My second trip to the annual Sundance Film Festival for Blogcritics, started out much differently than in 2010. A fellow press friend of mine (Big Movie Mouth Off’s Jimmy Martin) received a screener copy of The Legend of Beaver Dam. Prior to a trip to our local karaoke bar I convinced him that it would be a good idea to kick start the festival during our bar pre-party and what a grand idea. What director Jerome Sable along with his co-writer Eli Batalion have crafted is a splattacular musical comedy horror hybrid about nerdy Danny (L.J. Benet) who may or may not have saved his fellow campers from the legend of Stumpy Sam (the trailer of which you can watch here).
Another change of pace was the idea to head up to Park City opening afternoon just to pick up my press badge. Along with my Tooele Transcript Bulletin wife/film critic Missy and The Reel Place’s Luke Hickman, we hit the road and ventured up the canyon. Thankfully, along with that first trip, the weather held out for us the entire weekend. Only one snow storm hit while we were up there but not during any drive time. No hour-plus drive through a blizzard for us this year, phew!
The reason for garnering our press badges the day before the Press & Industry screenings was so that when we ventured back up the next day we could find a parking spot, jump in the cattle line and start watching some movies. Having already written full length reviews for eleven of the films I saw, I should still at least mention the rest, right?
Submarine – Armed to the gills with a great cast (Sally Hawkins, Noah Taylor, Paddy Considine, Yasmin Paige and Craig Roberts) comes the story of 15-year-old Oliver Tate (Roberts) who just wants to lose his virginity to classmate Jordana (Paige) and save his parents’ marriage from their new neighbor-“ninja” across the street, Graham (Considine). Director Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd) has crafted an acutely self-aware story of adolescent selfishness but unfortunately things get far too serious in the end and the tone starts to fall apart. Still worth a look if you’re a big fan of British comedies, it reminds me of the Kiwi Eagle vs Shark from the 2007 Festival.
Bobby Fischer Against the World – Director Liz Garbus may have started this documentary off with the best of intentions, but I’m sure it was Bobby Fischer’s personal ego that got in the way. Another thing that doesn’t help is that the film spends so much time praising Fischer that it forgets to show us why he was such a genius in the world of chess. Walking out of the doc you won’t learn one new thing about how chess is played, but you will be totally convinced that Bobby Fischer is simply another crazy douchebag. Just wait until you hear his highly publicized rants regarding the World Trade Center attack and how America basically had it coming as far as he’s concerned. Yup, while I may have been slightly involved with the proceedings, the whole final 20 minutes or so leave a bad aftertaste which is not likely to be cleansed anytime soon.
There was also two short films screeners afforded to me: All Flowers in Time and Satan Since 2003 – Flowers plays off as if David Lynch decided to remake a smash-up of Halloween III: Season of the Witch and The Ring. While Chloë Sevigny may somehow gives us the most fun performance she’s given since cast to be sulky and bitchy on Big Love, writer/director Jonathan Caouette seems like all he wanted to do was make a 14 minute head trip and I suppose in that aspect he has at least succeeded.
With Satan, director Carlos Puga has crafted an often times hilarious documentary look at the world of “Hell’s Satans,” a motley moped “gang” in Richmond, Virginia. While the owner of Black Swan Books may think they cause a problem with the noise and their rambunctiousness, they just wanna have a little fun and ride their mopeds. Consisting of around 60 members, there are also different turfs and territories (including a group of zaoists who ride their mopeds to church on Sunday) across the local area and a series of hijinks eventually escalates to a moment of sheer terror for Puga involving a vehicular accident and a homemade bomb.
The rest of the fest belonged to wandering Main Street. While I did not attend any parties this year, I did get invited to and swung by, a bunch of fun lounges. Our first stop at The Studio on Main featured some great food and a glimpse of Peter Dinklage. The couture watches and spray-on tans just didn’t seem right to partake of for obvious reasons. The House of Hype LIVEstyle Lounge is where it was truly at this year, even for TV’s Hercules’ Kevin Sorbo. The “gifting” part of the lounge was fantastic (a Paul Frank hoodie, an Insound jacket with built-in earbuds and a connector for my iPod, and an EQ bracelet) and a thankfully not Utah-liquor-law-inspired Bailey’s coffee to go.
The fun part though, was a game shoved to the back for optimum playing mode called Yoostar2. Featuring movie clips and integrating the Xbox Kinect or the PS3 “Eye” camera, it literally pits you right into the middle of the movies. You watch the clip, ready your lines then it’s lights, camera, action. Your score is based on reenacting the scene by reciting the dialogue. This is something that could convince me to finally invest in either the Xbox or PS3 in the future. Unfortunately I was unable to make it to the Burton House lounge but did get to stop by and say hi to the hosts of Talking Pictures, my friends Tony Toscano and Rich Bonaduce (who happened to swag me with some Pugs sunglasses).
In hindsight, this year was a smashing success on all fronts. Fantastic weather, great films with only one solid dud, it made me very pleased to have been able to bring Blog Critics its second (hopefully) annual coverage of the Sundance Film Festival. Be on the look out for all of the films I’ve reviewed as it seems that by now they’ve all been picked up by studios ranging from IFC Films to Paramount Pictures. Between the film selections at the festival and how surprisingly good the rest of the movies brought our way for a nice January change of pace, here’s to a solid year and fingers crossed that the good times keep on rolling.
And finally, of course, here are the awards:
Grand Jury Prize, U.S. Drama: Like Crazy, directed by Drake Doremus
Grand Jury Prize, U.S. Documentary: How to Die in Oregon, directed by Peter D. Richardson
Directing Award, Dramatic: Sean Durkin, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Directing Award US Documentary: Jon Foy, Resurrect Dead; The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: Sam Levinson, Another Happy Day
US Documentary Editing Award: If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, Matthew Hamachek and Marshall Curry
Special Jury Prize for Dramatic Film: Mike Cahill Brit Marling, Another Earth
Excellence in Cinematography, US Dramatic Film, Bradford Young, Pariah
Excellence in Cinematography, Documentary: Eric Strauss, Ryan Hill, Peter Hutchens, The Redemption of General Butt Naked
Special Jury Prize, Acting, Dramatic Film: Felicity Jones, Like Crazy
Special Jury Prize Documentary: Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, directed by Constance Marks
US Dramatic Competition Audience Award: Circumstance, directed by Maryam Keshavarz
US Documentary Compettion Audience Award: Buck, directed by Cindy Meehl
World Cinema Audience Awards:
Documentary: Senna directed by Asif Kapadia
Dramatic Prize: Kinyarwanda, directed by Alrick Brown
Best of Next: to.get.her, directed by Erica Dunton
World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Prize: Position Among the Stars
World Cinema Documentary Award: James Marsh, Project Nim
World cinema documentary Award: The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975
World Cinematography Award, Documentary: All Your Dead Ones
World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Happy Happy, directed by Sykt Lykkelig
World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award: Paddy Considine for Tyrannosaur
Screenwriting Prize: Erez Kav-El for Restoration
World Cinema Cinematography Prize Dramatic: Diego Jimenez For All Your Dead Ones
World Cinema, Grand Jury Prize: Danfung Dennis’ Hell and Back Again
World Cinema, Special Jury Prize: Olivie Colman and Peter Mulan for Tyrannosaur
Alfred P. Sloan Prize: Another Earth, directed by Mike Cahill
International Filmmakers Award: Cherien Dabis.
Jury Prize for Short Filmmaking: Brick Novax pt 1 and 2
Jury Prize for International Short Filmmaking: Deeper Than Yesterday, Ariel Klei
Photos courtesy The Weinstein Company and Sundance Film Festival