James Rocchi

This year, we’re dedicated to bringing Sundance straight to you, dear reader, and that includes getting to know some of the faces that make up a stellar Sundance – critics (new and returning), publicists (ever-ready clipboard in hand), producers and distributors (looking for the next big hit to bring to a theater near you), and basically whoever else we stumble upon on the slick (and charming) hill that comprises Main Street. There may be hobos and inanimate objects included as interview subjects, but you’ll just have to wait and see on that one. First up, Sundance stalwart, James Rocchi. A dear personal friend and an impeccable professional mentor, the twelve-year (maybe?) veteran of the fest has covered Sundance for a variety of outlets, including MSN Movies, Cinematical (R.I.P.), Netflix, IFC, and Indiewire. This year, he’s back to cover the festival for MSN Movies and their magical The Hitlist blog (I say magical, because, hey, I write there too!) and Indiewire’s The Playlist. After the break, check out ten questions (and answers) about Sundance expectations and experiences with James Rocchi, the dapper, hat-wearing gentleman critic most likely to open a door for you while you discuss George Orwell, even in the middle of a blizzard.

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Culture Warrior

The Help has started a conversation that’s stretched far beyond the 137-minute confines of the film itself. And in its second week in a row atop the late-summer box office, the critical conversation surrounding the film has continued amidst (and, sometimes, against) the sleeper popularity it endures in a fashion similar to the success of the book it was based on. In interest of full disclosure, I have deliberately chosen by this point not to see The Help (perhaps a combination of my reservations against it combined with its daunting running time). However, in following the many editorials published in response to the film’s release, it oddly enough feels appropriate to comment on the conversation that the film has inspired without having seen it, as it’s a conversation that is hardly limited to the film itself. The Help seems to represent a breaking point, the last piece of white liberal guilt that broke the clear-cut racial fantasies of Hollywood cinema’s back, so to speak. The film is bearing the brunt of a decades-long history of similarly minded feel-good studio fare about race relations. While The Help certainly has its full-throated detractors, one interesting component about the overall critical reaction to the film is that it is politically simplistic while also presenting good or perfectly competent filmmaking, carried by a couple of strong female performances at its center (which, when considering what’s lacking in terms of identity and representation in Hollywood, is itself no small miracle).

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