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"Star-less" Sundance: How long does that last?

Dueling headlines on today's New York Times' movie pages: "Conspicuously Sparse in Sundance Competition Lineup: Movie Stars," next to: "Hope for Small Films During Oscar Hoopla."

The Sundance article frankly set out to find some theme, any theme, in a diverse slate composed almost entirely of little-known and unknown talents. The theme, naturally enough, turned out to be the absence of big names.

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But if Sundance continues to be the most potent launch pad for American independent movies, how long will these competitors remain unknown?

If you get past the pictures of Natalie Portman and Annette Bening on the Oscar hopeful story, and the coverage of parties for Portman's "The Black Swan" and Bening's "The Kids Are All Right" (that's Portman, right, at her film's New York premiere), you discover that the big winner at the Gotham Independent Film Awards was the star-less "Winter's Bone."

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Last year, "Winter's Bone" just happened to win the grand jury prize and best screenplay award at Sundance.

And now the terrific lead performer in "Winter's Bone," Jennifer Lawrence, is acting in movies like the new "X-Men."

Despite the decade-long chic for independent films, Sundance is best known not for showcasing marquee names, but for turning unknowns into stars.

Photo by Evan Agostini

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