About Kate and Nan at Sundance

We are a mom and daughter in Salt Lake City who like to watch films. Lots of films.

Kate – Day 8 (Friday)

#23 – The Moo Man: Speaking of cows, which no one was doing, why are they always staring and chewing? Staring at people, chewing on clover, doing the same things over and over. Once in a while you see a cow mooing, or swishing its tail at a fly that needs shooing. Most of the time though, what’s a cow doing? Standing and staring, munching and chewing. Eyes never blinking. Jaw always moving. What’s a cow thinking? What’s a cow proving? Cows mustn’t care for new ways of doing. That’s what they stand for. That’s why they’re chewing. (Actually, this is a poem by Kaye Starbird which I memorized back in elementary school. I couldn’t resist.)
 
#24 – The East: A compact double-spy thriller. Limited gore, sex & shoot-em-up, although has a great scene of an amateur performing surgery in the backwoods of Pennsylvania. Fun to watch, but I don’t think I would make the effort to go see it at the theater when it comes out. You might, though.
 
#25 – Inequity for All: “Inequality for all looks at the topic of widening income inequality through the lens of noted economic policy expert Robert Reich.” Quoted from the homepage of the film’s website http://www.inequalityforall.com, this concise statement fully and accurately summarizes the film’s topic. I could not do better. Also, I am not interested in sharing my opinion on the topic. This review will solely discuss the film’s merits as a film. Tightly scripted and edited, the topic was uni-dimensional and clear to the point of being propaganda. It felt like a 90-minute condensation of the subject’s UC Berkeley course “Wealth and Poverty.” And, while I have not read Reich’s book Inequality for All, I have no doubt that that the film is a close re-hashing of the same material. This is what what contemporary idea people do. They get one idea and then market it through as many different media as possible, each time acting as if the message is unique AND original.

Kate – Day 7 (Thursday)

 
#20 – American Promise:
This, from the Sundance catalog: ” . . . groundbreaking documentary charged with the hope that every child can reach his or her full potential and contribute to a better future for our country. It calls into question commonly held assumptions about educational access and what factors really influence academic performance.” While it was interesting to follow the education of the two boys from Kindergarten through 12th grade, the premise of the movie was trite, and it lacked focus. It never was clear what the assumptions are and how they are called into question. It never was clear what promise was made, or needs to be made, nor what the current state of fulfillment is. I thought the directors’ message was that it is parents’ responsibility to make sure their children are well educated regardless of the child’s native talent or educational system. According to the Q&A, I was wrong.
 
Water: One of the boys enters Occidental College in Los Angeles (fall 2012), and the closing shot was of him alone at the beach and then standing on a rock breakwater that extends into the Pacific. I didn’t even bother to asking.
 
#21 – Lovelace:
This is not a story about Linda Lovelace. This is a story, first, about exploitation and the porn industry, and second, and more powerfully, about domestic violence. Lovelace is a really difficult movie to sit through, more for the physical abuse than anything else. However, the titular character serves as a role model for anyone needing to escape an abusive situation and to re-cast her/his life in a positive mean. Again, according to a little Wikipedia research, this film should not be considered a biography. Rather, her life is used simply as a starting point for a larger message.
 
Water: References irrelevant.
 
#22 – Blackfish: What began as an investigation into the death of an orca whale trainer at Sea World in Florida in 2010, ended up as an expose of the sea-park industry. This film has a tight script, well-sequenced footage, and a clear message.
 
Water: Orca’s live in it. Duh.
 

Kate – Day 6 (Wednesday)

#17 – There Will Come a Day: I liked this quiet drama from Italy (and Brazil). Along with the cinematography, there was beautiful use of silence and non-verbal communication as the Catholic protagonist sought out her inner-spirit through meaningful work. Depiction of the favelas was self-contradictory. On one hand, characters were desperate to escape its seediness. On the other, the images and discussion of community conveyed a beautiful place to grow-up and live. Confusing.
 
Question: There are many and varied images of water illustrating your protagonist’s journey. Why did you include so much water? What meaning do you feel that the water brings to your film? 
Answer: (After pondering what the f— kind of idiot asks why images of water are in a film set on the Amazon river.) Well, it adds realism to the film so the viewer knows exactly where we are. Aside from that, The water represents the mother and the womb from which this woman will find and re-birth her soul.
 
#18 – The Spectacular Now: A coming-of-age story of a teenager who doesn’t quite manage to come of age, despite the director’s best attempts. The amount of drinking and driving was obscene, even if the kids are all wearing seatbelts. Definite fontal-lobe issues in this flick. I wouldn’t let my teenager see this one.
 
Question: The use of water, particularly in a shower scene, typically represents soul-cleansing and purification and signals a fundamental change in the character. Your character’s change does not occur until much later in the movie, so I am wondering what meaning or symbolism you wanted the viewer to understand from him taking a shower. 
Answer: Several minutes ramble which basically said “I don’t know.”
 
#19 – Afternoon Delight: I am so over 30-something film directors who can’t get beyond the excitement of their genitalia. Grow up. There is life beyond cliches. This was supposed to be a funny comedy. I should have gone to see Manhunt, the one about the CIA looking for Osama bin Laden.
 
Question: There are many different environments in which the supporting lead could disclose her profession to her new friends, and you chose to have her swimming in a pool as she discussed being a full-service sex worker. Why did you choose this setting? What meaning is to be found in it?
Answer: As the scene was originally shot, the blond dives further and further downward in the pool as she reveals layered aspects of her work, and the housewife protagonist follows her to the deepest parts. This imagery foreshadows the plot to come. Unfortunately, due to time and budget constraints, the fullness of this scene had to be cut from the film. (ed. – Thank goodness!)
 

Kate – Day 5 (Tuesday)

Today, we’ll address the water situation. Certainly you have noticed over the years that when someone cries in the movies, it rains. When they sob, it pours. When they wail, it torrents. Got the symbolism, right? The noted exception is, of course, Gene Kelly. This week at Sundance has been a lot of water: pools, puddles, oceans, rivers, waterfalls, raindrops, mists and sprays, snow, ice & etc. There has been so much water that my favorite Q&A question for the director has become “Please talk about the use of water in your film and what does it mean to you?” Here are some of the responses (paraphrased):
 
As the boy lies in the puddle he is cleansing his soul and we see swirling around him the wash from those he has followed.
 
In French, “la mer” is “the ocean” and “la mere” is “the mother.” The ocean is the source of all life. It is our mother. It represents our ability to be and in this film it intensifies the existence of the character, who is trapped. And because water is always active and moving, it contrasts with the imprisonment with the characters who are all constrained either by physical walls or by the thoughts of their own minds.
 
We can only see the the portion of her body above the surface of the pool. We are cut off from her inner existence and know only that which she exposes superficially to the world.
 
It is pretty and I think it looks cool.
 
#14 – A River Changes Course: A documentary which follows three rural Cambodian, exposing the effects of deforestation on their lives. Avoiding formal interview and explanation, the story is revealed through daily life as recorded by the camera. Beautiful cinematography. The water metaphor is embodied in the title.
 
#15 – The Meteor: A very strong story line with potent characters, and an intense script heard through narrative voice over. However, minimal action. Instead, long (really long) (as in 3 – 5 minutes long) shots of flowers, buildings, water (in various forms) & etc. When asked why the visual did not illustrate the narrative, the director replied that that would have been so usual, so boring. This is a film for art-film lovers. For water references, see “la mer” above.
 
#16 – Mud: PG-13 coming-of-age action adventure. Two 14-year-old boys meet up with a criminal in the backwoods of Alabama. They risk their lives helping him reunite with his one-true-love and suffer inequities of life in the process. Shoot-em-up is reserved for the end. Great film. Lots of fun. Take the kids. Water reference: Mud, the main character, is simply the dreck of humanity.

Monday: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, In A World…

Up until yesterday evening I was feeling kind of meh on the whole.  However, after a productive day of studying I went to two good U.S. Dramatic films at Rose Wagner that perked me up.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints: Pretty darn good. A love story between two outlaws destined to be kept apart. Beautiful and sad, with sacrifice and selflessness (or is it selfishness?), forgiveness and acceptance. The storyline was just vague enough that I never fully connected with the main characters and didn’t become invested in their relationship. I wanted a little more information to make me understand and care. Perhaps if I saw this again I might feel differently; this is certainly a film I would see again. I loved the evocative aesthetic; everything was faded and crumbling but almost homey and comfortable, from the worn dresses to the town buildings to the fields and hills of Texas. The director wanted his work to be timeless and he certainly achieved that. The music was great. The director and most of his crew were all a bit cocky and unapproachable in the Q&A.

In A World…: I think this is my favorite film thus far! Comedies are rare at Sundance, and this is an excellent one. As Lake Bell emphasized in the Q&A, this is not a movie about the voiceover industry, it only that happens to be set there. The family issues – egotistic/neglectful/even abusive father, marital strife, growing up – were realistic enough to be relatable and heartfelt, but overdone just enough to be comedic. Really a very well balanced film and not overly ambitious. Lots of fun, I laughed the whole way through.

Now back to the books and hopefully I can squeeze in another movie tonight!

~Nan