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Sundance ’15: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Find Friends at Sundance, James White Receives Audience Embrace

1 hour ago

Following in the footsteps of Fruitvale Station and Whiplash before it, the most talked about title in Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl claimed both the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and U.S. Dramatic Audience Award. Crystal Moselle’s audience favorite might not have claimed the Audience Award (Meru), but the family featured in The Wolfpack landed a much coveted U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize. Matthew Heineman’s unfathomably constructed Cartel Land landed to Jury Prizes in Best Director and Excellence in Cinematography. In stellar Next, the unique prize went to Josh Mond’s brilliant directorial debut James White. Here is the press release and all the winners.

The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented by Gordon Quinn to:

The Wolfpack / U.S.A. (Director: Crystal Moselle)

The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented by Edgar Wright to:

Me »

- Eric Lavallee

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Chuck Norris vs Communism | 2015 Sundance Film Festival Review

8 hours ago

VHS Revolution: Calugareanu Shoots For Docu-Thrills

Much of the time, American imperialism is a culture destroying force that denigrates through sheer, unwieldy bloat, but in the case of Nicolae Ceausescu’s Romania of the 80s, the underground circulation of American films, especially action films starring the likes of Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme, proved to be the catalyst that brought the brutal communist leader’s reign to an end. Thanks to a trio of brave souls and an army of bribed government officials, crudely dubbed VHS copies of American films of all sorts found their way into the packed living rooms of Romanians throughout the country, enlightening the masses to the oppressive state in which they unknowingly lived. Employing a strikingly lensed docudrama format that blends in lively interviews with those involved and many of those affected, director Ilinca Calugareanu elegantly recreates the cultural revelations of Romania still under »

- Jordan M. Smith

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True Story | 2015 Sundance Film Festival Review

14 hours ago

The Killer Beside Me: Goold’s Debut Warps Grisly Headline into Funereal Pallor

The rapidly fluctuating career of James Franco got a dramatic jumpstart with a pair of twin performances at the Sundance Film Festival a far cry from the savage chomping of The Interview debacle that sailed through the final throes of last year. His turn as a cold blooded killer in Rupert Goold’s directorial debut True Story is less controversial (at least in comparison to his personification of gay rights journalist turned Christian Fundamentalist Michael Glatze in I Am Michael), and is a straight-faced take based on the memoirs of disgraced journalist Mike Finkel. The results are about as simply realized as its underdressed title, which may have Hemingwayesque succinctness, but this hardly lends itself to the necessity of visual reenactment. As if afraid to throw off its trajectory of pathos and gentle yet imperial castigation of journalistic profiteering, »

- Nicholas Bell

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Brooklyn | 2015 Sundance Film Festival Review

16 hours ago

A Brooklyn Baby: Crowley’s Simple Immigration Tale Buoyed by Strong Emotional Core

Director John Crowley returns with Brooklyn, his strongest film in years, based on the well-received novel by Colm Toibin, and adapted by the respected pen of Nick Hornby. Recalling the emotional prowess of his 2007 film, Boy A, which similarly focused on the perspective of a lone protagonist, Crowley captures an expressive and emotional performance from Saoirse Ronan, weathering the simplicity of the sturdy narrative like a dependable, all-purpose frock. A host of well-known supporting players enhance the crowd pleasing tendencies, though sometimes in its lighter moments the films jumps the rails and slams into overdone sentiment or desperate humor. But the moments are fleeting, and quite forgivable considering the poise with which the film navigates the emotional arc of its lead character.

In 1950s Ireland, Eilis Lacey (Ronan) is able to secure a placement in a boarding »

- Nicholas Bell

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The Witch | 2015 Sundance Film Festival Review

30 January 2015 2:00 PM, PST

Better the Devil You Know: Eggers’ Debut Marinates with Menace

Easily the most profoundly unnerving film to play at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, the directorial debut of Robert Eggers is a historical horror film set in 1630 New England, predating the infamous Salem Witch Trials, one of this young country’s earliest grotesque evil chapters. But unlike, say, the dramatic sensation of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Eggers’ makes The Witch an odd mixture of fanatical religious paranoia and actual supernatural horror, which creates a fascinating, successful hybrid. Much has been made of the film’s close attention to period detail, enriching the climate as the film slowly tightens into a constricted trap, but impressive performances and just the right touch of the otherworldly make this infectiously effective.

Opening with a close-up of Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) in her Sunday best, we find her father William (Ralph Ineson) facing some sort of »

- Nicholas Bell

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2015 Sundance Trading Card Series: #31. Sophia Lin (Z for Zachariah)

30 January 2015 10:00 AM, PST

Eric Lavallee: Name me three of your favorite “2014 discoveries” …

Sophia Lin: Top of the list of my 2014 discoveries was New Zealand. We filmed Z for Zachariah on the Banks Peninsula, outside Christchurch on the South Island. It was an amazing months-long adventure that was incredibly challenging but gratifying. We made wonderful new friends while working amidst some of the greatest landscape in the world and got just a new perspective on everything. Another discovery is that I realized I could probably live in Los Angeles, which was a total surprise! I did a short television job there over the summer, and it was by far the longest I had spent there. It was interesting to realize living there could be an option. And finally, my third discovery is tied between Guardians of the Galaxy and Taylor Swift. I really got in touch with my teen-aged populist side this year, »

- Eric Lavallee

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2015 Sundance Trading Card Series: #30. Nick Case (Take Me to the River)

30 January 2015 9:00 AM, PST

Eric Lavallee: Name me three of your favorite “2014 discoveries” …

Nick Case: 1.) Favorite Musician: Keegan DeWitt. Keegan is the lead singer for the Nashville-based band Wild Cub and is quickly becoming one of my favorite film composers. His work on Listen Up Philip and Land Ho! were two of the more memorable scores for me in 2014. 2. Favorite Multi-Hyphenate: Andre Hyland a.k.a bLonNd cHiLi. Andre is a very talentedwriter/director/actor/comedian. His short Funnel, which premiered at Sundance was probably my favorite short in 2014. I also highly recommend checking out his Youtube channel as there are some real gems particularly his Running Late series. 3. Most Memorable Film Experience: Rich Hill. Beautifully heartbreaking. See it.

Lavallee: Was wondering what lured you to Take Me to the River and what are you hoping auds will take away from this film experience?

Case: During one of my early conversations with Matt »

- Eric Lavallee

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2015 Sundance Trading Card Series: #29. Marcus Cox (Tangerine)

30 January 2015 8:00 AM, PST

Eric Lavallee: Name me three of your favorite “2014 discoveries”…

Marcus Cox: Discovered; Autobiography of a Yogi, by Yogananda and I love it. Discovered a love for Oakland and the East Bay while shooting Kicks. Old Classic; I’ve been jammin’ Buck Owens “My Heart Skips a Beat” pretty hard.

Lavallee: How did you Through Films join Tangerine come to you as a producer and what is it about the screenplay or Sean that made you want to join the project?

M.Cox: We immediately connected with Tangerine because it is such a beautiful story about a community that is so often overlooked. Tangerine gives a voice to people that may not have had one previously. It is such a great privilege to be a part of that.

Lavallee: Variety just named Sean as a 10 Directors to Watch (we’ve been watching him since 2004’s Take Out) and despite being »

- Eric Lavallee

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2015 Sundance Trading Card Series: #28. Karrie Cox (Tangerine)

30 January 2015 7:00 AM, PST

Eric Lavallee: Name me three of your favorite “2014 discoveries” …

Karrie Cox: 1. Red House Painters, “Cruiser”. 2. Andrew Wyeth, “Christina’s World” @ Moma NYC 3. East Village, Manhattan.

Lavallee: You come from a background in acting, so I’d like to have your perspective on Sean’s working process with actors and non-actors alike….how would you describe the synergy that he creates?

K. Cox: Sean has a talent and sensitivity in creating a space for humanity and inspired moments in a story to pour through. So whether he is working with a seasoned actor or not there is a safe place that he creates for one to feel they are protected while being vulnerable.

Lavallee: After Tiff (Ross Katz’s Adult Beginners) and now Sundance, this is back to back major film festivals for your Through Films venture. How do both features fit into your philosophy/mandate?

K. Cox: Our company »

- Eric Lavallee

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2015 Sundance Trading Card Series: #27. Peter Gilbert (Unexpected/Digging for Fire)

30 January 2015 6:00 AM, PST

Eric Lavallee: Name me three of your favorite “2014 discoveries”…

Peter Gilbert: Musician: Ben and Leo Sidran. Movie: Ida. Book: Short Nights of The Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis. TV: The Knick

Lavallee: Intimately and professionally they share a common bound, but seeing that you come to Unexpected from a unique vantage point (in the producer capacity), I was wondering, a. what initially drew you to the material and b. creatively-speaking, how does Kris filmmaking process differ from Joe’s.

Gilbert: When I was at Sundance with year with Happy Christmas I was able to sneak away and have dinner with Kris. Who I adore. I loved her other film. I also love the relationship that Joe and she have. At dinner that night she told me about Unexpected. I was thrilled and my partner Chris Webber and I immediately jumped on board. Chris »

- Eric Lavallee

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2015 Sundance Trading Card Series: #37. Matt Gallagher (Bob and the Trees)

29 January 2015 9:37 PM, PST

Eric Lavallee: Name me three of your favorite “2014 discoveries”…

Matt Gallagher: Hana, Maui. 5 pound Gummy Bears. Not wearing underwear

Lavallee: Could you describe that first encounter with Diego, and ultimately how you were should on the idea of being the titular figure in the short. At the moment that you knew that the after the short there would be a feature, I was wondering what kind of creative work you might have down with this “character”.

Gallagher: I was quickly sold on the idea of making this project a reality. Bob is a natural character with a compelling story. I was just excited to be lucky enough to be along for the ride. I’m Bob’s son-in-law, so we do have that sort of relationship with one another. As a result, the biggest creative work we had to accomplish was getting used to a production crew surrounding us while acting “normal. »

- Eric Lavallee

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2015 Sundance Trading Card Series: #36. Mya Taylor (Tangerine)

29 January 2015 9:36 PM, PST

Eric Lavallee: Name me three of your favorite “2014 discoveries” …

Mya Taylor: I discovered my husband Nathan. He’s amazing. Favorite album: Aaliyah By Aaliyah

Favorite song: Toni Braxton: Hands Tied. Favorite recording artist: Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Toni and Tamar Braxton, Aaliyah. Favorite video game: pgr4, Grand Theft Auto 5.

Lavallee: Could you tell us about the casting process, and how Sean and you workshopped the character of Alexandra.

Taylor: After Sean and I met up, we decided that Alexandra should be sweet and funny but with an attitude. ‎There are similarities between the character of Alexandra and myself…. We don’t take no for an answer, we take business seriously and we have a low tolerance for Bs.

Lavallee: Could you describe how your character perceives the relationship she has with both Alexandra and the outside world. How does she differ from Sin-Dee?

Taylor: Alexandra has aspirations and hope… »

- Eric Lavallee

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Partisan | 2015 Sundance Film Festival Review

29 January 2015 6:30 PM, PST

Pledge Allegiance: Kleiman’s Intriguing Debut a Fascist Allegory

Sure to draw superficial comparisons to other famed pre-teen assassin films like The Professional (1994) or Hanna (2011), Australian helmer Ariel Kleiman’s directorial debut Partisan instead feels like what you’d imagine Yorgos Lanthimos’ version of The Village (2004) would feel like. Headlined by none other than Vincent Cassel and a cast of Euro accents speaking English, Kleiman and screenwriter Sarah Cyngler concoct a film that’s oddly obscure and perfectly menacing, with an unwillingness to explain itself, recalling titles by Lucile Hadzihalilovic, wherein groups of children are possibly being utilized for insidious means by the adult community. An allegory concerning the oppressiveness of Fascism, Kleiman’s film is also a coming-of-age-tale, spiked heavily with cold-blooded murder.

Opening with an ambient score that recalls Vangelis (utilized once more as a book end to the film), we observe Gregori (Vincent Cassel) in the midst »

- Nicholas Bell

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Pervert Park | 2015 Sundance Film Festival Review

29 January 2015 6:00 PM, PST

Sex Offender Stigma: Barkfors Take Taboo Tour

It’s not an easy subject to broach let alone discuss. The scarlet letter burns bright as sex offenders attempt to navigate a world that scorns and condemns them. With crimes ranging from offensive to heinous, their stories break the silence that detains them to the outskirts of the world to which they used to belong. Frida and Lasse BarkforsPervert Park is an intimate look at a specific group of sex offenders who live in a compound where they cope with their inner demons and past transgressions in the attempt to preserve remnants of their humanity.

Aptly named, Pervert Park follows a group of sex offenders who live in a trailer park (Florida Justice Transition) while adjusting to their new social statuses post-incarceration. The compound was first created by Nancy Morais’ desire to help her son find housing after he was deemed a sexual offender. »

- Amanda Yam

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City of Gold | 2015 Sundance Film Festival Review

28 January 2015 6:00 AM, PST

Eating One’s Way To Enlightenment: Gabbert Follows Gold Down A Rabbit-Hole Of Crucial Cultural Cuisine

Everyone in Los Angeles knows that Jonathan Gold is the man you look to for advice on where to score the tastiest tacos, slurp down the most flavorful pho or best bet to brave the culinary possibilities of the notoriously gelatinous hagfish. The man knows his way around the various indigenous subsets blooming from the borders of a city known to most by its obnoxious sprawl and Hollywood gleam, and with genuine regard for the melting pot of immigrant communities cultivating their native dishes throughout his hometown, he connects paying customers to those fine inborn cooks who woefully deserve their patronage. Paying tribute to the beloved L.A. Times’ food critic, Laura Gabbert’s unadorned documentary portrait, City of Gold, explores Jonathan’s unequaled ethos as a cultural writer with a decidedly reserved aesthetic »

- Jordan M. Smith

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Z for Zachariah | 2015 Sundance Film Festival Review

27 January 2015 9:00 AM, PST

This is the End: Zobel’s Post-Apocalyptic Love Triangle

Following the success of his galvanizingly uncomfortable 2012 film Compliance, director Craig Zobel teases his way into genre with subtle sci-fi in Z for Zachariah, based on the novel from Robert C. O’Brien, author of the text that provided the basis for the children’s classic The Secret of Nimh (1982). Zobel’s third film, his meditative take on an oft explored scenario is an intriguing change of pace, and along with screenwriter Nissar Modi, the film retains a low-key, vintage flavor that belies the origins of the source material. Racial identity and issues of science vs. faith break the peaceful lulls of three individuals warped into the death throes of a dying species, but despite the allegorical possibilities, Zobel prefers a slow burn of tenuous desire to simmer into a sometimes underwhelming broth. And yet, it’s exactly the type »

- Nicholas Bell

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2015 Sundance Trading Card Series: #26. Andrea Roa (Unexpected)

26 January 2015 5:00 PM, PST

Eric Lavallee: Name me three of your favorite “2014 discoveries” …

Andrea Roa: Tranparent, The Babadook, Fun Home.

Lavallee: With regards to the casting choice of Cobie Smulders, what were some of the personality traits that you were looking for in the casting process of the anti-domesticated, career-oriented future mother to be Samantha.

Roa: Pregnant!

Lavallee: This is your second “Swanberg” feature, I was wondering at what point did you come on board, and how long of a gestation period was there since Unexpected was shot late in the game (early Fall).

Roa: I came on board last year at Sundance when Kris and I met to discuss the script. So it came together quickly.

Lavallee: Between features Drinking Buddies, Sunlight Jr. and now Unexpected, you’ve maintained strong ties (in the producing capacity) to short filmmaking/filmmakers. Could you describe your attraction to the form?

Roa: The attraction is the filmmaker. »

- Eric Lavallee

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2015 Sundance Trading Card Series: #25. Naomi Scott (The Overnight)

26 January 2015 4:00 PM, PST

Eric Lavallee: Name me three of your favorite “2014 discoveries”…

Naomi ScottForce Majeure. Artist Aaron Morse. Natasha Lyonne’s Instagram account: @nlyonne

Lavallee: How did Patrick Brice’s The Overnight land on your lap? What motivated to get behind the project and what were your thoughts on his debut film, Creep?

Scott: Destiny! Actually, we (Gettin’ Rad) had been trying to find a project to do with Mark Duplass. He brought us Patrick’s script and immediately after reading we were on board. I had seen an early cut of the wondrously weird “Creep“, which I loved, and couldn’t believe that both ideas came out of Patrick’s singular brain.

Lavallee: Your prod house Gettin’ Rad Productions is a professional and personal merger of two individual’s creative and comedic affinities. Could you discuss how your artistic collaboration with Adam, from skit-bliss in The Greatest Event in Television History »

- Eric Lavallee

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The Forbidden Room | 2015 Sundance Film Festival Review

26 January 2015 3:35 PM, PST

Dreams! Visions! Madness!: Maddin & Johnson’s Extravagant Symphony of Silent Cinema Fantasia

Those familiar with the works of auteur Guy Maddin, sometimes referred to as the Canadian David Lynch, know to expect strange hybrids of silence film techniques mixed with zany weirdness that often reflect delightfully perverse and sometimes queer dynamics mixed in with its dashes of visual inventiveness and extreme narrative playfulness. While he still creates a healthy amount of short film projects and is involved with other installations in-between feature films, including several notable unions with actress Isabella Rossellini, who has starred in The Saddest Music in the World (2003), Keyhole (2011) and as narrator of the brilliant Brand Upon the Brain! (2006), his latest has been in gestation over a period of several years, at one point known as Seances and Spiritismes, and it was uncertain whether this would ever be a theatrical release. Known finally as The Forbidden Room, »

- Nicholas Bell

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2015 Sundance Trading Card Series: #23. Sean Durkin (James White)

26 January 2015 3:00 PM, PST

Eric Lavallee: Name me three of your favorite “2014 discoveries”…

Sean Durkin: Jesse Marchant’s self titled album was my favorite of the year. I read “Stoner” by John Williams for the first time this year and was so deeply moved. I saw a play in London called Spine by Clara Brennan. Absolutely incredible writing.

Lavallee: Whether it be the thematic links in shorts and then features found in Antonio’s body of work, or Mary Last Seen as a leaf belonging to the Mmmm experience, and now 1009 as an emotional extension of Josh Mond’s James White, would it be fair to state that the short serves as an exploratory exercise in form, shape for the eventual feature?

Durkin: Absolutely. I think any time you get behind a camera you explore and learn. 1009 is much different in style than James White, but was a huge step towards discovering what James White would ultimately be. »

- Eric Lavallee

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