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Sundance Watch: Day Two

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 19, 2008 at 5:39AM

The screenings started today.
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SundancelogoThe screenings started today.

Several films are already in play, including Marina Zenovich's Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, while interest is somewhat muted in actor-turned-director Marianna Palka's small relationship comedy Good Dick, starring Josh Ritter, son of John, and Robert Redford sprig Amy Redford's The Guitar, which I quite enjoyed, starring Saffron Burrows as a woman who is diagnosed with terminal throat cancer, loses her job and her boyfriend all on the same day. She completely abandons her life. (I don't like the title.) "It's Into the Wild for girls," quipped one critic who did not like it at all. Redford, who is a veteran actress, was given Amos Poe's script, which is based on a true story, but decided she wanted to direct rather than star. After she finished filming in NY, where she is based, she did a cameo in Christine Jeff's Sunshine Cleaning.

Jeffs is the hot director at this fest after the packed screening Friday night. Every distrib was there in full force: Harvey Weinstein and Miramax's Daniel Battsek (they talked before the screening) and Lionsgate's Tom Ortenberg and Warner Independent and Paramount Vantage and Picturehouse and Roadside Attractions and Samuel Goldwyn and Magnolia and Overture and Fox Searchlight and Sony Pictures Classics. This is the movie that will have folks lining up outside the Cinetic Deer Valley condo. It'll go to one of the studio subsids, but probably not for huge dollars.

Amy Adams and Emily Blunt are two unhappy sisters in Albuquerque who become crime-scene clean-up artists. Alan Arkin is the Dad. There's a strong family relationship drama, comedy, and Jeffs is a terrific directorial stylist. The movie is well-acted and gorgeous. It's the best thing I've seen so far. Big Beach, the company that backed Little Miss Sunshine, funded the Sunshine Cleaning, which was produced by Glenn Willamson. He met Marc Turtletaub when he was at Focus Features and they were still developing LMS.

Jonathan Levine's The Wackness played pretty well this afternoon at the Racquet Club, with laughs throughout. The black comedy about a lonely post-high-school grad drug dealer (slimmed down Nickelodeon vet Josh Peck), his drug-addled shrink (Kingsley) and the shrink's step-daughter (Juno's Olivia Thirlby) is up for grabs, and should sell. But it's not a critics' picture. It runs the risk of being a tweener--a fest crowd pleaser that turns out to be hard to market. Think Garden State but not nearly as good.

Mary Kate Olsen turned up at the Racquet Club Q & A Friday afternoon for The Wackness, in which she makes out with Ben Kingsley in a phone booth. "I was a little nervous," she admitted, "but he was so sweet and kind and made me feel comfortable so it was fun. He pulled off the hairpiece he was wearing."

At least Olsen is legitimately making the rounds at Sundance with a movie. Not so Paris Hilton, who is jetting in for the Regent Entertainment party at the Bon Appetit Supper Club at The River Horse Cafe Sunday. Sundance sponsor Regent and Merrill Lynch backed The Hottie and the Nottie, which features Hilton's first theatrical starring role, which is definitely not playing here, nor would it ever be--although the director Tom Putnam had a short at Sundance 2005. (The trailer on the internet is disgusting. I won't even post it.) According to Purple Pictures producer Hadeel Reda, they gave Hilton executive producer credit: "She's coming to Sundance to pay tribute to Regent. She's savvy when it comes to promoting herself. This is a great opportunity for her and her brand to embrace how people see her." Even the Queer Lounge is promoting Hilton's attendance at their annual Sunday Queer Brunch.

When I was picking up my press badge at the Marriott, Jason Reitman, who is on the shorts jury and loves looking at shorts, raved about the film Timecrimes, which is in Midnight Madness, saying he had always liked writer-director Nacho Vigalondo's shorts. Magnolia bought the film out of a sci-fi fest. Here's news that UA has bought the remake rights for Steve Zaillian to write.

I ran into Quentin Tarantino after The Wackness, which is the first film he saw on his jury rounds. He's not able to talk about the jury films, but he's going to other things like George Romero's Diary of the Dead. Yet another hand-held movie! And there's one at Slamdance, Fix, which looks promising. Anyway, Tarantino said he loves being on juries so much that after Cannes he went home and screened fifteen movies he's never seen before and made notes on them. He's happy as a clam.

[Originally appeared on Variety.com]

This article is related to: Festivals, Sundance


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.