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The Details on 'The Details'

With the Oscar nominations out, 'The Details' takes center stage at Sundance. Nicole LaPorte on the latest deals.

We expect to be seeing a particularly jolly Harvey Weinstein (spotted Monday night at the premiere for The Details) around town, given that he woke up Tuesday morning to a dozen Oscar nominations for The King’s Speech, making it the official Oscar front-runner.

But enough about high-falutin’ films about proper English people. We’re still enjoying the almost-dying embers of a festival that’s treated us to dope-smoking monkeys, a Kevin Smith implosion, and, last night, a very dark comedy—The Details, directed by Jacob Aaron Estes—in which Tobey Maguire, as a porn-loving baby doctor, is even more crazy-scary than he was in Brothers. Well, not quite, but we’re starting to wonder about him. The film also starred Elizabeth Banks, as his wife, and a fabulous if misplaced Laura Linney as their “wackadoodle” neighbor who wears sprigs of basil on her sweaters and (of course) is obsessed with cats. Basic story line: Baby Doctor’s marriage is falling apart, despite perfect home in a Utopian Seattle neighborhood, complete with shiny Priuses and immaculate yards. Insanity ensues, involving Wackadoodle Neighbor, an unwanted pregnancy and, yes, raccoons. We will leave it at that.


Elizabeth Banks and Tobey Maquire in 'The Details' (Courtesy of Sundance)

Meanwhile, the deals continue at a dizzying rate. Every time we leave a screening there are more Blackberry alerts that such-and-such has sold to so-and-so. Such as:

—Fox Searchlight has stepped up to the plate, snagging the creepy-suspenseful Lizzie Olsen film Martha Marcy May Marlene, a crowd favorite; as well as the Emma Roberts coming-of-age movie Homework. The studio also acquired the remake rights to the documentary The Bengali Detective.

—National Geographic acquired the rights to Kevin Macdonald’s YouTube project, Life in a Day, executive produced by Sir Ridley Scott.

—IFC Films picked up The Ledge, which stars Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) as a man trying to decide whether or not to jump off a tall building.

—HBO bought the remake rights to the Irish fist-fight documentary Knuckle, with talk of turning it into a TV series.

—Liddell Entertainment picked up Silent House, the other Lizzie Olsen movie, that’s a horror pic.

—Participant Media and Magnolia Pictures bought Andrew Rossi’s documentary Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times. Participant also picked up Circumstance, about forbidden love in Iran.


Kevin Smith protests the Westboro Baptist Church. (

The hype, the letdown, and the residual anger surrounding his new movie, 'Red State.'

First there was the hype, then there was the letdown, and now, a day after Kevin Smith screened his latest film, Red State at Sundance, there is the residual anger. On Sunday, the Clerks writer-director stunned audiences and film buyers alike by announcing that he was not, as promised, going to auction off the distribution rights to Red State, a movie he touted as a “horror movie” inspired by Westboro Baptist Church leader Fred Phelps.

Instead, Smith bought the rights himself, for twenty bucks, and said that in an act of anti-studio-system protest, he’d sell his own film, starting things off with a 15-city tour this summer. Smith’s disingenuousness was made all the worse by the overload of characteristic Smith hype that preceded Red State’s screening. (The protest/counter-protest outside the Eccles Theater being just one piece of his elaborate fabric.) Not helping matters is that the film, though loved by certain Smith die-hards, is generally considered a disappointment.

What’s most remarkable, though, is that at a festival where films are premiering every hour, and where even the most memorable of them are quickly bowled over by this minute’s—as opposed to last minute’s–buzz, people are still stewing over Smith’s Sundance episode.

To read the rest of Nicole's post on Sundance Channel, click here


Brit Marling: Sundance "It" Girl

How a Goldman Sachs intern became the talk of this year's festival.

An economics major and an internship at Goldman Sachs as the path to Sundance? For Brit Marling, who stars and co-wrote not one but two films premiering here (Another Earth and Sound of My Voice), and who’s been tagged as one of this year’s “It” girls.


Brit Marling (Yvan Rodic/Face Hunter,

Just a few summers ago, the blonde, ethereal actress was studying economics at Georgetown University, which led to a summer on Wall Street. This led to disillusionment, which led to dropping out of school and moving to Cuba. Which led to making a documentary (Boxers and Ballerinas) with a friend from school. Which led to going back to school, graduating, and moving to L.A. Which led to more disillusionment.

“The things I would go read for, as a young, unknown actor, were pretty awful,” Marling said yesterday, curled up on a sofa, wearing a clingy floral dress and leather boots. “And people keep telling you, ‘Just do this stuff,’ this, like, horror film where you’re the girl in the bikini running from the man with the axe.”

Newark Mayor Cory Booker brings his documentary series to Sundance.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker was “in the house” on Sunday, which is how he was introduced at a screening of the documentary series Brick City, whose second season premieres next Sunday on Sundance Channel.

Wearing jeans, hiking shoes, and a black zipper-neck sweater, Booker was in non-politician mode as he spoke with the show’s executive producer Forest Whittaker, and co-directors Marc Levin and Mark Benjamin in front of a small audience gathered at the Bing Bar on Main Street. Also in the house: Isabella Rossellini and Rosie O’Donnell, who before the screening was posing with a small rescue dog wrapped up in a snow-suit. “It’s going to be a photo spread, me and my puppy,” O’Donnell joked.

This season of Brick City, which feels like a docu-version of The Wire, focuses more singularly on Booker as he fights for re-election, and faces severe budget-cuts, a rising crime rate, and a faith-losing constituency.

To read the rest of Nicole's post on Sundance Channel, click here


Is the Indie Slump Over?

Big sales for small movies are a good sign for the independent film scene. Plus, a critically-acclaimed starlet’s directorial debut.

It’s Monday in Park City and the insanity of the weekend is over, though it hasn’t entirely gone away. There are plenty more films opening, including The Details, starring Tobey Maguire, and Life in a Day, Oscar winner Kevin Macdonald’s YouTube documentary project in which thousands of people around the world captured a 24-hour period with their cameras.

But before we get into what’s ahead, here’s what’s been going on the last 24 hours in this corner of the world:

—Tons of sales, which have everyone proclaiming that the indie slump is over. In fact, it’s pretty astonishing what some of these films have sold for. Paul Rudd and Zooey Deschanel’s My Idiot Brother went to the Weinstein Company and Ron Burkle for a staggering $6 million. And Like Crazy, as reported, went to Paramount for $4 million. Fox Searchlight finally stepped up to the plate and scooped up Homework, a coming-of-age story starring up-and-coming acting progeny Emma Roberts. Lionsgate also got in on the action, acquiring Margin Call—the Kevin Spacey-starring film about the origins of the 2008 financial crisis—for a reported $1 million, according to the Los Angeles Times.


Emma Roberts in Homework (Face Hunter/

—In other news, our team has been seeing some great films. Among them: Eugene Jarecki’s latest documentary Reagan. Jarecki won the Grand Jury prize at Sundance in 2005 for Why We Fight and also directed The Trials of Henry Kissinger and Freakonomics. His latest film is straightforward in its telling of the Ronald Reagan narrative, from his being a “short-sighted lifeguard” in Ohio; Errol Flynn of the B’s; the 40th American president; and then some. The film is a rich assembly of vintage clips and talking heads—including an engaging Ron Reagan, Jr. But alas, we never hear from wife Nancy, though we  see much of her.

Up in the Air star Vera Farmiga made her directorial debut with Higher Ground, seven years after her first Sundance appearance back in 2004 in Down to the Bone. With Higher Ground, Farmiga steps out from behind the camera to star as well, playing a Born Again Christian (Farmiga’s younger sister is also in the film). Never has submitting to God been handled with such charm and wit. And the jokes—often lurid—are perfectly timed. Bidding is sure to be fierce.

—Lastly, we were unfortunately unable to catch the much-anticipated protest by the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church of Kevin Smith’s new film Red State on Sunday, but you can read about it at the Los Angeles Times. As one resilient, church-going objector asserted: “Smith can keep mocking and scoffing but we’re just going to climb on his back.”


Red State Protestors at Sundance (AP Photo (2))

Emily Mortimer gets happy with her new movie, co-starring Zooey Deschanel, Paul Rudd, and Elizabeth Banks.

So far the biggest movie deal at Sundance is the $6 million Harvey Weinstein paid for Jesse Peretz’s comedy My Idiot Brother. The deal happened hours after the film premiered, and the filmmakers and cast have been swooning around the festival every since, understandably pleased.

“It feels so good, and it’s not something that I’m used to at all,” Emily Mortimer, who stars in the film, said on Monday afternoon, sitting in a media lounge swarming with publicists in skinny jeans and tall boots, who could periodically be heard cooing over the starlets waltzing in and out. (“Ooh, she looks so cute,” whispered one upon sighting Zooey Deschanel, who also stars in My Idiot Brother).


Emily Mortimer (

“I’m not generally in these types of movies at festivals,” Mortimer continued, as she sat perched upright on a wooden chair, decked out in a classy-chic ensemble of woolen turtleneck, navy blazer, and gold hoop earrings. “I’m generally in, sort of, slightly more problematic films, or less audience-pleasing films.”

Lizzie Olsen

Lizzie Olsen, This Year’s 'It Girl'


Lizzie Olsen (at Sundance Channel HQ)

The third indie-chic Olsen sister is charming, hip, and the festival's first breakout star.

A week ago, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Olsen was just another 21-year-old senior at NYU who happened to have two very famous half-sisters: the TV-movie-fashion-and-overall-marketing phenomenon known as Mary-Kate and Ashley.

This week, thanks to the Sundance Film Festival, where she’s starring in two much-buzzed about films (Martha Marcy May Marlene and Silent House), the “third” Olsen has been a hot topic on Twitter; has been unilaterally declared the festival’s “It Girl”  (a prestigious, not to mention very hip, crown worn previously by Zooey Deschanel, Carey Mulligan, and Parker Posey); and has just landed a role in a big, Hollywood movie—Red Lights, a psychological thriller directed by Rodrigo Cores (Buried), and starring Robert DeNiro and Sigourney Weaver.

But if Lizzie—who looks uncannily like her sisters, even though she’s not 100 percent blood-related—is poised to overtake their fame, she’s doing it in her own distinct, and very stripped-down way.

To read the rest of Nicole's post on Sundance Channel, click here


My Idiot Brother’s Idiotic Audience

Paul Rudd’s new comedy is attracting plenty of interest, but the most laughs came during the cast’s Q&A session.

Day four of Sundance brings with it a reprieve from the snow dump of Saturday and the festival’s first, big-deal sale. Hooray!

The winner? Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy, which Nikki Finke’s Deadline reported was sold to Paramount and Indian Paintbrush for about $4 million this morning. Another deal that closed early Sunday was for the Kevin Spacey financial thriller Margin Call, which went to Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions.


Paul Rudd and Zooey Deschanel (Matt Fischer/

Paramount execs were also spotted at the premiere of Jesse Peretz’s off-beat comedy My Idiot Brother last night, as was Harvey Weinstein, who was huddled with a circle of execs, all frantically texting. (Yesterday, Harvey was our official Good Samaritan, when, chatting on his cellphone with one hand, carrying a liter bottle of water in the other, he assisted one of our fleet—who was being barred from a screening by an overzealous volunteer—and swooped her in under his arm into the movie theater.) A source confirmed several buyers are circling My Idiot Brother—starring Paul Rudd as a sweet but do-nothing brother who unwittingly wreaks havoc on the lives of his sisters (Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschanel, and Elizabeth Banks)—with a deal likely soon. Reviews have been mixed, with the general consensus that the movie will certainly play, given its star-studded cast, but is no Little Miss Sunshine.

Indeed, most interesting about the premiere last night was the Q&A session that followed.

A ritual at Sundance, Q&As allow members of the audience to grab a mic and toss questions at the filmmakers and stars, who line up on stage like contestants in a beauty pageant. Sometimes illuminating, sometimes not, many of us have been guilty of scanning our BlackBerrys during the process, particularly when actors launch into “I was so inspired by the script” monologues, or directors start thanking their personal chefs.

There was no BlackBerry scanning last night. The absurdity kicked right off, when Questioner No. 1 bluntly asked Paul Rudd—a big animal activist (who knew?)—to speak the following day at an animal-rescue PSA event. Rudd awkwardly tried to simultaneously joke about and evade the question, and was mercifully saved by festival director John Cooper, who interrupted with a terse: “Perhaps Paul would feel more comfortable talking with you privately afterwards.”

Questioner No. 2 was worse, launching into a circuitous, minutes-long question posed first at Mortimer, then at Deschanel, then at the whole cast, and had something to do with the creative process. We think. Mortimer drew laughs when she asked the man to repeat himself and then Deschanel jumped in and graciously cleaned up the mess.

By the time a young fella up in the balcony yelled down to Jones, asking her why she decided to wear glasses in the movie, the cast was visibly uncomfortable, and the crowd rowdy. Cooper quickly wrapped things up with a thank you, and good night.


Morgan Spurlock Does It Again


Morgan Spurlock (Photo by Jeff Vespa/WireImage)

The "Super Size Me" director notches a big sale—and brands himself accordingly.

There aren’t many people who can figure out how to make a documentary featuring both Noam Chomsky and Ben Silverman, but Morgan Spurlock is one of them. In his new film, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, which premiered Saturday afternoon, having already picked up distribution from Sony Pictures Classics, Spurlock sits down with both the cognitive scientist and bad-boy former TV exec to talk about branding.

To read the rest of Nicole's post on Sundance Channel, click here

Mr. Sundance

Robert Redford on Sundance and His Future

The hunky founder of Sundance opens up to Nicole Laporte

“O.K., what’s up?”

This is how Robert Redford, i.e. The Most Important Person on The Planet, as far as the Sundance Film Festival is concerned, starts a conversation. It’s Friday afternoon, and he’s just finished an interview for Sundance Channel, is about to dash off to do God knows what (judging by the number of clipboard-carrying women hovering around him, the list is long), and we have somehow managed to snatch a few minutes of his time.


Robert Redford (

Before we get started, though, yes, he still looks Robert-Redford hunky. The hair is more reddish these days, and he likes to tuck under a black calf-skin hat. (The momentary displacement of the hat caused a mini panic before his Sundance Channel interview, with nervous cries of “Mr. Redford’s hat? Anybody?” Thankfully, it was retrieved.) But he is still all fine features and cowboy charisma, all the more so in his blue-jeans, leather boots, and blue, long-johnny shirt.

Asked what his role is, 25 years after he founded Sundance, Redford says: “I would rather be behind the scenes, because if you’re out in front, you walk into all the hype and energy, and sometimes it’s overwhelming. You can’t breathe. So I prefer to be behind. And I’m able to step further and further back as things are able to go on their own.”

To read the rest of Nicole's post on Sundance Channel, click here


What's Buzzing at Sundance

From slow sales to the hottest party and the "It Girl," Nicole LaPorte reports.

More movies, more buzz, more endless searching for an SUV that looks like every other one in Park City. (Why are they all beige, we wonder? So not contrasty with snow.) Anyway! Having spent yesterday talking up folks at the Sundance Channel headquarters, where we had the pleasure of getting some face time with the charming though very on-message Robert Redford, i.e. Mr. Sundance himself, we have this news to report:

Everyone is complaining how slow it is, meaning sales. Partly this is because this is the new film festival reality (i.e. the post-Down And Dirty Pictures reality), and partly this is because there was a bunch of pre-festival activity, with HBO snatching up the rights to Project Nim; Sony Pictures Classics nabbing the Morgan Spurlock film, etc. Also agreed is that buyers want big films, or as big a film as one can find at Sundance. Hence, opening night’s Pariah, which has become, in festival logline parlance, “the black, lesbian, coming-of-age story,” though admired, is felt to be too small for a big buyer like Fox Searchlight. And hence, there’s buzzing interest (and likely soon to be deals for) in more commercial films like Margin Call, a thriller set in the financial world starring Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, and Demi Moore; and The Guard, an unlikely cop buddy story set in Ireland, starring Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson. Looking ahead, there’s anticipation for Kevin Smith’s Red State; The Details, with Tobey Maguire, and I Melt With You, starring one of the most intriguing lineups in recent memory: Rob Lowe, Thomas Jane, and Jeremy Piven.


Elizabeth Olsen (Jemal Countess / Getty Images)

Other observations:

The film that’s being described as this year’s Blair Witch Project, The Troll Hunters, our favorite title hands-down, which is, in fact, about trolls who are lurking in the Norwegian woods. Word is it was a huge hit in Norway. Go figure.

Hottest Ticket Party so far: James Franco’s ‘70s-themed soiree at the Playboy lounge. We are sure it was very ironic.

The declared Sundance “It Girl”: Elizabeth Olsen, the 21-year-old “other” Olsen sister who’s being praised for her turns in Martha Marcy May Marlene and Silent House.

Another actress to watch: Brit Marling, the writer-star of Another Earth, who’s also in Sound of My Voice.

new deals

Let the Deal-Making Begin

"Like Crazy," a pitch-perfect love story, draws first big bid.

It’s Saturday night, when everything under the sun (snow?) is typically scheduled, making Sundance even more frenetic than normal—so it’s only fitting that, finally, there is some action stirring on the deal-making front. The first big bid (around $2 million, according to Nikki Finke's Deadline) is heating up around Like Crazy, from 27-year-old Drake Doremus, who looks like the next breakout Sundance kid, putting him in the esteemed directing ranks of Quentin Tarantino, Darren Aronofsky, and the Coen Brothers.

The film is a pitch-perfect love story, never cloying, with terrific performances by its two young stars (Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones, a British actress who thankfully doesn’t annoy in the way that Minnie Driver does on film). Adding to the movie’s allure: Coming in at 89 minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

The story follows the relationship between Jacob (Yelchin) and Anna (Jones), who meet in college in L.A., but are torn apart by the INS (Anna is a British student). It sounds simple, but as Doremus pointed out in his opening remarks at a screening on Saturday, love never is.

Judging by the audience’s reaction after the screening—lots of grateful mumbles that after a disappointing first two days, finally a home run—Like Crazy will be going, going, gone, very soon. Stay tuned.

Gabe Doppelt contributed to this report.


Belafonte and Bobby Fischer at Sundance


Harry Belafonte and Gina Belafonte (

Harry Belafonte premieres the buzzy documentary "Bobby Fischer Against the World."

Still not much deal news, but the cinema-going aspect of Sundance is in full swing. A 9:30 a.m. screening of the Harry Belafonte documentary Sing Your Song was filled with early-rising fest-goers and volunteers who were inordinately friendly (“Hello!” “Welcome!”) considering the hour. Things get started later here: The Starbucks crush (i.e., when they run out of spinach-feta breakfast wraps) is around 11.

Even more packed was the screening of another documentary, Liz Garbus’ Bobby Fischer Against the World, which has been receiving strong buzz, and was raved about by L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan. At the 11:30 premiere, we had the good fortune to find a free seat next to an authority of sorts: Evan Edgar, former eighth-grade chess champ at Concord Elementary School in Northern California. Edgar was 11 when Fischer played Boris Spassky in the 1972 world championship of chess (a big focus of the film), and said he and his brothers would organize chess tournaments around Fisher’s moves, which were published in the papers every day. When asked for chess advice for someone who has a fear of chess boards, but was once fairly proficient at checkers, Edgar said: “Keep your pawn structure.” He added: “We’re all pawns in the game of life.” We wondered if this was a cheesy, oft-repeated mantra amongst chess players, and guessed it probably was.

To read the rest of Nicole's post on Sundance Channel, click here.

Brendan Gleeson

Gleeson Delivers as Schlubby, Corrupt Cop

"The Guard" is a cross between Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright—and one of the most dementedly fun movies screened so far.

With everyone fussing about who the new, fresh faces are at Sundance, not much has been said about one of the older, less fresh faces who is nonetheless emerging as one of the festival’s early delights: Brendan Gleeson, the 56-year-old Irish actor who was once told by a Hollywood agent that he was “too old and too ugly” for movies, and who is the star of the much-buzzed-about The Guard, written and directed by John Michael McDonagh (brother of In Bruges writer-director Martin McDonagh). A cross between Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, etc.), by way of Ireland, The Guard is one of the most dementedly fun movies screened so far at Sundance, and has excited huge interest both in buyers and audiences—the 9:30 a.m. screening on Saturday was packed to the gills.


Brendan Gleeson in "The Guard" (

The director of "Man on Wire" is back with a new documentary about a chimpanzee living in Manhattan.

Who knew that a chimp could get in the middle of a human love triangle? And enjoy the pleasures of marijuana?

2008 Sundance Grand Jury (and 2009 Oscar) winner Director James Marsh, evidently, whose new documentary, Project Nim, is about the chimpanzee (Nim), who in the 1970s was taken from his mother and sent to live with a bunch of Upper West Side hippies in a nature-versus-nature experiment gone terribly wrong.


Nim Chimpsky in the film, Project Nim. (Credit: Harry Benson) (Laporte Sundance Chimp)

The film is mostly tragic, but Marsh has an uncanny eye for the comedic and perverse elements in his story, which went over well with the packed house at the historic Egyptian Theater Thursday night. The tiny screen, cramped seats and no line in the ladies room was a reminder that we are not in L.A. anymore! Which, of course, is precisely the appeal of this festival—it still feels homey, despite what everyone says about all the limos and swag. With hot chocolate, and a neighbor who kindly did not spill too much of his puffy jacket onto our seat, we adjusted.

To read the rest of Nicole's post on Sundance Channel, click here

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