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Sundance Wrap: Top Faves

Sundanceegyptian_2 Sundance07logo_24 The Sundance Film Festival may be paying the price for success. Robert Redford should not have said the festival is not a market. It patently is. But the inordinate focus on deals—as displayed here at this blog, which for the first time posted deals as they happened, usually before they were announced—turned a lot of cinephiles and critics off. Overall, despite the overall "success" of the festival—which after all featured a large number of terrific films, many of them not premieres, features or American indies—the tenor of the coverage has been negative. For me, the depressing business story here is not why so many films got bought, but why some excellent films did not. As one of my sage sources pointed out, most of the films picked up had crossover potential or were genre films. And many of my fave raves have not been acquired, at least as far as I know. They include:

David Gordon Green's Snow Angels, his most accomplished and accessible film to date. Set in a cold rural town in bleak mid-winter, it's about sad broken families. Some families can be mended and grow; some families can never be fixed and will only face tragedy. Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell give transcendent performances. Distributors know how gifted this director is. They just fear that no one will go see this film.

John Carney's Once. This remarkably simple but effective musical love story was shot digitally and inexpensively with hand-held cameras, natural light and live sound. The movie shows how a chance meeting on the street between two-like minded musical souls can lead to surprising growth, warmth and music. As the two performers sing, play and interact, the camera reveals depths of emotion that they would not reveal through speech. Why hasn't anyone bought it? Distributors are afraid it's too Irish, too local, too small. Bollocks.

Here's a round-up of wrap-ups:Indiewire, THR's Kirk Honeycutt, NYT's Manohla Dargis and Radar's John Cook.

Depressing as it is that I missed so many films that people actually did like at Sundance, partly because the THR team divvied things up and we were also chained to our computers and blackberries half the time, here's the best of what I did see:

1. Snow Angels (David Gordon Green)
2. Once (John Carney)
3. Red Road (Andrea Arnold)
4. Grace is Gone (James Strouse)
5. Rocket Science (Jeffrey Blitz)
6. Nanking (Bill Guttentag, Dan Sturman)
7. No End in Sight (Charles Ferguson)
8. Interview (Steve Buscemi)
9. King of California (Mike Cahill)
10.Teeth (Mitchell Lichtenstein)

Most exhilarating cinematography (black and white): Angel-A (Luc Besson)
Should be totally animated: Chicago 10 (Brett Morgen)
Best breakout performance: Jess Weixler (Teeth)
Best performance in a lousy movie: Dakota Fanning (Hounddog)
Bravest performance: Jason Patric (Expired)
Best snarky pal: Simon Pegg (The Good Night)
Worst movie: The Ten (David Wain)

Oscar possibilities for 2007 (based on reviews and word):
The Savages (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney)
Grace is Gone (John Cusack)
Away from Her (Julie Christie)
Docs: My Kid Could Paint That, Nanking, No End in Sight, In the Shadow of the Moon
[Photo by Marion Trent]


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  • Risky Biz blog takes a deep, daily look at the film industry's ups, downs and deals from around the world and the heart of Hollywood. It is edited by media and entertainment journalist Steven Zeitchik, with contributions from The Hollywood Reporter's worldwide team of film editors and reporters. Zeitchik is a Los Angeles-based writer for THR and also has written for The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

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