Kate – Day 2 at Sundance

#3 – Mother of George: This is a poignant story. Unhurriedly following an emigrant Nigerian family in Brooklyn, New York, a clash of cultures and of generations is framed in richly colored fabrics that form a character unto themselves. The bride is desperate to produce a son, and her mother-in-law is eager to produce a remedy. The family ends up with an unbearable secret, and the husband an untenable dilemma. People go to great lengths for love.
#4 – Twenty Feet from Stardom: What voices! What beauty, what power, what joy, what fun. Backup singers make the music and the sound.
#5 – Don Jon’s Addiction: This is an issues movie. My first thought was to simply report not to go see this one, enough said. The characters are not particularly sympathetic and have minimal development, and some disgusting imagery is included. On the other hand, it is an issue which is quietly and conveniently ignored, and Sundance is saying you know, we ought to take a look at it. Don Jon’s uses pornography. Half the world, like Don Jon, may well respond “Yea, so? What’s the issue?” The other half, like his girlfriend, may well respond “Are you kidding me?” The problem is that with the internet we have eliminated the controls to access which existed a generation ago. Use has skyrocketed, and an argument can be made that it interferes with gender relations. If you want to talk further, let’s go out for a (insert drink of your preference here).
#6 – Touchy Feely: This was yet another dysfunctional family. Each member has a skill. Each looses the skill. Each regains the skill, and is transformed in the process. Except that the director was not particularly successful in conveying the audience along a dramatic arc. Boring.

Day 9, 10, 11 – #28, #29, #30, (& #31?)

OK people – you hung in there, and this is it.  No more Sundance till next year. Final score:

Kate – 30 (maybe 31)
Nan – 29 (she really came from behind)

How many families do you know that are into competitive film watching?  It was a fun week.  Thank goodness it is only once a year.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to all my friends who came with.  It was a blast.  Movies with friends are so much more fun than movies alone.

Here are the final reviews:

Arbitrage (Premiere):  If you want to visit with a schmuck who cheats his wife, cheats his daughter, cheats his friends, cheats his company, cheats his buyers, cheats the stock market, cheats the DA, this is the movie for you.  The film’s not bad, considering.

Red Hook Summer (Premiere):  This is the movie that my daughter didn’t want me to take my friends to because it includes icky sex.  After some mutual discussion, we concluded that we had been exposed to enough in life that we could handle it.  Yes, the sex was icky, but we did come out feeling relatively unscathed.  It was the blood inducing beating that actually got to us.

Predisposed (Premiere):  The description for this film starts out: “Piano prodigy Eli Smith has talent to burn, but he is constantly derailed by his troubled mother . . .”  I had to go see this one, right?  The mother, I ought not comment about.  However, I can honestly say that Eli is not a prodigy and he does not have talent to burn.  All artists have to promote their own work, but this was a clear case of false advertising by the film makers.  And it barely even included any piano music, particularly the type that a prodigy would play.  I want my money back.

Beasts of the Southern Wild (US Dramatic):  I actually haven’t seen this one yet.  Am planning on attending this evening at 9:30 after a 7:30 violin concert.  If I make it, it will be movie #31 for me.  It won the Grand Jury Prize for US Dramatic film.  If you want to know more about it, Nan saw it earlier in the week, so check out her review.

It’s the end, moron (well, almost)

I learned today that the Best of Fest films showing in Salt Lake are Chasing Ice, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and The Surrogate, all of which I have seen. Sadly, this means that Sundance is ending one day sooner than I expected. However, I will be back tomorrow with a mega update on all of the film reviews that I fell behind on (oh, say 10 of them)!

I started the day at The Words, directed by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal and featuring a star-studded cast including Dennis Quaid, Jeremy Irons, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, and Olivia Wilde.  This was a story within a story within a story – in short, a movie about a book about a plagiarized book – but was knit together well.

I actually quite liked the love story (the most interior of the layers), but while it had potential to stand on its own, I was not fully emotionally engaged in the relationship because I had relatively little time with the characters as a result of the structure of the film.  The heavily emphasized moral of the story was to make decisions but be willing to live with the consequences.

Surprisingly, the directors showed up for Q&A on this very last day!  This was such a treat; I typically expect everyone to be gone by this point.  They spent much of the time saying, “well, what did you think?” to audience members asking for interpretation or explanation, but did mention that they occasionally considered the four male leads to be images of one man in different stages of his life.

Upon further questioning afterwards, they also explained that they considered the emotional trauma of plagiarism to be as bad as the consequences of public exposure.  Although the directors reiterated the statement that the fraudulent author is “fucked,” I still find myself feeling that he should have suffered some other repercussions.

I originally intended to head to Robot and Frank but didn’t make it, and so my day ended at Room 237, a New Frontier documentary about conspiracy theories regarding Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.  Ugh.  There were many things I didn’t like about this film.

To start, the interviewees were never seen on film – their comments were accompanied by clips from The Shining and other films – and so I found the content difficult to process and the organization easy to lose track of.  Moreover, the theories were utterly ridiculous and I wish the directors had either laughed at them or taken them completely seriously.  There were typical Nazi allegories, sexual innuendos, and more.

I, however, got fed up and left early (I think for the first time ever) after hearing one man delve into the meaning behind the blood rushing from the elevators without the doors opening – while I watched them open.  Also, another man said that the capital letters seen in one shot, “ROOM N” could only be rearranged to spell “moon” and “room” and this was evidence that Apollo 13 did not land on the moon and that Kubrick filmed the faux footage.  WRONG, I say! “ROOM N” can also be rearranged to spell “MORON.”

On that note, I’ll end this post.  As I said before, I’ll be back tomorrow to finish everything up.

~Nan

Afternoon at Rose Wagner

Man, the snow is dumping today!  I am, of course, thrilled that the ski season can finally get started, but I absolutely did not choose the appropriate footwear for a slushy day of walking.  After ½ Revolution we proceeded to The Queen of Versailles, which has gotten a huge amount of buzz.  Going to a film that I’ve heard a lot about is very different than the typical Sundance film. I can’t say that it is better or worse, simply different, because I weigh my own impressions against my expectations and others’ opinions.

David and Jackie Seigel, the subjects of the film (I don’t believe I can call them protagonists), live in an alternate reality.  Although I knew it was coming, I was still frequently shocked into laughter by Jackie’s words and actions, such as when she says how upset she is that banks received bailouts and that government assistance did not go “to the people…like us.”  I admit that I feel a touch guilty for feeling sorry for Jackie – she placed a huge amount of faith in her husband and her marriage, yet he regards her as little more than a pet or child.  Her commitment was – dare I say it? – admirable, but simultaneously saddening.  However, despite embracing the role of trophy wife, I know she has a quick mind and could survive in the “real world.”  What happened to her brain?  Why does she disguise her capabilities and not teach her children to use their respective skills?  Both David and Jackie were very intriguing characters and I would have liked to learn more about the people and events that shaped their values.

Following a snack break, we split apart and I went to Celeste and Jesse Forever.  I know that Jesse was kind of a slacker and so not my type, but can I just say that I fell a little bit in love with Adam Samberg in this role?   I thought that the screenplay was excellent, humorous and touching and about as uplifting as Sundance gets.  However, that’s really about all I have to say.  Maybe it’s that the film finished within the hour so I haven’t had time to process much, but I would categorize this as a fluff film; obviously less so than the typical Hollywood output, but more so than the average Sundance film.  The acting was good, and the product enjoyable, but not life-changing or challenging.  I thoroughly expect this to be picked up by a distributor and do well commercially.

The day is more than halfway done!

~Nan

Day 1: two films

Wish You Were Here

Cambodian drugs
Alter sense, reality.
Trouble with blond wife.

(World Dramatic)  Don’t do drugs and alcohol on vacation in Cambodia.  Your friend will go missing and you’ll be in trouble with your wife, especially if you slept with her sister.  If you’re lucky, things will end up happily ever after. 

Robot and Frank

“If you release me,
I will wash the dishes now.”
“A gem heist, instead?” 

(Premiere)  How warm and fuzzy can a robot be? Very endearing. Cute, sweet, touching, fluffy, and fun.  A welcome relief from the overwrought edginess of Sundance.