Sundance Originals

Sundance Seen Part 1

The whispering of powder from a dull quiet sky. Snowflakes fall between the screenings. Then the sun is bright and powder dusts off the slopes.

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Sundance Reviews: The Wolfpack, Slow West

Unique ironies surround Crystal Moselle’s bewildering documentary, The Wolfpack, not the least of which is that the film opens with a group of brothers at home re-enacting Reservoir Dogs, a film that premiered at Sundance 23 years ago.

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Six Films To Watch At Sundance

Attending Sundance this year means personally jumping through a lot of difficult hoops to make it happen, but this festival is becoming legendary—2014’s iteration eclipsed both Cannes and TIFF combined—and I simply couldn’t skip this year.

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Sundance 2014 Last Call

As a documentarian, Balmès shows more than tells; his work tends to curate moments that strike him as meaningful into a largely abstract tapestry and let you make of them what you will. Consequently, Happiness is not a neatly delineated picture of narrative storytelling, nor is it quite traditionally structured documentary. True to form, the director’s work here tends toward the languid and fluid; we float gently along the placid life rhythm of this small village on a faraway mountaintop as the camera captures the subtle – and sometimes not so subtle – shifts in the cultural and social landscape wrought by the march of technological progress.

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Sundance 2014 Review: The Better Angels

A film created to be seen on a big screen, where the gorgeous cinematography can fill your soul. Dialogue is sparse, used only to augment the narration and visuals, with the result that in many ways feels almost like watching a silent film with narration over it. Or perhaps, to be more accurate, it’s like immersing yourself into a black-and-white landscape of stunning beauty, where there happens to be this story happening around you. Edwards’ time spent as a cameraman on Malick’s films is evident here in the framing of shots, the extensive use of nature in storytelling, and his willingness to let his tale breathe in quiet spaces.

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Sundance 2014 Review: Listen Up Philip

Here’s a truism about men like Philip: smart women who tell themselves they would never put up with his particular brand of bullshit no matter what nonetheless can and do fall prey to the allure of the reclusive, temperamental, misunderstood genius, and will keep coming back for more. Men like Philip present a challenge to overcome, a puzzle to solve – until the women in their lives finally have enough and say “no more.” And then those men end up alone, feeling misused and mistreated, looking everywhere save within themselves for the answer to the riddle of their loneliness and isolation.

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Sundance 2014 Review: What We Do In The Shadows

This is one of the festival’s most pleasant surprises because it’s gotten to the point where certain horror tropes are dead or dying: recent zombie movies have been more shambling than exciting; vampires in general have become anemic and fangless (shout-out to the Twilight series, driving nails into the rhetorical coffin).

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Sundance 2014 Review: War Story

The death of Lee’s friend has perhaps made her see the wages of war as a price higher than she ever thought she’d pay to be in the thick of it. She’s captured so many losses, so many tragedies, through the lens of her camera, but she has no idea how to capture and cope with her own. The film’s final moments elegantly underscore the truth about the death of those we love and how we grieve the impact of losing them: It hurts, it will always hurt, when you lose someone you love, and even more so when you feel yourself responsible. But life moves on, wars continue to happen, the world spins around its axis just like it did before you lost this person you cared about.

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Picturing Sundance 2014: 21 Images

Sleep is good. Seeing movies is better. Writing solid, thoughtful reviews instead of instant reactions longer than a well-wrought tweet: even better. A few quick descriptions and some more glimpses of 10 days at Sundance.

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Sundance 2014 Review: Imperial Dreams

Bambi’s story is something we in our cozy middle class lives maybe prefer not to think about too hard when we ponder the abstract idea of projects and prison terms. The real plight of poverty is the disparity of opportunity, and the way in which we blame those born into an urban war zone for growing up in a way that enables them to survive in it. It’s nature versus nurture: How do we expect a kid with the potential to do something amazing with his life to navigate his way there with no support system save for the friends and relatives who have him working the corner and holding a gun in his hand from childhood?

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Picturing Sundance 2014 x 13 (Plus 140-Character Grasps For Instantaneous Truth)

If you go to parties, you miss movies. If you go to movie after movie after movie, you don’t have time to write, let alone think. But! Thank the Movie Godz for Twitter and for photographs.

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Sundance 2014 Review: Obvious Child

I laughed a lot while watching Obvious Child. Not everyone will, to be honest. If fart jokes and sex jokes, abundant cursing, peeing in public and pooping in front of your best friend while awaiting the results of a pregnancy test are things that you can’t handle, this might not be the film for you. If you can get past those things to the core of this film, though, you might just find the places where the story resonates for you, too. It certainly did for me.

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Sundance 2014 Review: Boyhood

A little after 1 AM on Monday, January 20, 2014, in a 1,296-seat high school auditorium in Park City, Utah, a piece of cinema history was made: the lights came up on the world premiere of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, a film in production for more than a decade.

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Sundance 2014 Review: I Origins

Cahill’s fully-realized premise comes into view as Ian and Karen discover something astonishing about the nature of the human iris. There are some really interesting grand narrative implications here, suggesting a life of rigorous science is blind to some of the more arcane secrets of the universe.

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Sundance 2014 Review: Hellion

It all sounds simple enough from a story standpoint, but Candler manages to interweave layers of complexity into these characters that elevate this tale beyond the surface level. These people feel real and honest in every respect; they could be you or me or anyone we know who’s drowning in grief and can’t see the way back to the surface to breathe again without every moment smacking you with what’s been taken in the blink of an eye, the crash of a metal, the stop of a heart beating.

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Sundance 2014 Reviews: Overnighters, Whiplash

Even in these scenes of heartwarming fraternity, there’s always this nagging feeling that Reinke’s generosity is perhaps misguided and downright bizarre, as if there’s something unhealthy or otherwise unspoken that drives his desire to help these men.

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14 Must-See Films at Sundance ‘14

What sounds good?

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Sundance Review: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

Lowery’s Texas, simmering, shimmering, altogether gorgeous, is a place of extraordinary ordinariness and the simplest details sing: Ruth’s simple white dress in an early scene, lightly cinched with thin rope, barelegged in boots with the tongues nearly loose; a second-story view of a street corner at dawn, similar to a quietly haunting shot in Badlands; a sandwich in wax paper folded just so; fingers tickling the dark under a bar counter, finding, of course, a sawed-off double barrel; shadows as deep as daylight is bright, the warmth of particular shadows that fall to black just past faces.

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Sundance Review: Doc Wrap-Up

We understand these events to be troubling, but Rowley spends far too long lingering on the way life has changed for Scahill and the way these wars have had a negative impact on his mood. It is a film that is dirtied by its own lead, despite Scahill being definitively insightful and knowledgeable about the regions. The man is a brilliant journalist—there is no doubt about that—but the documentary sags when it should ignite.

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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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Quote Unquotesee all »

“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.”
~ Producer Jeremy Thomas