Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sundance Dispatch #6

The last half of the Sundance Film Festival is quite different from the first in terms of circus. Most revelers and scenesters are gone by Monday leaving only those in for the long haul. The lines die down and the whole town in general begins a sigh of relief. Sensing this, and coupled with the anticipation of coming home, my notes grow smaller and the response more muted. That said, I'll leave the criticism to others who might more carefully dissect these films. As a journal goes, here is the last few days of screenings:

Paul Giamatti plays himself in something not unlike BEING JOHN MALKOVICH meets THE DEATH OF MR LAZARESCU. Unable to dredge up the umph to perform a two-week run of Chekhov, he seeks to store his soul (yes, really) courtesy a newly developed company featured in that month's New Yorker with the idea that this will give him a clean slate. Giamatti is fantastic - a pleasure to watch in this offbeat oddity.

Doc on the Doors. No real revelations here other than some good studio footage and some unseen live stuff. Of particular note is what appears to be a detailed restoral of Morrison's film dalliances. The 16mm transfer looks at times like HD, but the narration and archival summation of the Vietnam War over the climax of "The End" is a bit awkward, if not chronologically incorrect.

Distribution Panel at Prospector Square - Don't get me started. You with the smirk who heads a mini-major, talks about community but avoids the art house and, by your own indirect admission, could give a damn about theatrical distribution: Sure, you've seen some ups and downs, but don't you think you might be in the wrong job now? The rolling of your eyes reveals your inability to accept the changes around you. You are in the way. Just go.

Devastating eco-doc about dolphin slaughter in a small Japanese coastal village, THE COVE follows the man who brought us "Flipper" as he seeks to undo the industry that he helped spawn. Perhaps best at home as a Frontline special, any lack of theatrical sensibility shouldn't detract attention from the subject matter at hand. It's put a serious challenge to certain dietary indulgences - like a bitter pill washed down with salt water dyed in Valentine red.

Like THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE, there's joy in the discovery through documentary of things that one knows little to nothing about. In this case, Chris Rock is the host of feature-length inquiry into the mystery of hair - primarily that of black women and weaves. Weaves come from India and run anywhere from $1000-3500? I had no idea, and that's just one tidbit.

Man, wife and child go completely enviro-impact-free for a year. No plastic, subway, coffee and everything else you could possibly imagine. The fatigue of 17 films in 3 days sets in. I resolve to pace myself and leave early. Nothing against the film...just prepping for another 4 days and the big inauguration in the morning. They're putting a screen out on Main Street...

More LA excess a la SPREAD but a bit more entertaining since we at least have Mickey Rourke.

I thought they already re-made THE BAD NEWS BEARS. They did! But not with Sam Rockwell and a high school girls basketball team. Unfortunately, what could have been a lot funnier kinda misses the mark.

Considering the liberation of Nelson Mandela and abolishment of apartheid starring William Hurt and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Thabo Mbeki. Consolidated Gold, convinced that a peaceful resolution in South Africa serves their interest, sets up talks to advance this agenda which becomes a template for similar negotiations around the world.

Blaxploitation of blaxploitation, if you will. And funny as hell. Big Sony picked the film up for distribution during the festival and they'll put it in wide release sometime soon...

As far as films about the Irish conflict goes, I'll take HUNGER which is coming this spring. James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson play two men from the same town, but divided by the politic and the murder of a brother.

Bobcat Goldthwait directs Robin Williams as a high-school teacher who is fighting the uphill battle with a deeply troubled son whose sexual deviances ultimately cost him his life. Williams redesigns his death as a suicide and must struggle to reconcile his son's bloated image in a school that formerly ignored him. Think HAPPINESS meets ELECTION.

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