It happens every year: films go to Sundance, play to packed crowds, win Jury prizes and/or score big deals ... and then essentially disappear. It happened in 2005, when Ira Sachs' Forty Shades of Blue took home the Dramatic Grand Jury prize, only to open nine months later on just three screens and eventually gross barely $75,000 in its 84 day release. It happened again last year, when The Darwin Awards and Right at Your Door landed multi-million dollar deals with major distributors, only to be shelved indefinitely. I guess if you're an acquisitions exec, it's easy to get carried away up there on the mountain, but sometimes the same picture that thrilled a packed crowd at the Racquet Club looks downright unmarketable back at the office in L.A. So, with the caveat that I have neither a crystal ball nor any sort of reliable inside information, here are my picks for five Sundance '07 films that will actually see a meaningful release sometime before Sundance '08.
1) The Ten (Cinematical review)
Stu Van Airsdale thinks Manohla Dargis was talking about this film in the NY Times, when she described a distributor who sat through a "bad comedy that features a clutch of low-level film and television actors" whilst fantasizing about "all those recognizable [actor] names once they are printed on a DVD box." I'm actually convinced Ms. Dargis was referencing Gregg Araki's Smiley Face, a stoner comedy starring Anna Faris and half the cast of That 70's Show, which was apparently so awful that even die-hard Araki fans couldn't sit through it. I think if Dargis had attended a public screening of The Ten -- or if she had even caught a glimpse of the hundreds of high school and college kids lining up for the wait list as long as eight hours in advance of the picture's second-to-last show -- she would have a hard time condemning a distributor for trying to cash in on it.
The movie, which was written and directed by David Wain of Wet Hot American Summer fame, consists of ten short segments, one representing each of the ten commandments, strung together by some filler involving Paul Rudd not being able to decide if he'd rather screw Jessica Alba, Famke Janssen or (this is not a typo) Dianne Wiest. It may be less engaging than a 90-minute stint watching old clips of The State on YouTube, but it's got huge college-campus potential, where boys and girls have been known to consume comedy without bothering to consult the second film critic for the New York Times to see if she approves. With savvy marketing, and maybe a few structural tweaks, this could be the sleeper comedy hit of the summer.