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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

Bring on the Sundance summarizing: 9 takes

“After the streets and the buses [were] free of the non-film skiers and LA lookeeloos and I saw 3 Backyards, Blue Valentine, and Winter’s Bone, I started to think about how essential Sundance still is to American Indie film,” Mike S. Ryan writes, arguing why Sundance still matters: “Where else would such stellar, uncommercial work be better presented to the public? If these films have any chance of securing a healthy life in your local mall, it is for sure due to their introduction via the national press that has really gathered to grab shots of stars in wacky fur hats. That is the dialectical reality of the Sundance condition.” The New York Times’ Brooks Barnes gets Robert Redford to repeat at the end of the festival some of what he said at the front of the festival: “This year I got very heavily involved again because we had to let some folks go,” Mr. Redford said. “It was the right thing to do. Geoff [Gilmore] was ready to go and we were also ready to move on. I felt the festival was flat-lining and not going in the direction I wanted.”… A spokeswoman for Mr. Gilmore, who now works for the company that runs the Tribeca Film Festival, said he was unavailable to comment.” Mike Jones has four take-aways. Eric Kohn offers reason to dub Sundance “Posey’s Waltz.”
Mira Advani Honeycutt blurbs the “lounges,” and “discretionary gifting”: “In between bites of organic mini cupcakes, guests could get a luxurious Clarisonic skin treatment from Dr. Rob Akridge.” First-timer Timothy M. Gray convinces himself a film festival in the mountains in January is a good idea. “First, because the scenery is stunning. Amazingly stunning. Second, It’s fun to see showbiz colleagues, trying to look their best, coping with freezing weather. (High heels + slush = guaranteed hilarity.) Third, the love of film is pervasive. Total strangers at restaurants exchange moviegoing tips. Nonpros come into town to see as many films as possible. The industry workers come to scout/encourage talent. And of course, to make deals. Art and commerce exist peacefully, with creativity to be found even in the pacts this year (sales to online and foreign companies, imaginative reach-outs to audiences, etc.). Without the distraction of gifting suites this year, it’s all movies all the time. Early in The Shining, Shelley Duvall’s loopy character enthuses, “It’ll be lots of fun.” Jack Nicholson smiles about the location, “I love it.” OK, it didn’t turn out too well for that family, but I came to see their point of view… I loved it.” At the Reporter, Kirk Honeycutt leans on his superior boredom and makes presumptuous analogies to old news in college football that would make no sense to the average reader. “At nearly every turn, [filmmakers] went for the expected. Brave new ideas were nowhere to be seen. What one did get were tired warhorses such as the coming-of-age movie… Qualitywise, these films ran the gamut from good to so-so, but nobody was smashing any molds.” At Variety, Todd McCarthy prescribes his own Sundance “revolution,” programming films that he wishes had been made.


“In his catalogue welcoming note, new festival director John Cooper calls out, “Let’s rebel,” in the same enthusiastic tone that, at a different time, he might have said, ‘Let’s party,'” McCarthy writes. “OK, fine. Every event needs an identity… something to stick in people’s minds. But if you’re confronted with a pithy phrase often enough, it’s bound to… meaninglessly wash over you or force you to think about what it really means. For example, I sympathize with the impulse toward accomplishment embodied in the famous Nike slogan, “Just Do It.” Just the same, I’ve always been bothered… that the phrase could as readily be adopted by a Lee Harvey Oswald or a Mark David Chapman as by a striving athlete…” McCarthy’s cynicism extends to a perception of content. “[G]iven the dogmatic leftism/tree-hugging/granola-chewing/global warming alarmism, et al., the festival has always embraced, the only real act of rebellion… would be to present a smart film that questioned any of these positions. I honestly cannot remember ever seeing what could remotely be described as a conservative documentary at Sundance. Granted, not many are made, and I would frankly be amazed if any would be accepted if submitted… [I] would love to see a genuinely critical examination of the many blunders and chicken-hearted actions of the United Nations; a documentary holding up for scrutiny the many wild prophecies of the esteemed Paul Ehrlich, whose doom-ridden predictions about population growth were the first words I heard out of any professor’s mouth as a university freshman, or a film that looked with unbiased clear eyes into the extent of Soviet communist infiltration and financing of American unions, academia, social organizations and other institutions from the 1930s onward. There are many potent unmade films.” And Shooting People has a gallery of Sundance posters past.

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“Ten years ago at Telluride, I said on a panel that theatrical distribution was dying. It seemed obvious to me. I was surprised how many in the audience violently objected: ‘People will always want to go to the movies!’ That’s true, but it’s also true that theatrical cinema as we once knew it has died. Theatrical cinema is now Event Cinema, just as theatrical plays and musical performances are Events. No one just goes to a movie. It’s a planned occasion. Four types of Event Cinema remain.
1. Spectacle (IMAX-style blockbusters)
2. Family (cartoon like features)
3. Horror (teen-driven), and
4. Film Club (formerly arthouse but now anything serious).

There are isolated pockets like black cinema, romcom, girl’s-night-out, seniors, teen gross-outs, but it’s primarily those four. Everything else is TV. Now I have to go back to episode five of ‘Looming Tower.'”
~ Paul Schrader

“Because of my relative candor on Twitter regarding why I quit my day job, my DMs have overflowed with similar stories from colleagues around the globe. These peeks behind the curtains of film festivals, venues, distributors and funding bodies weren’t pretty. Certain dismal patterns recurred (and resonated): Boards who don’t engage with or even understand their organization’s artistic mission and are insensitive to the diverse neighborhood in which their organization’s venue is located; incompetent founders and/or presidents who create only obstacles, never solutions; unduly empowered, Trumpian bean counters who chip away at the taste and experiences that make organizations’ cultural offerings special; expensive PR teams that don’t bring to the table a bare-minimum familiarity with the rich subcultural art form they’re half-heartedly peddling as “product”; nonprofit arts organizations for whom art now ranks as a distant-second goal behind profit.”
~ Eric Allen Hatch