2012 Sundance

Here’s all you really need to know – after last night’s Closing Night Party, also known as Nerd Prom, your intrepid Lady Rejects caught three hours of sleep before we had to be up, about, and on a shuttle to the Salt Lake City airport. Ugly? You can’t even imagine how ugly. But, somehow, we made it, despite chatty shuttle drivers, breakfast sandwiches from Quizno’s, yet another tiny plane, and Allison eventually resting her body on the floor of the American Airliness terminal at LAX.

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Documentary director Lauren Greenfield (Thin) returned to Sundance with another fascinating slice of American life – the winner of this year’s U.S. Directing Award for Documentary features, The Queen of Versailles is an unexpectedly amusing tale of delusion and disgusting wealth, toplined by a couple of American originals who prove to be wackily riveting. The film chronicles Jackie and David Siegel, incredibly wealthy Floridians best known for their attempt to build the United States’ largest single family residence, one they modeled after equal parts the Palace of Versailles and the top three floors of the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. There is perhaps no other sentence that could so accurately describe what kind of people the Siegels are.

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While a new adaptation of Emily Bronte‘s class English novel might seem to be wholly unnecessary (the book has been adapted in various ways at least thirty times), writer and director Andrea Arnold‘s gorgeous take on Wuthering Heights more than does justice to the look and feel of Bronte’s work, lending a weight and power to the story that should captivate more than just fans of the novel. Centered on the tragic story of Cathy Earnshaw and the orphan Heathcliff, the film is a stunning mediation on love, loss, memory, and pain. An orphan abandoned on the street, Heathcliff is brought as a child to the wild English moor estate known as Wuthering Heights by Cathy’s father, Mr. Earnshaw, a hardcore Christian who is convinced that it’s the right thing to do. But Earnshaw’s beliefs are not rooted in a sense of charity, but as an attempt to secure salvation, which is why the Earnshaws at large treat Heathcliff so poorly. Over time, the nearly-feral Cathy and Heathcliff develop a passion for each other that is all-consuming, though it only serves to make their already physically demanding lives that much harder emotionally.

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It’s often said that believing you will spend forever with the person you fall in love with in high school is a naïve notion and, while the opening montage of Celeste and Jesse Forever seems to prove that the opposite is true, once the film begins we realize that our leads, Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg), are actually separated and looking to get a divorce. The strange thing is, they still spend every second together and are only “separated” by their back yard, with Jesse now living in his studio out back rather than in the main house with Celeste. It is clear from the start that Celeste and Jesse are more than just a couple, they are each other’s best friends, complete with inside jokes and hand signals clearly established over years and years of knowing one another. There is a level of comfort and familiarity between the two that neither seems ready to let go of, which frames the central conflict of both their relationship and the film. Over dinner one night, two of their friends, Tucker (Eric Christian Olsen) and his fiancé (Ari Graynor), call them out on the odd state of their relationship stating that they either need to end things for good or get back together. Neither Celeste or Jesse think their behavior is strange, but the fact that they still say, “I love you,” to each other and can’t seem start their days until acknowledging one another seems to support their friends’ […]

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As Kate said in her wrap up from yesterday, the closer you get to the end of a festival, the more likely you ending up hitting that wall where it seems like you just cannot do anything more. But you do, because it’s Sundance, and yes you’re exhausted, but you’re also almost done. The last day of the festival is also always the most bittersweet since you say goodbye to friends and colleagues you sometimes get to see but once a year while at the same time the promise of your own (warm) bed, sleep and three real meals a day is so close you can almost taste it. Luckily my first (and last) screening of the day wasn’t until noon so I was able to sleep in a bit and eat a real meal (i.e. a delicious breakfast sandwich and a carafe of coffee) before heading to the Eccels theater, one of the biggest venues at the festival, for 2 Days In New York, making my final screening feel as epic as the end of the festival itself.

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It is the last day of the Sundance Film Festival, so let’s send out our interview series not with a bear or a returning critic, but with a Sundance newbie. By now, critic William Goss has acclimated almost entirely to the festival, so let’s have some serious fun looking back at what he was looking forward to at the start of the fest. Critic for a bevy of outlets, currently including MSN Movies, Film.com, and The Playlist, Goss knows his festivals and his movies. A Floridian who recently moved to Austin, most of his festival experiences have been in temperate climes. That is, of course, until the ‘dance.

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No matter how much fun a festival is, there inevitably comes a time when a festival-goer reaches a wall, a point where exhaustion and stress and bad food and frustrations all settle in and refuse to budge. I met my wall this morning, my alarm blaring away at 7:15AM as I lay slack-jawed and stunned in bed. Morning. More. More things. I did the only thing I could do. I got up.

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Collette McVeigh seems to be a fairly normal little girl, creating beaded necklaces and bribing her younger brother into running a quick errand for their father that she does not want to do herself. Unfortunately, this errand ends in tragedy, with her brother getting shot and killed. As her mother weeps over his body and her father fixes in on her with a look that could kill, Collette stands frozen, devastated. Shadow Dancer focuses on the life of a now grown-up Collette (Andrea Riseborough) who has a son of her own and is tied up in the “family business” (the IRA), rooted in taking down the English government which cost their brother his life.

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After throwing our annual bloggerati condo party (mainly so we can all watch MacGruber together) last night, my day got switched around a bit so I could get some much needed sleep (Festival Lesson #45: There is no point in getting up early for a screening you will end up just sleeping through) making my first screening of the day, Shadow Dancer. After helping clean up the condo a bit (the place still smells like beer, but we went through about three cases of the stuff last night so what can you do?) Eric D. Snider, William Goss, and I headed out to the screening in Snider’s car, which is truly a luxury when it means you don’t have to run for a shuttle. While I thought Shadow Dancer was a decent enough film, it was just that – decent. Clive Owen and Andrea Riseborough turned in good performances under sharp direction from James Marsh, but it left me lukewarm.

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Multi-hyphenate Katie Aselton returns to Sundance with her second film, a much different outing than her gorgeous and melancholy 2010 entry, The Freebie. This time around, Aselton has ceded writing duties to her husband, Mark Duplass, and the pair have made what will likely be referred to as “Deliverance for girls” for many years to come. But Black Rock is a twisty little horror outing that perhaps shares more with The Freebie than might be obvious from first blush. Both films hinge on interpersonal relationships, the confusion of behavioral signals and perceptions, and mistakes that have far-reaching consequences. Yet, Black Rock is most certainly a thriller and a genre picture, and its wooded island setting, thumping soundtrack (with remarkably sage picks from The Kills), and grim plotline only serve to show how well Aselton can cross genres with style.

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Midnight movies at Sundance can be fun, often offering up bizarre and strange experiences. In the past that has included movies like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (loved it) and Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (wasn’t so fond of it). The real thing to take away is from this section is that you never know what you’re going to get, just like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. With Grabbers, a UK film set in Ireland, you’re getting something very enjoyable, which will hopefully get picked up and distributed somewhere, even if it’s the Syfy channel or BBC America. I’d even love to see the Alamo Drafthouse pick up this movie with their distribution arm and turn it into a midnight event film. Why? Because the premise involves Irishmen fighting monsters while drunk. If there was ever a perfect movie for a theater connected to a bar, this is it.

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One of the reasons that I love going to the Sundance Film Festival is that amidst the sea of angst-ridden romances, dramas that explore feelings that have long-since been forgotten about, and documentaries, you’ll sometimes find a gem that will change the way you see movies. Beasts of the Southern Wild was that film for me this year. At face value, it’s a difficult film to fully explain. A society that lives off the grid from the mainland of a country ignores the warnings that their lives are in danger should the nearby levee break. They live in ignorant bliss, reveling in their lives and calling their home “The Bathtub” in a light-hearted mocking of the fact that a wall of water could come crashing down and destroy them all.

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From the film’s opening, it is clear that while LCD Soundsystem may be over, they certainly went out with one hell of a goodbye party. The decision to end the band was more than surprising to their fans and Shut Up and Play the Hits takes viewers behind-the-scenes of the moments leading up to, during, and after the band’s final show. The film takes its cue from the title and focuses on the music while directors Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace also lace in interviews and quiet moments with front man James Murphy off-stage. The film opens asking the question on everyone’s mind – why would a band, at the height of their career, decide to walk away from it all? During an interview with Chuck Klosterman, Murphy explains that he simply wants to lead a normal life and while he is not sure that is a good enough reason to quit, it’s the truth. Murphy sums his experience with LCD up by saying he just wanted to make a record that happened to lead to these different experiences and successes, but that was never his goal, he just wanted to make music that people could dance and have fun listening to. And whether he meant to our not, Murphy did just that, just on a much scale bigger than he could have imagined.

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My first memory from this morning is turning over to find Eric D. Snider mooning at me and asking me what my plan for the day is. Then I checked my email to find a link to this story from my pal, Moviefone’s Mike Ryan (who is becoming a frequent hero of these daily wrap-ups), regarding the true story behind Compliance. When we saw the film together yesterday, he grabbed my notebook halfway through the film to scribble “Nobody is this stupid!!!” He titled his email “okay, I was wrong.” Then I ate muffins in bed. It was the best morning at Sundance yet.

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The critics and movie fans who attend Sundance can take to the web, Twitter, Facebook and any other outlet to report on the various films shown during the festival (and what they think of them), but it is the distributors that come to this snowy mountaintop to decide which of those films will make it to you. Having gone to college in Los Angeles you are bound to spend those years alongside classmates who graduate and become a part of this crazy world of entertainment. Nick Donnermeyer is not only a fellow Loyola Marymount University graduate (and good friend), he is now a producer and distributor for Bleiberg Entertainment who have released such films as Adam Resurrected and Robotropolis. We turned to Nick to get the perspective of someone attending the festival to not only watch new movies, but potentially purchase and distribute them as well. Nick is returning to Park City this year to see what new titles Bleiberg may want to add to their release list while also taking in the unique experience that is Sundance and proves that no matter what your reason for attending the festival there is one thing that unites us all – a love of film.

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It is day four of the festival (although it feels like we’ve been here much longer) and I realized this morning as I sleepily boarded the shuttle that since I have only been going to P&I (press and industry i.e., you don’t need a hard ticket but you do need credentials) screenings, I have only been to the Holiday and none of the other venues. That will change tomorrow morning when I finally hit up Eccles (one of my favorite theaters here), but it was strange to realize I haven’t really been outside the Holiday, Yarrow, Sundance HQ radius the past few days. (This may also explain why things are starting to blend together for me.) Averaging about five hours of sleep a night (better than last year’s two!) and one real meal a day, I try to make that one meal count. Today I (along with almost every other critic and blogger here at the fest) hit up Flippin’ Burgers, which not only has amazing burgers, fries and shakes, but also free WiFi and plays a constant loop of terribly hilarious songs and yes, Enrique Iglesias’ “Baby I Like It” has been stuck in my head all afternoon. Hopefully this place sticks around for another year (although, rumor has it that it’s been around and we just now discovered it) so if you make it to Sundance next year, add it to your list of places to check out. Granted, you have to Frogger your way across the street […]

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A man places an ad in a local paper looking for a partner to go on a journey with him – but this particular man is not looking to make a love connection, he is in need of a companion to travel through time with him. He’s done it once before, but you’ll have to bring to your own weapons because, as he tells it, “safety not guaranteed.” From this seed of an idea, director Colin Trevorrow and screenwriter Derek Connolly have crafted Safety Not Guaranteed, a low-fi romance that benefits both from charismatic performances and the intriguing background that the time travel element provides. The film is loosely based on a true story – an ad did appear in a Seattle paper, exactly as it appears in the film, but Connolly and Trevorrow have taken their film in a different direction – stuff mentioned in the ad (payment, that it’s been done before) never comes up after its first read, and no one ever says anything else about it. Instead, the film focuses on a trio of intrepid reporters (really just one mild douchebags and two interns who don’t have a choice in the matter) who decide to craft a piece about the man who has placed the ad. A fluff piece, something silly. Of course, they find much more than they bargained for once their investigation commence.

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Carlos Gutiérrez (John McInerny) is an Elvis impersonator and while he does not completely look the part, the man sure can sing like the King (and goes so far as to ask everyone in his life to call him as such.) Carlos spends the majority of his time watching and listening to Elvis concerts, planning his upcoming shows and eating Elvis’ favorite food (banana and peanut butter sandwiches), giving way to the idea that singing like Elvis isn’t just something Carlos is good at, he may be obsessed with the man himself. This idea is further driven home when Carlos’ ex, Alejandra (Griselda Siciliani) expresses her concerns over his affect on their daughter (named Lisa Marie, naturally) and Alejandra announces she is going to try for sole custody. While Carlos seems sad over this revelation, he also doesn’t do much to stop it, seeming to have his mind on other things.

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We’ll make this brief, dear readers – today has been a strange day. Since that first day (the one where I showed up to the airport without my driver’s license which, PS, is still missing), things have been relatively drama-free. Sure, both sleep levels and real meal levels are low, but most everything else is on the up and up. Except for some movies. Oof.

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New York in the summer is intense enough with the heat and humidity that bears down on the city from June to August, but if you are a kid from an upper middle class Atlanta neighborhood suddenly dropped into the Brooklyn projects, summer gets a lot more than intense, and quick. Flick (Jules Brown) is sent to live with his incredibly religious grandfather, Bishop Enoch Rouse (Clarke Peters), who lives in Red Hook, a neighborhood plagued by poverty, gangs and colorful characters (including a well-known pizza delivery boy from another Spike Lee film). Flick is combative towards his grandfather from the start, clearly unhappy about being forced to spend his summer away from home. Bishop Enoch tries to get Flick involved with his church, convinced that if Flick lets Jesus into his life, he will be much happier. Flick resents being made to work during his vacation, but when he meets fellow church member Chazz (Toni Lysaith) his attitude towards helping out and attending Sunday sermons softens a bit.

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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