

Queuing is a sport. A competative one.

You CAN get sick of snow.

There will always be one nutter at any post-screening Q&A.

You're no-one unless you wear fingerless gloves.

Utah law means you can't have two drinks at any one time.

Robert Redford's gravelly voice intoning 'Welcome to Sundance' before any screening never gets old.

Park City's local TV station 'KJZZ' sounds rude.

There is never enough lip balm to put on cold-chapped lips.

Kevin Smith polarises people.

Squatters do the best nachos and salad Nicoise in town.

Most movie execs have two phones and a dual time watch so they can 'keep up with the coast'.

It is cooler to be toting a 'Sundance 08' jacket/bag than this year's water bottle, newbie!

All conversations between filmmakers begin 'congratulations on the film, man...'

Like Dorothy says, there's no place like home after 10 days of exhaustive festival-ing...
 

Sundance 2011 Daily Blog: Day 10

Last day then...

So we're off to a screening first thing of a movie we've been looking forward to the whole fest, Dito Montiel's The Son Of No one . Montiel wowwed Sundance with A Guide To Recognising Your Saints , a film TF championed, so we were keen to see his latest.

For Son Of No One Dito Montiel goes for gritty with a strong cast including mainstay Channing Tatum who's a brooding copper with a dodgy past with Al Pacino as his mentor and Katie Holmes as his stressed out wife in a not-as-bad-as-all-that performance. Reviews early on gave it a bad rep that's not entirely deserved - it's not terrible it's just somewhat pedestrian and we know Montiel can do better.

Rest of the day is spent packing and sorting our flights before the final awards ceremony and party tonight. Glad-rags on (ok, same boots and kit we've been wearing all week but fractionally smarter) we pack onto a bus to Kimbal Junction for the Awards Ceremony and Party. We arrive at the venue which is essentially big hall with a stage, kind of chilly with a central buffet that could warm us up  bit.

Fully wrist banded and mildly drunk we watch as the awards unfold:

2011 Sundance Film Festival Award Winners:
 
The Grand Jury Prize: Documentary: How to Die in Oregon
The Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic Like Crazy
The World Cinema Jury Prize: Documentary Hell and Back Again
The World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic Happy, Happy
The Audience Award: Documentary: Buck
The Audience Award: Dramatic Circumstance
The World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary Senna
The World Cinema Audience Award: Dramatic Kinyarwanda
The Best of NEXT!: Audience Award to.get.her
The Directing Award: Documentary Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles
The Directing Award: Dramatic Martha Marcy May Marlene
The World Cinema Directing Award: Documentary Project Nim
The World Cinema Directing Award: Dramatic Tyrannosaur

Notable ommissions include Take Shelter and The Sound Of My Voice but on the whole a great celebration of excellent filmmaking. It's ridiculous O'Clock in the morning now but we'll be back tomorrow to assess the damage.

Sundance 2011 Daily Blog: Day 9

The snow is melting in Park City as the town returns to normal on the penultimate day of the festival.

The restaurants, cafes, bars and the pet shop are transforming from Sundance venues and the crowds are getting thinner. But there's still movies to watch - and this morning it was Here , starring Ben Foster as cartographer mapping Armenia who falls for a returning Armenian ex-pat photographer.

An atmospheric, stunningly lensed road move, Here requires audience investment, but rewards with beautiful landscapes and performances.


A quick bowl of chilli and we were waiting in line to see Vera Farmiga's directorial bow, Higher Ground . Vera's sis Taissa plays her as a younger character in a thought-provoking exploration of one woman's faith. John Hawkes, also impressive in Martha Marcy May Marlene , excels as a boozehound Pa and Farmiga is no slouch in the directing stakes either. The subject matter isn't for everyone though.

Jumping on the bus, we raced to Main Street to catch the director and cast of The Son of No One . The story of a Bronx cop (Channing Tatum) whose past catches up with him has been setting the internet and festival alight despite not having premiered yet. And not necessarily for the best reasons, either.


Various sources reported that the first screening on Monday was met with walk-outs while audiences laughed out loud at Katie Holmes' performance as Tatum's wife. Reportedly, there was even a sarcastic slow hand-clap.


Is this the reason Holmes, who was originally scheduled to meet the press today with her co-stars, is now suffering 'scheduling difficulties' and jetting in for the premiere red carpet only?


Luckily, Tatum and Ray Liotta felt no such shyness, turning out to sing the praises of their director Dito Montiel, who dismissed the rumours with jokes about hunting various journalists down and stressing that Holmes was 'awesome' in the movie. We have to wait until the screening tomorrow morning to see for ourselves...

Tatum was giggly and humble while a mellow Liotta told Total Film that he still loved acting even if he only got roles because Nicolas Cage or Tatum couldn't take them.


The guys went off to get suited and booted for the premiere (although in Sundance that means wearing lots of jumpers, big boots and cosy hats) while we hiked across town (falling in a puddle along the way) to catch the screening of All Your Dead Ones .

A strange and darkly humorous Colombian allegory where a farmer discovers 50 corpses in his cornfield. But when he alerts the authorities they have no interest in dealing with the massacre, being more interested in the pending local election.

It's errie and borderline scary at time - the kind of multi-layered film that would benefit from numerous viewings and some research into Colombian politics.


We've already seen all the other films screening tonight so we reckon it's time for a slap-up meal at the Mexican restaurant down the road, amusingly titled 'Nacho Mama'. A line spoken by Vera Farmiga as she kicks her adopted slut-psycho daughter in the face in Orphan , so we think it's fitting for today.


Tomorrow we find out who won what at Sundance and try to cram our dirty pants back in our suitcase...

Sundance 2011 Daily Blog: Day 8

the sound of my voice

We've been here for more than a week, it feels like more than a year.

In good ways! We've met some really great people (famous and non-famous), we've practically moved into the Mariott, we've seen a lot of movies and we know where to get an excellent plate of nachos and a salad nicoise. 

Park City has quietened down in a big way though we're still seeing the odd celeb milling around ( Iron Man 's Clark Gregg in the Bing Bar, T J Miller from My Idiot Brother in the Mariott, Jason Reitman down the pub last night). But for us it must be said exhaustion is enchroaching.

Good news that the first film of the day, The Sound Of My Voice directed by Zal Batmanglij and written by and starring the ethereal and talented Brit Marling is one of the best of the fest.

The second cult movie we've seen this week (after Martha Marcy), it follows a couple trying to infiltrate a fanatical group to make a documentary. It's clever, involving and ambiguous, and Marling puts in a charismatic turn as the cult leader. It also involves time travel. A bit like an indie back to the future.

A quick stop for bowls of chilli at HQ then off to The Prospector Theatre for Gun Hill Road , Rashaad Ernesto Green's odd but engaging drama about a bloke who comes out of prison to find his now teenage son is a pre-op transexual.

Beautiful, androgenous Harmony Santana gives a brave, affecting performance as Michael/Vanessa with Judy Reyes, aka Carla from Scrubs exercising her dramatic muscles. There are lots of good things about it, and maybe it's the tiredness but over all we found Gun Hill Road a bit episodic and lacking in variation. Title's a bit misleading too - we thought this was going to be a dusty western...

Over to the Eccles next to stand shivering in the cold for a good 45 minutes to get into Azazel Jacobs Terri . Also queung to get in was the star of Circumstance Reza Sixo Safai who we had a quick chat with - we were somewhat shocked to find out how LA he is since Circumstance is a Persian language film and he plays a very dark character.

Anyway, Terri : another quirky dark comedy, about an overweight teen who develops an unusual friendship with his prinicpal (John C Reilly). Features mousicide, fingering and willful pant-peeing. Slow pace and not as quirky as it thinks it is but another great performance from Reilly.

John C Reilly in Terri

Dinner at mustang up on main - the same place we were in for the Filmmakers' party yesterday - then back to the hotel via the pharmacy to pick up medicine and herbal tea. We're pooped. At just 8.45 we find ourselves dressed in pyjamas and watching episodes of Without A Trace and Criminal Minds from bed.

We're already on our second round of peppermint tea. Tomorrow we'll be chatting up Channing Tatum for Son Of No One and visiting All Your Dead Ones , but for now we're like a couple of old women in bed socks...

 

Sundance 2011 Daily Blog: Day 7

They say Sundance is like Vegas, you can only do three days on full tilt before exhaustion sets in.

While many NY\LA folks returned home, leaving Main Street considerably more civilised, TF is still pounding the circuit and awaiting the arrival of the cast of Son Of No One . Channing Tatum and Katie Holmes are due to arrive tomorrow to inject some glamour back into proceedings.

This morning's coffee-clutching screening was The Off Hours starring Monsters ' Scoot McNairy as the slacker foster brother of a truck stop diner waitress, Francine, played by Amy Seimetz. During the graveyard shifts, Francine tries to stave off the inertia of her dead-end life by shagging random truckers and losers in the diner bogs.

Painstakingly creating a specific place and time, writer/director Megan Griffiths creates a mood piece of such tangible dispair that it's suffocating. Not for everyone, but a handsome exercise if you fancy a limiting taste of a Pacific Northwest one-horse town.

Next it was on to chats with the cast of I Melt With You - though in typical publicist fashion, the gathered press were shown what we could have won (Rob Lowe is in town) and then told we couldn't have it (Rob's schedule is VERY tight.)

Luckily, Jeremy Piven had put on his snowboots to talk about the dark male-mid-life-crisis movie.

While scarfing down grilled chicken and aspargus during our chat, Entourage 's Piven was surprisingly softly spoken (no rants about percentage) and told us the shoot was 'intense'. He also told us that Entourage: The Movie is still on the cards although 'I'm always the last to know".
 
Sundance knows how to treat it's filmmakers, throwing them an afternoon soiree at one of the best restaurants in town, The Mustang.

We met Asif Kapadi, the Brit director of Senna (currently setting the documentary section alight), the girls from Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same and Vincent Grashaw, producer of Bellflower who talked us into attending thr screening of his dark, indie romance.

We're glad we did. It's a strange, gorgeous tale of broken hearts and tricked-out cars that reminded us of Gus Van Sant and Larry Clark with subtle, funny performances all round

A drink at the Yarrow Hotel with cast and crew revealed the trials of filming but the chemistry between the group was obvious.

They're currently in talks for worldwide distribution and te festival buzz on this one is great... so watch out for it.

Slightly fuzzy, it was off to see The Convincer , a wry sleight of hand comedy about a Mid-West insurance salesman (Greg Kinnear) who befriends an elderly farmer (Alan Arkin) so he can steal a priceless violin from him. But his avarice leads from one mistake to another and eventually murder as his life spirals darkly out of control.

TF wonders if Kinnear consulted Ed Helms about how HE was playing Mid-West insurance man (in Cedar Rapids ) or Tobey Maguire to get his take on bad decisions leading to homicide ( The Details )?

A slow-burner, The Convincer seems to be about not much at all until chaos reigns and a third act twist makes all the pieces fall into place. Sort of Fargo crossed with Criminal - it requires investment but pays up by the final reel.

We're not off to a party on Main Street in the hope we don't get carded...

 

Sundance 2011 Daily Blog: Day 6

I melt with you

About last night...

A packed day of screenings on Monday was rounded off with two films.

Notorious brat-packer Rob Lowe starred with Thomas Jane, Jeremy Piven and Me And Orson Welles ' Christian McKay in coming-of-middle-age drama I Melt With You . Packed with great tracks from the '70s, '80s and '90s, a dark and intriguing premise which sees four 40-somethings on a week-long reunion take a hard look at their broken lives, it's a massive disappointment that this turned out to be an honorable failure.

Honorable because director Mark Pellington approaches his material with sincerity and heart, failure because the end result is hyperbolic, self-indulgent, histrionic and vaguely embarrasing with pop-vid editing detracting from the lovely cinematography.

Still, all four performances were committed and we weren't bored for a minute. Although there were around 40 walk outs so that might not be true for everyone.

Thank god the last film of our mental monday movie marathon was a blast. Lucky McKee's The Woman was an undeniably strange and surreal horror which sees a feral woman kidnapped and incarcerated by an abusive man, only to turn avenging angel. As The Woman, Pollyanna McIntosh ( Exam ) is astounding - a primal, animal, force of nature with very sharp teeth. No snoozing for us even though the movie didn't finish till gone Midnight.

Tuesday:

Up while it's still dark to catch the first screening of the day, Jeff Nichols ( Shotgun Stories ) Take Shelter . One of the most anticipated films of the fest, a strange tale starring an intense Michael Shannon of a man having visions of an approaching storm which may be premonitions but maybe an indication of the onset of a hereditory mental illness he dreds, Take Shelter had a lot to live up to.

Thankfully it succeeded.

Despite a 2 hour run time and slow ominous pace, Take Shelter is drenched in impending doom and punctuated with lyrical and portentous imagery. Despite frightening subject matter and cranking tension its heart is in its relationships and talking to director Jeff Nichols after the screening in the Sundance Co-Op he was insistent the film shouldn't be seen as
ultimately bleak.

Take Shelter is a grower, one of the best films of the festival so far, and we predicting great things for Nichols.  

So to The Details - they say the devil's in 'em and there's certainly a wicked sense of humour at work in this dark, twisted comedy that amuses, even if it's self-consciously quirky. Tobey Maguire plays a doc who makes one mistake involving planning permission and sees his life spiral out of control into kitty killing, infidelity and murder. Laura Linney steals the show as his 'wackadoodle' neighbour.

Up to main street next for a bit of banter.

Ewan Bremner only had admiration for his Trainspotting Co-star Ewan McGregor in their new film Perfect Sense . He plays a sous chef to McGregor's kitchen king and told us that the duo had gone on a crash course in 'cheffing'. Bremner is now a dab hand at speed chopping and dicing - and makes a mean quail and pomegranate sauce.

Spot of late-lunch in the reasonably priced and generously portioned Squatters (does this word mean the same thing in the US? Squatters does not, for us, conjure up images of delicious cuisine. It makes us think of beans and sausages on a camping stove, or broken toilet seats. Yuk), and then off to chat to The Troll Hunter director André Øvredal and star Glenn Erland Tosteruds who told us about the impending sequel and remake and talked us through how we might protect ourselves should trolls ever attack the UK (slime, thyme and UVB lamps all feature heavily).

On a genre buzz we leg-it but main street to the Brew Bar. Main Street is quite a steep hill and we're at altitude (and yeah, a bit unfit) so by the time we get to the bar and find Lucky McKee and Pollyanna McIntosh outside, we're a bit sweaty and breathless.

Over beer we chat about The Woman , touching on Pollyanna's powerhouse performance including her decision to do full frontal and eat someone's face off and the Sundance Premiere where one girl passed out and another man had a angry rant saying the film was 'disgusting crap' with 'no value'.

McKee, who comes across as a rather sensitive, thoughtful man, was clearly quite hurt by the incident explaining that it's a film about abuse in different forms and in no way a film celebrating or glamourising torture and violence.

Both McKee and McIntosh were articulate and a lot of fun and we'd have loved to stay but it was time to run to our last screening of the day - Perfect Sense. Having already interviewed director David Mackenzie, Ewan Bremner and Eva Green we were pretty curious to see what the film was actually like.


perfect sense
A love story-sci-fi of hope and endurance against the backdrop of a mundane apocalypse, it's film about humanity, about getting on with things against all odds and the strength of the human spirit. And Ewan McGregor gets his nob out.

Again.

Vaguely reminiscent of Blindness , but so much gentler and sweeter essentially, it's the end of the world as they know, and they feel - well not quite fine - but while there's love, while there's family, there's always hope.

Sundance 2011 Daily Blog: Day 5

Sundance 2011 Daily Blog

Another day and more celebs are streaming into Park City .

The private jets must be bumper to bumper at Salt Lake City airport (we don't think that Demi Moore and Kevin Spacey came in on the same terrifying puddle-jumper TF did!).

This morning kicked off with a screening of doc Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey - the story of Kevin Clash, a Baltimore kid who went from Sesame Street fan to 'performing' universally adored critter Elmo.

Though episodic and not especially dramatic (Clash made some puppets, proved talented, got his dream gig) Being Elmo is surprisingly emotional as the film explores the fact that Clash has created a cultural icon who is essentially the personification of love.

There were some sniffles as Clash and Elmo met sick kids and performed at Jim Henson's funeral.

Strange how a clump of red fur can be so moving.

Cedar Rapids was also enjoyable - an old fashioned, good natured fish-out-of-water comedy from Miquel Arterta about a naive mid-Westerner ( The Hangover 's Ed Helms) who has never explored further than his circle of friends at a local insurance firm.

Helms proves himself capable of leading man duties and there are plenty of chuckles to be had courtesy of John C Reilly (who lights his own farts).

We caught up with the cast later at a building tricked out like the insurance company from the film. Helms was silly and funny, Anne Heche a tiny firecracker and Isiah Whitlock jr talked The Wire (oh YEAH.)

A dash across town and we were chatting to Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer about playing siblings in My Idiot Brother .

Rudd's sunny disposition in the film clearly isn't such a stretch, the guy may be whip smart but he's very sweet.

A big fan of Steve Coogan and Alan Partridge , Rudd admitted to being taumatised by filming a scene where Coogan gets out his bits.

Zooey (wearing quirky pink polka dot skirt and wellies) and Emily were also charming - even if they did wear their sunglasses indoors.

(They apologised profusely and TF let them off because the Utah sun was streaming through the windows.)

No time for lunch before a meeting in a drafty tent at the bottom of the ski lift with the delicate, shy and gobmackingly beautiful Eva Green.

Jeez, no wonder Bond lost his mind over this chick. Possibly the most beautiful woman we have ever seen.

Eva stars opposite Ewan McGregor in romance/thriller Perfect Sense , which we're hoping to crash the premiere of tonight.

From Bond girl to Monster boy - we strolled over to the achingly hip Bing Bar (a pop-up celeb lounge decked out in deep reds, leather sofas and a well-stocked bar) to meet Scoot McNairy.

The friendly actor is starring in The Off Hours at Sundance and admitted that despite his life changing as a result of the success of Monsters , he was an Indie kid at heart who would work for peanuts (mmmn, peanuts) if the script was great.

Leaving Scoot, we wandered past Kate Bosworth and down Main Street to the Stella Artois Cutting Rooms - which is actually an underground carpark dressed in red curtains and red velvet booths.

It's like a slightly more glamorous, much colder Aberdeen Steak House. (mmmn, steak.)

But this is where the big guns hold court and having been snapped up by Lionsgate for UK distribution after all-night negotiations on Saturday, Margin Call managed to gather their entire cast for press duties.

No mean feat, when that's Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, Demi Moore, Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto and Penn Badgley.

While Tucci joked that the whole cast slept together on-set and Jeremy Irons rocked some gladiatorial knee high boots over his trousers, Bettany broke a chair (accident, not rage) and Badgley admitted he asked director JC Chandor if he was sure about hiring him in such company. "Have you seen Gossip Girl ?" he laughed.

After Demi had teetered off furiously texting, Tucci and Spacey made plans for socialising tonight and TF legged it to the screening of Norwegian fantasy Troll Hunter .

We were excited about this one so it was good to see that it's like District 9 crossed with Blair Witch - with cool FX of towering trolls.

A snowy monster movie with plenty of flair and a clever payoff from Norwegian prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg.

Straight after we were back in the queue for I Melt With You (mmmn, melted cheese) - described as a dark Hangover starring Jeremy Piven, Rob Lowe and Thomas Jane.

Find out what we thought of it tomorrow... and in the meantime, consider your veg.

In My Idiot Brother , Paul Rudd dreams of creating a tom/onion hybrid, a 'tomonion'.

We asked him what his favourite veg hybrid would be - it's a 'Labbage' ('sometimes you want lettuce, sometimes cabbage...why not a Labbage?')

In a town where steak comes with a side order of steak and there's no time to eat, we've been dreaming of our own veggie love-children:

Leekato (easy leak and potato soup)

Tomacado (easy guacamole)

Carreas (peas and carrots for sunday roast)

Chonion (chilli and tomato pasta sauce)

Pumproom (pumpkin and mushroom - not ours that, it's off twitter)

Hmmmn, maybe it's time we ate...


Sundance 2011 Daily Blog: Day 4

my idiot brother

7.00am coffee and cereal and not being sad at all that we couldn't get into The Lie party having had some sleep at last.

8.00am arrive at the Eccles theatre crazy-early for the press/public screening of My Idiot Brother . It's stupidly cold and the buses are rammed - everyone who is anyone is going to this movie - and because it's at the Eccles the biggest screen in Sundance where the public and the press mingle - we absolutely do not want to be late and have to stand queuing in the cold for an hour. No sir.

But it's cool - we're early enough to squish into the press holding area and sit for an hour taking advantage of free wi-fi.

And this one was worth the wait. A sold out cinema (we even spotted lovely Olivia Colman trying to get a good spot) was treated to our favourite film of Sundance so far.

My Idiot Brother is warm, funny and absolutely the sort of thing that'll translate brilliantly to non-festival crowds as much as Sundance stalwarts. Director Jesse Peretz, plus the whole cast turned out for a very good natured and bashful Q&A. We've heard since that the Weinsteins have picked the film up - we're not surprised. You do get to see Steve Coogan's cock afterall.

High on Idiot , we head off to interview John Michael McDonagh, director of The Guard (see yesterday). Our original meet up is scuppered by the fact that indie cafe The Alpine is shut so fortunately smart, down-to-earth South London-born McDonagh opts for beers in Butchers Chop House where we chat about film, comedy, London and life for an hour.  And The Guard obviously.

Next up Circumstance . It's a provocative, cool, lesbian drama set in Tehran, which explores Iran's dichotomy of moral oppression vs 21st Century reality. It's made by Iranian born and raised filmmakers and will most certainly never be seen in Iran but asked interesting questions.

Then Homework . Freddie Highmore's all grown up! Very much all grown up, in fact, with full-on morning glory, going after Emma Roberts as a modern prototype of Holden Cauldfield. Simplistic but charming.

Which is the absolute bloody opposite of Red State . Through luck and tenacity and ultimately an extraordinary act of generosity (Emil - You are a legend) we managed to get into the most talked about, hyped, explosive screening of the fest.

There were no press screenings for Red State . There were highly limited tickets at all. The hopeful wait-list crowd arrived around four hours before the screening started desperate to get a seat to what was always going to be a circus as much as a film screening - a circus that began weeks ago.

Bit of context for moon dwellers - Red State is Kevin Smith's first horror movie.

Before Sundance Smith announced he'd be auctioning his film to distributors live after the screening.

Then the Westboro Baptist Church announced they'd be protesting the screening, in the name of God (objecting to homosexual content).

And then Smith's cast and crew said they'd be counter-protesting, in the name of Thor.

'Rehearsal' protests began at the Eccles at around 3.00 (seriously, who rehearses a protest??), then protest proper hit about 5.45, when we were tucked up in a tent queuing for all we were worth.

Counter protesters with imaginative banners ("protesting is for faggots", "Dick tastes yummy"), clashed with the standard "god hates fags" from the opposition and out numbered them in droves.

Meanwhile inside the auditorium the crowd was buzzing. Almost everyone had waited at least 2 hours to get in and they wanted a show.

And a show they got.

Smith was articulate and impassioned eschewing a Q&A for an eloquent political rant decrying the Studio System and ultimately calling for a new regime. And when the screening was over and everyone waited expectantly for the auction, Smith changed the goal posts.

No one would be buying his movie except him, he said.

The marketing and publicity world was a joke, it was stiffling creativity.

Indie filmmakers could use the net, exhibitors, word of mouth and good sense to self-distribute.

He called for indie distribution 2.0. Powerful stuff that left us exhilarated.

And the film was alright too.

Bit of a mess. Bit of a genre mish-mash. Bit too heavy-handed in it's rantiness. But funny, occasionally thrilling, well shot and tense. A teen horror, turned torture movie, turned seige flick, turned diatribe.

Thank god for the Norwegians then. A good party was in order and we found one. The reception for Happy Happy and Troll Hunter was filled with only nice people.

There was no queue.

There was no bouncer.

Everyone said hello and welcomed us.

And we got a chance to chat with producer Jacob Jarek and director Thor Ochsner (yes. Thor.) about their animated short 1989 (When I was 5 years old) , a highly personal project we can't wait to see. Both lovely.

Finally bed, via amusing bus journey with MSN's James Rocchio, who earlier, in a failed attempt at being cool, we'd offered a stick of lip balm instead of a cigarette lighter.

Notwithstanding a (second) fall into a snowdrift, nearly getting killed by an icicle and some casual racism over delicious sashimi, all in all an excellent day...



Sundance 2011 Daily Blog: Day 3

Hobo with a shotgun

The snow is coming down hard today as Hollywood cruises up and down Main Street in inappropriate footwear and sunglasses.

Total Film is having to drink plenty of coffee after a midnight screening of Hobo With A Shotgun and snow hike home. So is Hob o worth the wait?

Sundance's director of programming proclaimed that it 'has everything you could ever want from a midnight movie' and by that criteria, it doesn't disappoint.

Gore, grindhouse stylistics, Rutger Hauer chewing scenery (and glass - literally), some laugh-out-loud ridiculous lines and plenty of boobs.

But, like Machete , Hobo is a deliberately trashy joke that entertains for the first half hour before getting incrementally less involving and clever.

Some of the newbie cast over-act (not necessarily purposefully) and pretty much all the best blood-splatter is in the trailer - but for unapologetically gleeful gross-out no-brain entertainment, it's midnight movie gold.

Plus we met the legendary Hauer who was making Ugg boots look manly.

After the screening we were supposed to be headed to the party at Cisero's on Main Street where the stoked cast enjoyed the cosy get-together until 2am.

But we got stuck waiting for a bus in the wee small hours and ended up stomping home, Fargo -like, through three foot snowdrifts and fat falling snowflakes. Hiya, Marge!

First screenings of this morning were Win Win and The Guard - both highly anticipated by Sundance crowds.

Win Win is the latest whimsical dramedy from The Station Agent and The Visitor director, Tom McCarthy, and is as sweetly, heartwarmingly lovely as those films.

Paul Giamatti stars as a smalltown lawyer who decides to take on the guardianship of an elderly client and ends up unwillingly fathering a wayward teen.

Great performances from the whole cast (particularly Bobby Cannavale as a sweet fool) and some genuinely affecting moments. Sure to be a ahem, winner.

The Guard also did not disappoint. Described as ' Father Ted meets CSI ', it's a pacy drugs-bust thriller against the backdrop of rural Galway. Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle both deliver good, sweary fun which reminded us of In Bruges .

The Guard  

 Then onto chats with the casts of The Ledge (Liv Tyler is stunning in person) and Martha Marcy May Marlene (a young, talented, self-posessed cast) before more screenings of Like Crazy and The Ledge .

Like Crazy is a low-fi romance starring an excellent Felicity Jones and Star Trek 's Anton Yelchin as a couple trying to stay together despite geographical obstacles.

The highly naturalistic style and anti-drama storytelling may not please everyone but we found it affecting, beautifully performed and refreshingly realistic. Could be this year's (500) Days of Summer .

After all the hype, The Ledge teetered and fell. A good concept was marred by awkward performances, an over-wrought script and mangled philosophical navel-gazing.

A shame as this could have been ' Speed meets The Negotiator '. Liv Tyler does get the rack out though.

Post-screening we tried to get into one of Main Street's many parties.

Name on the door it seems only guarantees an hour standing in the snow while over-zealous door goons act tough and arty types queue-jump.

While we Brits may not be getting into parties, fellow countrymen Paddy Considine and TF's columnist Richard Ayoade are doing well at the festival.

Tyrannosaur and Submarine are both generating great buzz and flying the flag. TF saw both before we came out to Utah and can vouch for their excellence.

Tomorrow we see My Idiot Brother and attempt to get into a party...come back tomorrow to find out how we did...

 - Jane Crowther

 

Sundance 2011 Daily Blog: Day 2

Today's the first full day of screenings and the population of the festival has increased 10-fold, a fact we first discovered when queuing, an hour early, for Margin Call only to be squeezed in sideways to screen 2 of the Holiday Village with apparently all the distributors in Sundance.

Glad we made it though. This is an intelligent thriller based around an investment bank at the start of the financial meltdown and it's already drawing comparisons to David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross .

Big performances from a great cast (Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Paul Bettany, Stanley Tucci and Zachary Quinto's weird eyebrows) plus a zeitgeisty topic and a smart script could make this an awards favourite once the distrib scrapping is done, though it's a occasionally heavy on dramatic irony and knowing portentous moments.

Meanwhile, over in screen 1 was possibly the quietest screening of the fest - Kim Jee-woon's I Saw The Devil .

Korean director Kim, the man behind A Tale Of Two Sisters and A Bittersweet Life , has made an ultra-violent revenge movie owing a lot to Park Chan-wook's Vengeance Trilogy (to the point of casting 'Oldboy' Choi Min-sik, giving him a hammer and telling him to have a good time...).

It's a slick shocker, visually stunning with some amazing set pieces, but at 2hrs 20 it's really too long and repetitive and the whole vengeance thing didn't feel as fresh as some of director Kim's previous stuff. Good but not brilliant.



Break for lunch and a chat with Paddy Considine! Tyrannosaur premieres tonight (we were lucky enough to catch an early cast and crew screening - powerful stuff, with one hell of a performance from Olivia Colman) so Paddy, Olivia and the also excellent Peter Mullan were in town to promote.

We bumped into Paddy in festival HQ where we chatted about his next project The Leaning , a ghost story about a girl with a past trauma that continues to make it's presence felt.

The Tyrannosaur crowd are only around until Monday but apparently Paddy's most looking forward to catching Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey .

After a brief sojourn to main street to try a random key in a lock and see if we'd won a camcorder (we hadn't), we ventured back to the Yarrow Hotel for the world premiere of Pedro Peirano and Sebastián Silva's Old Cats , a Chilean family drama about a fraught mother-daughter relationship.

Funny, shocking - there was an excellent crowd gasp about 3/4 of the way through, and never has a pensioner walking down a staircase been so tense - it's well observed and touching stuff if a little low key for some tastes.

Then generating all kinds of Buzz was Martha Marcy May Marlene , a Manson Family-esque drama about a woman reunited with her family after leaving a cult.

Olson sister Elizabeth gives a haunting performance - she's like the love child of Maggie Gyllenhaal and Michelle Pfeiffer - with Hugh Dancy giving good incredulous Brit and John Hawkes as mesmerisingly creepy cult leader Patrick.

Directed by Afterschool producer Sean Durkin it shares a similar languid sense of growing horror. One to watch.
 
All in all a pretty good haul. Right now We're just off to the midnight premiere of Hobo With A Shotgun , with a party to follow - news of this in tomorrow's update, but for now, here's today's blog in numbers:

Accents done by Paul Bettany in Margin Call = 2 (unintentional)

Staved in heads in I Saw The Devil = 6

Actual old cats in Old Cats = 2

Cats (age unspecified) killed in Martha Marcy May Marlene = 2

Paddy Considines met = 1

Camcorders won = 0

Hobos with shotguns encountered = TBC

 - Rosie Fletcher
 

Sundance 2011 Daily Blog: Day 1



Though he made us stand shivering in the cold for an hour, then wait again in our seats at Sundance's opening press conference, Robert Redford didn't disappoint.

Looking great on the clean mountain air in these parts, the 74-year-old rocked a leather jacket, plaid shirt and defiant attitude as he got the press corps fired up about the future of film, hot new talent and his distain for listening to 'the man'.

"We're not beholden to any power above us so that gives us freedom," he rallied for his 30 year-old fest.

This year is apparently the biggest ever (there were over 10,000 submissions) which means more films and, we've been warned by Sundance's John Cooper, 'it may be a little crowded on the streets'.

Already festival-goers are not allowed to cross the road without a marshall and Hollywood hasn't even jetted in yet.

'Bob' also told the hacks that he's 'very prejudiced about documentaries'(he loves 'em) and promised a wealth of beauties in this year's selection.

This year the festival also launched the Documentary Premiere section - so what better way to kick off the first day of the festival than with one of the most highly anticipated docs on the slate?

Having braved the frozen roads to hike to a hotel resembling The Overlook, we found ourselves in the only screening theatre in Sundance that allows booze in the cinema.

Could be handy for some of the more interesting and challenging midnight screenings...

We're packed into a full house (after queuing theme-park style round a marquee) for Project Nim , James Man on a Wire Marsh's latest doc.

It tells the story of chimpanzee Nim who was taken from his mother in 1973 to be brought up as a human baby in order that he might learn sign language and create inter-species communication.

Sadly, Nim was passed from carer to carer, animal test centre to crackpot animal saviour.

Though the narrative of this particular true story is muddled, Marsh crafts a picture that is less a portrait of Nim and more a study of the misguided, screwed up, reckless and plain creepy humans who took him on.

Original footage of cute baby Nim growing into a hulking sulk are affecting and the stark interviews with the protagonists in his story are deliciously revealing. But, it's no Man On A Wire ...

Film finished, we headed off to our first party of the festival - a soiree in Legacy Lodge, at the base of Mountain Village.

Over a drink we toasted the lovely views ahead of us - both of Park City twinkling in the frosty night, and of the cinematic treats in store for us...

- Jane Crowther

 

Sundance 2011 Daily Blog: Day 0

Sundance 2011 Daily Blog

We're in Sundance!

After almost 24 hours of travel, negotiating planes, other planes and an automobile we're finally holed up in Park City, tucked up in the Prospector Square Lodge, a fine establishment which reminds us of Twin Peaks' Best Western complete with bear lamp, horse coat hook and wooden cockerel.

Just what you need.

Journey highlights:

- Getting multiple seats to ourselves and laughing at the people in first class with their measely one seat

- Not losing all our luggage

- Flying from Chicago to Utah in a tiny plane which flew over Cedar Rapids - pleasing since we're off to see Cedar Rapids in the next few days

It's freakishly Christmassy here; Park City loves a fairy light and Christmas trees abound. It's also snowy and the whole of Park City smells like incense. It's like Whoville.

But that's cool, apart from the ridiculous knackeredness it does feel a bit like the night before Christmas right now anyway.

sundabce 2011 daily blog

Highest on the anticipation scale at the mo, then:

Cedar Rapids - Not just because we flew over it, it's Ed 'Hangover' Helms' new one about an insurance salesman who attends a conference in the titular city. What? It looks funny...

My Idiot Brother - Also looks funny! Paul Rudd as the stupid sibling to despairing Zooey Deschanel.

The Ledge - From Brit director Matthew Chapman, about a bloke who has to top himself before noon or something terrible will happen (more terrible than topping himself?)... intriguing.

Hobo With A Shotgun (pictured) - It's got Rutger Hauer and it's about a Hobo, and the best thing about it? He's got a shotgun!

There's a ton of great stuff out here this year and we'll keep you updated with regular news stories, tweets and blogs but for now we're too delirious to make any sense...

 - Rosie & Jane

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