The Sundance Film Festival, which is held annually in the snowy town of Park City, Utah, was founded by actor Robert Redford in 1978 to draw attention to smaller films seeking distribution or simply looking to find their audience.
Filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh and “Black Swan” director Darren Aronofsky credit the festival for giving them their first big break, as well as allowing their artistic voice to be heard for the first time.
While many are critical of the hype that is built around the festival, due to the fact that many films praised at Sundance tend to fail both commercially and critically, there is no denying that the festival still makes its best educated guess at what the next big film could be.
The 2010 festival premiered Academy Award-nominated films “Blue Valentine,” “Winter’s Bone” and “Restrepo,” and according to the buzz surrounding 2011’s line-up, it looks as if we have more quality films to look forward to over the coming year.
Here’s a look at a few of the most talked about films in Park City this past week.
Seventeen years after a Sundance screening of the comedy “Clerks” made director Kevin Smith a star, he has returned to the festival where he made his name with a very different film.
“Red State” is a horror film that follows three boys who are abducted by a violent religious cult. Smith has filled out the cast with established names like John Goodman, Michael Parks and Melissa Leo, as well as rising talent like Michael Angarano and Haley Ramm.
Smith will be screening the film in 14 different theaters across America, starting March 5 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, all prior to its Oct. 19 release date.
With an ensemble cast featuring Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons and Stanley Tucci, it’s easy to see why “Margin Call” has attracted so much interest.
The film, by first-time director J.C. Chandor, is a thriller revolving around an investment bank that is teetering on the edge of what will eventually become America’s current financial crisis.
Though many of the first reviews for the film were negative, Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions picked it up as one of the first purchases of the festival.
Richard Ayoade is perhaps best known for playing quirky characters on British sitcoms like “The IT Crowd” and “The Mighty Boosh,” but it’s his screenplay for “Submarine” that attracted the attention of actor Ben Stiller, who would produce this film.
Adapted by Ayoade from a novel by author Joe Dunthorne, the film is a dark comedy about a 15-year-old who’s obsessed with losing his virginity, as well as saving his parents from divorce.
So far, the film has been met with glowing reviews, leading moviegoers to believe that Ayoade’s film will be one we’ll be hearing about a lot this year.
“Like Crazy” stars Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones as a couple involved in a long distance relationship. The film chronicles the joys and pains they experience while being together, but apart.
Due to its two young stars and unrestrained look at a relationship, “Like Crazy” has already been compared favorably to last year’s “Blue Valentine.”
The film entered the festival with very little word of mouth, but has become one of the most talked about films playing this year. It was the first film to be bought by major studio Paramount Pictures, and is expected to be released next fall.
While Sundance’s documentary selection this year didn’t boast as many strong titles as in years past, there were certain titles, like “Being Elmo,” that seemed to pique interest considerably.
The documentary follows puppeteer Kevin Clash, better known as the voice of “Sesame Street” favorite Elmo, as he lives his life as the voice of a pop culture icon.
The film has no definitive release date yet, but judging by its positive reviews and interesting subject matter, there is little doubt we will be seeing it in theaters soon.
Director Miguel Arteta’s brand of comedy isn’t for everyone, especially judging by the poor response to his 2010 film “Youth in Revolt.”
The director has already experienced success at Sundance with his film “The Good Girl,” which starred Jennifer Aniston in 2002. Now, “Cedar Rapids” is receiving praise for hilarious performances by John C. Reilly and “The Office” regular Ed Helms.
Fox Searchlight will begin releasing the film in select theaters Feb. 11.
“My Idiot Brother”
Perhaps the film with the most potential for commercial success is director Jesse Peretz’s “My Idiot Brother,” which has a cast that includes Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel and Hugh Dancy.
The film, which is being compared to comedies like Judd Apatow’s “Knocked Up,” is about three sisters who must deal with a visit from their uncivilized brother.
After the film was met with warm reviews, The Weinstein Company, who produced the Academy Award-nominated “The King’s Speech,” bought “My Idiot Brother” for distribution.