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Entertainment behind the scenes

Sundance surprise: Plenty of worthy pictures, but will any of them be hits?

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Another Sundance Film Festival has come and gone, and by most accounts it was a banner year with better movie and more sales than in recent editions. At Saturday night’s awards ceremony, where love story “Like Crazy” picked up the jury prize for best film drama and Iranian lesbian tale “Circumstance” was the audience pick for best drama, veteran critic Todd McCarthy echoed what many festivalgoers were saying almost from the start of the event. The Hollywood Reporter’s chief film critic said, “this is one of the best Sundances I’ve ever been to.”

But what’s next? Critics, audiences and box office will be the judges. “We have to see what happens,” Sundance founder Robert Redford told Reuters on Saturday ahead of the awards. “We can get very excited, but no one’s going to know until the year plays out.”

SundanceRedford said that this year some 40 titles found distributors at Sundance, up from only 14 last year. That means there will be a huge number of mostly low-budget, independently-made movies in theaters this year, and many of those films — depending on how heavily they are promoted and the marketing money behind them — will fail at box offices. One never can be sure how Sundance films will play.

Last year, one hot title picked up at Sundance was “Buried,” a claustrophobic thriller centered entirely on Ryan Reynolds’ character trapped underground in Iraq. How much did it gross for Lionsgate? Just over $1 million — which probably covered just a few weeks’ worth of legal bills against hostile suitor Carl Icahn. Then there was “The Kids Are All Right” with around $21 million (a hit in the indie film frame), and a couple of Oscar nominations. Also, “Winter’s Bone” with just over $6 million (pretty good sum) and some Oscar nods too. But that’s the range for a well-performing art house movie.

50 Cent at Sundance: A work in progess

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50 Cent1(Note: strong language in quote, paragraph 2)

He’s not the first music star to try a crossover in entertainment to movies. Not even close. But at least Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is smart enough to know he can’t just jump into making films and be instantly an Oscar winner. So, on Saturday at a news conference at the Sundance Film Festival, the rapper whose albums include “Get rich or Die Tryin’” was quick to admit that as an actor and filmmaker, “I”m a work in progress.”

As a rapper, he’s known as 50 Cent, and his early work and life were as remarkable for their violence as they were his music. But as an actor, 50 prefers to use his name, Curtis Jackson. He has been acting for around six years, starting with an action movie titled after his album, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” but more recently he has tried to stretch his talents. Three years ago, he came to Sundance and after seeing some of the films here, he told his producing partner, Randall Emmett, “we have to do the same shit they’re doing.” (something makes us think the Sundance organizers don’t consider their films that way, but we knew what Jackson meant).

Sundance rebels?

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If you’ve been reading our coverage of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival (and we certainly hope so, otherwise our boss won’t pay for a return trip in 2011), you know by now that this year event organizers were promoting a return to a rebelliousness among independent filmmakers — those people making movies outside Hollywood’s major studios. The words “rebel,” “rework,” “rebirth,” and others figure prominently on Sundance posters, t-shirts, film trailers and the like. If you haven’t been reading about it, click here and here.

So the natural question all week has been, “do this year’s films exemplify a renewed indie spirit?” The answer depends on how you look at it. In the opening day press conference, even Sundance founder Robert Redford and festival director John Cooper seemed to disagree with Redford calling it a festival of rebirth for that independent spirit and Cooper thinking it was more a renewal of Sundance’s pledge to promote fresh, new voices in cinema. Rebirth or renewal? … TomAIto or TomAUto.

A Sundance filmmaker tell-all?!

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The Sundance Film Festival is nothing if not about discovering new filmmakers and fresh voices in the world of cinema. Most of these writer/directors, of course, want their movies to make some sort of impact on audiences, but what impact does Sundance have on them beyond just selling their films into distribution or starting a career? We talked to some of them at a filmmaker meet-and-greet on Wednesday. Click on the video to see what they had to say.

from Environment Forum:

Hollywood’s greenest stars honor U.S. environmental group

Dozens of the world's top movie, television and music stars showed off their green cred on Saturday night at a Hollywood-style fundraiser honoring the Natural Resource Defense Council's 20 years in Southern California.

The event at Beverly Hills' Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel was a who's who of Hollywood environmentalists, including actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Redford, and Laurie David, a global warming activist and producer of the Al Gore movie "An Inconvenient Truth." All three are trustees of the NRDC's Southern California office. In 2003, the group even dedicated its new building to Redford.

Sundance’s real filmmakers

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Robert Redford likes to say the Sundance Film Festival is a place of discovery for fresh cinematic voices, but often all we hear about are the stars. So, here’s some of those new filmmakers at Sundance 2009.

 

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Sundance Opening Day, Early Buzz

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For a glimpse of some of the buzzed about movies at this year’s Sundance, click below.

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Sundance goes to Abu Dhabi? Maybe, Redford says

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ABU DHABINow this is a cultural exchange. Sundance kid Robert Redford has said that his Sundance Film Festival is engaged in early talks to lend its name to a sister film festival in Abu Dhabi.

“It makes total sense we would extend our mission into the Middle East,” Redford told reporters at a news conference ahead of the festival’s opening on Thursday night. He said festival organizers have been approached by people — although he did not say whom — in the United Arab Emirates city about holding a festival there. “We are in discussions, but nothing has been signed,” he said.

Paul Newman’s death casts pall over Hollywood

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newman.jpgHistory may judge him as the greatest actor of his generation, which includes the likes of James Dean and Marlon Brando, but Paul Newman was more than just an actor. He was a gracious gentleman, family man and generous giver of his time and his money.

His death, at age 83 after a long battle with cancer, cast a pall over Hollywood and in his hometown of Westport, Connecticut on Saturday, and his friends, family and colleagues remembered him.

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