What's good at Sundance and what sells outside of Sundance are very different things. Buzz can lift a film up from nothing during the ten days of the festival and then hit the public dead on arrival. What gives? Does Sundance even matter? Is it actually bad for good films in the era of Twitter when hype builds too fast? Or is this just business as usual for the jumping ground of much indie cinema, the sort that the mainstream rarely goes for anyway?
I keep thinking about documentaries, because that's what I do and because out of the gate they were the kinds of films buzzing and selling at Sundance last week. There's Searching for Sugar Man, The Queen of Versailles, Me @ the Zoo and Indie Game: The Movie, the last of which may only be seen in spirit thanks to HBO once again talking of remaking a doc as a narrative series. The other three, as POV Blog points out are thanks to a certain superman of film sales, Josh Braun.
But how will they really fare in theaters? Another doc blog, DocGeeks, notes today, as I've disappointingly mentioned before, that many of last year's big buzz Sundance docs didn't gross well at the box office (for shame, you people who skipped Project Nim!). For an overall look at the many disappointment of Sundance 2011 favorites, see Anne Thompson's list from last week.
People are calling Beasts of the Southern Wild the big buzz film of this year's fest, but people are also already saying it will be a hard one to market. It's unlikely that it will also be one of the big hits to come out of Sundance, at least above a cult level. We'll see, I guess, but I wanted to find out what films non-Sundancers are hearing about and looking forward to so far based on the buzz. My polling doesn't reach the masses, to be certain, but the six titles (and some others) sampled below with exit buzz (including controversy) are those which my readers are now most anticipating. Do they represent large moviegoing audiences? Let's hope so.
Please add your own picks in the comments if we missed anything big.
What are people saying about the buzz films of Sundance 2012? Here's The Conversation heard around the Internet on six titles:
Beasts of the Southern Wild
1basil1: Standing ovation for premiere of BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD. Quvenzhané (Hushpuppy) is adorable, film wowed audience.
@FilmmakerMag: "Beasts of the Southern Wild" has set a high bar here at Sundance. Just incredible, a stunningly joyous and beautifully executed story of love and nature of responsibility.
@TwitchFilm: The first break out hit of Sundance. Nothing but raves for this magical tale of love from the Delta.
@jannajade: What an amazing way to start #Sundance with The Beasts of the Southern Wild.
@misterpatches: Wow. Beasts of the Southern Wild is energetic, vividly captured and emotionally satisfying. Definitely a Sundance awards contender.
@erickohn: What WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE should've been. Wanders at times, but overwhelming lyrical beauty wins out.
@devincf: Can't stop thinking about BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD. The movie makes this whole trip worthwhile.
@TheAtlanticENT: "Beasts of the Southern Wild" is a film you'll be hearing a lot about in the coming year
@vulture: It's been confirmed by us & everyone we've talked to: Beasts of the Southern Wild is so far the most magical film at Sundance
The First Time
@slashfilm: 'First Time' is the kind of movie I hope to see at Sundance each year. Fox Searchlight, please buy this movie now!!!!!!
@firstshowing: The First Time - THIS is the film I've been waiting to see. Charming, sweet, wonderful, perfect Sundance coming of age flick. Loved it!
@totalfilm: Feel-good film of the day goes to The First Time -a charming teen comedy w rat-a-tat dialogue & laughs aplenty
@djmecca: Not the last time you'll hear about The First Time. Just cute enough, funny enough and cliched enough to be sold and in theaters
@thompowers: First Time was a delight. But I want to see the collage of Anderson Cooper humping a panda
Safety Not Guaranteed
@1basil1: Thunderous applause greeted the ending of SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED
@jamesrocchi: Seriously: I've never heard cheers of Joy for a narrative at Sundance like I just did for SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED. A near-perfect film. Brilliant, beautiful, hilarious. Career-bests for Duplass, Plaza. Sundance 2012, the bar's set.
@slashfilm: I kinda loved 'Safety Not Guaranteed'. The most ridiculous yet awesome misfit time travel relationship story you'll ever see.
@firstshowing: Safety Not Guaranteed - Moves a little slow, but worth it for the ending, which was awesome. Cast is great from Plaza to Duplass to Johnson.
@besandler: Just saw Safety Not Guaranteed. Time machines, #StarWars jokes, Seattle... I am IN Love.
@MByrd: Whoa. The first major shouting match I've ever seen at Sundance. Compliance screening w/serious protestors.
@hammertonail: Almost fight breaking out at COMPLIANCE!
@GrahamReznick: Shouting match in audience. Zobel and cast/crew did a fantastic job with a horrifying subject.
For a Good Time Call
@dordotson: Ari Graynor was SOOOO good in For A Good Time Call... Which was hilarious and one of my favorites so far easily.
@Bobbi_Jean: If you get a chance to see "For a Good Time, Call", do it! Hilarious movie!
@deathtoprom: Loved it!! Yes, capital L....
@TheFilmStage: Completely transfixed by Simon Killer. Antonio Campos has expanded his scope & Brady Corbet is phenomenal.
@erickohn: SIMON KILLER will divide people, but what else to expect from Campos? Enjoyed this creepy noir, amounts to AN AMERICAN PSYCHO IN PARIS.
Conversation Twitter Poll: What Sundance 2012 Movies Are You Anticipating Based on the Buzz?
@jonsullivan_: First Time. The Can't Hardly Wait comparison sold me.
@tsunghansun: Safety Not Guaranteed
@joeymagidson: Safety Not Guaranteed and For a Good Time Call. Also For Ellen, just because...
@mousterpiece: Safety Not Guaranteed and Beasts of the Southern Wild. The latter, I know nothing about except the passion of its fans.
@dordotson: Beasts of the Southern Wild
@toro913: Beasts of the Southern Wild, Compliance and Simon Killer
@jrtrussell: I'm already jealous of everyone that's seen SIMON KILLER and BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD.
@jbdcampbell: The Queen of Versailles!
@joshbrunsting: You all can tell me that there are great films at Sundance. I don't care. I want to see one, and only one, at this point. Red Hook Summer
Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join The Conversation.