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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Sundance Preview: Premieres

Ah, the premieres. The stars everyone wants to see, the glamor of the red carpets, and, for press, an opportunity to get an early look at some films that might be the next big thing for 2012. Everyone’s looking to see what pops at Sundance; by a couple days into the fest the buzz is in full swing in lines and on shuttles and over drinks at late-night parties. So, what did you think of this film? What’re you hearing about that one? Here are the Premieres about which I expect to hear a lot of buzz around and about Park City. (Note: All descriptions from the Sundance film guide.)

2 Days in New York, Julie Delpy

What It’s About: Marion and Mingus live cozily—perhaps too cozily—with their cat and two young children from previous relationships. However, when Marion’s jolly father (played by director Delpy’s real-life dad), her oversexed sister, and her sister’s outrageous boyfriend unceremoniously descend upon them for a visit, it initiates two unforgettable days that will test Marion and Mingus’s relationship. With their unwitting racism and sexual frankness, the French triumvirate hilariously has no boundaries or filters . . . and no person is left unscathed in its wake.

Directed and cowritten by Delpy, 2 Days in New York is a deliciously witty romp. One of the pleasures of this follow-up film to 2 Days in Paris is the addition of Chris Rock, who—amid the Gallic mayhem—convincingly plays the straight man as Marion’s hipster American boyfriend. With great skill and energy, Delpy heightens cultural differences to comedic extremes but also manages to show that sometimes change is the best solution to a relationship that’s been pushed to its limit.

Why it looks interesting: Delpy making a follow-up to 2 Days in Paris, in a way that seems to mimic Before Sunrise/Before Sunset, is either going to be the best idea ever or a gimmick that fails to connect the dots. I’m hoping for the former.

Arbitrage, Nicholas Jarecki

What It’s About: Nicholas Jarecki makes an auspicious directorial debut with this taut and alluring suspense thriller about love, loyalty, and high finance. Arbitrage—buying low and selling high—depends on a person’s ability to determine the true value of any given market. It’s a talent that has made billionaire hedge fund magnate Robert Miller the very portrait of success in American business. But on the eve of his sixtieth birthday, Miller finds himself desperately trying to sell his trading empire to a major bank before the extent of his fraud is discovered. When an unexpected bloody error challenges his perception of what things are worth, Miller finds that his business is not the only thing hanging in the balance.

Building on the chemistry and charisma of an outstanding cast, including Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling, Tim Roth, and Nate Parker, Jarecki leads us through the slick and duplicitous limits of impunity and composes an anatomy of the way asset bubbles can burst.

Why it’s Interesting: This hotly anticipated directorial debut by the brother of doc filmmakers Andrew Jarecki and Eugene Jarecki was garnering buzz as soon as the Sundance selections were announced. This may be his first time as a feature director, but Nicholas Jarecki produced James Toback’s Tyson, which was pretty amazing. He’s got a solid cast here, though for me Brit Marling’s name on the cast list is of more interest than Susan Sarandon and Richard Gere. Looking forward to seeing what one of last year’s Sundance “It” girls is doing now. Must catch.

Bachelorette, Leslye Headland

What It’s About: Regan is used to being first at everything. Imagine her horror and chagrin when she finds out the girl everyone called Pig Face in high school is going to tie the knot before she does! But Regan sucks it up and takes on bridesmaid duties along with her childhood pals: substance-abusing, promiscuous Gena and ditzy Katie. The single ladies are determined to put their bitterness aside and have an awesomely hedonistic bachelorette party. Armed with acerbic wit and seemingly endless supplies of coke and booze, the foul-mouthed femmes embark on one very long and emotional night filled with major wedding-dress panic, various bodily fluids, and cute ex-boyfriends.

Kirsten Dunst is consistently funny leading the talented cast, which includes the delightful scene stealer, Rebel Wilson, who plays Becky, a.k.a. Pig Face. Adding to the tradition of successful bridal comedies, this debut feature by writer/director Leslye Headland is a sassy and sometimes romantic ride that never forgets to celebrate the complexities of female friendship.

Why It’s Interesting: I know, I know, another bride-themed movie. I hear you. But because Kirsten Dunst is in this, I have hope that Bachelorette will skew more toward Bridesmaids than Bride Wars. Fingers crossed.

Celeste and Jesse Forever, Lee Toland Krieger

What It’s About: Celeste and Jesse met in high school and got married young. They laugh at the same jokes and finish each other’s sentences. They are forever linked in their friends’ minds as the perfect couple—she, a high-powered businesswoman and budding novelist; he, a free spirit who keeps things from getting boring. Their only problem is that they have decided to get divorced. Can their perfect relationship withstand this minor setback?

Lee Toland Krieger finds the perfect tone to tell a story that is at first familiar but then transitions into something quite unique and authentic. Rashida Jones and Will McCormack have crafted a witty script filled with the insight needed to make Celeste and Jesse fulfill the definition of complicated souls seeking same. Jones also stars opposite Andy Samberg; together they create palpable chemistry and share eccentric dialogue and infectious humor. Celeste and Jesse Forever is a delightful romp that examines the inner workings of marriage and its evolving place in modern life.

Why It’s Interesting: Another one I’ve been hearing an awful lot of buzz on, which could mean it’s this year’s Like Crazy … or could just mean they’ve got a great PR team. But wait! It’s directed by Lee Toland Krieger, who had a great little film called The Vicious Kind at Sundance in 2009, and I liked that film a lot. Okay, I’ll bite.

Goats, Christopher Neil

What It’s About: Having a self-absorbed New Age mother and an estranged father means 15-year-old Ellis Whitman has grown up relying on an unconventional guardian: a goat-trekking, marijuana-growing sage called Goat Man. So when Ellis decides to leave the alternative ways of his desert homestead for a stuffy East Coast prep school, major changes are in store. But not in the way you’d think. Though often stoned, the exceedingly smart and capable Ellis effortlessly aces school and excels at track. As the year progresses, it’s his relationships with the adults in his life that test him, challenging his beliefs about responsibility and trustworthiness.

With its expansive vision of family and passel of delicious oddball characters transposed from screenwriter Poirier’s novel with deadpan naturalism, GOATS wryly balances satire with poignancy and tenderness. Ellis’s eventual disillusionment with his various “parents” forces him to seek and find strength within and to realize the truth about love: it’s never perfect, but it is always there.

Why It’s Interesting: Great cast, great book, directed by a member of the Coppola clan. Eyes will be on this one.

hitRECord at the Movies with Joseph Gordon-Levitt

What It’s About: Joseph Gordon-Levitt has built a production company around a beautiful idea. Launched at the 2010 New Frontier at the Sundance Film Festival, is an online community that brings artists from around the world together to work on each other’s projects. A writer can submit a story from Berlin, and someone in Cupertino can illustrate it, while musicians from Dublin, Istanbul, and Topeka contribute to the soundtrack. Since its launch, the hitRECord community has grown to include 70,000 artists with hundreds of projects being produced in collaboration with their artistic director, Regular JOE.

This special event is your invitation to collaborate with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and surprise guests to make something new. Bring your digital devices and get ready to participate in this part film screening/part filmmaking/part live performance extravaganza hosted by Regular JOE himself. Hit RECord invites you to join a new wave of filmmaking by creating art that will live and grow beyond this extraordinary evening at the Festival.

Why It’s Interesting: Gordon-Levitt — RegularJoe to anyone who’s been around, has come up with something brilliant and collaborative with this little project. Sure to be a hot ticket.

Liberal Arts, Josh Radnor

What It’s About: Newly single, 35, and uninspired by his job, Jesse Fisher worries that his best days are behind him. But no matter how much he buries his head in a book, life keeps pulling Jesse back. When his favorite college professor invites him to campus to speak at his retirement dinner, Jesse jumps at the chance. He is prepared for the nostalgia of the dining halls and dorm rooms, the parties and poetry seminars; what he doesn’t see coming is Zibby—a beautiful, precocious, classical-music-loving sophomore. Zibby awakens scary, exciting, long-dormant feelings of possibility and connection that Jesse thought he had buried forever.

The multitalented Josh Radnor once again returns to the Sundance Film Festival (happythankyoumoreplease won the 2010 dramatic Audience Award), wearing three hats. As writer, director, and star of Liberal Arts, Radnor could teach a master class in filmmaking. Given that his engaging costar is Elizabeth Olsen, the master class here is one in chemistry between two exceptional actors.

Why It’s Interesting: Josh Radnor? Elizabeth Olsen? ‘Nuff said.

Red Hook Summer, Spike Lee

What It’s About: When his mom deposits him at the Red Hook housing project in Brooklyn to spend the summer with the grandfather he’s never met, young Flik may as well have landed on Mars. Fresh from his cushy life in Atlanta, he’s bored and friendless, and his strict grandfather, Enoch, a firebrand preacher, is bent on getting him to accept Jesus Christ as his personal savior. Only Chazz, the feisty girl from church, provides a diversion from the drudgery. As hot summer simmers and Sunday mornings brim with Enoch’s operatic sermons, things turn anything but dull as people’s conflicting agendas collide.

Playfully ironic, heightened, yet grounded, Spike Lee’s bold new movie returns him to his roots, where lovable, larger-than-life characters form the tinderbox of a tight-knit community. A story about the coexistence of altruism and corruption, Red Hook Summer toys with expectations, seducing us with the promise of moral and spiritual transcendence. Spike is back in the ’hood.

Why It’s Interesting: Oh, c’mon. It’s Spike Lee. Of course you want to see it. I do.

Robot & Frank, Jake Schreier

What It’s About: Set sometime in the future, Robot & Frank is a delightful dramatic comedy, a buddy picture, and, for good measure, a heist film. Curmudgeonly old Frank lives by himself. His routine involves daily visits to his local library, where he has a twinkle in his eye for the librarian. His grown children are concerned about their father’s well-being and buy him a caretaker robot. Initially resistant to the idea, Frank soon appreciates the benefits of robotic support—like nutritious meals and a clean house—and eventually begins to treat his robot like a true companion. With his robot’s assistance, Frank’s passion for his old, unlawful profession is reignited, for better or worse.

Frank Langella makes acting—and acting with a robot, no less—look effortless, and his relationship with the machine is filled with poignant exchanges and amusing adventures. First-time director Jake Schreier creates a lush world with futuristic flourishes and tells a beautiful story about family and the implications of humankind’s ever-changing relationship with technology.

Why It’s Interesting: He’s a first-time feature director, but Jake Schreier has been building a reputation for a while now. He’s made a couple short films and done a lot of commercial work for Park Pictures, whose new feature arm is producing Robot & Frank as its first project. The stellar cast — Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, and Jeremy Strong — piques the curiosity of my indie filmmaking side. What kind of budget do you need for your first feature to score a cast like that?

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One Response to “Sundance Preview: Premieres”

  1. Lisa says:

    Saw Bachelorette when it was off Broadway in NYC…this is a really special play. The comparisons to Bridesmaids are inevitable, but I find the humor more cutting and the relationships more truthful and grounded. Hope it does well.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon