Thanks to everyone who commented on or read our Sundance coverage! We braved Park City's confounding bus system for you, you know. (If you appreciated it why not like us on Facebook and follow Michael and Glenn and I on twitter?) I had attended Sundance twice before. Once before I was a writer during college and once officially as press in 2010 when the highlight was dancing with Parker Posey at a party! But this felt like a first time again, mostly because I brought a team so we did it up right. Well, mostly right. 75% right. We definitely didn't attend enough parties but there's always next year if -- no, I can't even think about leaving NYC again any time soon. I've woken up in my own cozy bed the past few mornings for the first time in two weeks (a quick LA trip was before Sundance, remember) and it feels great.
Park City was not without its charms. I got to take a ski lift "to work" each day which was fun.
(Those are not actually tears of joy I'm shedding but tears from the cold. I love that kind of bracing cold weather. But I digress.)
Between the three of us we saw over 60 films and wrote up half of them up for you! We'll get around to some of the others eventually... but the constant barrage of Sundance coverage must now end since it's Oscar time.
The Official Sundance Prizes in case you missed them. I heard joking on twitter that if you screen at Sundance you win an award but this isn't actually true. Of the 42 pictures we wrote about (!!!) only 7 of them won something.
MY PERSONAL JURY OF ONE PRIZES
PICTURE: Love is Strange or Boyhood
DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater
ACTRESS: All hail Elisabeth Moss. For many actors "Peggy" on Mad Men would be a crowning glory. But after Top of the Lake and now, for our Sundance purposes, Listen Up Philip (reviewed) and The One I Love, it seems clear that Moss is just warming up. Embarassingly talented.
ACTOR: Alfred Molina & John Lithgow in tandem in Love is Strange
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Vera Vitali, Blind
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jonathan Pryce, Listen Up Philip
MOST BEAUTIFUL: Andrew Leung in Lilting
BEST CAMEO: Shirley Venard, Kumiko the Treasure Hunter
FUNNIEST BABY: Jude Swanberg in Happy Christmas
OUR COVERAGE in alpha order by film
52 Tuesdays (Glenn) - world cinema director winner
Appropriate Behavior (Nathaniel)
Blind (Nathaniel) - world cinema screenplay winner
Blue Ruin (Michael)
Dear White People (Michael) - breakthrough talent winner
Drunktown's Finest (Glenn)
Ernest & Celestine (Tim, screened before the festival)
The Girl From Nagasaki (Glenn)
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Glenn)
God's Pocket (Michael)
Happy Christmas (Nathaniel)
Happy Valley (Glenn)
I Origins (Glenn) -walter p sloan winner
Infinitely Polar Bear (Nathaniel)
Kumiko The Treasure Hunter (Nathaniel) - original music winner
Land Ho! (Glenn)
Last Days of Vietnam (Glenn)
Life Itself (Michael)
Lilting (Nathaniel) -world cinema cinematography winner
Listen Up Philip (Glenn)
Love is Strange (Nathaniel)
My Prairie Home (Glenn)
Only Lovers Left Alive (Michael, screened before the festival)
Obvious Child (Michael)
Private Violence (Glenn)
The Raid 2 (Glenn)
Rich Hill (Glenn) - Grand Jury Documentary winner
Song One (Nathaniel)
Stranger By The Lake (Nathaniel, screened before the festival)
The Trip To Italy (Michael)
The Voices (Nathaniel)
War Story (Nathaniel)
Web Junkie (Nathaniel)
What We Do In the Shadows (Glenn)
White Shadow (Nathaniel)
Todays Must Reads
Matthew Scott, cinematographer, has a great detailed piece on Roger Deakins Oscar nominated work on Prisoners
The Wire Joe Reid ranks all seasons of all Ryan Murphy shows. Hot messes they are!
Yahoo Movies Tom Hiddleston originally auditioned to be Thor, not Loki
The Wire Jennifer Lawrence ate Doritos in her American Hustle gown
The Dissolve talks to Sandra Bernhard about her performance in The King of Comedy (1983). Oscar robbed!
Kenneth in the (212) Oliva Newton John will be doing a Las Vegas residency! You have to believe she is magic.
Vanity Fair Madonna and Miley's "We Can't Stop/Don't Tell Me" duet. So cute it is
Tough Topics / Soap Boxes
Gays vs the Grammys an article articulating the most disturbing social media trend of the past few months - gays viciously attacking their allies. It wasn't just the Grammys and it needs to stop. I particularly hate the way Madonna is treated by young gays since she stood by the gay community when it was NOT cool (sorry but Lady Gaga, who I enjoy, was not risking anything by supporting us) and it cost Madonna a lot and then to see everyone turn on her? Sick-making. And also just another boring reminder that ageism is still rampant and hip and also the very dumbest prejudice since it's basically self-loathing in advance.
The Daily Beast publishes a must-read, unpleasant as the topic is, about the internet's desire to prosecute Woody Allen for Farrow's allegations. The list of top ten widespread assumptions of fact that are wholly and provably false in the beginning of the article is fascinating.
I love this top ten falsities lede because it basically apply to all divisive topics in this age of (mis)information...
Every time I stumble upon this topic on the internet, it seems the people who are most outraged are also the most ignorant of the facts.
It's also telling of how little facts matter to the internet and pop culture at large. I didn't even know some of this stuff and I was a mega fan of both Mia & Woody when all of this went down (and boy was it depressing and remains so because they're both great artists who made at least a few masterpieces together). The reveal that Mia Farrow approved her clips in Woody's Globes tribute is also an eyebrow raiser. Anyway it's a great read and kinder to Mia and Ronan than you'd think given its conclusions. A sad but mitigating reminder: Woody and Mia had an odd but long relationahip, probably non-monogomamous and definitely non-idyllic, and they both have a history of messy and controversial romantic relationships with collateral damage.
Hey y'all. Now that I'm back from Sundance I can join in the "We Can't Wait" fun as we near the top of the Team Experience list. The team has been highlighting our top 14 (collectively) most anticipated films of the new cinematic year. We've already covered 13+ great movies and it falls on me to write up our fourth highest ranker.
Under the Skin
In which Scarlett Johansson plays an alien searching for man meat or skin or something. The men she seduces are never heard from again.
The entire reason this is on the list is surely The Film Experience's collective devotion to 2004's Birth, the misunderstood masterpiece by Jonathan Glazer. I don't have a pass/fail checklist of requirements for my team members here at TFE but if I did "Do you like Birth?" would be on the questionnaire. For reasons that are too too horrible to contemplate Glazer hasn't made a film since which makes Under the Skin something of a unicorn. Does it really exist? It must since we've seen stills of its delectable leading lady Scarlett Johansson all over the place and some lucky souls saw it at TIFF in the fall. I purposely avoided reviews hence this very vague write-up. I want to be surprised and transported.
Why We Can’t Wait
Here's where I just repeat the intro points again: Glazer of Birth. Rare like a unicorn. Scarlett Johansson as extraterrestrial succubus.
But We Do Have To Wait
But only about 63 more days since A24, that godsend of a specialty distributor, is bringing it to us on April 4th.
Previously on "We Can't Wait"
05 Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson adapts Pynchon)
06 Into the Woods (Rob Marshall adapts Sondheim)
07 Snowpiercer (Boon JongHo does sci-fi)
08 Nymphomaniac (Lars von Trier Gone Wild)
09 Boyhood (Linklater's long-gestating family drama)
10 Big Eyes (Tim Burton back to the bio)
11 The Last 5 Years (the Off Broadway classic goes cinematic)
12 Gone Girl (David Fincher thrills)
13 Can a Song Save Your Life (Keira Croons)
14 Veronica Mars (TV Sequel... hey, what's this doing her?)
runners up just missed the cut
Our last two Sundance movies! But for the roundup/index post in the morning, this is our final bit of coverage from Sundance 2014. Let's end with two movies featuring faces and topics I'm willing to bet you'll love: Ben Whishaw in a gay culture-barrier drama and Melanie Lynskey and Anna Kendrick in a dramedy about sister-in-laws.
Remember Chang Pei Pei as Jade Fox in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon? She's just as pissed off in Lilting, but with good reason. Her only son Kai (Andrew Leung) has abandoned her by way of sudden death. This is not a Spoiler Alert: We see him in flashbacks but he's dead as the story begins. She's left grieving and alone... but for unexplained visits from her son's "best friend" (Ben Whishaw) though she can't fathom why he keeps dropping in since a) she hates him though she can't exactly say why and b) she doesn't technically know that her son was gay. Props to Pei Pei's performance that those two details are so willfully and obtusely fused together. She knows. By the very nature of its plot, particularly if you've lost someone you deeply loved way too early in life, Lilting is hugely moving; I was a wet-faced wreck. But while the film gets much thematic resonance from Chang's inability to adapt or communicate in her new homeland (she never learned the language and leaned on her son heavily), I did grow frustrated with the constant withholding. Ben keeps refusing to tell her the truth, even though he has every reason and backstory desire to do so. Lilting won the World Cinema Cinematography prize and, though its simple images have a kind of crystalline beauty, I can only assume this prize is for all the dreamy shots memorializing the peak beauty of Andrew Leung & Ben Whishaw lolling about shirtless and snug in bed. That peaceful aesthetic beauty amplifies the furiously unfathomable irreversible loss of love.
Distribution: Not at this point but LGBT films usually find their way eventually. It was much easier for LGBT to get traditional distribution years ago when gay people were loyal to the arthouses. (But that hasn't been the case in some time.)
IMPORTANT NOTE: Chicago readers can see this later today at the Music Box Theater with Joe Swanberg in attendance doing a Q&A!
Happy Christmas is an intimate highly enjoyable and tighly focused dramedy about a husband and wife (Swanberg with Melanie Lynskey) with a newish baby (Jude Swanberg - too hilarious!) who are lending their basement to the husband's sister (Anna Kendrick) after her latest breakup. Leaving the theater afterwards I wondered how much better Swanberg's films might be with a little more time for second drafts or rehearsal. He keeps cranking them out and though they're all quality (I highly recommend All the Light in the Sky if you can find it) they don't quite crossover. But then I realized how uncharitable that was. Though Happy Christmas is perhaps too modest for greatness I must also quickly emphasize that it is wholly satisfying. Swanberg describes his impetus for making the movie as wanting to dramatize the process by which in-laws become siblings. That's a beautiful goal and a rare topic, too. Also rare: the opportunity to see great supporting actors like Lynskey dig into a large role and mix it up in zesty character-based comic scenes with Lena Dunham & Anna Kendrick. (Swanberg writes outlines but the actors fill in the details)
On a related in-house note, I wanted to give a shout out to a reader 'TB' who, in our recent post about Anna Kendrick and the Movie Musical, provocatively suggested the following:
that Anna Kendrick is emerging as the face of musicals is a fundamental sign that modern Hollywood doesn't understand what makes musicals work. She constantly positions herself as an actress above and outside her films, happily pointing to all of the places where it's not real. She's skittish around her own emotions. She has two feet FIRMLY planted in reality at all times. She's staunchly contemporary. It's not just that these are flaws, it's that these...directly work against what a musical needs to survive.
I thought that was an astute point even if I don't wholly agree that a very contemporary persona can't work within the movie musical, a more flexible genre than most will concede. But I am happy to report that there is a pretty great moment in a funny-touching scene in Happy Christmas with Lynskey wherein Kendrick totally embraces and uses this very quality described FOR her characterization, both playing it out and commenting on her own skittishness. I think she's really talented. And, as it turns out, self aware.
Distribution: Yes. It's Magnolia so a very limited release will happen eventually. No word yet on when. But if you're in Chicago, GO SEE IT TODAY. It's fun and sweet and the ensemble is great.
As you have undoubtedly heard because the drama is too juicy not to spread, the Original Song nominee that shocked everyone on Nomination Morning is no longer. "Alone Yet Not Alone" from Alone Yet Not Alone, a faith-based movie, has been disqualified due to excessive untoward campaigning. The nomination had been controversial right from the start for multiple reasons. First, no one had heard of the movie (not even one review on Rotten Tomatoes at the time) and people don't like obscure things. Then the amateurish-looking and racist-seeming trailer got passed around mockingly and we learned that anti-gay activists were endorsing the film. The team behind it basically gave God the credit for its nomination. Listen, Oscar night is heaven on earth but God's got nothing to do with it.
More on Oscar's most aggravating branch after the jump...