2014 Sundance

review whiplash

Some people are content simply doing things. Work, art, music. The act alone justifies the time spent before the next thing comes along that captures their interest and affection. But for others, the idea of contentment is a foreign concept left behind in the urgent march forward to be the absolute best. These are the greats, the ones the rest of us know by name or by the images/sounds they create. Andrew (Miles Teller) wants to be one of those greats. His focus is drumming, jazz drumming in particular, and his immediate goal is to catch the ear of the Schaffer Music Academy’s legendary professor, Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). The man makes and breaks musicians, but his method of channeling R. Lee Ermey’s meaner cousin threatens to destroy Andrew’s dream before it even begins. Whiplash is a percussive thriller that drops viewers into the middle of an obsession, one that assaults the eyes and ears with a painful beauty and the occasional misstep before reaching an incredibly invigorating finale. Equal parts suspense and musical drama, the film is a blistering experience.

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Filmmaker Richard Linklater’s relationship with the Sundance Film Festival has so far proven to be a very fruitful one – Linklater memorably premiered both his Before Sunrise and Before Midnight at the festival (Before Sunset, the middle film in the current trilogy, bowed at Berlin), his Slacker won the Grand Jury Prize at the festival back in 1991, and the festival even honored the film with a special anniversary screening back in 2010 (similarly, this year’s “From the Collection” screening will honor the twentieth anniversary of Hoop Dreams) – so it’s not surprising that the festival will be the one to debut one of Linklater’s most talked about features. It is, however, (pleasantly, to be sure) surprising that it will be his long-promised (and long-filmed) Boyhood. Honestly, we sort of didn’t think it was real.

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Oscar nominee Sam Green (The Weather Underground) has a new project premiering at Sundance next month. And if you don’t see it there, chances are you might not be able to see it at all. Titled The Measure of All Things, this project is part of the Frontier section and is a live documentary. That means it’s not something you can wait for the DVD with. You definitely won’t be able to stream it on Netflix. If anything, you might be able to check it out in some major metropolitan area when Green brings it around the country. But its touring life is unknown at this point. This sort of thing always is. But maybe if more people knew about it and were excited about it and maybe even contributed to its Kickstarter campaign, stuff like this will be more likely to do get to your part of the world. What is a live documentary? It’s what it sounds like. Green appears on stage and narrates the doc while standing in front of a sort of slideshow of images and clips. There’s also a live band or orchestra performing the score. It sounds unnecessary, I know. Why not just screen the film with all three parts recorded and combined, like a normal documentary? Well, sure, but you can also just listen to music and never attend a concert. It’s a different experience having the filmmaker and musicians there. It’s a little less formal than it seems, at least that’s how […]

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Sundance

Every film festival has its own identity, tastes, and most favored talents and – you know what? – the Sundance Film Festival is no different. The Park City, Utah-set film festival kicks off every January in high style (read: lots of flannel), the kind that includes lots of recognizable stars, brand new talents, and more than a handful of films that sound almost perfectly “Sundance-y.” While the overarching themes of each Sundance tend to make themselves crystal clear during the festival itself (we still fondly remember 2011, the year of the cults), we can at least mine each film’s official synopsis for some clues as to what we can expect to experience come 2014. Here’s a safe bet – as always, there will be plenty of “unlikely friendships.” With yesterday’s announcement of the Premiere and Documentary Premiere titles, we’re just about done finding out what we can expect to find in Park City’s various theater come next month (we say “just about,” because there are always a few titles that trickle in over the coming weeks). These glitzy picks join the already-announced in-competition titles (dramatic and doc, U.S. and world), along with Spotlight, Park City at Midnight, Sundance Kids, and Next picks, proving that sometimes a section title is just that, because damn if we can’t already draw some connections in this admirably deep selection.

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Sundance

It happens every year. Smack in the middle of the seemingly never-ending time period of “consideration” and loud arguments known as awards season, the Sundance Film Festival announces their selections for their upcoming spectacle. Such announcements could not come at a better time, really, as they stand to remind us of all the fresh films awaiting our eyes in mere weeks. (It’s okay, we only have to think about the same ten or so awards contenders for another four months, really.) For the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, the fest’s programmers selected 118 feature-length films (from 37 countries and 54 first-time filmmakers) from a boggling 12,218 submissions. In short – there’s a lot of fresh stuff to look forward to here, and we’re just starting to give it the attention it deserves. Despite the depth of field to dive into here (including Dramatic titles in competition, the NEXT category, and the newly launched Sundance Kids section), the festival is not quite done announcing selections – picks from its Premieres and Documentary Premieres will be announced later – but as those are typically the films we already have awareness of far in advance (if your Sundance film has a bunch of star power beside it, you’ll probably bow in the Premiere section), they’ve got enough buzz behind them already. We’re already looking for the unexpected gems, and here’s hoping one of these picks pans out come January.

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


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