Daniel Radcliffe gay poet in 'Kill Your Darlings': Sundance movies
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Keep the Lights On, Middle of Nowhere, Safety Not Guaranteed, Smashed, The Sessions (then known as “The Surrogate”), How to Survive a Plague, The Invisible War, and Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present are all 2013 awards season contenders. All of these titles have been nominated for the Gotham Awards and/or the Spirit Awards, and will likely pop up again in the coming weeks, as North American critics, guilds, and academies start announcing their nominees and/or winners.
Now, what do all of the above movies have in common besides their being “in the running” this awards season? The answer is: They are all American productions (or co-productions) screened at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. But what about non-US films? Those tend to be less lucky, as US-based critics, guilds, and academies are generally biased toward homemade – or at least English-language-made – fare.
Anyhow, I'm pointing this out because Sundance 2013 selections in the four key categories – both U.S. and World, both Dramatic and Documentary – were announced earlier today, Nov. 28. As usual, particularly in the last decade or so, small movies with Big Names have been favored. Hence, at the low-budget, indie-oriented Sundance Film Festival we have movies featuring the likes of Daniel Radcliffe, Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Jessica Biel, Kristen Bell, Shailene Woodley, Octavia Spencer, Ellen Page, and Megan Mullally.
Also as usual, expect most of the Sundance 2013 movies to have been forgotten even before the festival's closing night gala. A handful of the Sundance entries, however, will be remembered later next year, once the North American awards season kicks off with the announcement of the Gotham Award nominations.
Sundance 2013 U.S. Dramatic competition highlights: 'Kill Your Darlings,' 'Fruitvale Station,' 'Austenland'
Surely there'll be surprises at Sundance 2013, along the lines of Beasts of the Southern Wild and Middle of Nowhere earlier this year. Yet, the presence of, for instance, Daniel Radcliffe as Beat Generation gay poet Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings makes the John Krokidas-directed drama one of the festival's hottest tickets. Besides Radcliffe, the extensive Kill Your Darlings cast also features Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster, Michael C. Hall, Elizabeth Olsen, Kyra Sedgwick, David Cross, and Jack Huston (grandson of The African Queen director John Huston).
This year's Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Octavia Spencer (The Help) has an important role in Ryan Coogler's Fruitvale Station, about the last day in the life of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), a 22-year-old black man shot dead by Bay Area Rapid Transit (white) police officer Johannes Mehserle.
In Jerusha Hess' Anglo-American Austenland, a woman obsessed with Pride and Prejudice's Mr. Darcy – as played by Colin Firth on the BBC production – discovers the real thing (more or less) while on a trip to an English resort. The Austenland cast includes Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Bret McKenzie, Jennifer Coolidge, Georgia King, and James Callis. Ah, minor detail: one of Austenland's producers is Stephenie Meyer. Heard of her? No? Heard of the Twilight movies starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner?
Update: Fruitvale Station was initially known as Fruitvale.
Casey Affleck & Rooney Mara + veteran Dean Stockwell: Sundance 2013 movies
Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara star in David Lowery's Ain't Them Bodies Saints, a Sundance Creative Producing Labs effort which has been described (whether accurately or not, I don't know) as the early 21st century's Bonnie and Clyde. The story follows “an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met.”
Dean Stockwell still active after more than six decades in Hollywood
Veteran Dean Stockwell, a former child actor who performed opposite Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh back in 1945, is featured in Kyle Patrick Alvarez's C.O.G., described as “the first ever film adaptation of David Sedaris' work,” in which “a cocky young man travels to Oregon to work on an apple farm … [where] he finds his lifestyle and notions being picked apart by everyone who crosses his path.” The C.O.G. cast also includes Jonathan Groff, Denis O'Hare, Corey Stoll, Casey Wilson, and Troian Bellisario.
Cherien Dabis' May in the Summer is unusual in that it's a US / Jordan / Qatar co-production, starring Dabis, Independence Day's Bill Pullman, and Hiam Abbass in a family drama set in Jordan. Jill Solloway's Afternoon Delight stars Kathryn Hahn, Juno Temple, Josh Radnor, and Jane Lynch in a tale about a Los Angeles housewife whose life takes a surprising turn after she “rescues” a stripper by hiring the woman as a live-in nanny.
More 'mysterious' human behavior in upcoming Lynn Shelton movie
Lynn Shelton, who has made a minor splash with “daring” movies about “controversial” human behavior will be at Sundance with Touchy Feely, in which a massage therapist mysteriously develops an aversion to touching others, while her uptight dentist brother discovers he has a “healing touch.” Now, if you find the Touchy Feely plot absurd, that's nothing compared to having a lesbian trying to get pregnant via sex with a straight male and a carefully perforated condom in Your Sister's Sister, or heterosexual guys deciding to have gay sex (with one another) so as to enter a porn film competition in Sundance Special Jury Prize winner Humpday. The Touchy Feely cast includes Your Sister's Sister's Rosemarie DeWitt, Allison Janney, Ron Livingston, Scoot McNairy, and Ellen Page.
Whether or not any of the aforementioned movies will make a major impact in 2013's cultural, box office, and awards-season landscape should be answered next January and in the ensuing months. The Sundance Film Festival runs next Jan. 17-27.
Doha Tribeca Film Festival 2012 awards: Islam & politics + women
The Doha Tribeca Film Festival (website) announced today the winners of the festival's Arab Film Competition at an awards ceremony held at the Al Rayyan Theatre. The Best Narrative Feature Film was Merzak Allouache's The Repentant (Algeria / France), which had been screened earlier this year at Cannes' Directors' Fortnight sidebar and the London Film Festival. (Image: The Repentant.)
In The Repentant, a former (apparent) Algerian jihadist (Nabil Asli) returns to civilian life after the country's government offers amnesty to the Muslim fanatics responsible for the deaths of thousands of Algerian civilians. The “repentant” in question claims he committed no murders, but whether or not he's truly innocent, regular Algerians aren't as willing to forgive and/or forget the bloody massacres that took place in the country throughout the '90s.
Doha Tribeca's Best Narrative Filmmaker was Nabil Ayouch for Horses of God / God's Horses / Les chevaux de Dieu (Morocco), based on the events that led to suicide bomb attacks in Morocco in 2003, while the award for Best Performance went to Ahmed Hafiane for Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud's Professor (Tunisia / France / Qatar), in which Hafiane plays a married Tunisian law professor whose personal and professional life is turned upside down after one of his students (and lover) is arrested for her political views. Additionally, Nadir Moknèche's Goodbye Morocco (France / Belgium) received a Special Mention.
Lebanese Rocket Society: Documentary about Lebanon's little-known rocket launch
The Best Documentary Feature Film was Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige's Lebanese Rocket Society (Lebanon / France / Qatar), about Lebanon's first rocket launch in the 1960s and its unforeseen international consequences. Hanan Abdalla was the Best Documentary Filmmaker for In the Shadow of a Man (Egypt), about the role of women in modern Egyptian society. And Damien Ounouri received a Special Mention for Fidai, the story of a fighter in Algeria's National Liberation Front.
Other Doha Tribeca Film Festival winners were Ehab Tarabieh's The Forgotten (Syria / Qatar) as Best Short Film; Ahd's Sanctity (Saudi Arabia), which took home the Development Award; plus a Special Mention for Nadim Tabet's A Day in 1959 (Lebanon). The Made in Qatar Development Award went to Bader, directed by Sara Al-Saadi, Maaria Assami, and Latifa Al-Darwish, with a Special Mention going to Lyrics Revolt by Shannon Farhoud, Ashlene Ramadan, Melanie Fridgant, and Rana Khaled Al Khatib.
And finally, the Audience Award went to Zhang Yang's Full Circle and Malik Bendjelloul's Searching for Sugar Man.
Doha Tribeca Film Festival 2012: 27 movies in competition
The Doha Tribeca Film Festival prizes totaled more than $440,000. The Arab Film Competition featured 27 movies: seven documentaries, seven narrative features, and 13 shorts. Ten Arab countries took part in this year's competition, including for the first time entries from Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
You can check out the Doha Tribeca Film Festival's Arab Film Competition entries at Festival Scope.
Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara Ain't Them Bodies Saints photo: Evolution Independent.
Image of Kill Your Darlings' Daniel Radcliffe as gay poet Allen Ginsberg: Sony Pictures Classics.
The Repentant photo via the Doha Tribeca Film Festival.