Stars at Sundance Film Festival

25 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Strong Aussie presence at Sundance.

PARK CITY, UTAH — This year’s Sundance Film Festival has a rich roster of films from all around the world but not that many this season from Minnesota.The independent movie hothouse chaired by Robert Redford kicked off with the satire “The Bronze,” about a mopey ex-Olympic star reduced to small potatoes. While the movie earned mixed reviews, people were buzzing about a jokey bedroom scene, in which star/co-writer Melissa Rauch’s (“The Big Bang Theory”) character has a comedic coupling with another former gymnast (Sebastian Stan). The fest showed the Twin Cities-lensed comedy about four black students at predominantly white college “Dear White People,” from Justin Simien, named one of Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch, and “Kimiko the Treasure Hunter,” starring Oscar nominee Rinko Kikuchi as a Japanese salary woman searching the snowswept Minnesota tundra for a briefcase full of ransom money mythologized in the Coen brothers’ “Fargo.” It’s due for theatrical release in mid-March. “The End of the Tour” by upcoming director James Ponsoldt (“Smashed,” “The Spectacular Now”) casts Jason Segel, a veteran of several bromances, in a story about a pair of writers whose brief relationship builds unexpected emotional repercussions.

Though creatively filmed with body doubles, the scene has enough aerials, dismounts, arch positions and stick landings to bound into the Movie Sex Hall of Fame. Segel plays the late David Foster Wallace, a celebrated novelist crossing the country to promote his epic 1996 bestseller “Infinite Jest.” Jesse Eisenberg plays David Lipsky, a Rolling Stone journalist who flies from New York to accompany him for five days en route to appearances in Minneapolis. Friday found close encounters of another kind in “The Overnight.” A quirky quartet piece about two sets of parents finding they have different ideas of friendship.

Each questions the other pointedly, building a relationship of admiration and mistrust while producing the kind of enigmatic conversations only a writer of genius can offer. The cast was subdued at the after-screening Q & A, with Kidman explaining how difficult it was to dissect the movie after seeing her exposed, emotional performance for the first time on the big screen. The film ends their journey in Minneapolis, where Joan Cusack plays a golly-gee chauffeur for visiting celebrities and Mamie Gummer is a City Pages staffer who became a huge fan and good friend of Wallace.

The other major Australian entry is Partisan, written and directed by Ariel Kleiman in his first time feature, backed by the producers of Snowtown and starring Vincent Cassel as a father and assassin. The 20-minute sequence includes a visit to Bloomington’s Mall of America, where the writers marvel at the vast roller coasters and milelong walking paths, and a slice of literary history with a recreation of St. I just want everyone to know that!” “Nasty Baby” unspooled Saturday night for an even darker look at partnerships, as a woman (Kristen Wiig returning to the fest in another gritty drama) agrees to have a baby for a gay couple before things take a deadly serious turn.

Paul’s legendary Hungry Mind bookstore, which hosted important national writers for decades before closing in 2004. “City of Gold” is premiering in the U.S. Toni Collette is directed by Gerard Barrett in the Irish production Glassland, Guy Pearce takes the role of a personal trainer in Results and Ben Mendelsohn plays a down on his luck gambler in Mississippi Grind. At the opening press conference to the festival’s slate of about 200 feature films, shorts and documentaries, founder Robert Redford was joined onstage by festival director John Cooper and Sundance Institute executive director Keri Putnam.

Ethan Hawke — an Oscar nominee for his performance in “Boyhood” — here plays a messed-up pop, reconnecting with his troubled teenage son (Asa Butterfield) who comes down from Vermont. The film’s central figure is Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold, whose writing goes beyond flavor descriptions to essays explaining how diverse cultures explore their city and communicate through food. He said they were a type of long-form journalism that had gone missing in recent years. “We support filmmakers all over the world,” adds Putnam, “often in very tenuous situations telling stories. In many places artists and storytellers and journalists are at risk so this is something we really need to stand for as a community.” Commenting on the Paris killings, Redford said: “There is an attack on freedom of expression in many different places, it’s not exclusive to Paris. It’s directed and produced by current Los Angelino/Twin Cities native Laura Gabbert, whose earlier docs include 2009’s “No Impact Man,” which followed a New York environmentalist trying to live an eco-correct life.

First came “A Walk in the Woods,” in which Redford himself stars with Nick Nolte as college friends reconnecting after 40 years to hike the Appalachian Trail. (It was only the second time in three decades that Redford appeared in a movie featured at his own festival.) Then James Franco and Jonah Hill starred in the taut “True Story,” about a reporter trying for regained relevance by interviewing a murderer on trial for his life. The film, co-produced by Brad Pitt — who joined Franco and director Rupert Goold onstage afterward — took Franco to a dark place. “I hate this character,” he said, “but you have to find something to attach yourself to when playing him.

It’s diversity, showing us what there is out there.” Redford also clarified his original vision to start an independent film institute, not as a rival to Hollywood but to fill a gap that studio system was losing. “I was very fortunate as an actor for hire to be in what was then the mainstream in the 1960s and 70s. The film, directed by James Ponsoldt (“The Spectacular Now”), is a smart, absorbing look at loneliness, professional jealousy and the strange place real creativity occupies in the American landscape.

And then, in 1979, maybe, you could see it coming — there was cable and video on demand, and they were coming on real fast. “At the same time, Hollywood realised the money was with youth, so that drove Hollywood’s direction. A gently comic crowd-pleaser, the movie had its premiere in Salt Lake City on Friday night as part of the increasing trend to extend the festival from Park City to its larger neighbour.

Redford spoke of his concern that the film’s inclusion may seem to show self-interest. “It was not my idea, I stay out of John’s business as selector of films for the festival, but John went out of bounds with his choice on this one.” Cooper’s decision may be a strategic one, making the most of the 78-year old Redford’s revived acting career and his popular presence at the festival. Both Redford and Cooper introduced the opening night documentary, What happened, Miss Simone? a screening that was followed by Simone originals performed live by John Legend. Book adaptations include Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn, written for screen by Nick Hornby and starring Saoirse Ronan, and Eleanor Henderson’s Ten Thousand Saints starring Ethan Hawke.

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