- The In Review
winners of the 2003 Sundance Film Festival were announced
on the 26th of January. And of course I saw none of the movies
that won. American Splendour received top honors for
the dramatic feature and Capturing the Friedmans won
for the documentary. Sundance gives out tons of honorary mentions
and audience awards as well. I figure that since I'm obviously
as important as the whole of the festival I should hand out
something myself. Of the fifteen movies I saw at the festival,
here is a list of those that I felt were quite the awesome
Should any of these films be released for a wider audience
than the festival circuit, I shall write up a more extensive
critique of them individually.
Shorts: I saw one selection of seven short films,
as well as about four others, which preceded various movies.
Of them all I was especially impressed by:
Most, Tromba D'Oro, Earthquake, Fits and
Starts, The Occularist and Goodnight Valentino.
These movies all reminded me how cool the short form can
be. They were all made with an exquisite mastery of film
and an expert eye in regards to timing and use of the form
to tell a story which in a longer film would have fallen
flat or proven itself too melodramatic. Nearly all of the
directors, when interviewed, have plans for working on features,
but I hope that at least a couple of them try their hands
at shorts a few more times.
Certain Kind Of Death
This received one of the Special Jury Prizes for documentaries
awarded this year. And it is well deserved. Directors, and
all-around-nice-people, Grover Babcock and Blue Hadaegh,
present a superbly made documentary about a gristly, unsettling
subject. A Certain Kind Of Death details the journey
of three unclaimed corpses as their deaths are investigated
by the police, their bodies processed by the morgue and
their belongings auctioned off. The movie is unsettling
without employing too much shock value. The filmmakers offer
no overt opinion on the goings-on, rather letting their
images, and the morgue workers and the bodies tell their
own story, themselves.
One of the most inventive documentaries I've seen in years.
The Purified is the third installment of a trilogy by
Jesper Jargil on the Dogme 95 movement. Dogme is a set of
commandment-like rules developed by Lars Von Trier; rules
like: shooting must only occur on location-no sound stages,
all lighting and sound effects and music must be provided
naturally by the location - no special effects, nothing
unbelievable can happen - no aliens, no big ass guns, no
explosions. Jargil follows the four 'brethren' of the Dogme
95 movement, Lars Von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg, Kristian
Levering and Soren Kragh-Jacobsen as they attempt to make
their movies while adhering to these strict rules. In addition
to some in-depth behind-the-scenes footage, Jargil also
films the four directors at a reunion as they watch his
footage of them breaking the rules of Dogme. And let me
tell you, there's nothing like watching four Danish directors
bitch each other out.
One of the most enjoyable movies at the festival this year.
Destined to be a cult classic, Camp tells the story
of a summer theatre camp in upstate New York, it's got the
kitsch and humor of Wet Hot American Summer tied
up into a touching, if a little hammy, story with musical
number that are beautifully choreographed and simply too
much fun. Camp has an energy to it's writing and
a pool of talent in its performers that guarantees the movie
will go far and last for a very long time.
A powerful, near perfect movie about Irish immigrants moving
to modern day New York. While it doesn't push too many envelopes
thematically, In America is a wonderful film, with
performances from the entire cast that should garner plenty
of praise. Serious props to the two girls, Emma and Sarah
Bolger, who, at six and eleven, give two of the most impressive
performances by child actors since Paper Moon.
I will admit that I was pretty mad at Danny Boyle. First
he axes Ewen McGregor from one of his movies, and then he
makes The Beach. I felt betrayed, trod upon and downright
pissed off that he could waste himself so stupidly. But
he's made one hell of a comeback. 28 days later
one of the most chilling apocalyptic horror movies I've
ever seen. Sure there's the hard to swallow pill of a crazy
super-virus that wipes out the entirety of England in about
two weeks by turning everyone into zombies, but Boyle digs
so much deeper than the B-movie premise. In such a situation
where would human nature fall? Do we really think that the
survivors would band together and try to save the world?
Or would we all try to save ourselves at any cost?
Off The Map
Campbell Scott's directorial debut is a simple sweet superbly
graceful movie. Off The Map centers around a poor
family living off the land of New Mexico. The desert is
painted with almost a fantastical quality, and the movie
is delivered with adept and very careful strokes from the
actors and the cinematographer, and the director, alike.
Such a simple story in anyone else's hands would probably
have seemed trite, or dramatic, or boring, or just plain
stupid; however the care with which Scott handles this movie
proves that he is as skilled a director as he is an actor.
The Buzz was abounding with this one. Mathew Parkhill's
first movie (both as the screenwriter and director) was
being declared the Memento of 2003 as soon as it premiered.
Dot the I is cool beyond words, and a real pleasure
to watch. A crafty plot, along with some brilliant writing
and acting, and fabulous sets provide for a movie that's
as much a ride as it is a work of art. This was mine and
almost everyone's favorite movie of the entire affair.