Maybe I'm jaded, but Sundance just wasn't that great this year. Maybe it's that I'm simply less impressed with meeting people than I used to be (wow, you're the rep for Outkast, but you're also a self-absorbed jerk), or maybe it too keenly reflected the depressed state of the economy (30% fewer people attended, 70% fewer parties were thrown), or maybe it was that I was left in pain and debilitated from a really bad slip on the ice, or that I contracted food poisoning on the second-to-last day (more on both of those later)... but yeah, it wasn't my favourite Sundance.
However, among the rubble of movies I saw (Peter and Vandy, Barking Water, and Spread were all pretty dismal) a few were worth the hours of my life that they absorbed, and are films that you should undoubtedly aim to see once they hit theatres. So, in order of entertainment value and brilliance:
1) The Greatest
Thanks to the bad title, you probably think this film is about some great sports figure, but no, it's actually about a family grieving the death of their teenage son. It's a story that's been done before, but this is so unflinchingly real and gorgeously written and paced that it feels wholly new - it's incredible that this was writer/director Shana Feste's first project.
Starring Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandon (who actually played another grieving mom in another favourite film of mine, Moonlight Mile), and the most adorable pixie of a girl, Carey Mulligan, who gives a performance that is so sweet and vulnerable and strong that you will absolutley fall in love with her. Ah! From start to finish... breathtakingly superb... it doesn't miss a beat... not one.
I love political thrillers, and this one is fantastic. It follows a series of negotiations during the late 80's that helped bring an end to Apartheid in South Africa... the idea of watching a film about "talks" sounds boring, but this couldn't be more engaging, action-packed, and brimming with humanity. You come away feeling not only enlightened about this era of South African politics, but a little hopeful about the potential-end of long-waged conflicts all over the world.
3) Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
People are going to disagree with me that this is worth seeing... I encountered plenty of festivalgoers who thought this film was simply awful, and actually, I'd really need to see this film again before I could give it a solid rating... but that's also why I liked it. The film is based on a book of the same name, and it unfolds more like a play... the scenarios, dialogue, and characters are all reminscient of staged theatre, but I'm kind of partial to those devices.
Interestingly, I didn't think any of the men depicted/interviewed were that "hideous" - rather, I found them extremely typical as far as guys go and how I think their minds work. However, another gentlemen I spoke with thought this portrayal of men would surely frighten women since he believed the guys in the film were all sociopaths. Ha. I guess you need to see it to decide for yourself.
Meanwhile... at the Music Cafe tent....
Hurray! Rachel Yamagata performed!
I got a copy of her latest album Elephants.. Teeth Sinking Into Heart AND practically a front row live performance out of the deal.
A couple of less famous women on the red carpet... me with Dianne.
Me with Kasey on Main Street (those orange credentials are SUCH cute accessories... oy).
At the Big Fan afterparty... the writer/director is on the right... I hadn't seen Big Fan or his debut film The Wrestler either and, thus, when introduced, painfully had nothing to say!
See? Abandoned Main Street... and the fest wasn't even over yet.
Parting shot of the Sundance House.