My 12 Most Anticipated Films of Sundance 2012
12. That’s What She Said
11. The End of Love
10. Nobody Walks
9. The Comedy
8. For Ellen
7. Safety Not Guaranteed
5. Black Rock
4. Simon Killer
3. John Dies at the End
also of note: the Tim & Eric movie which comes out in March
I haven’t been following the new Sundance flicks. I’ll look into these titles.
Red Hook Summer is probably my most anticipated. Red Lights also intrigues me because I’m still hoping for DeNiro’s return to form. Solid list though.
Hmm…I think Young & Wild sounds interesting. I’m gonna wait until there’s more on the films.
Going out Monday – will be happy to report back on the following for anyone who is curious:
2 Days In New York
Middle of Nowhere
Keep the Lights On
The End of Love
The First Time
Safety Not Guaranteed
Young & Wild
Hello I Must Be Going
Save the Date
Lay the Favorite
Celeste & Jesse Forever
and whatever wins Dramatic Grand Prize/Dramatic Audience/Documentary/Dramatic World
My first time to miss a Cillian Murphy film at a fest, but apparently there was a mass buyer walkout during the first half of the premiere screening of Red Lights, which doesn’t bode well….
Bytch Please I’m intertesed in that list of films. Let us know how they were. Hope you enjoy!
Why are people talking about the Sean Penn film? Didn’t that movie get panned at Cannes last year? Is Sundance now in the business of recycling garbage?
And no, I didn’t think much of Il Divo.
Bytch Please – yes, very curious! especially in:
The First Time
Young & Wild
Celeste & Jesse Forever
Well all righty – Let me start with the two worst IMHO of the 20 films I saw and work my way up to The Meh and The Good:
Lay The Favorite: A hideous waste of a movie that reminded me of those VHS rentals from the 1980s, always overstocked, that no one ever wanted to rent, like “Leonard Part 6”. Rebecca Hall, not a hooker but a baby-voiced, hair-chewing “private dancer” with a heart of gold, a brain of air and a perennially-bared midriff, informs her father that she’s leaving Tallahassee to become a cocktail waitress in a Vegas casino. He’s thrilled! Spared the fate of Nomi Malone upon learning that cocktail waitresses are union laborers, she finds work placing phone bets for bookie Bruce Willis via her motel-room-neighbor Laura Prepon. The thrill of betting and handling large sums of cash excites her, and she develops a homewrecker’s crush on Willis. Willis’ jealous, botoxed wife Catherine Zeta-Jones is Not Amused, and Hall soon finds herself unemployed. She acquires a new boyfriend, vacationing pick-up Joshua Jackson, and moves to New York with him, eventually working for Willis’ rival, illegal bookie Vince Vaughan. Hijinks ensue when Vaughan starts an offshore operation in Curacao and one of Hall’s clients brings the heat down on the disastrous enterprise. Jackson is drawn into the mess, Hall needs help… who’s she gonna call? That this was the Weinstein Company’s only acquisition at Sundance, allegedly for north of $2M, is a greater mystery than why the two male leads chose this turkey as their “comeback”, or how Stephen Frears could have agreed to direct it.
The Comedy: A misnomer if ever there was, starring comedian Tim Heidecker as Swanson, a late 30something trust-fund baby whose elderly father lies catatonic in a nursing home. The mood is set when Swanson repeatedly flicks his father’s forehead with his finger to see if the poor man will react, then verbally abuses the male nurse in attendance with scatological insults. For 90 minutes and change Swanson and his prominent beer gut wander through a series of vignettes, swilling Pabst Blue Ribbon with his equally puerile pals, creating obnoxious scenes to annoy bystanders and basically revealing himself to be a hugely unsympathetic a-hole. Are these supposed to be the “hipsters” of today? Ugh! The action takes place on Swanson’s houseboat in Manhattan’s 79th St Boat Basin, his friends’ dingy Williamsburg flats, the restaurant where Swanson works as a dishwasher and the streets of New York. At one point, a co-worker Swanson is trying to seduce apparently goes into an unexplained grand mal seizure, then recovers and leaves without comment. At the Q&A, it emerged that this film was considered a serious effort to reflect upon the selfishness/aimlessness/arrested development of the privileged, in the vein of Bunuel, by those who created it. An audience fanboy actually compared Swanson to Bobby Dupea from “Five Easy Pieces.” I choose to classify it as one of those films that deliberately tries to fray the audience’s last collective nerve scene by scene; auteurs like Harmony Korine can do that with far more uniqueness than “The Comedy.”
Santino – I suppose because only the few who attend Cannes have seen the film. There was certainly curiosity about it, and the people I spoke to who saw it did find it interesting/compelling, but more for Sean Penn dressed up like a member of The Cure than the plot itself. :) I did find it odd that its screenings were booked into the Egyptian, which seats barely 200 people; usually a Penn film would merit one of the larger venues like the MARC or the Eccles.
I have to say, what little I’ve read (I don’t usually follow Sundance) makes me unimpressed with Sundance this year. Last year might not have been anything spectacular (Like Crazy winning? Gimme a break) but there doesn’t seem to be anything on the same level as Martha Marcy and Take Shelter this year. The lack of business from both SPC and Weinstein is telling.
Oh well, on to Cannes!
For me Sundance 2012 started off with several films that were okay but not spectacular, and for two days I thought that was going to be all there was until I had a good run of three films in a row… and when I saw two of the jury winners on the last day. There seemed to be an agenda to push “Like Crazy” and Brit Marling’s two films last year, even though I thought all three films were meh, and that Elisabeth Olsen was the only one hyped who seemed deserving of the breakout performance spotlight. I actually fell asleep for 20 minutes in the middle of my screening of “Like Crazy” and was shocked that it sold for $4M!!! It was so… ordinary!
Next up: the Meh films: not totally awful, but unfulfilling/ missed the mark in some way: So Yong Kim’s “For Ellen” (Paul Dano. Jon Heder), Ira Sachs’ “Keep the Lights On” (Thure Lindhardt, Zachary Booth), Marshall Lewy’s “California Solo” (Robert Carlyle, Alexia Rasmussen) and Brian Klugman & Lee Sternthal’s “The Words” (Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde, Zoe Saldana).
It was interesting that a few of the movies that actually did get sold (Compliance, The Comedy) are supposidly awful to meh at best according to most critics.
The only real “breakout” this year seems to have been the grand jury prize winner, Beasts of the Southern Wild. Kinda shocked Fox Searchlight picked it up cause it looks like a hard sell to the “general public”.
“Beasts” is definitely not mainstream, but could succeed beyond art houses with the right marketing. There are timely political overtones of Katrina and U.S. wealth disparities that make the allegory more accessible to the “general public”, but more about that when I summarize the good films. :)
The Meh (with minor spoilers):
For Ellen – A lead singer for an aspiring hard rock group (Paul Dano modeled his character on Buckcherry, of all bands) is finalizing his divorce, expecting his share of their house in the settlement. He’s driven all night in the snow to sign the papers in front of his wife, who refuses to communicate with him except via her lawyer. When it transpires that his ex-wife is remarrying and the terms of the divorce include the termination of parental rights to their young daughter, the musician fights to be allowed to spend some time with the girl to see what he’s missed. Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) plays Dano’s mouthpiece, who still lives at home with his mother. Dano tries hard to bring the character to life, but the movie is one of those slice-of-life plots that drops you into the middle of someone’s life story and just as quickly, plucks the character out of the world created with no resolution, as if the writer couldn’t think of an adequate ending or ran out of money to finish the film.
California Solo – Another tale of an aging musician estranged from his ex-wife and daughter with an additional twist: After being picked up on a DWI, Britpop guitarist-turned- Cali farm worker Lachlan (Robert Carlyle) is in danger of being deported because he was caught with pot while on tour with his former band. Learning that his U.S. green card can be revoked, even though he’s been working and paying taxes for more than a decade, his only hope is to prove that his deportation will cause undue hardship to an American citizen. His former manager (Michael DesBarres), living large like Simon Cowell in L.A., refuses to help and there is nothing left for him in the U.K., since the dissolution of his career was due to the untimely death of his bandmate/brother from an OD of Lachlan’s drugs before the band had a chance to break big. Lachlan’s only hope is for his ex-wife to claim the hardship that their daughter would not be able to see her father – although he hasn’t been a part of the daughter’s life since she was a toddler. There is also a romantic subplot with an organic food customer of Lachlan’s and her DJ boyfriend (Danny Masterson), as well as Lachlan’s hobby of podcasting shows featuring music from artists who died young, like Marc Bolan. This fares a bit better than “For Ellen” because Lachlan is a more fully-realized character, but shares the same flaw of dropping the curtain abruptly, albeit with a better attempt at plot reconciliation than the other film. The director made much of Carlisle’s supposed resemblance to and friendship with Modfather Paul Weller at the Q&A, but aside from the fact that they’re both slim, hard-drinking and grey-haired, I didn’t see it.
Keep the Lights On – Danish actor Thure Lindhardt plays an out, aspiring documentary filmmaker who, after many nights of online hookups and phone sex, falls in love with Zachary Booth, a boyish trick who is cheating on his girlfriend. They move in together, have hot sex and become partners, but Booth’s alcoholism and worsening crack addiction causes him to disappear for days at a time, interrupting the lives of those who love him and his publishing colleagues. I couldn’t help but notice that several scenes seemed to exactly replicate events related in the 2010 Bill Clegg memoir “Portrait of the Addict As A Young Man.” I saw no signs that the film was an adaptation of the book in the credits, and when asked in the Q&A, director Ira Sachs indicated that his original screenplay was semi-autobiographical. After much Googling, I found that Clegg, a literary agent, was Sachs’ real life ex-partner and the film is Sachs’ side of the story of their relationship. I had high hopes that this film might rise above LGBT film cliches. but much like Clegg’s book, it doesn’t do much but show you that drugs are bad, mmkay, and that sometimes you have to let go of a person who is dragging you down to save yourself. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to make it stand out from or transcend other Descent Into Personal Hell movies.
The Words – One of the big premieres of Sundance: A bestselling author (Bradley Cooper) with a hot first book is honored with an award at a dinner, while a shabby elderly man (Jeremy Irons) watches as the author and his wife (Zoe Saldana) leave in a limo. They are all characters in author Dennis Quaid’s latest work of fiction, which he’s reading aloud at a PR event. We watch the events of the book unfold during the first part of the reading, with a real life pause during which a young groupie flirts with Quaid, and then Quaid returns to finish the tale. Cooper spent years writing and working in a publisher’s mail room, only to be told that his work was not commercial enough to be published. When fate intervenes in the form of a handwritten page-turner of a memoir, stashed in an old leather briefcase Saldana buys Cooper as a gift while on honeymoon in Paris, Cooper ends up submitting the work as his own. He becomes successful enough to have his own work subsequently published and move to a better flat. And then, Irons waylays Cooper in Central Park to reveal in flashback the true story of how the memoir came to be… but you saw that one coming a mile off, didn’t you? If not for the peerless voice of Irons narrating the flashback within a story within a story while actors portray Irons’ past, this movie would have sunk like a stone. The actors in the black & white Parisian flashback overact more than the silent actors in “The Artist”, and once again, both the Cooper story and the Quaid “real” story end ambiguously and unsatisfyingly; the Quaid wraparound plot in particular is a real head-scratcher, where none of the foreshadowing set up in the earlier part of the film comes to fruition.