No. 210 | January 28, 2011
Our theme this week
Indie films of the Sundance Film Festival
FIVE FEATURE FILMS
You Can Count on Me (2000)
2000 Sundance Festival (Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award)
Kenneth Lonergan, writer-director
Stephen Kazmierski, cinematographer
Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Jon Tenney, Rory Culkin
Kenneth Lonergan’s film centers on relationships within the Prescott family, primarily between Sammy and Terry, a single mom and her drifter brother, who arrives back in town for an extended visit. It’s a wonderful examination of the push and pull of family ties and the trials of growing up. Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo play the leads, with not a false moment between them. It’s a small film, and in the best of ways, one with a big heart.
2001 Sundance Festival (Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award)
Christopher Nolan, director
Jonathan Nolan (story), Christopher Nolan (screenplay), writers
Wally Pfister, cinematographer
Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano
Thrillers tend to be plot-driven, and in the case of Memento, the plot is sliced in two and moving in different directions, one of them in reverse. It’s a novel gimmick and deftly executed. We see a few days in the life of Leonard Shelby, a man suffering amnesia but also lacking the ability to store new memories. Makes it hard to tell friend from foe and to unravel the mystery of the revenge killing at the beginning of the film.
American Splendor (2003)
2003 Sundance Festival (Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic)
Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini, writer-directors
Based on a book and comics by Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner
Terry Stacey, cinematographer
Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, Harvey Pekar
An autobiographical film about Harvey Pekar, the creator of a series of autobiographical comics about Harvey Pekar, the everyman hero who works as a clerk at a V.A. hospital. Paul Giamatti play Pekar, and Pekar plays the Real Harvey. As you can imagine, there’s a blend of fiction and reality, and it all works very nicely for great comic and dramatic effect.
2009 Sundance Festival (Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic; Audience Award: Dramatic; Special Jury Prize for Acting, Mo’Nique)
Lee Daniels, director
Geoffrey S. Fletcher, writer
Andrew Dunn, Darren Lew, cinematographers
Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz
Poor, obese, abused, and pregnant again, Precious Jones is an illiterate junior high student sent to an alternative school for a chance to change her life. Miraculously, she does. Nothing comes easy, though. Hardly a pretty story, but an affecting one.
Winter’s Bone (2010)
2010 Sundance Festival (Grand Jury Prize: Drama; Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award)
Debra Granik, director
Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini, writers
Michael McDonough, cinematographer
Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Garret Dillahunt
The search for the father is about the oldest story around. Telemachus, meet Ree. She’s a 17-year-old living in the dirt-poor hills of Missouri. She has a sick mother, a couple of younger siblings to care for, and a father nowhere to be found. Unless she finds him in a few days—dead or alive—her family will lose their home. The hunt is on. First-rate performances from Jennifer Lawrence as the fearless teen and John Hawkes as her uncle, Teardrop. The film won awards at Sundance, wide critical acclaim during its run in theaters last summer, and this week, nominations for four Oscars, including picture, screenplay, and the two acting performances.
OTHER NOTABLE FEATURES
Chuck & Buck (Miguel Arteta, director, 2000)
The Tao of Steve (Jenniphr Goodman, cowriter-director; Special Jury Prize for Acting, Donal Logue, 2000)
American Psycho (Mary Harron, cowriter-director, 2000)
The Believer (Henry Bean, cowriter-director; Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic, 2001)
Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, writer-director, 2001)
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell, cowriter-director, 2001)
In the Bedroom (Todd Field, cowriter-director; Special Jury Prize for Acting, Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson, 2001)
L.I.E. (Michael Cuesta, cowriter-director, 2001)
Bloody Sunday (Paul Greengrass, writer-director, 2002: Audience Award: Dramatic, 2002)
Personal Velocity: Three Portraits (Rebecca Miller, writer-director; Grand Jury Prize, Cinematography Award, Ellen Kuras, 2002)
The Station Agent (Thomas McCarthy, writer-director; Audience Award, Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, Special Jury Prize for Acting, Patricia Clarkson, 2003)
Whale Rider (Niki Caro, writer-director; Audience Award, World Cinema, 2003)
Maria Full of Grace (Joshua Marston, writer-director; Audience Award: Dramatic, 2004)
Garden State (Zach Braff, writer-director, 2004)
Napoleon Dynamite (Jared Hess, cowriter-director, 2004)
The Woodsman (Nicole Kassell, cowriter-director, 2004)
The Motorcycle Diaries (Walter Salles, director, 2004)
Hustle & Flow (Craig Brewer, writer-director; Audience Award: Dramatic, 2005)
The Squid and the Whale (Noah Baumbach, writer-director; Dramatic Directing Award, Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, 2005)
Junebug (Phil Morrison, director; Special Jury Prize for Acting, Amy Adams, 2005)
Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck, cowriter-director, 2006)
Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, directors, 2006)
Once (John Carney, writer-director; World Cinema Audience Award: Dramatic, 2007)
Starting Out in the Evening (Andrew Wagner, cowriter-director, 2007)
Frozen River (Courtney Hunt, writer-director; Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic, 2008)
In Bruges (Michael McDonough, writer-director, 2008)
An Education (Lone Sherfig, director; Audience Award, Cinematography, World Cinema, 2009)
Sin Nombre (Cary Fukunaga, writer-director; Directing Award, Cinematography Award: Dramatic, 2009)
Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance, cowriter-director; Grand Jury Prize: Drama; Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, 2010)
Animal Kingdom (David Michôd, writer-director; World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic, 2010)
The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko, cowriter-director, 2010)
Long Night’s Journey Into Day (Deborah Hoffmann, Frances Reid, directors; Grand Jury Prize, 2000)
Dogtown and Z-Boys (Stacy Peralta, director; Directing Award, 2001)
Startup.com (Chris Hegedus, Jehane Noujaim, directors, 2001)
Capturing the Friedmans (Andrew Jarecki, director; Grand Jury Prize, 2003)
Super Size Me (Morgan Spurlock, director; Directing Award, 2004)
The Corporation (Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott, directors; World Cinema Audience Award, 2004)
Murderball (Henry Alex Rubin, Dana Adam Shapiro, directors; Audience Award, Special Jury Award for Editing, 2005)
Why We Fight (Eugene Jarecki, director; Grand Jury Prize, 2005)
The Aristocrats (Paul Provenza, director, 2005)
An Inconvenient Truth (Davis Guggenheim, director, 2006)
An Unreasonable Man (Henriette Mantel, Steve Skrovan, directors, 2006)
Wordplay (Patrick Creadon, director, 2006)
No End in Sight (Charles Ferguson, director, 2007)
Man on Wire (James Marsh, director; World Cinema Jury Prize, 2008)
I.O.U.S.A. (Patrick Creadon, director, 2008)
The Cove (Louie Psihoyos, director; Audience Award, 2009)
The September Issue (R.J. Cutter, director; Excellence in Cinematography Award, 2009)
Tyson (James Toback, director, 2009)
Waiting for “Superman” (Davis Guggenheim, director; Audience Award, Directing Award, 2010)
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (Ricki Stern, Anne Sundberg, directors; Editing Award, 2010)
The Tillman Story (Amir Bar-Lev, director, 2010)
Restrepo (Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger, directors; Grand Jury Prize, 2010)
GasLand (Josh Fox, director; Special Jury Prize; 2010)
Waste Land (Lucy Walker, Karen Harley, João Jardim, directors; Audience Award, 2010)
Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy, director, 2010)
The line between Hollywood movies and independent films has blurred over the years. Independent once meant low-budget, with the focus on story and character, and production values a second thought. Today, there’s nothing cheap about the best of indie films. The budgets may be bigger than before, but still not big. Technology has changed, though, and filmmakers can get a better bang for their buck.
The personal vision of a filmmaker remains the key defining trait of independent films. Look at the number of writer-directors associated with the Sundance films highlighted this week. The hyphenates dominate. Contrast that with Hollywood product, increasingly more franchise-driven, where the writer, the director, and everyone down to the best boy is on a work-for-hire basis.
Once upon a time, the best an indie could hope for was a small audience, and maybe an award at Sundance. Sex, Lies, and Videotape made big news in 1989 when it won a single nomination for an Academy Award. Times have changed. Of the Oscar nominations announced this week, fourteen went to films that came out of Sundance last year, including two Best Picture hopefuls, six acting nominees, and four of the five documentaries.
Next year’s Oscar winners may be playing this week in Park City. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that be the pattern of the future.
1. The name Sundance comes from Robert Redford’s character in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. What was the real name of the outlaw known as the Sundance Kid?
Robert LeRoy Parker
2. Aside from documentary and short films, a couple of movies have won awards both at Sundance and on Oscar night. The first was Hustle & Flow, which in 2005 won twice at the film festival (audience and cinematography awards) before winning an Oscar for original song (“It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”). What other film was a dual winner?
3. Several documentary films have won both Sundance and Academy Awards. Which of the following did not win both?
The Times of Harvey Milk
When We Were Kings
Man on Wire
4. Jeff Bridges earned a Best Actor nomination this week for his performance as Rooster Cogburn in the remake of True Grit. John Wayne won his only Academy Award, as Best Actor, playing Cogburn in the original 1969 western. Several times before, two actors earned Best Actor nominations for playing the same character in different films. Name the two actors who played each character below.
Cyrano de Bergerac, Cyrano de Bergerac (1950), Cyrano de Bergerac (1990)
Henry Higgins, Pygmalion (1938), My Fair Lady (1964)
Henry V, Henry V (1944), Henry V (1989)
Henry VIII, The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), Anne of the Thousand Years (1969)
Joe Pendleton, Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), Heaven Can Wait (1978)
Mr. Chips, Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969)
Norman Maine, A Star is Born (1937), A Star is Born (1954)
Richard Nixon, Nixon (1995), Frost/Nixon (2008)
5. Only once has the same character been played by different actors in two Oscar-winning performances. Name the role, the actors, and the films.