Richard Linklater to Hit the Appalachian Trail With Robert Redford and Nick Nolte

Sundance darling Richard Linklater is having a busy year already with his upcoming Before Midnight hitting theaters in May. Linklater has always been the kind of director who keeps a busy schedule, so it’s no surprise that he’s already linked to helm another film, this time featuring film legends Robert Redford and Nick Nolte in an adaptation of Bill Bryson’s travel memoir, A Walk in the Woods, Following two old friends who make a plan to walk the Appalachian Trail, the film will blend a bit of Linklater’s tried and true walking-and-talking style, this time setting the scene in the American wilderness rather than luxe European cities. It’ll be kind of like Into the WIld, but much funnier and with a much happier ending.

[via LA Times]

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter.

Courtney Love Covers Jay-Z’s “99 Problems”

I’m betting that in the nine years since Jay-Z released "99 Problems," the number of his actual problems has dwindled. Courtney Love, on the other hand, has a whole mess of ’em. So, naturally, she performed an acoustic cover of Jay-Z’s hit over the weekend at Sundance. Sure, acoustic hip-hop covers are pretty lame and usually performed by pop-punk bands of supposedly clever twerps (or Jonathan Coulton), but Love’s version here is pretty tight. Plus, it’s always a treat to see her when she’s holding her own on a stage and reminding us how much of a bad ass she is. 

[Via The Awl. Photo credit: / WENN]

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter

Get a First Look at the Sundance Award-Winning ‘Fruitvale’ With Two Clips

Winning both the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival Closing Awards, Ryan Cooper’s Fruitvale has had a serious effect on viewers and proved a career-launching first feature from writer and director Ryan Coogler. Based on real-life muder of Oscar Grant, the film follows the 22-year old Bay Area resident who crosses paths with friends, family, enemies, and strangers on the last day of 2008. The stunning debut "that’s the sort of material you might more readily except in be covered in a documentary" stars Chad Michael Murray, Octavia Spencer, Michael B. Jordan, and Kevin Durand—produced by Forrest Whitaker.

Last week, The Weinstein Company acquired distribution rights to the much-lauded film, and thus far, critics have been claiming:

Coogler stages the chaos with a breath-shortening combination of frenzy and ambiguity, with the latter providing enough legal wiggle room for the cop to eventually get off with a light sentence, furthering the sense of injustice. It’s an awful tale, fraught with political, social and moral weight symbolic of numerous contemporary ills, and one with an unshown ugly aftermath of violent protests that further sullied Oakland’s reputation. As Oscar, Jordan at moments gives off vibes of a very young Denzel Washington in the way he combines gentleness and toughness; he effortlessly draws the viewer in toward him. Diaz is vibrant as his patient and loyal girlfriend, while Spencer brings her gravitas to the proceeding. (The Hollywood Reporter)

Ryan Coogler’s confident debut feature, "Fruitvale," gets significant mileage from Michael B. Jordan’s star turn. Yet even if every word of Coogler’s account of the last day in Grant’s life held up under close scrutiny, the film would still ring false in its relentlessly positive portrayal of its subject. Best viewed as an ode to victim’s rights, "Fruitvale" forgoes nuanced drama for heart-tugging, head-shaking and rabble-rousing. (Variety)

Check out a first look from the film, with two clips featuring Spencer and Jordan, courtesy of Democracy Now.  The video also includes an interview with Coogler and others as well proceeding the film segment.

Director Chad Hartigan Talks the Small Moments of His Sundance Film ‘This Is Martin Bonner’

Out of the always huge, dizzying crop of Sundance films this year, Chad Hartigan’s second feature This is Martin Bonner is a terrific, sturdy, little film—the kind and type that used to make independent film completely compelling.  What’s even better, This Is Martin Bonner nabbed the coveted NEXT Audience Award this weekend at the Sundance Closing Award Ceremony. The quietly stunning film, set in the bleak, urban sprawl of Reno, Nevada—its mountains slumping high in the background suggesting greater things—is where we meet a kindly, older Australian man: Martin Bonner, (a truly terrific, 60-something ‘newcomer,’ Paul Eenhorn) who has just relocated to Reno for a new job at a non-profit. Martin helps men who have freshly come out of prison.

A likeable and truly sweet-natured and calm soul, Martin fills his days—when not working on the phone with his daughter who lives out-of-state, coaching a girl’s soccer team—worrying about his successful artist son whom he appears to be estranged from, and knocking around local flea markets looking for eBay finds. Basically, he is generally feeling quite lonely in his new surroundings, trying keenly not to show it. He meets Travis, (Richmond Arquette) a man who is creased over with disappointment and recently out of jail. Although he is not Travis’s assigned mentor, the two strike up a strangely unique friendship, occasionally meeting for coffee, somehow fully connecting with each other between the lines of their often stilted conversations. When Travis tells Martin that he is having lunch his daughter whom he hasn’t seen in twelve years, Martin finds himself involved in a much different way than he initially imagined.

These tiny moments throughout the film reveal both the characters deep loneliness, as well as their struggling will to overcome them. One gets the sense that they are both, in their own way, trying to achieve much more goodness in their lives. This is what  really gives his small film such a lovely and powerful resonance. Imagine the last time you were making up a story in your head about the people dining a few tables away from yours at a restaurant. The film is one of these mental pictures come  to life. Hartigan is wonderful at conveying the vivid, simple humanity in all of us, and especially, those desperate moments of true vulnerability.

Hartigan’s first film, Luke and Brie are on a First Date, also has some great, sweetly potent and revealing  moments, although it’s set in the hipster California enclave of Silverlake. (It’s also well-worth seeing on Netflix. I promise.) I had the chance to discuss him how he made the tiny marvel This Is Martin Bonner.

First of all, congratulations on your NEXT Audience Award at Sundancee. Can you tell us what your first Sundance experience was like?
Thank you! Yes,Sundance has been an amazing, transformative eleven days. I’m going to the airport now, and don’t even want to leave. I mean, how do you go back to everyday life after this? The films, filmmakers and audiences were all so inspiring, and the dialogue that our film struck up with its viewers was a wonderful, beautiful surprise. I made the film thinking it would have a limited audience, given that it was a slow-paced, character study about older men with religious undertones, but people of all ages and backgrounds seemed to just respond to the optimism and positivity of the characters. I couldn’t be prouder of all the actors and crew that helped us get to Sundance, and leave with (The NEXT Audience) award. It’struly unbelievable.

What was the genesis of your first film, Luke On Brie Are On a First Date?
That was based on a real first date I had that always went over really well when I would verbally tell the story to people…So, I started to wonder if it could be translated to film. I had just moved back to LA from New York, where I was living on Aaron Katz’s couch while he was shooting Quiet City, and I was really inspired by what he was doing so I knew I wanted to make a film but had very limited resources so that’s how it came about. I decided to do it in January, and was shooting it in June so it was a very fast process.

This Is Martin Bonner is a departure in scope from your first film, but not in tone. It is such a delicate, beautifully rendered character study. Have you always been drawn to explore life cinematically in this way?
Not always. When I was a teenager, I already knew I wanted to make movies but I wanted to make Jurrasic Park and Independence Day. At some point during film school, my taste changed dramatically and I realized the potential of the art form to really capture subtle, everyday beauty in people. Seeing films like All the Real Girls and You Can Count on Me really sparked something inside of me and it wasn’t just movies either- it’s around the same time I stopped listening to Sugar Ray and started listening to Donovan. College was completely transformative for me. That’s not to say that there isn’t value in making an entertainment that is beloved my generations across the world, but what really interests me right now are characters or circumstances that aren’t represented in any other movies that I can think of.

Tell me about the experience of finding and casting Paul Eenhorn as Martin, as well as Richmond Arquette’s participation as Travis, and what each one brought specifically to the production?
I wrote the Travis part for Richmond. I had met him while working on a promo tour of his brother David’s movie, The Tripper and I thought he was a really fun, interesting person. I wound up renting a room in his house for a while right around the time I was writing so he was part of the fabric of the film from the beginning for me and his performance is exactly how I imagined it would be. Even though he’s nothing like that person in real life, I knew he was talented enough to bring that character to life in the right way. For Martin, we held open auditions in LA and Paul was one of the people who came in to read. He was really natural and warm and so I called him to ask if he’d come back and read again, with Richmond this time. He said he’d love to but he lived in Seattle! Apparently he had read the breakdown for the part online and flown himself down for the audition based on a hunch that it could be something special. I was blown away by that and actually thought that him getting the part was a sweet justification of that feeling he had, but now seeing him blow up with all this Sundance press and buzz is even more rewarding and unbelievable.

This project is such a soulful, heartfelt film. How long did it take from idea to finish? I know you really made this film the hard way; can you tell us about what challenges you were able to overcome?
I wrote the movie in 2009. It took probably nine or ten months to bang out the first draft and then I sent it to all of my filmmaker friends that I trust for feedback. I met Cherie at SXSW in 2010 and showed it to her and she came on board to produce. Then we spent about a year and a half trying to figure out how to raise $250,000 to make it. Needless to say, that proved difficult and finally I was just so sick of waiting and not doing anything that I quit my day job and moved to Reno where I would have literally nothing to do but figure out how to get the movie made. That decision and mentally switching from trying to raise a hypothetical $250,000 to just figuring out how to pay for things as they came up were the foundation for getting it done. From there it was surprisingly easy. Aside from having to recast some supporting parts last minute, production went suspiciously smooth.

Would you recommend film school for the aspiring, young director or actually, what would you recommend?
It’s hard to say. My film school experience was invaluable, but that had more to do with the lessons I learned making terrible films, and working with my fellow students than it was from the faculty or the curriculum. So I would only ever recommend film schools that let you make movies from day one. I shot shorts on 16mm, VHS, Mini-DV, everything, and having that safe place to try and fail was wonderful. It also connected me with a group of people that I still collaborate with today and those are my most cherished relationships. But if you can find a group of like-minded collaborators and make your own movies all day long without going $60,000 in debt, that’s probably a better option!Description: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/images/cleardot.gif

‘Fruitvale’ Takes Sundance Grand Jury Prize

Fruitvale, a drama based on a 2009 shooting in Oakland, California, took home the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival last night. 

Produced by Forest Whitaker, Fruitvale is written and directed by newcomer Ryan Coogler and follows 22-year-old Oscar Grant’s last day alive before he is shot and kileld by BART transit police, becoming a poster child for racial tensions in Oakland. The film, which was developed in the Sundance Institute’s Filmmakers Labs program, stars Michael B. Jordan from Friday Night Lights, Chad Michael Murray from One Tree Hill, and Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer.

Entertainment Weekly reports it’s the first flick to win both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic Film since Precious in 2009.  Harvey Weinstein had picked up the film for distribution earlier in the week. 

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.

Watch Drake Doremus Discuss His New Drama ‘Breathe In’

Drake Doremus made his directorial debut in 2006 with Moonpie but it was last year that he emotionally ravaged our hearts with the strained relationship drama, Like Crazy. Premiering at Sundance last year, the film starring Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones won Doremus the Grand Jury Prize for Best Dramatic Film, in addition to making us fall in love with the exquistely beautiful sounds of composer, Dustin O’Halloran—whose score gave the film an added layer of potency and heartbreak. I, myself, have spent many an hour weeping over my own romantic yearnings to his melancholic opuses.

And with his latest film, Breathe In, Doremus takes the themes and emotions he wove together in Like Crazy, and seems to have a deep affinty for, even further. Starring Jones once again with a cast of Guy Pearce, Amy Ryan, and Mackenzie Davis, the film centers on a foreign exchange student who arrives in a small town in upstate New York and "unexpectedly challenges the dynamics of her host family’s relationships. As illicit romance blooms, she alters their lives forever." Variety reported that Breathe In, "focuses more on states of mind, using Dustin O’Halloran’s rich piano score to amplify the collective agitation, while capturing from each character’s perspective how one can occasionally feel like an outsider even while clearly part of something." According to IndieWire, who spoke with Doremus at Sundance this week after the premiere, "one of the big impetus’ in making the picture for the filmmaker was working with Jones again, but also composer Dustin O’Halloran who is a major emotional component." From the reviews thus far, Breathe In looks to show a tremendous amount of growth and maturity from the young director and AFI alum whose film has struck an chord with critics and makes me already excited for whatever emotional distress this will leave me in.

Check out the full IndieWire interview with Doremus and have a put your head down on your desk and enjoy the sounds of O’Halloran’s Like Crazy score.

Michael Winterbottom Redeemed At Sundance

Two years ago, English auteur Michael Winterbottom debuted The Killer Inside Me, a nihilist noir adaptation of Jim Thompson’s hard-boiled crime classic, to great outcry at Sundance Film Festival. It was deemed too hyperbolically violent, too in enthralled by its own sadistic lead (played by a dead-eyed Casey Affleck) for any refined moviegoer to tolerate. Well guess what, everyone who thought that: Winterbottom just sold a new film about pornography.

The Look of Love, which stars continued Winterbottom muse Steve Coogan, who also co-anchored the director’s The Trip andTristram Shandy, screened on Saturday evening and became the first drama acquired at the festival this year. IFC is the lucky studio that snapped up the surely entertaining flick, which itself concerns the rise and fall (and rise?) of smut impresario Paul Raymond.

But we should expect anything apart from the paint-by-numbers biopic. The last time Coogan starred in a Winterbottom film about a legendary pop culture icon (Factory Records founder Tony Wilson), he broke the life examined into a colorful postmodern shrapnel that kept the viewer ever off-balance and dreading the final credits. If ordinary critics are already panning itThe Look of Love is bound to be just as delightfully twisted.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter

Robert Redford Addresses Guns In Film At Sundance

Robert Redford briefly touched on guns in Hollywood as he opened the 2013 Sundance Film Festival on Thursday, pondering whether the entertainment industry is overreliant on gun violence.

“I think it’s appropriate and overdue to have this dialogue,” Redford said told the opening night crowd, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “I have a question, though. I was driving in L.A. recently, and I saw two billboards that featured guns prominently. It made me wonder, ‘Does my business think guns will help sell tickets?’ It’s worth asking that question.”

Festival director John Cooper added that Sundance 2013 is screening a film that touches on gun violence directly. Valentine Road is a documentary by Marta Cunningham about the 2008 murder of eighth-grader Lawrence (Larry) King, 14, by a classmate Brandon McInerney, 15, during their English class in Oxnard, California. The film explores the lives of both boys — Larry, an effemenite, possibly gay kid, and Brandon, who thought Larry had a crush on him. 

Cooper added that Valentine Road was selected for Sundance prior to the December 14 massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. He continued, “Newtown and the gun-control dialogue going on will change what the documentary means to people at the festival. But for us, a truth is a truth, and it’s about allowing our filmmakers to tell a deeper story.”

You can watch Redford and other festival organizers at the opening of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival below:

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.

Check Out Eight New Sundance Short Films Online

Today marks the kick off for the annual hearding of cinema’s elite—the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. This coming week will usher in an incredible amount of new and inspiring work from across the globe, hopefully, to be picked up by distributors and infultrated into theaters around the country and abroad. This week, we expressed which upcoming Sundance films we’re most excited for—from Richard Linklater’s third installement in his decade-spanning separated love series with Before Midnight to Shane Carruth’s long-awaited bewildering sophomore feature, Upstream Color. But it’s not only the feature length debuts that will be receiving praise and recognition—the short films this year are certainly not to be missed.

Earlier in the month, we shared six of the short films that will be premiering at Sundance, now made available to watch online. But as of today, you can view a selection of eight more shorts, a treat for those of us not attening the festival. Ranging from 9-minute films by acclaimed writers like Guillermo Arriaga (featuring cinematography from frequent Steven Spielberg collaborator Janusz Kaminski) to unconventional and noteworthy debuts, check out what’s on this year’s lineup and try not to feel too depressed that you’re not packing your bags and heading out west.

The Apocalypse (Andrew Zuchero)
Four uninspired friends try to come up with a terrific idea for how to spend their Saturday afternoon.

Black Metal (Kat Candler)
After a career spent mining his music from the shadows, one fan creates a chain reaction for the lead singer of a black metal band.

Broken Night (Guillermo Arriaga)
A young woman and her four-year-old daughter drive across desolated hills. Everything looks fine and they seem to enjoy the ride, until an accident sends them into the nightmare of darkness.

Marcel, King of Tervuren (Tom Schroeder)
Greek tragedy enacted by Belgian roosters.

Movies Made From Home #6 (Robert Machoian)
Debbie is good at playing hide and seek—so good she is often hard to find.

What Do We Have In Our Pockets? (Goran Dukic)
A most unusual love story unravels when the objects in a young man’s pockets come to life.

When the Zombies Come (Jon Hurst)
At a hardware store in the middle of no where fans of the walking dead have turned their love of zombies into an obsession which has warped the way they see the store and costumers.

Follow Hillary Weston on Twitter