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by Nigel M Smith
February 5, 2010 11:55 AM
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indieWIRE This Week: Sundance, Oscars, SXSW & More

THIS WEEK IN FILM: Sundance wrapped up another run on Sunday, followed by a number of acquisition deals and bidding wars. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its annual list of Oscar nominees on Tuesday, while Wednesday saw South by Southwest unveiling its 2010 lineup.

OSCARS: Reporters in Los Angeles woke up at the crack of dawn to hear the nominees for this year's 82nd Academy Awards. Though there were few surprises in the bunch, it was nice to see Maggie Gyllenhaal make the cut for her work in "Crazy Heart." The decision to expand this year's Best Picture category to 10 films allowed for some uncommon additions ("District 9," "The Blind Side"), expanding the category to include more populist entertainment will likely bode well for the show's viewing numbers, as Peter Knegt explored in Box Office 2.0: Oscar by the Numbers.

SUNDANCE: In a telling Sundance wrap-up, indieWIRE contributor Eric Kohn looked back at the 10-day whirlwind, and spoke to the ongoing relevance of the festival, despite the "perseverance of mediocrity", for which he pointed the finger at Mark Ruffalo's directorial debut, "Sympathy for Delicious" (which still went on to win a Special Jury Prize). While it's early to guage, Peter Knegt made a formidable effort to pick out Oscar hopefuls from this year's lineup at the fest, with Lisa Cholodenko's "The Kids Are Alright" topping his list for the most likely nods. And if you didn't manage to make it out to Sundance this year, indieWIRE made things easy: Check out film descriptions and critic's grades for each film that screened in Sundance '10: Guides & Grades. Or to really want to feel a part of the action, visit Brian Brook's extensive photo diary of his time spent at the festival.

The Sundance Film Festival last week in Park City, UT. Photo by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE

SXSW: With Sundance wrapping up, attention is shifting to March's South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival. It was announced this week that 119 features will screen during the nine-day festival, kicking off with the word premiere of Matthew Vaughn's "Kick-Ass" which has been generating lots of buzz. The lineup is an impressive one, boasting new films from Steven Soderbergh ("And Everything Is Going Fine"), Michel Gondry ("The Thorn in the Heart"), Tim Blake Nelson ("Leaves of Grass") and an array of new movies by emerging filmmakers.

DEALS: On the acquisition front, a number of pacts were signed, post-Sundance. IFC nabbed both Anders Anderson and Andy Steinman's "Stolen," and the well-received documentary "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work". Roadside Attractions picked up Debra Granik's "Winter's Bone", winner of the Jury and Screenplay Awards at this year's Sundance; while Phase 4 Films acquired the North American rights to the Sundance NEXT entry, "The Freebie." And, late Friday, The Weinstein Company closed its deal for Amir Bar-Lev's "The Tillman Story", another popular doc from Sundance 2010.

For this week's roundup of stories on indieWIRE, check out the links below...

NEWS

“Tillman” Doc Coming to Theaters; Weinstein Makes Deal for Sundance Hit
“We don’t know how to treat heroes,” explained Amir Bar-Lev, during a Q & A about the film at Sundance last month. “We take their complexity and turn them into cartoon characters.”

Three Share Rotterdam Tigers Capping Fest Awards
The 39th annual International Film Festival Rotterdam announced the winners of its VPRO Tiger Awards competition this evening, with “Agua fría de mar” (“Cold Water of the Sea”) by Paz Fábrega (Costa Rica, France, Spain, Netherlands, Mexico), “Mundane History” (“Jao nok krajok”) by Anocha Suwichakornpong (Thailand), and “Alamar” (“To the Sea”) by Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio (Mexico) taking the top Tiger.

Eclectic Mix for the 10th Film Comment Selects Series
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, this year’s first Film Comment Selects series (February 19 - March 4) presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, will screen an eclectic mix of films that span from art-film rarities to George A. Romero’s latest zombie film.

IFC Films Nabs “Stolen” Mystery-Thriller
IFC Films will release the film via its IFC in Theaters platform with the feature appearing on VOD on March 3rd followed by a theatrical release at New York’s Clearview Chelsea in New York on March 12 and at the Sunset 5 in Los Angeles on March 19.

MoMA’s Doc Fortnight Brings “Remake” and “Mirror” to NYC
The Museum of Modern Art’s ninth annual international non-fiction film festival, featuring 20 features and 23 mid to short length docs, will run from February 17 through March 3, 2010.

Roadside Collects “CA$H” for U.S.
“‘CA$H’ is a great ride, and is timely as well,” said Roadside Attractions Co-President Howard Cohen in a statement. “It’s about an ordinary couple, faced with foreclosure on their house, who kind of go crazy trying to keep a bunch of money that could change their lives.”

Sony Classics Acquires “Winter In Wartime”
“‘Winter In Wartime,’ beautifully realized by director Martin Koolhoven, takes a fresh look at Dutch resistance from the perspective of a 13 year old child,” said Sony Pictures Classics in a statement. This film is the kind of emotionally engaging drama that has consistently achieved success with American audiences.”

27th Miami International Film Festival Unveils Its Lineup
This year marks Artistic Director Tiziani Finzi’s second year at MIFF. A 21-year film festival programming veteran, she has previously programmed the Locarno, Cannes and Venice festivals.


REVIEWS

Wiseman Series Filling a Year at MoMA
As the hour went on, Wiseman’s approach became more clear, though he was frequently at a loss when asked to describe his style. While consistently rejecting the documentary genre label of ‘direct cinema’ so often attributed to him, Wiseman answered one question about how he made certain scenes so effective by ending with, “Honestly, I don’t know.”

REVIEW | On the Butcher Block: Haim Tabakman’s “Eyes Wide Open”
Ultimately, “Eyes Wide Open” works better as a portrait of uncoiled passion than a boundary-breaking love story.

REVIEW | No Exit: Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani’s “Ajami”
For a film that offers various and shifting perspectives, “Ajami” does well by avoiding convenient or representational sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict, a strategy that emphasizes community and complex environments over superficial distinctions; religious, ethnic, and sociological differences are subtle — to the untrained eye they veer toward the inscrutable.

REVIEW | The Toxic Avenger: Josh Fox’s “GasLand”
Despite his facade as a cocky 37-year-old with hip wireframe glasses, Fox actually makes a trenchant reporter. The scenes of his visitations to various afflicted homes grows redundant, but this dense middle section ultimately functions as an intentional repetitive device to hammer home the magnitude of the problem.


FEATURES

Rotterdam Goes “Red White & Blue” with No Pretense
Any other festival would have pigeonholed “Red White & Blue” into a midnight section geared toward late-carousing young’uns, but here, in an arguably more egalitarian society than most, it is treated just like any other fine film, part of the Spectrum strand that includes arthouse fare, docs, and other genre movies.

Boulder Fest Rocks to 47 Films and Alec Baldwin
To cap the festival on a high note, BIFF’s Closing Night Awards Ceremony will feature a tribute to Alec Baldwin, where hey will be presented with the fest’s 2010 Award for Excellence in Acting.

Latest from Ozon, Honoré and Gondry Headed to Rendez-Vous
The series will present more than a dozen New York premieres including new films from Christophe Honoré, François Ozon, Michel Gondry and Christian Carion.

Banksy Doc Completes Berlinale Competition
British street artist Banksy’s “Exit Through the Gift Shop” - which recently topped indieWIRE’s Sundance critics poll - has been added to the Competition programme of the 60th Berlin International Film Festival.


INTERVIEWS

The Directors of “The Red Riding Trilogy” Chat With iW


CINEMADAILY

cinemadaily | Susan Sontag’s “Promised Lands”

cinemadaily | Sundance Midnight Thriller “Frozen” Chills Audiences This Weekend

cinemadaily | “Ajami,” MoMA, More

cinemadaily | Bigelow the Internet’s Oscar Pick?

cinemadaily | Rotterdam Roundup

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