It's hard to tell what, if it gets a big response at Sundance, will actually translate to mainstream audiences (and, hopefully, Oscar gold). For every crossover sensation, like "Little Miss Sunshine," there are a dozen examples, like "Happy, Texas," of films that were rapturously received at the festival but left audiences befuddled. (Just look at "Fruitvale Station," which won the big prize last year but only did OK box office last summer and failed to secure any major Oscar nominations.) Well, the winners for this year's festival have been announced. It remains to be seen how well they'll do, out in the wild.
Daniel McFadden / Sundance Institute
The big winner was "Whiplash," writer-director Damien Chazelle's drama that stars Miles Teller as a jazz drummer and J.K. Simmons as his hard-ass instructor. The film won both the grand jury prize and the audience award. As Variety points out, it's the second year in a row that the two top prizes have gone to the same film. The movie, produced by Blumhouse and recently acquired for distribution by Sony Classics, seems to have that winning, heartwarming alchemy inherently necessary for a breakout success. And we cannot wait to see it.
On the documentary side of things, the grand jury prize went to "Rich Hill," a documentary about three underprivileged boys living in Missouri, directed by cousins Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo. The audience award for docs went to "Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory," about how Alzheimer's patients are being treated through music (we're crying already, thanks guys).
World Cinema grand jury prizes went to "To Kill a Man," a Chilean revenge thriller by Alejandro Fernandez Almendras, and "Return to Horns," a documentary about the lasting effects of the civil war in Syria. Audiences awarded "Difret," a narrative about the oppressed girls and women in Ethiopia (sounds truly uplifting) and "The Green Prince," a documentary about an Israeli secret service informant that is, at the very least, going to be ten times more exciting than "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit."