By Other Voices voices@moviecitynews.com

‘Dancing With The Wildman

Sundance – Day 1

I drive to Sundance. From L.A. It’s an eleven hour drive that I have become very accustomed to and even when it takes me through crazy rain and snow (and that was just between L.A. and Las Vegas) or the dreaded black ice threatens to send me careening into a snow bank somewhere outside of Provo, it is more than worth it. And not just because that way I can bring my snowboarding gear. Because – for me – the films are worth it. I’m not saying they are all brilliant cinematic masterpieces. Of course not. And you could argue that they all aren’t even good – eye of the beholder and all that.

But as I watched the first two films before I even began the trip, I couldn’t wait to get here and get started. Couldn’t wait to jump right in and start the movie marathons – squeezing every screening I possibly could out of each day. See, my expectations of what studios are delivering to us have been so lowered that more and more, even the previews strike me as unintentional parodies from the old Ben Stiller Show. The trailer for Robin Hood which might as well include a voiceover along the lines of “It’s just like Gladiator – but with bows and arrows!” or “He steals from the rich and gives to the poor! AND KICKS ASS!” Or the newTom Cruise movie, where Tom is desperately trying to convince us that Cruise is still “the guy” – to the point where he literally declares to Cameron Diaz (but seriously, he’s talking directly to us, imploring) “I’m the guy! Remember? Not the Oprah couch jumpin’, psychiatry hatin’, Matt Lauer beratin’ guy! Not that one. I’m the spy dangling from a bungee cord, shootin’ two guys in two different directions at the same time and still charmin’ the ladies guy! I’m THAT guy!”

No you’re not. Not anymore.

So, yeah… Sundance, I need you. We need you.

However, I am also well aware that I and others that feel like I do to one degree or another can become so enraptured with this experience and so wrapped up in these films that we can attribute greatness to them and heap the praise in larger and larger piles of gush (and gush can be hell to clean up) to the point where the hype has far outdistanced the reality of the film’s accomplishments and set up ridiculous expectations for its post Sundance life.

So, I’m going to try something a little different here. With every review, I’m going to include a Sundance Fever rating and a Multiplex rating. The idea being that beyond the simple review of the film, I’m going to offer an assessment of how I think it plays to the Sundance crowd versus what I think its prospects will be to reach the hallowed ground of the Multiplex so it can enjoy some hearty mass consumption.

So let’s get started.

THE SHOCK DOCTRINE
The new documentary from Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross is based on Naomi Klein’s bestselling book of the same name. And the film basically goes back and forth between Naomi herself laying out her case (through speeches and interviews) and using file footage, etc. to illustrate her points of how free market policies (in general) and Milton Friedman (specifically) have done their best to send the entire world to hell in a broken down hand basket.

Basically, The Shock Doctrine, as Klein sees it, is the systematic and dedicated effort to dominate the world through its economies through the exploitation of disaster-shocked people and their countries.

I know what you’re thinking. And yes, it will royally piss off everyone at FOX News. Well, everyone there that chooses to watch this to get some insight into his or her world, as opposed to uhmmm…SHREK in 3-D.

Anyway, depending on what color you call your state, you may be shocked, SHOCKED, I TELL YOU! To find out that Nixon helped overthrow Chile because AT&T was going to take a header on their investment thanks to a new socialist regime. And everyone else may yawn as they hear about the shenanigans of Reagan and Thatcher and others leading up to and through Afghanistan and Iraq.

Make no mistake; this is a straight-down-the-line view of the past and present. It makes a definitive, compelling argument, and it connects all the dots for you. And, as is often the case with a film like this, there is no room for dissent onscreen. Which always disappoints me. While Winterbottom and Whitecross don’t tip the scales to the extent a Michael Moore does, they also don’t have any talking heads extolling the virtues of Friedman and the Chicago economics boys that were responsible (in their view) for bad times after bad times. So you will likely see it as the real unvarnished truth as you look over you’re struggling to recover 401K or you’ll pass it off as revisionist ravings as you escort you’re dressed to the nines significant other to the latest exclusive society shindig.

SUNDANCE FEVER: Everyone here have to be all over this thing politically. Some mild critical carping over no “fair and balanced”.

MULTIPLEX PROSPECTS: Don’t think so. Smells like PBS fare – where it can be appreciated.

HOMEWRECKER

Courtesy of Sundance’s new NEXT section, that features films made for $500,000 or less (and we are going to assume that in most cases, it is MUCH less), Homewrecker is an absolute delight. And maybe for the first or second time (I’ll give myself the benefit of the doubt), I am saying that phrase without a hint of irony. Directed by Todd Barnes and Brad Barnes, Homewrecker introduces us to ‘Mike’, a locksmith on work release that has the misfortune of unknowingly helping a distraught ‘Margo’ break into her boyfriend’s apartment because she suspects he is cheating on her.

After discovering her ruse and wary of her potential “crazy”, he beats a hasty retreat from the scene. But she jumps in his van and the kind and accommodating to a fault Mike can’t shake her. And we are off to the awkward, quirky and sweet romantic races with these two as Margo coerces Mike into one borderline disastrous scenario after another.

Is there anything new with this story of two mismatched people discovering something about themselves and maybe even finding love with someone they don’t want to be with in the first place? Not really. But is it fresh? Yes, for me it was. And all because of the lead twosome. Anselm Richardson and Ana Reederare fantastic as ‘Mike’ and ‘Margo’ and Stephen Rannazzisi also scores as Margo’s boyfriend. None of them are obvious as they deliver performances that draw you in seemingly without effort. And to their credit, the Barnes Brothers are assured enough to not try to set the world on fire with their little romance as they manage all of this without a hint of sit-com cliché or smarmy.

SUNDANCE FEVER: You can’t get much more “Sundancy” than this. A great date movie for the away-from-home hook-ups.

MULTIPLEX PROSPECTS: Doubt it. Which sucks. If you aren’t here, my guess is you’ll have to hunt this one down at another film festival or on VOD or something. But it would be worth that effort, for sure.

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John Wildman is the former Head of Press and Public Relations for the American Film Institute. He is noted for innovating film festival public relations through his work as the Director of PR for film festivals such as AFI FEST, the Dallas International Film Festival, the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, and the Feel Good Film Festival (Los Angeles).

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“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
James Gray

“I’m an unusual producer because I control the destiny of a lot of the films I’ve done. Most of them are in perfect states of restoration and preservation and distribution, and I aim to keep them in distribution. HanWay Films, which is my sales company, has a 500-film catalogue, which is looked after and tended like a garden. I’m still looking after my films in the catalogue and trying to get other people to look after their films, which we represent intellectually, to try to keep them alive. A film has to be run through a projector to be alive, unfortunately, and those electric shadows are few and far between now. It’s very hard to go and see films in a movie house. I was always involved with the sales and marketing of my films, right up from The Shout onwards. I’ve had good periods, but I also had a best period because the film business was in its best period then. You couldn’t make The Last Emperor today. You couldn’t make The Sheltering Sky today. You couldn’t make those films anymore as independent films. There are neither the resources nor the vision within the studios to go to them and say, “I want to make a film about China with no stars in it.”Then, twenty years ago, I thought, “OK, I’m going to sell my own films but I don’t want to make it my own sales company.” I wanted it to be for me but I wanted to make it open for every other producer, so they don’t feel that they make a film but I get the focus. So, it’s a company that is my business and I’m involved with running it in a certain way, but I’m not seen as a competitor with other people that use it. It’s used by lots of different producers apart from me. When I want to use it, however, it’s there for me and I suppose I’m planning to continue making all my films to be sold by HanWay. I don’t have to, but I do because it’s in my building and the marketing’s here, and I can do it like that. Often, it sounds like I’m being easy about things, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s just that I’ve been at it for a long time and there’s lots of fat and security around my business. I know how to make films, but it’s not easy—it’s become a very exacting life.”
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