Sundance 2013

Main Street Sundance

I started the day with a naked, drugged up Shia LaBeouf – a concept that would have thrilled me five years ago, but did not quite do it for me this morning. No – I did not wake up after a crazy night down on Main Street, but I did wake up to head down to Eccels (a venue I quite dig) for The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, featuring Mr. LaBeouf, some nudity, and drug use. Review to come, but I was sadly disappointed with Charlie Countryman as it tried to pack a few too many concepts into a single film. My next film was Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s directorial debut, Don Jon’s Addiction. Sometimes when you are in the middle of a festival, a film that happens to simply entertain you is a welcome respite, and I found Don Jon’s Addiction to be quite entertaining. Gordon-Levitt, who plays a Mike “The Situation” archtype, actually worked really well, delivering the laughs thanks to the film’s sharp cuts and a dynamic relationship with Scarlett Johansson‘s Barbara Sugarman. Before heading out to my final film of the day, I met up with White Bear PR’s Chandler Poling to check out the ASCAP Music Cafe’s cocktail party. Having never made it over to the Cafe (a crime considering it’s across the street from my condo) it was a welcome break and a good time meeting composers and fellow music writers. Plus – you know – free booze.

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Sundance: Stories We Tell

The first thing that director Sarah Polley asks of the subjects of her documentary debut, Stories We Tell, is for “the whole story.” She asks for it with little fanfare and with an obvious desire to allow her subjects as long as they need to tell that whole story. But, more than anything, Polley asks for that truth honestly, believing that there actually is some whole story to be revealed and that enough time and patience and questions will allow it to show itself. It’s a wild idea, really, asking for honesty and cohesion, even when it comes to documentary filmmaking, a process that, more than anything, aims to illuminate truth and real stories. And yet, it’s also an insane demand – stories are subjective, memory so fickle, experience so fractured – can we expect people to give Polley one satisfying story? On the other hand, we can’t blame Polley for asking for such truth because, after all, she’s not just the film’s director – she’s also its subject.

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Sundance: Big Sur

Jack Kerouac is best known for his novel “On The Road,” which helped inspire the Beat generation and brought the author fast fame, but his next novel, “Big Sur,” told the story of how success only made Kerouac feel more lost and trapped. Director Michael Polish attempts to bring the novel to life with Big Sur as we watch Kerouac (Jean-Marc Barr) travel to the beautiful area to secretly stay in his friend Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s (Anthony Edwards) cabin and try and find some peace.

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Sundance 2013 News and Reviews

We’re exploring Sundance’s past all week, so we’ve got the usual batch of stellar short films with a Sundance twist. It’s like being there without the snow boots or Harvey Weinstein ruining screenings on his cell phone. Why Watch? In 2002, Jamie Babbit (But I’m a Cheerleader) screened her short film about an aging lesbian couple on their way to a bridge game and earned an honorable mention at Sundance. It’s easy to see why. With an acerbic, hilarious performance from Jeanette Miller as an elderly nag and a bizarre catalyst that spells doom for more than just the couple, it’s a kind of shock to the system that feels like Erma Bombeck by way of Chuck Palahniuk. And, yes, it’s about the JELLO. What will it cost? Only 7 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.

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You Don

Plane tickets to Park City aren’t too terribly expensive, but with the added cost of puffy winter jackets and hangover cures, Sundance can be a bit out of reach for most of us. I mean, that’s why I’m not there right now, and charcoal doesn’t really prevent a post-drinking headache anyway. Fortunately, we’re covering the festival from top to bottom (at least other FSR writers are), and there are websites like Focus Forward Films which has added a few Sundance titles to its roster of movies so you can watch them from home. As of an hour ago, they’re hosting Morgan Spurlock’s You Don’t Know Jack, Albert Maysles’ The Secret of Trees — which are both in the fest’s short film competition — as well as The Cleanest Pig, Techistan, and The Contenders – which are all getting a special premiere screening at the Holiday Village Cinema today. For more information on the films, check after the jump:

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It Felt Like Love

When you are young, summer is supposed to be a fun, laid back time where there are no classes to get up for and no homework to complete, but it can also teeter on boring with long days that can drag when there is little to do. Lila (Gina Piersanti), who we meet staring out at the expanse of the ocean, is spending the summer at the beach with her friend Chiara (Giovanna Salimeni), and Chiara’s boyfriend Patrick (Jesse Cordasco), making Lila the de facto third wheel. At first it seems like Lila does not mind and prefers to simply observe her friend, never giving the impression she is jealous when she is often left sitting on the beach alone while Chiara and Patrick play in the surf. But that all changes when Sammy (Ronen Rubinstein) walks by and her focus shifts.

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The Look of Love

Michael Winterbottom has made a lot of goddamn movies. Unlike most directors, though, he doesn’t really have a type of film that he sticks to or is known for. This lack of a label allows him to move effortlessly from comedy to drama, political to pornographic artistic, period to contemporary, and once and a while he’ll even dip his toes into the biographical. It’s that last category that his latest film, The Look of Love, resides… alongside strong elements of the dramatic, comedic, period and artistic, of course. Steve Coogan plays real-life multi-millionaire Paul Raymond, a man whose immense fortune came on the backs of nude women dancing in his clubs, posing in his magazines and playing in his bed. Starting in the near present with the death of his daughter, the film flashes back to his early days as proprietor of a classy gentleman’s club and traces his rise in wealth and fame alongside his descent into sleaze and immorality.

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Escape from Tomorrow

The Disney theme parks are dubbed the “happiest place on earth” for a reason – they bring to life the fantasy of Disney’s movies and the fairy tale characters that populate them. While the parks are clearly geared towards children, they also give adults the chance to “be a kid again” and get lost in the fantasy themselves. Jim (Roy Abramsohn) has taken his wife Emily (Elena Schuber), daughter Sarah (Katelynn Rodriguez), and son Elliot (Jack Dalton) on a family vacation to Disney World, but on the last day of this seemingly idyllic trip, Jim gets a disappointing call from his boss (which he decides to keep secret from his family) and it seems to send him into a bit of a tailspin as the day wears on.

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BI_SudanceStill

People will hate Drake Doremus’s Breathe In. They will walk out of the theater and be sad and confused and maybe even (probably, really, more than anything) angry. They will hate it because they will hate the characters that exist inside of the film, and they will hate it because they make them mad, and they will hate it because it is not Like Crazy 2. And that’s okay, because while Breathe In will elicit all these emotions (and, quite likely, more), it is an immensely accomplished and measured film, an assured follow-up to Doremus’s other Sundance hit, 2011’s Like Crazy, and even more assured because it is not like Like Crazy, not at all, and that is something to marvel at. While Doremus and his co-screenwriter, Ben York Jones, turned their eyes on a couple that should be together in Like Crazy, when it comes to Breathe In, they go in the complete opposite direction, to a couple that should, by no means, be together. And while we all know that as every minute of Breathe In steadily ticks by, they don’t know that (or, at least, they refuse to believe that), and the result is car crash cinema done right. You can’t look away. But you can’t cheer for it in the slightest.

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park city cloudy

My first full day of my very first Sundance was yesterday, and I’m already tired. Sadly, there were no obese snorers for me to kick like there was during my first movie on Saturday (he did not appreciate it), but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been witnessing some other sad behaviors. But let’s look at the good stuff first…

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UntitledEaglesDocumentary_still3_

History of the Eagles, Part One starts off with backstage footage of the band before a concert in 1977 as they warm up in perfect harmony, reminding you from the forefront there is a reason this band was as successful as it was, for as long as it was — this group had a distinct and catchy sound. On the heels of one of the Eagles’ founders, Glenn Frey, stating, “We made it, and it ate us,” the film flashes forward to present day as key members of the band, in all its different incarnations, reminisce on their time as members of the Eagles. The origin story of the Eagles is not unlike most band origin stories, with Frey and fellow founding member Don Henley each getting into music with the hopes that it would get them girls (particularly after watching girls’ reactions to The Beatles). With Frey hailing from Detroit and Henley from Texas, the two eventually made their separate ways out to Los Angeles and became part of Linda Rondstadt‘s backing band. The experience of performing every night had Rondstadt’s people hoping to make a “super band” to back their singer, but Frey and Henley had a different idea and decided to start their own band instead, forming what would eventually become the Eagles.

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Egyptian Theatre

“Movie Houses of Worship” is a regular feature spotlighting our favorite movie theaters around the world, those that are like temples of cinema catering to the most religious-like film geeks. This week, our own Kate Erbland highlights one of the main Sundance Film Festival venues in anticipation of her return to Park City this week. Her comments are those quoted. If you’d like to suggest or submit a place you regularly worship at the altar of cinema, please email our weekend editor. Name: The Egyptian Theatre Location: 328 Main Street, Park City, Utah. Opened: Christmas Eve, 1926, as The Egyptian Theatre. It replaced the historic Dewey Theater, the roof of which had caved in from a heavy snow. Now officially known as the Mary G. Steiner Egyptian Theatre. No. of screens: 1 Current first-run titles: None. Repertory programming: None, except in the case that Sundance would screen a classic film here. Special Events: When it’s not Sundance season, the Egyptian is primarily a live performance venue, featuring concerts and stage productions as well as hosting a youth theater group. Upcoming events include a Canned Heat concert, a Michael Jackson tribute band and a run of Reefer Madness the Musical. Basically, the Sundance Film Festival is their most special event. 

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sundance survival kit

Whenever Sundance begins again and I prepare to head back to Park City, one word comes to my mind: early. Because every time I have headed off to the snowy mountains that surround this festival, I find myself — and I know many others do as well — setting my alarm for the wee hours to get up, get to the airport, and get to the festival with hopes of making the most of those precious few hours left in the day by the time I arrive. This is especially true for me, as I usually get in on the official third day of the festival and screenings are well under way. But the second I’m here, that early wake up call is a distant memory and it feels like I’m back in a home away from home (granted this home is a bit colder and I have to be even more careful not to slip and fall while walking), getting back into the festival swing of things.

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Sundance Day 1

“The plane is overfueled for such a short flight, so we’re too heavy to take off right now, so we’re going to drain some fuel and bring up some baggage from underneath to redistribute what we’ve got.” These are not the words that any sane person wants to hear on any sort of flight, especially on a plane so small that the one flight attendant has to sit on a jump seat that, by all accounts, unfolds straight off the cockpit door (does that seem safe to you? it doesn’t seem safe to me) or on a plane so small that drink service is limited to only five Coca-Cola products (no booze) or even on a plane so small that the one bathroom is enclosed by a folding door that accordions in (no room to even open up a door completely on this flight). And no person who is headed to her fourth Sundance wants to hear those words from a tense-looking flight attendant who mutters to the gate agent who has somehow popped up inside the front galley, “How many children are on the flight? Are there any babies?” Do the babies know something we don’t know? I would very much like to get to Sundance, tonight if possible, but I am not entirely sure that I want to die in the process. And that’s how my fourth Sundance kicked off.

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S-VHS

What the hell is that? And that, horror fans, is the best way to leave your audience salivating for more when it comes to premiering a first trailer for the newest entry in your burgeoning horror anthology film franchise. Over at ShockTillYouDrop, the first trailer for S-VHS has popped up mere days before the film premieres at this week’s Sundance Film Festival. It’s a slim little number, but it kicks off with a slice of what I’m guessing might be my favorite section from the new film – a child’s birthday party at what looks to be a family’s cabin in the woods, interrupted by something that likes to screech like a combination banshee and T.Rex. Banshrex. T.Shee. Either way, I can’t wait to meet it. This time around, the directing talent behind the anthology film includes Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Edúardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Evans, and Jason Eisener, so yes, there’s probably going to be something here for everyone. I saw and reviewed the first VHS at last year’s Sundance and flipped for it (and screamed and cried and tried to hide in my sweater and scarf to no avail), so my hopes are quite high for this next entry. Ready to see some of what the next chapter in the VHS franchise holds? Take a look at the first trailer for S-VHS after the break. Have your sweaters and scarves at the ready.

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Christopher Nolan at Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival is one of the largest independent fests in the country, but it probably has the best reputation for launching filmmaking careers and being the only thing in January that will be remembered around Oscar time 13 months later. It’s debatable just how “indie” it is — especially with studio shingles routinely picking up audience favorites for distribution — but it’s difficult to deny the raw directorial power that’s moved through Park City over the years. Names like Christopher Nolan, Kevin Smith, The Coen Brothers and Steven Soderbergh can count themselves amongst the Sundance ranks, but there are many, many more. In that (independent) spirit, here’s a double-size list of tips (for fans and filmmakers alike) from 12 directors who made a name at Sundance.

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The East

With the year’s first large scale film fest, the Sundance Film Festival, kicking off later this week, it’s high time that we started making some predictions about some of the films that are most likely to explode off the screen up in snowy Park City. Every Sundance (and, really, every major film festival) churns out its darlings, its favorites, its gems, those films that take weary festival-loving audiences by storm and become not only the talk of the festival, but the talk of the cinematic world. Of course, anyone who has ever attended even a massive festival like Sundance knows that festival buzz doesn’t exactly spell out mainstream success, but it’s sure as hell a nice place to start. While our intrepid Sundance team – myself, Allison, and Rob – have already weighed in our individual “most anticipated” films of the festival, those personal picks don’t cover the full gamut of films poised to become the big ticket films at this year’s festival. Here’s our attempt to sniff those babies out. After the break, check out the fifteen films we’re banking on to light up this year’s Sundance.

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Eccles During Sundance

“Movie Houses of Worship” is a regular feature spotlighting our favorite movie theaters around the world, those that are like temples of cinema catering to the most religious-like film geeks. This week, our own Allison Loring highlights one of the main Sundance Film Festival venues in anticipation of her return to Park City this week. Her comments are those quoted. If you’d like to suggest or submit a place you regularly worship at the altar of cinema, please email our weekend editor. Name: Eccles Theatre Location: 1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City, Utah. Opened: January 1998, with its official name of The George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts. No. of screens: 1 Current first-run titles: None.

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Prince Avalanche

Expectations? This is my first Sundance Film Festival, so the only things I know I’ll encounter are movies, cold snow, overpriced sandwiches, and familiar faces. It should be a great time provided the movies are good, the snow is outside my boots, the sandwiches are tasty and the faces are friendly. Prepare for some very disgruntled tweets otherwise. Looking through the list of titles playing Sundance this year, I tallied a whopping thirty-eight films that I want to see. Kate Erbland said that made her too nervous, presumably because it’s so close to her age (something she’s very conscious of, EDIT: not even close, Hunter!), so she asked me to drop it to a more youthful number. It wasn’t easy to do, but through a complicated series of algorithms and drinking games, I knocked off twenty-eight. What remains are my ten most anticipated films of Sundance 2013! Read them, and be as excited as I am at the prospect of maybe getting in to see them!

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C.O.G.

Film festival scheduling is a delicate art, a precarious balance of needs and desires, a rigorous exercise in making puzzle pieces fit. It’s hard, is what I’m saying, and it’s harder still when a fest’s programming is rounded out with so many films that sound so good – like this year’s Sundance Film Festival slate. As the fest rolled out their picks late last year, I’d spend whole mornings squealing over their listings, getting jazzed weeks in advance for films I hoped I’d be able to see. After all that, I’ve narrowed down my picks to ten films I cannot wait to see, a list that includes some Sundance favorites, some returning stars, Canada’s best film of the year, a possible break-out hit or two, and even a doc about mountain climbing, because those are just the sorts of films I wait all year to see at Sundance. Take a look at the ten films I’m most likely to shiv someone in order to see, after the break.

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published: 11.21.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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