10 Days of Sundance Archive for January, 2013

Sundance Review: Prince Avalanche

There is humor here, but of the gentle, nudging, self-aware kind more than broad slapstick, save for one scene toward the end that injects a quick dose of mostly painless comic relief. But mostly there is an excavation of character going on here, as Alvin sorts and sifts through his own understanding of who he is and his place in the world. A letter for Alvin forces him to reassess his own life and understanding of himself and his relationship, causing him to dig, as it were, through his own ashes in search of the answers to where he’s veered off track in his own life.

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Wrapping Up Sundance, Pt 1: The Not-Docs

Sundance is still easily the most important film festival in the world for American independents. It is pretty well run. They have pretty good taste. And even the swag shite that journalists love to mock as they try to figure out how to snag a pair of jeans that will make their ass look like J-Lo’s and their chests look like either Scarlett Johansson or Taylor Whomever is not nearly as rampant as it once was.

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Sundance Reviews: Cutie and the Boxer, Fallen City

There is vividness of color here, and contrast between the pair’s struggles in the real world and the way in which they express themselves artistically. Like all artists, including no doubt many of the filmmakers with films at Sundance, for Ushio and Noriko the financial struggles of an artist being able to survive while still creating are a constant source of tension, but there’s never a time when either of them says, well, we’re not getting rich of this, so we should give it up and get a steady job to pay the bills. They fight and they struggle, but the art and being able to keep creating it remains at the forefront of their relationship through it all.

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2013 Sundance Film Festival Awards

For Immediate Release January 26, 2013 2013 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES FEATURE FILM AWARD. Blood Brother, Fruitvale, A River Changes Course and Jiseul Earn Grand Jury Prizes Audience Favorites Include Blood Brother, Fruitvale, The Square (Al Midan), Metro Manila and This is Martin Bonner Park City, UT — Sundance Institute this evening announced the Jury,…

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Sundance Review: Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

The performance footage is most engaging, when we see the girls of Pussy Riot rehearsing and performing; it’s guerrilla activism, shot guerrilla style, and it’s just great that it was even captured for historical purposes, given that the Pussy Riot collective has become a big enough deal to be of note as one of the more relevant and effective activist groups of our time, along with Occupy. Interviews with the girls’ parents round things out nicely, giving us a broader perspective on who these young women are.

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Sundance Review: Upstream Color

The patterns of nature and mathematics – and the breaking of those patterns which in turn make new patterns – are heavily threaded throughout the structure of this film, and the complexity of the ideas it explores and the way in which it inevitably requires the audience to actively participate in seeking to understand it is very much like a cinematic Socratic Circle. Socrates taught that all thinking derives from asking questions; the aim therefore is not to arrive at one right answer, but that asking one question should lead to further questions, and from this collective back-and-forth we construct meaning and answers.

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Sundance Review: Blood Brother

Perhaps it was some deeper spiritual call, a desire to strip away the typically materialistic Western values with which he’d been raised, to find the purity in a life of giving to others rather than taking from them. Or perhaps Rocky simply found in the children of that orphanage the closeness of family and unconditional love that he lacked at home. Whatever the case, he also found he didn’t want to leave. These kids needed him, and perhaps he needed them as well.

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Sundance Review: Escape from Tomorrow

A pair of flirtatious young French girls catches Jim’s eye, and soon he’s following them around the park, dragging his young son along with him for the ride, and getting increasingly shameless in revealing his lust as the film progresses. How much of the girls’ flirtation is real and how much is Jim’s delusion is left to you to judge, though given the rest of what’s happening here, I think it’s maybe a little of both; regardless, it’s a lot creepy, this middle-aged man trolling after a pair of young girls, but it also makes a statement of sorts about sexual fantasy and objectification that one doesn’t expect to overtly find in a film about Disney anything.

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Sundance Review: We Are What We Are

There are some terrific performances in this film, most notably from Childers and Garner, who move seamlessly from wide-eyed naivete to fierce protectiveness. And man, is this a gorgeous, well-put together film, with frame after carefully composed frame of black and blue color palette sumptuously filling the screen, light and shadow effectively evoking mood, some nicely literary use of metaphor, and a score that moves things along without being heavy-handed or manipulative. The contrast of the beauty with which the film is shot and its macabre subject matter creates its own sort of tension that quite effectively serves the story.

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Sundance Review: Kill Your Darlings

Radcliffe flawlessly takes Ginsberg on his journey from naïve middle-class Jersey boy to awakening young writer, from an emerging poet inspired by the casting aside of tradition and structure of Walt Whitman to the early stages of manic creative energy that shaped the influential writer he would grow to become. It’s terrific to see Radcliffe making such smart choices in his post-Harry Potter career, establishing himself as a young actor who’s pushing himself and stretching far beyond what anyone might have imagined.

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Sundance Review: When I Walk

As part of coming to terms with the new and ever-shifting “normal” that would be the rest of his life, DaSilva followed his instinct, picked up his camera, and turned it on himself. This project could have devolved into the maudlin and self-absorbed; instead DaSilva’s strength and resilience, his determination to stay positive – bolstered in part by his relentlessly positive mother, who’s prone to calling him out on any over-privileged American kid whining and reminding him constantly that we only have one life to live, and have to make the most of it – is what shines through every frame of his story.

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Sundance Review: After Tiller

Imagine being pregnant with a lovingly anticipated child, having what you thought was a normal pregnancy, preparing the baby’s room, dreaming about the future the child kicking inside you will have – and then learning late in the pregnancy that your child has something terribly wrong with it, so wrong that the most humane choice you can make is to allow a doctor to gently euthanize him in the womb so that you can go through the pain of labor and delivery to push forth your already dead child. I know women who have had to make that awful choice. I’m grateful I never had to.

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Sundance Review: Who is Dayani Cristal?

By failing to include any perspective at all from the other side of the immigration discussion, the filmmakers miss an opportunity here to answer those arguments with reasoned and impassioned counterpoints and proposed solutions. This lack of objectivity works to the film’s detriment as anything much beyond emotional tug-and-pull by spoon-feeding the viewer with what they should feel, rather than offering compelling arguments from both sides, stirring debate, and leaving it to the audience to decide what they think and feel about this issue for themselves.

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Sundance 2013 Preview: US Documentary Competition Picks

Much like last year’s US Dramatic preview, my curtain-raiser on the US Documentary competition for the 2012 Sundance is packed with notable alumni: Chasing Ice, Detropia, The House I Live In, The Invisible War, and The Queen of Versailles all played at Park City last January. This year’s slate could potentially be just as solid. Here are my picks.

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Sundance 2013 Preview: US Dramatic Competition Picks

Finally, finally! Upstream Color, the long-awaited second film from do-it-all-yourself Primer director Shane Carruth arrives at Sundance off some pretty heady buzz at New York pre-fest screenings. Primer, in case you don’t know, is an astounding, complex sci-fi indie that was shot for $7,000 and went on to snatch the Sundance Grand Jury prize in 2004 from films like Napolean Dynamite and Garden State. It’s also one of my favorite indie films of the past decade and I, like many of you, have been eagerly anticipating Carruth making another film. I am super excited to get my eyeballs on this film. Must. See.

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Sundance13 Preview: Women of U.S. Dramatic

In honor of the Sundance Film Festival’s decision to invite an equal amount of men and women to compete in the U.S. Dramatic Competition (and perhaps recent discrepancies in representation, as seen in the 2012 Palme d’Or Competition), a look at the eight female director-screenwriters who will vie for the Grand Jury Prize Dramatic: who they are, how you may know them, and what they’ve done so far.

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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