Philip Seymour Hoffman animated film to open Sundance

Philip Seymour Hoffman
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Despite recent controversies, preparations for the Sundance Film Festival are in full swing, prompting the announcement of the annual event's Jan. 15 opening night film: the Aussie animated import Mary and Max, featuring the voices of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette and Eric Bana. The selection is a major coup for the film, considering the attention lavished on recent opening night films, like this year's rather slept-on tragicomedy In Bruges.

Mary and Max is that rare animal in the animated world known as claymation. The lyrical story, about an obese fortysomething New Yorker befriending an 8-year-old girl from Melbourne through pen-pal letters, is based in part on a real-life experience from writer/director Adam Elliot. The Australian filmmaker apparently had a pen-pal relationship that lasted over 20 years. Mary and Max marks Elliot's return to the Park City festival, where his 22-minute short Harvie Krumpet debuted in 2004 before going on to win the Oscar for best animated short. (Watch it in full below.) 

Hoffman and Collette are headed for a busy couple of months. Workaholics both, Hoffman can be currently seen in Charlie Kaufman's ambitiously intricate directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York, perhaps the most wildly debated love-it-or-hate-it film in recent memory. (For instance, the film inspired unconventional, exquisitely written reviews from critics Manohla Dargis and Roger Ebert, and full-blown pans from Anthony Lane and Owen Gleiberman.) Elsewhere, Hoffman's drama Doubt, co-starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, will hit theaters in December and could possibly land him his third Oscar nomination.

Meanwhile, Collette's TV series with Steven Spielberg and Diablo Cody, The United States of Tara, debuts Jan. 18 on Showtime. Let's hope the role finally gives the terribly underrated actress the attention and acclaim she rightfully deserves. Bana, finally, has a couple of blockbusters on deck for next summer: J.J. Abram's Star Trek update and Judd Apatow's Funny People.

Watch Adam Elliot's 2004 Oscar-winning short, Harvie Krumpet:

Related links:
News: California's Prop 8 protests may affect Sundance Film Festival
Festivus: Sundace 2008 winners
Festivus: Sundance 2008 final scorecard

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