Thursday, January 27, 2011

My thoughts on the movies I saw in 1/25

Perfect Sense

When there's a Ewan Macgregor movie playing anywhere - Sundance or otherwise - you show up.   I didn't care what this was about or whether or not he was in town (he's not). He makes mostly very wise decisions about which roles he takes, so I knew that the chance of this movie being good was very high. And this theory definitely held up.  This movie surrounds a global pandemic making entire populations briefly very sad, and then losing their sense of smell.  In the middle of this insanity, a handsome chef meets an epidemiologist and they begin falling in love.  I'm not sure why, but in tone this movie reminded me a little bit of The Road in that it was bleak but beautiful, and makes you think about how important it is to enjoy life to its fullest. 

Like Crazy

This is a sweet, honest little drama about two attractive college students attempting a long distance relationship. I've heard it compared to Blue Valentine a little - and I can kind of see that, in tone. The director was so sweet afterwards talking about how

Old Cats

This was a heartbreaking and terrifying family drama about two elderly people in Chile struggling with their drug-addicted daughter trying to take advantage of them.  Really well done - and by the same director as The Maid which was also great.  For anyone who dreads getting old, this is a horror movie.

Resurrect Dead

Ever seen those tiles on the streets of major cities in the US? Nobody knew who put them there or why, but they began appearing in the early 80's all over the country and even in a few locations outside of the country.  The director worked for five years, with a handful of guys similarly obsessed about the origins of the tiles, to discover where they came from. This was so much fun - an absolute delight to watch how it unfolds. I couldn't help but compare it to Shut Up Little Man in that it also involved the concepts of exploitation of subjects and privacy - but I think this one handled it a lot differently and better.  I highly recommend this movie!


Wow, wow, wow. I missed this one at TIFF and wasn't really planning on seeing it at Sundance until it was announced last Tuesday that it was nominated for an Oscar. So we checked it out and were very glad we did. Very heavy drama complete with war flashbacks and family secrets coming out after death. I still want Dogtooth to win that award but I have to highly recommend this movie.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Monday Sundance Movies - Here's What I Saw


This is my favorite of the festival so far.  It concerned a 15 year old boy who takes care of his ailing uncle and is dealing with finding his place in the difficult social landscape of high school.  I found it to be completely devoid of cliches and a really honest and moving story. John C. Reilly was awesome as the assistant principle of the school who befriends him.

Another Earth

This was an interesting blend of science fiction and indie character-driven drama about a very young woman who seeks out the man whose family she killed in a car accident several years earlier - at the same time as a new planet is discovered that may or may not mirror or own.  I thought this one was good - I am glad it got bought and it's definitely worth seeing. 

Take Shelter

Starring Michael Shannon as a suburban family man who begins to believe that the end of the world is approaching. What else do you need to know? The performance here is what you'd expect, but that's about all you can predict from this tense drama.  It's my second favorite of the festival so far. 

The Details

Dark comedy, ensemble cast.  Laura Linney was fantastic as a super kookypants manipulative neighbor, but Tobey Maguire as doctor and family man? Do not buy it.  The story was interesting enough, but I didn't laugh once. Well - only at Laura Linney.  A little.

Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same

You've got. To. See. This.  I didn't even need to read the description in the film guide to know I'd want to check this one out, and I was right. Hilarity! B-Movie style. Filmed on and around 14th Street - both East and West Village - and without a permit.  Which added to the aesthetic bigtime.  It was fun to see all the familiar locations since I live right there there of course.  I was confused as to why this screening wasn't packed and I have a feeling the buzz is very positive.  I really hope it gets picked up because I can see it doing great in LA/NY.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sunday movies (yep, I'm behind)

Here's a quick run-down.

My Idiot Brother: Starring Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Kathryn Hahn, Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschanel, Rashida Jones.   This was a totally harmless, pleasant, mainstream comedy about a sweet but aimless/immature guy and the three sisters of his who lend him a hand when he falls on hard times, only to get more than they bargained for with him in their lives.  No complaints here, other than that it was very hard to get tickets (but of course we managed).

Higher Ground: directed by and starring Vera Farmiga. Oh boy, this movie. This. Movie.  I kind of feel like it was my fault because I simply saw that she directed it and decided to see the movie without reading one single thing about it, but there I was, seeing a two hour+ drama about a born again Christian woman finding and potentially losing God.   I don't have a problem with religious movies per se, but I do have a problem with movies that go absolutely fucking nowhere, and that are poorly paced, miscast and under-developed from a character standpoint.  I can see they MIGHT have an audience for this if they edited the fuck out of the first half. But I'd still hate it. There were a few good lines and one decent relationship (the lead and her best friend) but that was too little, too late.  Mostly I found this to be a hot steaming mess and I will be forever confused why it's getting good reviews. Someone who has seen it - please explain the appeal to me!

Another Happy Day: This is with Ellen Barkin, Ellen Burstyn, Demi Moore, Thomas Hayden Church, Kate Bosworth.  And directed by a child no older than 25 years old. Of course his name now escapes me. But anyway - the story is somewhat familiar - super dysfunctional, broken family reunites for a wedding and stirs up old shit.  This movie doesn't totally depart from the genre but the performances are good enough and the dialogue is clever enough that you don't totally care when you do kind of know where it's going.  Matt and Shiri loved this and I thought it was very good.

Red State: I'm a decent Kevin Smith Fan (especially Chasing Amy!) so even though horror as a genre isn't my #1, I wasn't going to miss this.  The Fred Phelps /Westboro Baptist people protesting outside beforehand provided the best way to get in the mood of seeing a gory bloodbath of a movie based on them.  Although my friends didn't enjoy it, and although I wouldn't say I loved it, I am very glad that I saw it and I absolutely would recommend it.  The last 20 minutes especially where the right mixture of action and social commentary.

Cedar Rapids:  The new Miguel Arteta. I never saw Star Maps, I liked Chuck and Buck, and I thought The Good Girl was overrated. So, I wasn't sure what to think of this one starring Ed Helms as a square insurance salesman out on a three-day conference for work that could change his life forever.  I'd put this movie in the same category as My Idiot Brother or Win Win - very well-produced, funny and clever movies that showcase their star talent perfectly.  I don't think there's a movie where John C Reilly hasn't totally stolen the show and this one's no exception.

Look who is here! Adam!

We are seeing a couple movies together today and I couldn't be happier.

Attn James Franco (sign at Dolly's Bookstore)

Terri: Favorite Film Of the Fest So Far!

What a spectacular film. Felt so true and sweet. No cliches at all. And a great performance by John C Reilly.

Morning movie is Terri. Supposed to be very good.

Friday 1/21 in photos

Eef messing around on the computer
Hamish Linklater at The Future Q&A

Waiting for the movie to start

In the hard ticket holders line

Paul Giamatti & Amy Ryan at Win Win

Miranda July and young costar

Snacks are important.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A few snapshots from Sundance 1/23

Emily Mortimer, Elizabeth Banks & Paul Rudd at My Idiot Brother

Ellen Barkin, Demi Moore & Kate Bosworth at Another Happy Day

Kevin Smith protests the Phelps people before Red State

Kevin Smith heads into his movie screening after protesting

Tim, Matt, Eef and Shiri as we wait in line to see Red State

We are at the Red State premiere

Billy, wish you were here!

Packed packed packed house.

From the Phelps / Kevin Smith, Red State Sundance Protest

The first six-movie day was Saturday

Here's what we saw:


I know less about Formula 1 racing than any human being currently alive, and care even less about it. So it's a testament to this film that I was fully engaged throughout this entire documentary about Brazilian racing great Ayerton Senna. Using only (plentiful) archival footage + new audio interviews, the director whose name escapes me now crafted a pretty entertaining glimpse into the short life of the handsome and determined competitor.

We Were Here:

Another doc - this time a personal story about what it was like to live in San Francisco at the start of the AIDS epidemic. I'm not sure that this will win any awards but I do think it was a very captivating look at a community that was absolutely ravaged. It was cool to see it looked at very intimately - focusing on four or five people's stories - rather than a macro look at the history and the politics and the milestones. I knew a lot of the facts before, but it was stunning to see them laid out in such a stark and emotional way as these interviews were. I am glad I saw the movie.

The Music Never Stopped

I was really needing an accessible, decently paced narrative at this time of day after waking up so early, and this movie absolutely delivered. It was based on a true story apparently. Starred Lou Pucci, JK Simmons and Cara Seymour. In the '80s, two 60-somethings learn their estranged son has a brain tumor that won't kill him but will mess with his memory. His loyal but strict and old-fashioned father attempts to bring him out of this fog by hiring a music therapist who tries to make progress on his memory loss by playing him music that matters to him. Lord knows I love any movie that focuses on music and memory and the "father and son make good" element can't hurt here. This movie was pretty soft and sweet. Nothing wrong with saying this at all- but I don't know that I come to Sundance to be able to say "Oh, my mother would love that movie" on the way out.

Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure

I knew I couldn't go wrong with a title like that. Another documentary - this one about two guys living in San Fran in the '80s who surreptitiously recorded their neighbors tumultuous relationship - over and over - and sent it to friends who sent it to friends until at some point it became (pre-Internet) a viral success, spawning plays and comic books and several parties vying for movie rights. The film juxtaposes the solving the mystery behind these two fighting neighbors (one flamboyantly gay, the other drunk homophobe) with the two friends' obsession with the pair and their journey distributing the material over the years. It asks some interesting questions about voyeurism and exploitation and requires even the viewer to define what they love about these two crazy guys - are we laughing at or with them? This is a kind of Winnebago Man with a few extra (maybe too many extra) layers. It's a very good movie that could be great if they get rid of the reenactments and edit out 15 minutes of the final 30. I do recommend it though.

The Lie

Josh Leonard (actor from Humpday) directed a sweet little movie about a hipster dad (wife Jess Weixler from Teeth) who becomes increasingly unhappy with his lot in life and makes up a crazy lie to get out of work that ends up having far-reaching consequences. There were a handful of memorable (one funny, one resonant) scenes in this that elevated it for me from "just ok" to "quite good." Won't change my life or anything, but I am glad I saw it and I can see it doing OK when and if it's released.

The Troll Hunter

Found footage comedy about three journalists in Norway who accidentally discover a plot by the Norwegian government to cover up the fact that trolls exist. It took place in the woods and made me passionately wanted to go to Norway. There were some okay laughs. Beyond that, I wouldn't go out of my way to insist that anyone see it.

Sent from my iPad

Friday, January 21, 2011

The new Miranda July Film

Was hearbreaking and just the right amount of whimsical.  It is called The Future. And let me tell you - it really doesn't get old going around town saying "I just saw The Future and it was GREAT!"  I liked her last movie but wouldn't say I was part of the cult of Miranda July. I'm starting to jump on the bandwagon, though. As long as you can at least stomach her last movie, you'll love this one too. If Me and You and Everyone We Know wasn't your cup of tea, don't bother with this one.  It's about a couple who decide to live life more fully in the thirty days leading up to their committing to an adopt a shelter cat.  They kind of look alike - tall, skinny, shaggy blond hair - i wonder if that was an accident. Probably not. At any rate - rambling here, but definitely see this. Probably my favorite so far.

Then the next (and final) film of the day was also my most anticipated - Win Win directed by Tom McCarthy. Interesting tale that mixed elder law and high school wrestling - two subjects definitely underrepresented in modern cinema.  Paul Giamatti stars for once as NOT a loser - a perfectly competent (albeit somewhat morally dicey) suburban lawyer who must deal with the mess caused by the grandson of a client showing up on his doorstep.  The movie also featured two of my favorite working actors - Melanie Lynskey and Amy Ryan.  I have no complaints about this movie - it was wholly enjoyable and very well done. I don't know that it had quite the same independent edge as McCarthy's last films (The Visitor and The Station Agent) but it was great all the same.

About to watch this movie.

Up to five movies seen now at Sundance.

The last film we saw was called Bellflower, which seemed interesting and edgy to me. And both of those rung true but didn't also mean the movie was good - at all. It started out like a mumble core style casual boy-meets-girl-in-a-bar-and-then-goes-on-super-spontaneous-cross-country-road-trip story. But then it quickly (or actually not so quickly at all) descended into this somewhat non-sensical gory revenge tale. Or was it? At any rate - not something I can recommend at all, even though there were a few clever bits. Oh and it was way, way, WAY too long.

Now we're sitting at the Eccles excited to see the latest from Miranda July (director of Me and You and Everyone We Know). Did I get that title right?

This one makes us 6 for 6 for getting tickets - no surprise but always reassuring at this point in the festival.

After this is my most anticipated, the new Tom McCarthy film Win Win.

Sent from my iPad

Two movies today so far two write about.

First one: Rebirth. I chose this 9/11 documentary from the list of movies to see several weeks ago and then waking up at 7 AM today I was like "uh - really, this is why I'm dragging my butt out of bed after only five hours of sleep?" But you know what - it was great. Not just because I had low expectations.

It followed five people affected by the 9/11 WTC attacks, checking in with them once a year. It was a fascinating portrait of their lives. I couldn't stop admiring the score while I was watching. Of course the credits revealed it was by Philip Glass. I'll tell you what I loved about the movie - not one time did they show the image of the towers falling. Not one time was there any video of the towers at all actually, standing, falling, aflame, nothing. That should say quite a lot about the level of artistry and proper handling given to the subject. Also it was entirely apolitical - on purpose clearly. Lastly, it was not without humor. it was a teary film but never ever manipulatively so - and that is quite a feat given the topic. I really loved this. I think it's going to be very big given this year being the ten year anniversary.

Then, we saw another film that's in the Documentary Premiere section - this one a BIT lighter, called Bobby Fischer Against the World. It was just fine - well done, entertaining, thought-provoking enough. Nothing bad to say about this movie whatsoever. I'll mention too that Eef, Shiri and I showed up ten minutes before the movie started and we all three managed to get tickets. Thankyouverymuch.

Now we are at the Yarrow about to try and see a movie called Bellflower. Hey Erin!

Sent from my iPad

Not even 8 am and what am I doing?

Going to see a 9/11 documentary. Whyyyyyy... Who is choosing my itinerary? Oh yeah. Me. Oy.

Some quick thoughts on the movies I saw today.

I love Sundance for making the first Thursday a two-movie day (when you used to be able to catch only one).

The first one, The Guard, was introduced by first time director John Michael McDonagh as a dark comedy with some sad bits.  I found it to contain one of the most memorable characters I've seen on film in quite some time, a not-exactly-by-the-book or incredibly kind police officer in Ireland, played by Brendan Gleeson.  Unfortunately I'm not so great at Irish accents so I think I missed about 20% of the incredibly sharp dialogue. Still - lots of laughs.

Then we went to see Pariah, our first US Dramatic Competition film of the fest.  It had all the makings of the best of Sundance fare - African American lesbian teenager in New York coming out and coming of age in a world that won't accept her for who she is.  I don't think it was a perfect film but I truly enjoyed it, especially the performance by the lead actress, who's named Adpero Oduye.  I was amazed how expressive she could be in just a glance or facial expression, without saying a word. It was a tender story with a handful of very real moments.  It went over very well - standing ovation and everything. I hope it does well.

I have five films planned tomorrow including new ones from Miranda July and Tom McCarthy as well as a couple of docs and one more that I don't remember much about.

I've got to head off to sleep if I have any hope of staying awake long enough to enjoy them. Also because Eef's hassling me to post my reviews. OK! OK!

First Day of Sundance in Photos

Amber plays with my iPad at lunch at the Marriott

I was feeling stressed about tickets. For nothing. We found them just fine.

See? Tickets!

We grabbed seats in the front row at the Egyptian - our favorite place to sit at that theater.

Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson had a laugh during the Q&A of The Guard.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

And the first film of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival

The Guard starring Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson. I will post my thoughts about it later. We are excited to have gotten three of us in, since it is a tiny venue. The next film at the Eccles will be Pariah and won't be difficult to get into at all. And best of all, Eef will be there.

Shiri and I easily found tickets to the first Sundance movie of 2011.

More of the gang arrives, waits for bus to main street