Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sundance 2012 Movie Reviews

These are the films I saw at Sundance

Wuthering Heights dir Andrea Arnold
This woman directed Fish Tank - which is a fantastic movie and you need to watch it on your Netflix on demand, ok? Plus Michael Fassbinder is super hot in it (Don't even tell me you didn't see Shame yet, what's wrong with you??! See SHAME PLEASE)
Anyhow back to this adaptation of some boring old British people stuff.
Andrea did some amazing work - this film reminds me of both Tree of Life and Beasts of The Southern Wild (which I will get to in a minute) in that it's extremely SENSUAL and experiential - shots that are very concerned with sharing the sensory experience the characters have in the film. AND this film has the BEST sound design I've EVER HEARD. It's unbelievably good. The sounds of all beautiful things, ugh it's incredible.
I dug the acting and all but this film wasn't for me. Andrea Arnold is a powerful director and she's doing great things. I want to see what's next from her.

Beasts of The Southern Wild dir Benh Zeitlin
I had the privilege of knowing the people who made this movie and witnessing their dreams come true at Sundance this year - which was thrilling on its own. I finally saw the film and HOLY SHIT IT'S GOOD STUFF. Most other people say they loved it, some people say they didn't get it - which I can't understand in a million years what's not to get?!
I love the story - a little girl and her daddy and their experience with Hurricaine Katrina, and their own experience with mortality - it's a unique portrait of unique characters who live in a world that I don't know but I was made to FEEL! The beasts and nature serve to heighten emotions, grab me and make me feel what the main character, Hushpuppy, feels! The acting is fucking off the damn hook! They found non actors and real places and heightened the places with amazing design, and everything you see feels authentic and alive. Hell yes this film did it right. I believe it will take a long time for this filmmaking team to make another on this level but I believe they will do it again, and well. My suggestion for them? Try something completely the opposite and see how it goes.

Keep the Lights On dir Ira Sachs
I also had the privilege of knowing Ira Sachs as an NYU Directing professor. Seeing this work made me fall in love! I felt this was one of the best films I've ever seen, ever. It felt so good to see a filmmaker who knew exactly how to work his craft. I responded very strongly, though others around me agreed it was good but weren't as in love as I was. Why did this film stand out to me? There were so many beautiful subtle brushstrokes of authenticity. The frames, lighting, shots, actors' performances - the films way of telling me information - let me feel it and gave it to me in clever ways. It's the first film I've seen that deals with long unending on and off relationships - something I know a thing or two about. There's a lot of gay sex in the film which will get in the way of distribution knowing how hollywood is these days - they'll take plenty of Dragon Tattoo rape scenes but ohhh no no loving gay couples making sweet love ... ugh! Anyhow I just love all the choices Ira made in making this film. Thank you Ira for making it!

Smashed dir James Ponsoldt
This is a movie about a drunk girl - an alcoholic. It has great moments - Mary Elizabeth Windstead's performance is the very best part. Some moments were thrilling - and I love the way they were shot and edited (the fight scene, the crack scene) they made us afraid for her and that was exciting. However, there were some things that just didn't feel fully developed - especially the talented Aaron Paul's character as her husband. It was well acted but clearly that script wasn't finished. The character wasn't complex enough, he was too much of a sweety, and he was too simple. I wasn't surprised at all to learn they made this film so quickly. That's a cute experiment but why would they cheat themselves of the time it takes to make something right? It's a good movie, but not great, and in the indie world you have to make a great film, it's hard out there ... Anyhow it's more of a bummer considering the moments of greatness that make the story shine.

Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie by Tim and Eric
Tim and Eric are in the top most treasured and most personally influential comedians on my work. I absolutely love them and I'm a HUGE fan!! I was SOOO excited to see this movie. I finally did. The first few scenes are pretty damn funny, however the majority of the movie just isn't good. Sorry - it's not :( But I'd never look at this movie and say that Tim and Eric aren't supremely talented, they are. I think they should try again and make more and more stuff. For one, there's too many white male characters, and I think if they had some more women in the mix at least, it would help the scenes (why are all the business people men?) And I gotta say the story was way too conventional considering what Tim and Eric are good at, and so that made it pretty dull/gross out movie territory - which we've all seen before. What's great about Tim and Eric is that they PLAY with all the odd yet vaguely recognizable elements of modernity/our relationship with formats and pop culture. They are good with short formats and tv. Also - John C Reilly should always be Steve Brule, not that sick kid character. I want to see what's next, and next time they better get MUCH WEIRDER with the plot and format. MUCH MUCH WEIRDER and then they will have a hit, hell maybe even a golden globe nomination. The movie is still suitable for kids who are drunk/partying etc, but not much else.

Red Hook Summer by Spike Lee
Spike has been so incredibly generous with his students this year, yes he's been one of my NYU professors, and he invited us to his screening and even hired students to work on his film. People know him as a hard ass but I'm happy to learn that's just his way, and it's very evident how much he cares about filmmaking and people. He's very passionate about what he does, no question.
But, no I don't think that Red Hook Summer is Spike's best work and that's all I'm going to say about that.
I know this much - I've seen something else he made recently- and this something else was truly fantastic and skillfully made. I don't know if it will be publicly released or not, but I do know he's still got it, and anyone who saw Red Hook Summer and thought perhaps he's lost his skill - trust me, it's there. The man is experimenting with making new things in different ways, and god bless him for doing it.
One final note, Spike said at the Q and A that he didn't feel the studios understood black people - and I feel the same way about women. I don't think the studios understand women at all, and I hope to do something about that with the films I make in the future ...

Faith, Love and Whisky by Kristina Nikolova
I saw my classmate Kristina's debut feature film at Slamdance (an independent film festival that happens alongside Sundance, also in Park City). She's well known at NYU as being an incredible DP and it was great to see her directing/writing work. She's bulgarian and this film is shot in bulgaria with bulgarian actors. It was pulsating with energy and beauty and it showed me a truly alive portrait of this country's youth culture. The actors were truly solid, especially the ridiculously hot lead actress who could easily be a star in the US. It was also funny how the actress resembled the director, who is also a major babe. Kristina did great work on this film and I'm looking forward to what she comes up with next.

Other movie talk? There were so many I missed. It's dang hard to get tickets to things at Sundance. It's actually easier to see movies at Cannes! I didn't really bother seeing many films at SXSW because I was too interested in partying there and getting free food and drinks ... whoops.

The Surrogate stars that awesome dude from Martha Marcy May and Winter's Bone, and also stars that blonde lady from the Twister movie and the thing where her back is naked and Jack Nicholson thinks she's great. And it's probably going to be a big deal this year. It sold for the most amount of money at Sundance weehooo! I didn't see it.

Instead of telling you all of my SECRETS from sundance I'll tell you this:
It's SO BEAUTIFUL THERE! The fluffly snow and dramatic mountains in the most incredible colors. This is my favorite film festival I've attended and I want to go back again and again. You should check it out some time too.

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