A Comprehensive Guide to the Sundance 2012 Pick-Ups Headed to a Theater Near You
Park City did indeed turn out to be a robust marketplace this year, with buyers snapping up over two dozen features and docs out of Sundance 2012. Ranging from genre pleasers to indie charmers to potential future Oscar picks and beyond – and veering from critical fest duds to overwhelming crowd favorites – the class of Sundance ’12 is an intriguingly mixed-but-mostly-promising bag of films that will be dotting the cinematic landscape in the year or so to come. Here’s an updated comprehensive look at what sold and which films you should be looking forward to.
2 Days in New York (Magnolia) – The busy distributor (which also picked up V/H/S and Queen of Versailles earlier in the fest) also nabbed Julie Delpy’s sequel to 2 Days in Paris, which Delpy directed and co-stars in opposite Chris Rock.
Arbitrage (Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions) - Nicholas Jarecki's dramatic feature-filmmaking debut stars Richard Gere as a billionaire hedge-fund fraud seeking to cash in before he's exposed. Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling and Tim Roth co-star. Look for the studio duo to duplicate the multi-platform success they enjoyed in 2011 with Margin Call, another financial-world potboiler picked up in Park City.
Beasts of the Southern Wild (Fox Searchlight) – The smallest narrative to get a deal thus far at Sundance comes off of strong buzz and acclaim for the tale of a young girl and her ailing father who live in a fantastical alternate version of the American South; Beasts won the Grand Jury Prize and was hands down the discovery of the fest.
Black Rock (LD Distribution) – Katie Aselton’s thriller about three female friends (Aselton, Lake Bell, Kate Bosworth) surviving a weekend getaway gone wrong was the first Midnight selection to seal a deal, partnering with newbie venture LD Distribution.
Celeste and Jesse Forever (Sony Pictures Classics) – With Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg leading a cast of familiar players, this was bound to attract buyer attention galore. Sony Pictures Classics snatched it up for a reported $2 million, adding C&J to their previous Sundance acquisitions Searching for Sugar Man and The Raid.
Chasing Ice (National Geographic) – Photographer James Balog traversed three continents and utilized time-lapse photography to film his documentary about climate change; National Geographic Channel purchased television rights, air date TBA.
The Comedy (Rough House Pictures) – Tim Heidecker’s other polarizing Sundance entry, the Rick Alverson-directed The Comedy, follows a band of idle hipsters doing unpleasant things in what’s been described as a sort of anti-traditional comedy of sorts. Picked up by Danny McBride’s Rough House Pictures, this should make an interesting companion piece to Heidecker and Wareheim’s Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie as the duo of features show two very different sides to the comedians.
Compliance (Magnolia) – Craig Zobel’s controversial entry about employees of a fast food restaurant who carry out an increasingly questionable investigation on one of their own found a home at Magnolia Pictures, who are aiming to have it in theaters in 2012.
For a Good Time, Call… (Focus Features) - The feature debut of shorts director Jamie Travis pairs Lauren Anne Miller and Ari Graynor as frenemies who start a phone sex line together, one of a gaggle of raunchy female-driven comedies in this year’s line-up.
How to Survive a Plague (Sundance Selects) – David France’s documentary utilizes archival footage to revisit the HIV/AIDS activist movement of the ‘80s; release TBA.
Indie Game: The Movie (HBO) -- Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky’s Kickstarter-funded doc, about the independent video game scene, had remake rights optioned by HBO and Scott Rudin, who plan on turning it into a TV series.
Lay the Favorite (Weinstein Co.) – If anyone can make magic happen for Stephen Frears’ Sundance ’12 dud, it’s the Weinsteins. The company’s only pick-up (so far) is a star-studded lark that should get a marketing boost from its cast (Bruce Willis, Rebecca Hall, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Vince Vaughn) but can expect an uphill battle with critics.
Liberal Arts (IFC Films) – Josh Radnor’s follow up to happythankyoumoreplease, another Sundance pick, features Radnor as a thirty-something man who returns to his college campus and is intrigued by both his former professor (Alison Janney) and a young coed (Elizabeth Olsen). IFC picked up Liberal Arts and plans on releasing it later in 2012.
Middle of Nowhere (Participant Media and AFFRM) – A joint pick-up between Participant and African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement, writer-director Ava DuVernay’s drama centers on a woman whose husband is in prison; DuVernay won the coveted Directing Award at Sundance last weekend.
Nobody Walks (Magnolia) – But wait, there’s more! Magnolia’s end-of-fest buying streak included Ry Russo-Young’s tale (co-written by Lena Dunham) about a woman (Olivia Thirlby) who shakes up the lives of her Silverlake hosts.
The Pact (IFC) - This deal's a bit of a surprise, given the negative-to-lukewarm reviews Nicholas McCarthy's feature debut (adapted from his own Sundance short of the same name) received. Yet another spooky tale, about a young lady investigating bumps and scares in her dead mother's house, it went to IFC for a reported "high-six-figure deal" as the distrib hopes it catches fire in limited release/VOD.
The Queen of Versailles (Magnolia Pictures) – Another well-received doc, Lauren Greenfield’s examination of Florida real estate mogul David Siegel was picked up by Magnolia on Friday before earning her the Sundance directing award in the U.S. documentary category.
Red Lights (Millenium Films) Negative reviews hurt the profile of this Rodrigo Cortes (Buried) thriller, despite featuring Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, and last year’s Sundance darling Elizabeth Olsen.
Robot and Frank (Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions/Samuel Goldwyn Films) – It’s Frank Langella and a robot. What more do you need to know? Oh, fine: Directed by Jake Schreier and co-starring Susan Sarandon, Peter Sarsgaard, and Liv Tyler, this charmer won over critics during Sundance.
Safety Not Guaranteed (FilmDistrict) – Indie genre-bender Safety Not Guaranteed sold to FilmDistrict for a reported seven figures and should ride high on warm reviews and its Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award win. Fans of star Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass (who also exec-produced), and Jake Johnson should be happy to see each in the spotlight when this makes it into theaters.
Searching for Sugar Man (Sony Classics) – The Audience Award-winning documentary about 1960s musician Rodriguez played well to critics and was snatched up by SPC for a reported six figures.
Shadow Dancer (ATO Pictures) – James Marsh (Project Nim, Man on Wire) returned to Sundance this year with a feature – the IRA thriller Shadow Dancer, starring Andrea Riseborough and Clive Owen – drawing comparisons to the cold, slow burning Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy. Patient art house audiences should be rewarded with this Euro-style spy tale, which will also screen at the Berlin Film Festival next month.
Simon Killer (IFC Films) – Antonio Campos’s unsettling character drama, starring Brady Corbet in a standout turn, follows a recent college grad as he floats around Paris trying to get over an ex-girlfriend. The latest from Martha Marcy May Marlene collective Borderline Films is dark, sexually explicit, and mesmerizing – a good fit for IFC.
Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap (Indomina Releasing) – Ice-T’s hip-hop documentary will see theatrical release later this year thanks to Indomina Releasing, who snapped up worldwide rights; here’s hoping that deal includes plans for at least one soundtrack album release, since The Art of Rap features some of the best cuts from a comprehensive survey of the rap landscape of the last few decades.
The Surrogate (Fox Searchlight) - Sundance favorite John Hawkes turns in an brave performance as real life poet Mark O’Brien, who yearns to lose his virginity with a sex therapist (Helen Hunt) despite being paralyzed from the head down. Fox Searchlight paid a reported $6 million for the pic, which may face tricky ratings deliberations due to Hunt’s full frontal nudity.
V/H/S (Magnolia) – The horror anthology opened to such a raucous, receptive Midnight debut that it’s no wonder a specialist like Magnolia snapped up the surefire genre pleaser. Did reports of a seizure at a festival screening help the film build buzz?
Wish You Were Here (Entertainment One) – This Aussie domestic thriller opened Sundance to mixed reviews, but should interest watchers of the country’s burgeoning cinema; director Kieran Darcy-Smith, wife/actress/co-writer Felicity Price, and crossover star Joel Edgerton may not have pulled off the second coming of Animal Kingdom, but this actors’ showcase is worth a look. Entertainment One will reportedly open WYWH this fall.
The Words (CBS Films) – Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, and Jeremy Irons lead a cast of recognizable stars in this literary drama about a writer (Cooper) who claims credit on someone else’s manuscript and is confronted by its real author, so it’s easy to see why buyers were interested. CBS Films reportedly laid down $2 million for the film.
Get more of Movieline's Sundance 2012 coverage here.