The Spotlight Shines on Park City, and it’s not even a Winter Olympic Year

For most, the best look into the Sundance Film Festival came via an episode of Entourage, which I guess leaves us with the impression that Park City is a place for crossing swords, pissing off Harvey Weinstein, and directors casting actors based on 10 minutes of a movie. Now I can really speak to the veracity of that all, but if I had to guess, I wouldn’t put it past two actors to cross swords this weekend, and in the bidding war that will be the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, Harvey Weinstein will surely be upset.

Last year’s Sundance memorably featured “Away From Her”, “Blake Snake Moan”, “Grace is Gone”, “Once”, “The Savages”, “Starting Out in the Evening”, “Waitress”, and a host of good documentaries. Julie Christie is an Oscar favorite for her Sundance performance, and the likes of John Cusack, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney, Frank Langella and Keri Russell all showcased Oscar-worthy performances. The important thing to remember, though, is that the best of the Sundance movies will be bought by production studios and held off until December. As next year’s Oscar season promises to be tame due to the writers strike, finished products like Sundance selections will be made more prominent.

I have not seen previews for very many movies that will be in Park City the next week, but the word from Variety is that over 100 films may be purchased by production studios during the week. The first film shown last night, Marin McDonagh and Colin Farrell’s “In Bruges”, was already a Focus Features purchase. The aforementioned Weinstein bought Morgan Spurlock’s (“Supersize Me”) newest documentary, “Where In the World is Osama Bin Laden?” after watching just a few minutes.

Many of us have seen previews for “Funny Games”, a remake of a 1997 movie that stars Naomi Watts, Tim Roth and Michael Pitt. The movie has an awful trailer, and as much as I like watts, I don’t expect much from the movie. My favorite preview so far comes from this clip seen over at Variety’s Sundance blog, called “Downloading Nancy.” It’s a powerful clip (and NSFW), and after seeing just those two minutes, I think Maria Bello becomes the favorite for next year’s Oscar.

If nothing else, Sundance should also feature a lot of copycating from the last two movies that left Sundance on top of the world: “Once” and “Little Miss Sunshine”. The Wall Street Journal already had a story on the prominence of music and family stories at Sundance this season, but we can only hope they separate themselves from the two unique films.

Last year, the Toronto Film Festival outdid Sundance with a host of movies that will win on Oscar night. This year, Robert Redford promised Sundance will feature the next in moviemaking. We can only hope the future isn’t a regurgitation of the past.

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