2012 Sundance

As we continue to roll out our mini-interview series with the movers and shakers of the Sundance Film Festival, it’s high time we got to know a real-life filmmaker. And not just any filmmaker, a Sundance filmmaker. Ooh! Meet the Internet’s Bobby Miller. His short film, TUB, world premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and has gone on to play SXSW, Cannes, and over thirty other film festivals around the world (and even the very website you’re reading). If you’ve never seen TUB, you should. If you have even a mild aversion to inanimate objects getting knocked up, um, well, still check out TUB! And forget I said anything! The first time I met Bobby was when we stayed together in a tiny (seriously tiny) house with about eight other people for SXSW 2010. Bobby – well, he slept in a crib for that whole week. No, literally, a crib. That’s how dedicated Bobby was to getting to SXSW to represent his film. I don’t know about you, but I like my filmmakers dedicated and I like Bobby a lot. Since TUB, Bobby has moved to Hollywood, had his own movie show (That Movie Show on MTV’s Next Movie, which I was lucky enough to guest star on once), and come back to Park City for the premiere of a new anthology film that features an all-new segment from Bobby and his girlfriend, Daron Nefcy. As a bonafide Sundance alumni, Bobby has some unique insights into Sundance-ing (and Slamdance-ing). As one of […]

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Wrong. The titles serves as both mission statement and admonishment, as Quentin Dupieux‘s latest project exists in a world where the irrational and irregular reign, where clocks tick over from :59 to :60, where the concept of “appropriate” behavior doesn’t seem to exist to anyone, where palm trees turn into pine trees overnight, where typical horror film clangs and bangs ring out at the most odd of moments (giving everything a strange sense of danger). But the world of Wrong is a more focused one than fans of Dupieux might be used to, and the film has more of a standard plot than Dupieux’s previous film (2010’s new classic Rubber), though it’s still unreservedly absurd. The film ostensibly follows Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick, ever-engaging and just plain game), a somewhat reserved young gentleman whose best friend is his dog, Paul. When Paul goes missing one morning, Dolph falls down the sort of cinematic K-hole that only Dupieux could create. Dolph’s already very strange world suddenly becomes populated with a lovestruck pizza girl (Alexis Dziena), an inept French-Mexican gardener (Eric Judor) who is incapable of explaining what happened to that wacky tree, and a private investigator (Steve Little) whose reasons for being terrible at his job might be less his fault than meet the eye.

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When Gene Robinson became a bishop of the Episcopal Church’s New Hampshire diocese in 2003, it was a watershed moment for organized religion, to be sure. Yet to merely deem the election of the first openly gay non-celibate priest in the history of major Christian denominations a “watershed” is to understate the rather extraordinary significance of a single act that overturned a millennia-old tradition of intolerance. Macky Alston’s documentary Love Free or Die is a film worthy of that momentous event. It follows the courageous Bishop Gene as he faces a wealth of hatred and distrust. He is excluded from the Anglican Church’s once-a-decade Lambeth Conference, and he faces death threats, cruel hecklers, and more while fighting for full-fledged equality in his church and a newfound understanding of the Bible’s most controversial elements.

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Rapper Ice-T looks into the origins of the rap game in his first film about the genre that made him a star. At the root of hip-hop are the impressive lyrics, crafted by master wordsmiths, that make up these songs and Ice-T gets to the bottom of what it takes to create these intricate rhymes. The title of the film suggests that rap came from nothing, but the truth is rap began when those without access to instruments turned to what they did have, the record player, and turned that into an instrument. Rap was a reinvention of this music, throwing rhymes and lyrics over the instrumentation rather than completely starting from nothing. As Grandmaster Caz states in the film, “Hip-hop didn’t invent anything, hip-hop reinvented everything” giving new life to these songs and bringing them to a new generation.

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The premise of That’s What She Said sounded like it could be funny enough, with a trio of seemingly oddball women coming together for a day of slightly mad-cap adventures throughout the streets of New York to get Bebe (Marcia DeBonis) ready for her big date that night. Things start out amusing enough with clearly neurotic Bebe constantly calling her probably still drunk from the night before best friend Dede (Anne Heche) to plan their day. Bebe is already primping at 7:30am while Dede (yes – these are their names) barely notices when she falls off her own bed making it clear that the two are polar opposites, but you get the sense that they have been friends long enough to know (and put up with) each other’s less than favorable traits. The day gets off to a bad start with Dede already in a bad mood (although it seems she is always this way) and Bebe having taken a very upset (and constantly crying) Clementine (Alia Shawkat) under her wing. Clementine has just gone through a breakup and is not shy about sharing every (every) intimate detail of her now defunct relationship. Dede is the picture of constant support and symphony while Bebe could care less, until a sudden near run-in with an ex of her own causes the idea of Clementine joining their group the least of Dede’s concerns.

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When it comes to family loyalty it is hard to turn your back on those you can’t help but love unconditionally, even if they disappoint you at every turn. Maria, aka Filly Brown (Gina Rodriguez), has become the matriarch of her house with a mother (Jennie Rivera) in jail who left behind not only, Filly but her younger sister Lupe (Chrissy Fit) and her father (Lou Diamond Phillips) as well. This responsibility has clearly left Filly with a tough exterior, but never bitter, as Rodriguez is able to seamlessly transition from a sharp-tongued fighter to a naïve young girl. It is clear from the onset (and comments from those in Filly’s life) that her mother is bad news, but as her daughter Filly can’t (or won’t) see that and when her mother asks for her help, Filly agrees without question. This promise becomes the catalyst that drives Filly through the rest of the film and effects the decisions that she makes to get the funds her mom seems to so desperately need.

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Detropia opens on an abandoned residence being demolished as a wax-faced local reporter stands by, reporting on what most people in his audience already know – Detroit is an emptying, broken city, and it’s hard to imagine that will change any time soon. Detroit was once America’s most thriving city, a sprawling metropolis that was home to America’s most bankable manufacturing system, automobiles. But these days, the giant city (Detroit itself is a stunning 139 square miles) is home to something very different – a giant unemployment rate, a fractured citizenship, and the very real possibility that it will go bankrupt. Documentary directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp, The Boys of Baraka) attempt to tackle the many issues facing Detroit in their film, drawing from different perspectives to form a complete and complex picture of why Detroit is, as one of their subjects grimly announces, “never coming back.” With the automobile industry decamping for cheaper labor and bigger factories in other countries (mainly Mexico) and the constant threat of competitors (China and Japan specifically), Detroit has become a ghost city, one where nearly 90,000 houses lay vacant, one where their own mayor (Dave Bing) proposes a plan to relocate citizens from failing neighborhoods into ones more prone to survival in a desperate bid to keep the city operating. Detroit is, in short, a very unhappy city.

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Having first wowed audiences with his film Merantau, director Gareth Huw Evans brings silat (Indonesian martial arts) back to the big screen in The Raid and does not skimp on the action or the violence. The music explodes as the film begins and the soundtrack (from composers Mike Shinoda and Josephn Trapanese) does not let up, keeping pace with the action and adding to the overall adrenaline rush of the film. The Raid is pretty much what the title suggests: a highly-trained SWAT team descends upon the building of the city’s most notorious crime leader, Tama (Ray Sahetapy), who rules every floor of his building with unforgiving brutality. Tasked with bringing him to justice, the team is warned of what they are walking into, but nothing could prepare them for the all-out onslaught waiting for them as it becomes clear that all the building’s tenants are not just ruled by Tama, most take great pleasure in hunting those who try and threaten him.

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As Kate mentioned, we here at FSR are looking to not only provide you with reviews of the various films we are planning on seeing (I believe we are currently at around 20+ each because, yes, we are both insane) but to also bring you into the Sundance experience. How might we do that? By mixing up our coverage with some slightly more personal pieces (yes I am friends with the following interviewee, yes I am admitting this to the world) which will not only give you an idea of who attends the festival (and help make those long lines and long nights of writing bearable), but what the festival means to them and what keeps them coming back for more. As a veteran of the Sundance Film Festival, we turned to fellow critic Eric D. Snider for advice on how to navigate what can be a grueling eleven days while still having fun, lying to “celebrities,” and most importantly, what he is most looking forward to seeing this year. I met Eric for the first time at last year’s Sundance and he was not only a constant (and needed) source of humor (he photobombed me within minutes of having just met), but was also a great go-to if you had a random question only someone who had been to the fest before could answer (and yes, it helped that we shared a condo last year, making him a stone’s throw away at any given time.) This year Eric will be covering the […]

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Day one. Well, day three for everyone else, but day one for us. Weeks ago, I thought the worst thing about this day would be waking up at 3:30AM to catch a 6:20AM flight to Salt Lake City. I was wrong. So very, very wrong. The worst thing about this day would be getting to the American Airlines desk, ready to check my bag, only to realize that I am without my Driver’s License. And worse yet, I have no idea where it is. None. Jump cut to me standing in front of the TSA, begging, mewling, pouring out the contents of my wallet. They let me through. How, why, I don’t know, but I took it. Only to find myself (and interpid Allison Loring) in what surely must have been the set of a cheapo horror flick – a temporary “departure lounge” with walls rattling thanks to bizarrely howling wind and rain in Los Angeles. It was little comfort to hop onto our tiny plane – 3 seats across, 16 rows back, drinks service but a gentle dream. Was this The Grey? Was this a test? Would we even live?

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Please note that in the full-length version of this picture, Rob is totally playing with winter apparel and a cell phone. It’s very Sundance-y. No, really.  By now, we’ve covered how much work even the most fun Sundance Film Festival can be for those working it but, by and large, it might just be the hardest for the scades of publicists that hit Park City armed to to the teeth with clipboards, press kits, and whatever it is that’s replaced Red Bull. Need to set up an interview with an emerging filmmaker in a Starbucks? Publicist. Need a ticket to a public screening for a film you just have to review right now please, please, please? Publicist. Need, you know, like a clipboard or something? Publicist. But as glamorous as that might all sound – wait, who are we kidding? It’s not. And most publicists, get this, don’t even have the time to check out movies while at Sundance. I know, I know, it’s a lot to handle. So what then of those true film geek pubs? Dreamers, those kids, dreamers like Rob Scheer, publicist for a big-time NYC-based PR and marketing firm, who has dreamed of the snows of Sundance since he was a but a wee lad. And he’s finally made it to the festival – to hand me a clipboard and listen to me beg for a ticket to Keep the Lights On? No! To answer ten questions about the festival!

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Team Film School Rejects is about 16 hours from finally heading out to the Sundance Film Festival (we like to show up a couple of days late, in hopes that our beds will be warm for us), and in between the last minute planning, scheduling, packing, and crying jags, it’s high time we stepped back and appreciated the festival for what it is – which is, in no uncertain terms, pretty damn essential to independent film in America. That is something that many of us might forget – it’s easy to when you’re there, freezing cold, hungry, exhausted, and without a ticket to what will surely be “the next big thing” and forced to watch displaced Hollywood glitterati hoof it up Main St. in high heels to hit the next “gifting suite.” But Sundance matters, and it matters for a hefty number of reasons that we often forget. So, before I wake up at 3:30 in the morning to put my money where my big mouth is, here’s why Sundance matters.

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As we move ever closer to our full-body assault on Park City for this year’s Sundance Film Festival, it is important to pause from the madness of schedule-making and over-packing to anticipate some of the more gorgeous films we’ll be taking in. Films like Terence Nance‘s An Oversimplification of Her Beauty which, if it’s anything at all like its first poster, will be a real treat for tired eyes. Nance’s debut feature (which will have its World Premiere at the festival) is comprised of both live action material and different styles of animation (including stop-motion and hand-drawings), which is no surprise, as Nance is a visual artist of the highest order. The filmmaker studied visual art at NYU, and his resume is rounded out by mixed-media installations, music, and performances, in addition to his film creations. All of that creativity is put to use to tell a deceptively simple story in Beauty. The film follows Terence (Nance) and his possible lady love (Namik Minter), as the two see-saw between “will they, won’t they” over just one night’s time. Check out the full first poster for An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, along with Sundance screening information, after the break.

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The annual week I spend in sleepy Park City, Utah, carousing with the rest of the online film criticism glitterati, eating criminally overpriced pizza, barely sleeping, and consistently worrying about early on-set frostbite is my favorite week of the year. Not just for the pals, the pizza, and the sleep deprivation, but for (shockingly!) the movies. I’ve been lucky enough to see some truly great stuff at Sundance over the past two years – The Freebie, Winter’s Bone, Martha Marcy May Marlene, and Take Shelter all come to mind quite quickly, particularly because those films all stuck with me long enough to make it on to my top ten lists for their respective years. That’s staying power, and that’s the power of Sundance – seeing films in January that stay top-of-mind (and top-of-top-ten-list) for eleven months (and beyond). So which films from this year’s Sundance will prove to be long-range winners? While I can certainly make some very educated guesses, there’s no way to know for sure until my eyeballs meet Park City’s theater screens. That said, it’s probably safe to assume my ultimate favorite is somewhere on the following list of my ten most anticipated films for this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

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It’s the year of Lizzy Caplan. Such a bold proclamation is based entirely on the fact that the Party Down and Mean Girls star has two films world premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, an exciting feat for any actress, but doubly so for an up-and-coming comedic gem like Caplan whose two lady-centric films are bowing in a post-Bridesmaids world. Last year’s big it-girls, Elizabeth Olsen and Brit Marling, faced a somewhat similar situation – both came to the festival with two films to hype (Olsen had Martha Marcy May Marlene and Silent House, Marling turned up with Sound of My Voice and Another Earth). But even Olsen and Marling didn’t have the same challenge Caplan has to deal with this year when it comes to her work in Save the Date and Bachelorette – two films, two starring roles, two projects both about weddings. Madness! How the heck will we ever tell these two films apart? Well, with this handy comparison of every relevant bit of information (and even some not-so-relevant bits) on each film, we will. Consider them Lizzy Caplan Sundance Film Festival Flash Cards. Study up and get your best wedding outfit/snowsuit prepped (hint: use fur).

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published: 11.26.2014
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