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Wonder

You’ll shed a tear or two—especially if you’re a parent—and they’ll be totally earned.

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Mudbound

The film invites us to observe its characters, to hear their inner voices, to see what they see and to challenge our own preconceived notions…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Enterprising kid gets a break at Sundance

PARK CITY, Utah -- The kid made a deal!

Well, maybe. Faithful readers will recall the persistent Stuart Acher, a 22-year-old Boston film school graduate, who on the opening night of the Sundance Film Festival accosted me with a video, which he freed from the depths of his goosedown vest and pressed upon me with the assurance that he would soon be a great director.

I told him I was not at Sundance to view videos by directors of the future, however great. But a few days later, in the coffee shop of the Yarrow Inn, a voice in my ear advised, "All you have to do is turn around. My movie is on the TV set."

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So it was. Acher had persuaded the manager to switch off ESPN and fill the 60-inch screen with his tape, titled "Bobby Loves Mangos." I watched it. What else could I do? I liked it. Maybe he'll make a successful pitch, I mused, and history will be made. After all, even Scorsese was once a kid trying to get his scripts read.

Four days passed. I was back in the Yarrow for a screening. Here came the kid, dialing down the volume on his headset.

"I made a contact!" he said.

"Someone's producing your film?" I asked.

"Not exactly," he said. "But I showed it to a Universal executive, and he says if I come to L.A., he'll introduce me to people. He thinks it could be developed into a viable project!"

"How did he happen to see the video?" I asked.

"I overheard him on his way into a press screening and found out who he was," Acher said. "Then, when I saw him in the coffee shop, I threw the video back onto the TV, and showed him a printout of your article."

His quarry was Ted Perkins, director of international distribution for Universal. I contacted Perkins, who informed me he did indeed believe Acher "could develop a viable feature concept if he broadened the scope of the drama and upped the stakes."

He has already made some suggestions along those lines, Perkins said, adding: "I promised that if he ever comes to L.A., I will recommend him to every agent and manager I know. No doubt his career will take off from there. I hope he gives me a first look on the resulting films!"

The Sundance festival is crawling with kids who have a video in their parka and a script in their jeans. They're all trying to get someone to pay attention. It takes a certain relentlessness.

Perkins added: "Stuart represents the quintessence of what makes the indie sector tick - a drive by creative young people to get noticed, get produced, get taken seriously at all costs. This whole business is built on perseverance. Stuart's got it in spades. His shoestring-budget film is a both a revelation and a warning to Hollywood: Creativity doesn't particularly need to cost a lot of money."

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Will Acher make a deal? Will he make the movie? There's more.

"Wanna see another great short?" he asked me.

"You have another one?"

"No, but my friend Kirsten Holly Smith does." He produced a blond from behind a billboard that said, TURN OFF CELL PHONES BEFORE SCREENINGS.

"Hi," Kirsten said. "I star in this movie. It's called 'Isle of Lesbos,' and it's a musical."

"You directed it yourself?"

"No, it was directed by Jeff B. Harmon. He's, like, Bozo's son?"

"She's gonna be a great actress someday," Acher assured me.

"When you get your deal at Universal, will you cast her in 'Bobby Loves Mangos'?" I asked.

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

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