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Variety film critics Justin Chang, Peter Debruge, Guy Lodge, Geoff Berkshire and Dennis Harvey weighed in with their choices for the 21 best films that world-premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. The full list follows (in alphabetical order):
1. “Agnus Dei.” Set in a Polish convent ravaged by Russian soldiers at the end of WWII, Anne Fontaine’s finest film in years explores every aspect of an unthinkable situation with tact, intelligence and fine-grained character detail. Beautifully acted by a strong female ensemble, especially the great Agata Kulesza (“Ida”), the film achieves a grace that transcends even its cloistered surroundings. (Justin Chang)
2. “Audrie & Daisy.” Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk’s documentary was among the festival’s most potent social-issue indictments, delving into two recent high-profile cases underline the high risk of sexual assault among American teens, as well as the “slut-shaming” culture that often exacerbates the trauma such crimes create. (Dennis »
- Variety Staff
It may seem nuts to start handicapping next year’s Oscars race before this year’s ceremony has even aired, but Sundance has proven that it’s now a launching pad for awards season contenders.
After January 2014’s debut of “Boyhood” and January 2015’s premiere of “Brooklyn” (both at the Eccles Theater), Sundance may have doubled up and unveiled two best picture nominees in 2016. Those would be “Manchester By the Sea” and “The Birth of a Nation.”
Let’s start with the second title. Nate Parker’s retelling of the 1831 slave revolt led by Nat Turner is a one-man tour-de-force: starring Parker, directed by Parker, produced by Parker and written by the actor best known until now as the star of “Beyond the Lights.” “The Birth of a Nation” will change that. Not only did the historical epic receive the most prolonged standing ovation at this year’s Sundance, it »
- Ramin Setoodeh
I was at Sundance in 2007—the only time I’ve ever been. It was one of the highlights of my life as a moviegoer, albeit more for the experience than the actual movies. While I enjoyed most of the films I saw there, few really stuck with me beyond the festival, with the exception of the lovely character study Starting Out in the Evening (which really should have gotten Frank Langella an Oscar nomination).
Somehow, I missed the true breakout success of Sundance that year—the low-budget Irish musical Once, which won the festival’s World Cinema Audience Award. It went on to become a critical darling, a sleeper indie hit, and even an Oscar winner for Best Original Song. How could I have bypassed being one of the first in the U. »
- Lynn Lee
Another bright spot during this year’s Sundance Film Festival was John Carney’s third musical directorial Sing Street following Begin Again and his Oscar-winner Once. The film further heightened itself as a takeaway for festgoers after its actors Mark McKenna and Ferdia Walsh-Peelo turned in a three song set at the film’s Samsung Studio party Sunday night. One indie producer attending beamed to Deadline, “Good stuff!” This Weinstein Co. release follows Irish adolescents… »
Claudia Cardinale, the iconic Italian actress whose credits include several of the most revered films of the past six decades ("8 1/2," "The Leopard," "Once Upon a Time in the West," and "Fitzcarraldo," to name a few), will be in attendance to accept the Audi Dublin International Film Festival's Volta Award for lifetime achievement, along with fellow legend Dame Angela Lansbury. Among the festival's other highlights are opening night selection "Sing Street," from "Once" director John Carney, which made a crowd-pleasing splash at Sundance; closing night selection "Viva," Ireland's Spanish-language Oscar entry; and festival-circuit favorites like "Arabian Nights," "Desierto," and "Nasty Baby." Read More: "Sundance: John Carney Explains How the Crowd-Pleasing 'Sing Street' is Part of a Greater Trilogy" The festival's commitment to Irish filmmaking is further evidenced in the »
- Matt Brennan
Peter Debruge: At the studio level, American cinema seems to be in the full throes of a diversity crisis, as moviegoers and the media alike are finally taking Hollywood to task for its lopsidedly white-centric worldview. It’s a real problem, and one whose solution I’m happy to see suggested at the Sundance Film Festival, which has long extended a megaphone to so-called “outsider” voices. Judging by the U.S. competition alone, the broad-ranging field of representation includes Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation” (which re-creates Nat Turner’s rebellion) and Richard Tanne’s “Southside With You” (which re-creates Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date) alongside Andrew Ahn’s gay-Asian identity exploration “Spa Night” and Elizabeth Wood’s wildly over-the-top “White Girl” (Wood is one of five distaff directors in competition, two of whom aren’t white).
The good news is that these movies somehow managed »
- Justin Chang, Peter Debruge and Guy Lodge
One of the biggest crowd pleasers screening at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival is John Carney's Sing Street, about a kid from Dublin in 1985 who decides to start a band in order to woo his dream girl. Once again, Carney (Once, Begin Again) delivers a deliciously sweet and funny movie that's stuffed with great music - and, in my opinion, his best music yet. Featuring music from Duran Duran, Genesis and the Cure -- not to mention several original songs, most notably the insanely catchy...
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One of the biggest crowd pleasers screening at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival is John Carney's Sing Street, about a kid from Dublin in 1985 who decides to start a band in order to woo his dream girl. One again, Carney (Once, Begin Again) delivers a deliciously sweet and funny movie that's stuffed with great music - and, in my opinion, his best music yet. Featuring music from Duran Duran, Genesis and The Cure -- not to mention several original songs, most notably the insanely catchy "Drive It Like You Stole It" and "Brown Shoes" -- Sing Street delivers a familiar coming-of-age story (boy falls for older girl with boyfriend) that's infused with memorable characters, a unique setting, adorable nostalgia and an immense amount of '80s...
- Erik Davis
There's nothing like great music that makes you so happy you want to get up and dance. The latest film from John Carney, the Irish director who broke out with the musical Once at Sundance in 2007, is called Sing Street and it's utterly joyful. It's almost an Irish version of School of Rock amped up to 11, but there's such an unique, energetic, exciting vibe to it, I think it's time to proclaim Sing Street as the new winner of the Battle of the Bands. Sing Street so much fun to watch, but it's also genuinely passionate about encouraging the weirdos and oddballs to be whatever they want. Sing your heart out, fight against authority, be someone. The film is another story that connects directly to the life of director John Carney, who introduced the world premiere at Sundance by telling the story about how he was living in his parents house, »
- Alex Billington
Returning to Sundance after breaking out with his Oscar-winning, shoe-string romance musical Once, director John Carney is back on a victory tour of sorts with Sing Street. Imbuing the same love for music its emotional highs, this is a film more earnest in its pleasure-giving than his last feature, Begin Again. While the structure can be a touch too formulaic, it’s difficult to resist getting swept up in the music and its modest ambitions, for his new musical is acutely attuned to being a crowd-pleaser in all the right ways.
In a lower-class area of Dublin circa 1985, we follow Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), a teenager whose school has just been downgraded so his parents can free up some money. He’s now forced to attend the local Catholic school Synge Street, which is full of a rough bunch and teachers that could care less about the kids — where a student »
- Jordan Raup
Following its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, a poster has arrived online for writer-director John Carney’s (Once) semi-biographical musical drama Sing Street featuring Ferdia Walsh-Peelo’s Cosmo. Check it out below…
See Also: Watch the trailer for Sing Street
Sing Street takes us back to 1980s Dublin seen through the eyes of a 14-year-old boy named Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) who is looking for a break from a home strained by his parents’ relationship and money troubles, while trying to adjust to his new inner-city public school where the kids are rough and the teachers are rougher. He finds a glimmer of hope in the mysterious, über-cool and beautiful Raphina (Lucy Boynton), and with the aim of winning her heart he invites her to star in his band’s music videos. There’s only one problem: he’s not part of a band…yet. She agrees, and now »
- Amie Cranswick
Before his latest film premiered at Sundance Sunday night, director John Carney talked briefly about what the festival has meant for him over the years. Back in 2007, his ultra-low-budget Irish musical romance Once seemed to come out of nowhere to charm Sundance audiences, going on to become a sizable indie hit. Carney recalled that, at the time, he had been living in his parents’ basement. At a dead end and unsure what to do next, he wound up scraping together enough money to make that film – a rough-edged musical romance on the streets of Dublin between two down-and-outers – and wound up having his life transformed. That provided an interesting bit of context going into Sing Street. Carney makes crowd pleasers, and his new film was duly met with a rapturous response. But these films are crowd pleasers because of that edge of desperation he brings to them »
- Bilge Ebiri
No filmmaker has been more dedicated to revitalizing the contemporary performance-based musical film than John Carney. In both the tiny chamber piece, Once, and the larger orchestral work, Begin Again, he explored the ways in which we find or free ourselves, grow, heal or connect through music. The Irish writer-director continues on that track with Sing Street, taking an autobiographical turn with a fictionalized version of his teen years in depressed mid-1980s Dublin. A rite-of-passage romance wrapped in a let's-make-a-band scenario, the disarming film colors its social realism with the kind of
- David Rooney
Did you like The Commitments? Did you like We Are the Best!!? Well, Sing Street isn’t as good as either of those two, but it’s still pretty terrific.
A new kid at school (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) spies a fashionably dressed, somewhat sullen older girl Raphina (Lucy Boynton) standing alone on a stoop and musters the courage to speak to her. She’s a model, she says, and prepping a move from Dublin to London. He asks her to be in his music video and, after some cajoling, she agrees. The only problem is that he doesn’t have a band yet.
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- Jordan Hoffman
He’s no Vincente Minnelli in the visual storytelling department, but no 21st-century filmmaker has a more intuitive understanding of movie-musical construction than Irishman John Carney. After “Once” and “Begin Again” both beautifully unpacked the narrative nature of the songwriting process, he’s back at it with an added dose of 1980s childhood nostalgia in “Sing Street,” a heart-melting adolescent romance that gives teenage garage bands everywhere a better name. Perched on a tricky precipice between chippy kitchen-sink realism and lush wish-fulfilment fantasy, this mini-“Commitments” gets away with even its cutesiest indulgences thanks to a wholly lovable ensemble of young Irish talent and the tightest pop tunes — riffing on Duran Duran and The Cure with equal abandon and affection — any gaggle of Catholic schoolboys could hope to write themselves. Given the right marketing and word of mouth, this Weinstein Co. release could “Sing” a song of far more than sixpence. »
- Guy Lodge
Read More: Watch: John Carney's 'Sing Street' Trailer Brings Rock n' Roll to Irish Youth John Carney has turned musical cinema into some kind of high art form in delightful indies like "Once" and "Begin Again," and he's about to paint his biggest canvas yet with the rock-fueled "Sing Street." Set in the heyday of bands like Genesis and U2, "Sing Street" is a youthful romantic comedy of a boy trying to impress a girl. He does this by doing the coolest thing an adolescent boy with a group of overly loyal friends can do -- he starts a band. Aidan Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy star as his struggling parents, while Jack Reynor rounds out the cast as his encouraging, yet potentially troubled, older brother. "Sing Street" will have its world premiere at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Check out the debut one sheet below. »
- Zack Sharf
Now this looks good. Sing Street is the new film from director John Carney, who thus far has given the world the terrific pairing of Once and Begin Again. The former in particular is really something special, and very much worth seeking out.
Sing Street is a comedy about a bunch of misfits in 1980s Dublin, who properly discover music for the first time. And we've got the first trailer and an official synopsis for the movie.
As tradition dictates, let's do them in that order. Here's the trailer first...
And here's the synopsis...
Sing Street takes us back to 1980s Dublin where an economic recession forces Conor out of his comfortable private school and into survival mode at the inner-city public school where the kids are rough and the teachers are rougher. He »
Comprising a considerable amount of our top 50 films of last year, Sundance Film Festival has proven to yield the first genuine look at what the year in cinema will bring. Now in its 38th iteration, we’ll be heading back to Park City this week, but before we do, it’s time to highlight the films we’re most looking forward to, including documentaries and narrative features from all around the world.
While much of the joy found in the festival comes from surprises throughout the event, below one will find our 25 most-anticipated titles off the bat, which doesn’t include some of the ones we’ve already seen and admired, notably Cemetery of Splendour, The Lobster and Rams. Check out everything below and for updates straight from the festival, make sure to follow us on Twitter (@TheFilmStage, @jpraup, @djmecca and @DanSchindel), and stay tuned to all of our coverage here. »
- Jordan Raup
Ahead of its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival later this month, The Weinstein Company has released a trailer for writer-director John Carney’s (Once) semi-biographical musical drama Sing Street which stars Aiden Gillen, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Maria Doyle-Kennedy and Jack Reynor. Check it out below after the official synopsis…
Sing Street takes us back to 1980s Dublin seen through the eyes of a 14-year-old boy named Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) who is looking for a break from a home strained by his parents’ relationship and money troubles, while trying to adjust to his new inner-city public school where the kids are rough and the teachers are rougher. He finds a glimmer of hope in the mysterious, über-cool and beautiful Raphina (Lucy Boynton), and with the aim of winning her heart he invites her to star in his band’s music videos. There’s only one problem: he »
- Amie Cranswick
I bought it for myself, but this was my Christmas present, arriving in the mail from England on Christmas Eve: a fifteen-cd set containing five epic Springsteen concerts from the legendary Darkness on the Edge of Town tour. When the Cleveland deejay who emceed the show for Wmms-fm introduced the band by saying, "Round for round, pound for pound, there ain’t no finer band around," he wasn't just rhyming, he was telling the truth.
Why, you ask, did this set come from England? Well, it's an unauthorized collection of bootlegs, but in Europe, radio recordings are public domain, so this is actually a legal release.
The word went out through the fan network I ordered it on Amazon U.K. before the release date. Perhaps Bruce doesn't get a penny out of this, but I've seen it suggested that writers' royalties would still have to be paid. Either way, »
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