By now in Sundance the bigger movies have screened, with their stars and potential buyers having mostly returned home. The Babadook still remains my favourite of the festival films I've seen and now many critics are embracing it too. The film's Australian distributor, Umbrella Entertainment, has issued a statement that it has been picked up by Wild Bunch for distribution in France, Germany and Switzerland. Umbrella also has Jim Mickle's Cold in July, starring Michael C. Hall, so the company is asserting itself as a more prominent player on the Australian cinema landscape.
Interestingly, for my European colleagues those films were their favourites as well, together with I Origins, Mike Cahill's follow up to Another Earth. The latter film stars Michael Pitt and again re-teams the director with Brit Marling. In a surprise move, it was picked up by Fox Searchlight. Anything with Michael Pitt is fine by me. The star of Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers is now making hay while the sun shines following his stellar turn in Boardwalk Empire. The series faltered after he was killed off.
Overall, this year the standard of films in Sundance is far lower than last year—and that is the general consensus. Which films will get Australian distribution is anyone's guess, given that one of last year's standouts, Don Jon, is still to be released by Roadshow, while films like Ain't Them Bodies Saints, Magic Magic and Prince Avalanche were blink-and-you-miss-it affairs on our screens.
Many of the films I have managed to see amid the mire of the Sundance ticketing system aren't necessarily the ones that will make it to cinemas here. According to reports and colleagues, the films that have been deemed most commercial are:
* Craig Johnson's The Skeleton Twins starring Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig as estranged twins who attempt to resolve their differences.
* Zac Braff's Wish I Was Here starring Kate Hudson and Braff—if you like his first directing effort, Garden State, apparently you'll like this.
* Lynn Shelton's Laggies, partly because of the presence of Keira Knightley, though I saw this one and it was fun, if uneven.
* The opener, Whiplash, which has been picked up for worldwide distribution by Sony.
* Song One, produced by and starring Anne Hathaway; it's releasing through Hopscotch.
* Ira Sach's gay marriage drama, Love is Strange, acquired by Rialto just prior to the festival.
* The Raid 2—for the genre crowd. The film had to be stopped during its world premiere last night as a young guy had an attack of some sort. The film's director Gareth Evans, while expressing his concern that the guy who walked out drinking much-needed water was fine, he joked that he might have been from the US ratings board—the hyper-violent film has been picked up by Sony for the US. Madman has it here.
* The Trip to Italy, also Madman. Michael Winterbottom, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon excel again.
Madman, who have the Nick Cave doco 20,000 Days on Earth at the festival, have picked up Nadav Shirman's well-received doco, The Green Prince, which tells the story of one of Israel's prized intelligence sources.
The most popular film among critics by far has been Richard Linklater's Boyhood (pictured), an epic tale of growing up which he shot in 39 days over the course of 12 years. It will soon screen in Berlin. Also headed for the German capital is John Michael McDonagh's Calvary, which has impressed here even if it's a little more serious than McDonagh's previous film with Brendan Gleeson, The Guard (screening Feb 1 on SBS ONE at 9:30pm). The duo were determined that decent Irish priests be given their due. McDonagh, who wrote Ned Kelly, says he has two projects he wants to film in Australia.