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

Advertisements

Kate – Day 4 at Sundance

#11 – A Teacher: If you do Sundance in Salt Lake, including Best-Of-Fest screenings, it is possible to see 38 films in 11 days. There was nothing I wanted to see in the Monday 3:00 slot, but it was an opportunity to pull ahead of Ron. The choice was between a shoot-em-up thriller in Manilla, and a teacher-student affair in Texas. I ended up at the latter. There was plenty of white-on-white skin as the participants did what participants do when they are having an affair. Other than that, it was like this is such a disgusting situation.
The director stood for Q&A after. The first question posed was “What do you think that your film is really about?” A moment of thought and then “I think it is really about loneliness, and desperation, and the lengths to which a person will go to justify behavior which she knows is really, really bad.” Hand it to the director, she absolutely nailed it on this.
#12 – Salma: As a documentary, this had some sloppy story-telling, as essential facts were either confusing or simply left out. This became apparent in the Q&A when the audience was asking for clarification of events. Luckily, the careless direction did not diminish the power and grace of the woman featured. Salma’s life and poetry speak for Muslim girls locked away at puberty and contracted for marriage. Her story exposes the ferocity of Muslim men whose concept of life and society is challenged. This film is worth seeing.
#13 – In a World: A break from the overwrought angst of Sundance and an opportunity to laugh and laugh and laugh IS WELCOME!!!!!!    For that reason alone this film tops my list. Yes, there is a dysfunctional family, and yes, there is sex (but only a little itty bitty teeny tiny bit, by Sundance standards). None of that matters. This film is just plain funny.

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.

Death day: Circles, Kill Your Darlings, Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes

What started as a quick note between films has turned into another end-of-day summary. It’s definitely been a good day, though.

To start it off after Sunday brunch, Circles, directed by Srdan Golubovic: Another slow film (I’ve seen a lot of those thus far) but very powerful. Dialogue was minimal, but sufficient. The story was quite lovely (my favorite word) and lyrical, about redemption and forgiveness. There were lots of long shots of Eastern European men staring off into the distance that gave me time to reflect and feel the characters’ emotions and understand the storyline. I felt quite pleased with myself for following the film and mostly getting the director’s intent (per his explanations during the Q&A). The Q&A was fantastic because, despite the language barrier, the crew was very generous about sharing their thoughts and experience; i.e. they actually answered questions instead  of offering the typical, “well, that’s for you to decide/interpret/whatever.” There were some interesting tidbits shared, including that the Trebinje market in which the murder of Srdan Aleksik occurred was used for the movie scene and that one extra in this scene was at the scene of the crime.

Next was Kill Your Darlings, which received a lot of pre-festival buzz mainly due to the all-star cast. Truthfully, I saw this film because nothing else in the time slot sounded any better; I wasn’t all too excited and expected that it would be a disappointment. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this film about the murder of David Kammerer and the first escapades of the Beat Generation. Good acting (props to Elizabeth Olsen for making the most of a 5 minute part), strong characters, interesting story. The balance between a murder mystery/thriller and coming-of-age story (to paraphrase the director, “who or what do you have to kill to become yourself and become your best”) worked for me. Also, fantastic soundtrack.

I took a brief break for some ultimate frisbee and finished the day at Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes, another film that I had been avoiding, this time because “a hyperstylized … film that vacillates between surrealism and realism” sounded a bit too New Frontier-y to me. Again, I am so glad that I went. SPOILER ALERT, highlight to read: In as few words as possible, this film is about a daughter who has killed her mother (in childbirth) and a mother who has killed her daughter (accident, blames self) and how they help each other heal. Overall, two thumbs up to this female-dominated film (director/screenwriter, cinematographer, 3 complex and generally sympathetic leads). Given the sniffles throughout the theater during the credits, I’m not the only one who thought so. Jessica Biel impressed as Linda, one of her more complex and mature roles to date, and it was fun to meet the talented Kaya Scodelario. I haven’t heard much rumbling about the breakout starlets of 2013, but she makes an obvious candidate (although she has quite a career in England). Our party of family, friends, and neighbors had a brief but interesting discussion about whether this film featured family disfunction (my mother) or a broken family (everyone else). My first reaction was that this film is the new Beasts of the Southern Wild, but after sleeping on it, this film wasn’t quite as tightly knit. The artsy water/fishes theme felt heavy-handed and awkward. I would have loved to hear this explained by the director, but unfortunately there was no Q&A. I must admit that my ballot/vote/grade/thing was lower for this reason.

Now, finally, to bed!

~Nan