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David Poland

By David Poland

SD7 – Humped Over

A Hounddog mini-review will hit the Sundance page of MCN shortly.
Quieter today. Hollywood checked out, for the most part, in the last two days.
But that also means more chances to get to the movies.
Let’s have a conversation about how many of you are turned on, turned off, or disinterested in the notion of a “Sundance film,” as so many – for so little money – are going to come to a theater and a DVD store near you in the next year.

25 Responses to “SD7 – Humped Over”

  1. Me says:

    I love getting Sundance movies throughout the year. I can’t tell you what a breath of fresh air LMS and the Illusionist were in the middle of the summer as everything the studios put in theaters was god-awful. And if it is a really good Sundance movie that shows up in the fall/winter to compete for Oscar, they’re usually big budget enough that I wouldn’t notice the difference. And it’s nice to be able to see some little gems on DVD that show up thanks to Netflix that may not have been good enough to pay theater prices for. It’ll be a shame if we don’t get at least a good 4-5 this next year.

  2. Me says:

    Then again, the dependents have gotten pretty good at creating good content that is similar to “Sundance movies,” that sometimes I can’t tell the difference there, either.

  3. jeffmcm says:

    I think I saw all of 4-5 movies this year that had been at Sundance a year ago, so I guess my vote is ‘disinterested’.

  4. anghus says:

    the post put up the Hounddog review. Easily the best quote:
    “The new film simply isn’t good enough to sustain any sort of outrage.”

  5. Szasa says:

    I know the gist of what “Sundance Film” means, but I still feel that these labels are useless to me. I really just care whether a film is worth my while or entertaining or illuminating or not. The problem with the label is that it can change the expectation and transform the experience.
    I think Little MIss Sunshine would have been an entertaining diversion in any year. It was an entertaining diversion. The Sundance label allowed it to become something else. Now it’s one of the most over-hyped films of recent memory with a lot of people responding to the hype over the actual work. (The BP nom label only makes that worse.)
    I can think of too many movies to name that I loved to varying degrees that came through Sundance and I can think of many I hated. I love festivals for their ability to uncover something new and worth my time – Behind the Mask being a good example from the past year- a film I would have missed without festivals.
    Bring ’em on. Bring ’em all on. I love seeing new and compelling films and, while you very often have to wade through a sea of nothing-specials at any festival- Sundance has more than proven its ability to uncover one or a few worthwhile titles a year.

  6. Wrecktum says:

    anghus, now that the reviews are out, what’s your new take on Hounddog? Although I know you were never outraged about the project, your interest has been very, very strong for months. Is it still newsworthy or has it jumped the shark?

  7. Blackcloud says:

    “Sundance film.” There’s a meaningless label for you. Sundance is so 1994. I couldn’t tell you how many Sundance films I’ve seen, though I’m sure I’ve seen a few. It simply doesn’t mean anything to me. Given the average level of box office success of Sundance films, that goes for the vast majority of the American movie going public.
    Given this year’s Oscar nominations, that’s probably true of the Oscars as well. Maybe a better question is, Which is more irrelevant to the American movie audience, Sundance or the Oscars?
    I’d much rather see a movie. I’m off to see “Curse of the Golden Flower.” Later.

  8. anghus says:

    wrecktum, i was hoping the film would be better than i was being told, and that the end product would justify all the sexual content. I never want to root against a film, so i was hoping the reviews would be kinder, and the opinions of people i know who have seen it have been quite unkind. According to them, it plays out just like the script read with the controversial sexual aspects being more shocking than educational, and all this stuff about ‘the film being an opportunity for healing’ is just a line to try and quiet the controversy. I think it’ll be newsworthy until the sale. I think the number is dropping by the hour. Every hour another mediocre review goes up, and all the hype and controversy is going to be buried beneath a deep layer of crummy press. I do think that it’s a few days of really strong press before it totally burns out. All the hype is frontloaded. By the time the film is released, it’ll be an afterthought.

  9. Wrecktum says:

    I agree.

  10. This post topic ties in nicely with my finishing of “Rebels on the Backlot.” “Independent FIlm” was clearly co-opted long, long ago…at least in the Sundance/ “big” indie container that we’re talking about here. Sundance is like….a really big name restraunt in L.A. or New York that everyone (simpletons, stars, hangers on, big time producers) know about and name drop, but the real cool and hip restraunt is some other place around town.
    All the hullaballoo surrounding Sundance isn’t all Sundances fault. They don’t take over the bars and restraunts around Park City and make them the “________ Lounge.” Individual companies PR departments do that. BUT…by programming stuff (like LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE)that really isn’t all that “Independent” makes these corporate vultures flock there. I mean…do you guys really think LMS wouldn’t have got picked up if not for Sundance? Steve Carel is in it for chrissake. If Sudnance and Redford really cared about it being a film festival and not a market, they’d grow a pair and program some solid, off the wall fare and blow off the stars and big names for a year or three. You simply can’t have it both ways.
    There’s just so many better film fests out there, like SXSW. Festivals that don’t need to book undeserving movies that have “stars!” in them just to draw a buzz. It’s all cyclical and Sundance isn’t what it was. Maybe it’ll come back but now, there’s just better opportuinities to see great films at great film festivals. As soon as Hollywood figures that out, you’ll hear about those fests too.

  11. anghus says:

    have you read Spike, Mike, Slackers and Dykes?

  12. I started reading it a few times and have trouble digging it. Which is weird, but true…
    “Rebels” is cool but a little too gossipy…I still like finding out things about Fincher and Jonze that I didn’t know…and PT Anderson.

  13. Lota says:

    ‘Sundance Film’
    liked these winners:
    Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995) is good but but Big Night was the best in the competition, then second best was Freeway.
    Ruby in Paradise (1993)
    Blood Simple. (1984) best Sundance winner ever. I love M. Emmet Walsh
    like other fest-fare better than Sundance.

  14. anghus says:

    Spike, Mike, Slackers, and Dykes is my favorite book on the subject of film. It makes me want to go to Sundance, but i promised myself i wouldn’t go until i had a reason to, i.e. a film of mine that was playing there.
    One day….

  15. I’m interested in the couple of Aussie features that have shown there, but that’s not because they’re Sundance titles. A lot of time we don’t even get the titles you guys do, so it’s really sorta a moot point for me.

  16. ployp says:

    A film is a film to me. Coming from a festival, even winning, makes no difference.

  17. The Carpetmuncher says:

    I love sxsw as much as the next guy, but its crazy to say its better than Sundance. The quality of films at sxsw is weak at best. The fact is that every film that premieres at south by does so only b/c they failed to get into Sundance or Berlin and have no chance at Cannes. There’s no comparrson b/w the 2 fesivals if you’re actuaually interested in the quality of the films…
    Snow Angels is another great film this year, from a major filmmaker getting better and better…

  18. anghus says:

    i read this morning on Fox News that Hounddog was being passed on by distributors, and that it may even come out of the festival without a sale.
    of course, it is Fox News, so who knows if that’s true, though they did mention First Look, IFC, and Weinstein Company by name.

  19. Stella's Boy says:

    That is great news Carpetmuncher. I am a huge, huge David Gordon Green fan.

  20. SXSW is better because…
    SXSW has films that are fresh and exciting and truly indie. Like last year I saw “LOL,” “The Cassidy Kids,” “Gretchen,” and “Jam.” All amazing, all indie.
    I also saw PREMIERES of SLITHER, A SCANNER DARKLY and PRARIE HOME COMPANION. From a “film festival” POV, that’s how movies that already have homes should be presented…as a premiere, not taking a 3 hour block from a real independent film.
    Not only that but SXSW still feels small, like a community. Journos like me from smaller outlets have equal access. Sundnace is all about “us” and “them.” Sure, there’s more prestige at Sundance, but who gives a shit. I just want to see some good movies. And drink beer and eat BBQ.

  21. James Leer says:

    There are plenty of insanely indie films at Sundance. It’s just that the big films get all the press. It IS irritating when people complain about the quality of films there when they cherry-picking films because, “Oh! This one stars John Cusack!”

  22. EDouglas says:

    “There are plenty of insanely indie films at Sundance. ”
    “Once” and “Great World of Sound” are two of the better ones…and though Son of Rambow was bought for a lot of money by a major, it was made independently (and took about five years to get off the ground). I’m really glad I went. I’ve spent past years waiting and waiting for all the movies I heard about at Sundance to show up here (movies like Little Miss Sunshine, Hustle and Flow, Me and You and Everyone We Know, etc) and it’s nice to get to see them early… makes me even more excited now to get to see them again once they get a theatrical release.

  23. James Leer says:

    I adored “Son of Rambow.” I know DP is skeptical of it because it’s his role as a contrarian (he has played the same role in nearly every big Sundance sale I can remember) but I really think it will at least make its money back, and it’s virtually a must-add to every collection of anyone who loves film. So much fun, I’d like to play it on a permanent loop.

  24. The Carpetmuncher says:

    Rambow was great but if Poland is questioning the seven million price tag I have to agree with him. Paramount is gonna have to spend a grip on p&a to get enough butts in the seats to justify the pick up cost… And as much as I loved the film, I just dont see the upside. It just seems like huge overreaching…

  25. The Carpetmuncher says:

    Rambow was great but if Poland is questioning the seven million price tag I have to agree with him. Paramount is gonna have to spend a grip on p&a to get enough butts in the seats to justify the pick up cost… And as much as I loved the film, I just dont see the upside. It just seems like huge overreaching…

The Hot Blog

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin