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The Best Films Of The 2012 Sundance Film Festival (Our Complete Coverage)

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by Kevin Jagernauth
February 1, 2012 5:56 PM
3 Comments
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The swag bags have been claimed, the drunken dealmaking is done, and Park City returns to being a sleepy ski resort as the Sundance Film Festival ended over the weekend. As always, it was a whirlwind, and for anyone who may have doubted the health of the film industry, the number of films getting buzzed about, sold and picked up, should quell those concerns.

There was a lot of terrain to cover and in case you missed any of the reviews, interviews and news over the past week or so, here's where you can catch up. Below, a quick recap of the films we save (nearly 40 in all) plus who we had a minute to speak to between screenings. As always, we're zonked, but can't wait for next year either. Big shout out to Todd Gilchrist, James Rocchi, William Goss, Cory Everett, James Lichman and Simon Abrams who dug in deep and repped us proudly at the fest.

 Reviews

- Benh Zeitlin's feature-length debut  "Beasts Of The Southern Wild" caused raves and waves. It won the best dramatic narrative prize to boot.
- Richard Gere delivered his best performance in years in the hotly buzzed "Arbitrage," Nicholas Jarecki's directorial debut centering on a man in the midst of a professional and personal meltdown. 
- Mary Elizabeth Winstead and "Breaking Bad" star Aaron Paul earned raves for their alcoholism drama "Smashed." 
- Starring John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, the "The Surrogate," was met with high praise and some mixed reviews, including ours, but it sold to Fox Searchlight quickly nonetheless.
- Director Todd Louiso returned with "Hello I Must Be Going," a smart, sweet and lusty tale powered by a breakthrough performance by Melanie Lynskey.
- Julie Delpy and Chris Rock shined in the broad, but still vibrant "2 Days In New York."
- Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg stretched their acting muscles in the warm and heartbreaking comedy "Celeste And Jesse Forever."
- Spike Lee found his old school voice with the indie "Red Hook Summer," another installment in his Brooklyn Chronicles.
- Peter Jackson's highly publicized West Memphis Three documentary "West Of Memphis" arrived and under the guidance of director Amy Bergpointed the finger even more strongly at the supposed true perpetrator of the crime. 
- James Marsh's slow burn IRA thriller "Shadow Dancer" starring Andrea Riseborough and Clive Owen delivered the goods.
- Say goodbye to LCD Soundsystem with "Shut Up And Play The Hits" a winning concert doc/chronicle of the dismantling of James Murphy's famed NYC group.
- Starring Lizzie Caplan, Alison Brie and Mark Webber, "Save The Date,"  was an emotionally grounded rom-com.
- "Red Lights," the latest from "Buried" director Rodrigo Cortes stars Robert De Niro, Sigourney Weaver, Cillian Murphy and Elizabeth Olsen.
- Craig Zobel's "Compliance" started more than one conversation about the intent of a film that has the sexual abuse of a young woman as it's primary plot thrust.
- Mark Webber made an impressive outing for his second time behind the camera in "The End Of Love." 
- Another divisive film that found favor with us was "Simon Killer," from the same producers who brought you "Martha Marcy May Marlene" last year.
- Director Joe Berlinger ("Paradise Lost")  revisited Paul Simon's landmark album Graceland in the documentary  "Under African Skies." 
- Olivia Thirlby, Rosemarie DeWitt and John Krasinski find their idyllic L.A. lives unbalanced in Ry Russo-Young's "Nobody Walks." 
- Horror anthology "V/H/S/" brings together five filmmakers for a found footage anthology featuring segments from Ti West, Joe Swanberg, Adam Wingard, Glenn McQuaid, David Bruckner and the collective Radio Silence
- "Bubba Ho-Tep" helmer Don Coscarelli unveiled his latest weird and strange creation, "John Dies At The End," starring Paul Giamatti.
- "Keep The Lights On" delivers a sensuous, evocative and moving tale of two men in love.
- U.K. documentary "The Imposter" takes a true story about an American boy who was kidnapped, only to return to his family three years later.
- Canadian filmmakers James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot scored a coup when Scott Rudin picked up the remake rights for their doc "Indie Game." 
- Tim Heidecker put on his serious face for the surprising and somewhat divisive "The Comedian," a sober and compelling account of a hipster refusing to grow up.
- Speaking of, "Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie" is manna for fans of the outrageous comic duo. 
- Obscure '70s pop singer Rodriguez got the documentary treatment in the crowd-pleasing "Searching For Sugar Man."
- Ok, so technically this premiered at TIFF, but we just caught up with the sensational "The Raid" and yeah, it rocks.
- Starring  Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass and Jake Johnson,  "Safety Not Guaranteed" was the quirky time-travel romance film you didn't know you were missing.
- Katie Aselton's indie thriller "Black Rock" starring Aselton, Lake Bell and Kate Bosworth offers a refreshing genre piece with female leads.
- Josh Randor's "Liberal Arts," is the followup to his Sundance Audience Award winning "happythankyoumoreplease."
- Frank Langella, James Marsden and Liv Tyler starred in "Robot And Frank," a sci-fi/comedy/heist film. 
- Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, James Marsden and Adam Scott starred in the indie rom-com "Bachelorette."
- So Yong Kim's "For Ellen" starred Paul Dano and Jena Malone.
- "The Words" brought together Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons and Zoe Saladana for an "Inception"-like multi-narrative about an author who steals another writer's work and gains instant fame.
- Joel Edgerton and Teresa Palmer featured in the mystery thriller "Wish You Were Here"
- Bruce Willis, Rebecca Hall, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Vince Vaughn led Stephen Frears' Vegas-set comedy "Lay The Favorite." 
- Quentin Dupieux's "Wrong," was yet another one of his odd and unique endeavors.

Interviews

Here's who shared their time and thoughts on their films at Sundance with us:

James Marsh and Andrea Riseborough paired up to talk "Shadow Dancer" while the director also chatted with us on his own to talk about his future projects and expand on his approach to the IRA thriller.
Dennis Quaid and co-director Lee Sternthal talked to us about "The Words," as did Bradley Cooper and the other co-helmer Brian Klugman. Ben Barnes also met with us to talk about the film, as did Zoe Saldana.
Joe Berlinger shared with us his experience making "Under African Skies" as well as his thoughts on "West Of Memphis."
Nicholas Jarecki told us how "The Informers" helped finance "Arbitrage" and more.
- "Simon Killer" director Antonio Campos joined his stars to talk about the film. 
James Murphy and the filmmakers behind "Shut Up And Play The Hits" discussed making the movie.
- "Compliance" director Craig Zobel talked about his approach and intentions for the divisive film.
- "Red Hook Summer" allowed us to talk with Clarke Peters, Nate Parker and co-writer James McBride, and of course, Spike Lee himself who updated us on his biopics and "MJ Loves Brooklyn."
So Yong Kim shared with us her thoughts on "For Ellen."
Mark Webber talked about working with his son, and making the microbudget "The End Of Love."
Mary Elizabeth Winstead got "Smashed" but thankfully, not during our interview. Aaron Paul also talked about his proposed role in "A Good Day To Die Hard."
Katie Aselton and Kate Bosworth talked about the finer points of being scared in "Black Rock."
Josh Radnor schooled us on "Liberal Arts."
- We met Aubrey Plaza for "Safety Not Guaranteed."
- We rolled the dice with Stephen Frears and Rebecca Hall for "Lay The Favorite."
- Director Todd Louiso and star Melanie Lynskey talked to us about working with each other on "Hello I Must Be Going."
Andrea Arnold took us to "Wuthering Heights."
Rashida Jones and Will McCormack dished on "Celeste And Jesse Forever."
Stacy Peralta hung with us for "Bones Brigade."

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

3 Comments

  • tulallah | February 9, 2012 1:49 PMReply

    What about My Brother, The Devil?

  • Travis Hopson | February 1, 2012 9:05 PMReply

    You guys were awesome during Sundance. I even had a chance to meet a couple of you out there. Great job!

  • The Playlist | February 1, 2012 6:08 PMReply

    Nice work everyone and especially Kevin for putting this together.

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