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What to look forward to from the Sundance Film Festival

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Culture & Entertainment

What to look forward to from the Sundance Film Festival

That annual showcase of independent moviemaking, the Sundance Film Festival, wrapped up in Colorado this past weekend, and the critical consensus seems to be that it was a good year. No one film dominated, as Fruitvale Station did last year and Beasts of the Southern Wild did the year before, which is a good thing—it pretty much guarantees that a wider array of movies get coverage. The biggest standouts, arguably, were three fiction features: WhiplashThis was the opening-night film, and the buzz remained loud right through to the end of the fest, when it won both the grand jury prize for best U.S. dramatic feature and the audience award. The 28-year-old writer-director, Damien Chazelle (whose only other film was the excellent but little-seen Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench), reportedly brings plenty of style and brio to this tale of a young drummer and his brutal, hard-driving music teacher. The star, 26-year-old Miles Teller ( The Spectacular Now), is drawing raves for his performance, as is J.K. Simmons ( Spider-Man, Juno) as the teacher. Both are being mentioned as likely Oscar nominees next year. Boyhood—A surprise last-minute addition to the fest, this highly unusual, risky effort by indie veteran Richard Linklater ( Dazed and Confused, Bernie, Before Midnight) appears to have paid off handsomely. It sounds initially like your standard coming-of-age movie—Ellar Coltrane plays the boy of the title, who watches his parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) divorce—until you hear how it was made. Linklater began filming 12 years ago, then filmed a bit more every year, allowing us to watch Coltrane grow from a 7-year-old to a budding young man. (We also get to see Hawke and Arquette age, which could be a little scary.) The film was voted best narrative feature by critics attending the fest. Love is Strange—This film may not have won any prizes, but it won unanimous acclaim. Made by the criminally neglected writer-director Ira Sachs ( Forty Shades of Blue, Keep the Lights On), it features Alfred Molina and John Lithgow as an aging couple who, in their 40 th year together, are finally able to get married. It sounds like a bit of a tear-jerker, though, in that the movie charts the subsequent dissolution of that marriage. Pretty much everyone agreed that Molina and Lithgow give career-high performances. Beyond those three, keep an eye out for these other well-reviewed Sundance titles: Life Itself, a documentary adaptation of the recently departed Roger Ebert’s autobiography; the college-set comedy Dear White People, which satirizes white attitudes toward black life; Listen Up Philip, about a self-involved novelist (Jason Schwartzman) who gets a much-needed wake-up call; and Frank, which stars Michael Fassbender as a musician who wears a giant fake head at all times. (Image: Whiplash )
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What to look forward to from the Sundance Film Festival

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