10 big success stories out of Sundance Film Festival
05:00 AM, Jan 27, 2014
Which films broke out of the just-concluded Sundance Film Festival in a significant way? USA TODAY’s Andrea Mandell and Claudia Puig highlight the top 10 independent gems that earned a ticket out of snow-capped Park City, Utah, and are headed to a theater near you.
1. Boyhood. Writer-director Richard Linklater pulls off a revolutionary filmmaking feat with this epic, compelling and one-of-a-kind tale of a family, filmed yearly for 3 to 4 days over 12 years. The movie was added at the last minute to the list of 121 feature films playing the festival. It stars Ethan Hawke,Patricia Arquette and newcomers Lorelei Linklater (the director’s daughter) and Ellar Coltrane. The film is a portrait of a boy becoming who he is, providing a probing look at the family and other forces that made him the adult he has become. Hawke has described it as “human time-lapse photography.” The film will be distributed by IFC Films.
2. Whiplash. Divergent’s Miles Teller avoided any hint of a sophomore slump after last year’s beloved The Spectacular Now. He wowed audiences this year as a driven jazz drummer in Whiplash, which won top prizes from the Sundance audience and the Grand Jury, as well as a distribution deal with Sony Pictures Classics.
3. The Skeleton Twins. Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, who play suicidal siblings, proved beyond a doubt that they were able to overcome comic typecasting. And writer-director Craig Johnson won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for the script, along with co-screenwriter Mark Heyman. Bought for distribution by Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions, the film is scheduled to hit theaters in late summer or early fall.
4. Dear White People.The thought-provoking, edgy satire about racist parties on Ivy League campuses, directed by director Justin Simien, won a special jury award. It had people talking throughout the festival, sparking discussions about race, as the first-time director hoped.
5. Infinitely Polar Bear. Mark Ruffalo, a veteran of four Sundance festivals, reaches a career best in his most poignant role ever as a husband and father of two young daughters. His character struggles with bipolar disorder in the moving and funny film.
6. The One I Love. Duplass scored a win when The Skeleton Twins sold (he’s a producer), but it was his sci-fi love story, The One I Love, that spurred festival-goers to argue in the streets, and Radius-TWC to pick it up for distribution. Duplass and Elisabeth Moss play a couple who take a solo vacation at their therapist’s retreat to try to rekindle the magic. What happens there (which is too good to spoil) includes one of the most inventive, mind-bending plot devices seen in years.
7. Rudderless. William H. Macy earned a standing ovations for his directorial debut, which focuses on the trauma a father (Billy Crudup) endures after losing his son in a school shooting. The music-laden film successfully launches a new phase of Macy’s career and affords Crudup one of his best roles.
8. I Origins.Three years after debuting Another Earth, director Mike Cahill re-teams with Brit Marling in I Origins, which is both a love story and a quest to link scientist Ian Gray’s (Michael Pitt) study of the human eye to far-reaching implications about evolution. Fox Searchlight bought the film, which won the festival’s Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize, part of the Sundance Institute’s Science-in-Film initiative.
9. Nymphomaniac. When publicists announced there would be a surprise screening during the festival, journalists immediately speculated it would be Lars von Trier’s much-buzzed-about Nymphomaniac. Indeed it was, and the audience sat frozen during the shocking and, quite frankly, fascinating journey of Joe (Stacy Martin), a young woman whose sexual identity starts at a remarkably young age. After weeks of bad press, it was a good day for Shia LaBeouf, whose performance as Joe’s first lover is his most subtle, adult turn yet.
10. Ivory Tower. The documentary poses a question that could upend the way we view our future: Is higher education worth the crushing price tag? The Yale and Harvard Law-educated filmmaker Andrew Rossi says he was surprised by the strength of the arguments he found for taking an alternate path in life.