Focus On Film

It was the slogan seen on large buttons worn by volunteers, Sundance Film Festival staffers, and a good majority of event attendees all over Park City. Focus On Film. It's the reason Eric and I have been going for the past several years. We head up to the cold, snowy mountains to see films, hang out with other independent filmmakers, and watch their films, many of which are great even if they aren't in the big fest. I have more celebrity sightings in Los Angeles and frankly don't care to go to the parties I wouldn't be let into anyway. So, for me, I didn't need the reminder.

As promised, here's a little blurb on the movies I watched:
  • If I Had Known I Was A Genius: Markus Redmond wrote and stars in this charming, clever, and funny film that is an exaggerated auto-biography. It was a little long and slow in parts, but I tend to say that about nearly every movie I see.
  • Wonders Are Many: I was fascinated by and learned many things in this documentary that chronicled the creation of Doctor Atomic, an opera about J. Robert Oppenheimer and the 48 hours leading up to the first atomic bomb test. I wasn't sure going in if this would be a film for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • Fido: I'm usually not a big fan of zombie movies in general, but this is one I'll put in the category of those I do like such as Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later. Eric describes it as "a cross between Romero's Night of the Living Dead and a 1950's episode of Lassie." Billy Connolly was nearly unrecognizable, and wonderfully subdued, as the title character.
  • Everything's Cool: This documentary is a good companion piece to last year's global warming flick An Inconvenient Truth. I think kids may enjoy this one, although it did tend to drag in some parts.
  • Four Sheets To The Wind: Admittedly, we went to this feature because we know the editor. In all honesty, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, which is sort of a Native American Garden State. The story was moving and the cast was incredible. Tamara Podemski won a well-deserved special jury prize for acting “for a fully realized physical and emotional turn.”
  • White Light/Black Rain: It seemed appropriate to see this documentary after seeing Wonders Are Many. This film, which interviewed survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic blasts, was tough to watch at times and incredibly emotional. While the subject matter is difficult, it is one of those important films that I hope a lot of people get to see. According to the director, it will be airing on HBO and in schools later this year.
  • For The Bible Tells Me So: An engaging documentary that focuses on Bible literalists and the oppression of homosexuals. The film profiles of several Christians coming to terms with gay family members. This was one of the movies we really wanted to see, and it took a couple of attempts to get in. It was worth the effort.
  • Chasing Ghosts: A fun documentary about a group of old school video game champions, then and now. Unfortunately, Eric and I didn't get to sit together (we barely got in to this screening) because I would have loved to have seen some of his reactions. I know he could relate to some of the guys in the film, who were all fascinating characters.
  • Rocket Science: Winner of The Directing Award (Dramatic). If I have to pick a favorite movie that I saw at Sundance, this is it. This movie had a great story about a boy trying to find his voice and it told through great performances. Rocket Science is funny and heart-wrenching at times. It just felt real and did not go for the cliched ending, like it could have. Go see this one when you get a chance. It was also just the right length.
  • Grace Is Gone: Winner of The Audience Award (Dramatic) and The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. Okay, this one is a doozy. John Cusack broke my heart as a father who doesn't know how to tell his daughters that their Mom has been killed in Iraq. I think I cried throughout nearly the whole film. Don't let that scare you off though.
  • Hear and Now: Winner of The Audience Award (Documentary). A couple who have been deaf for their entire lives decide to get cochlear implants. Their daughter is a filmmaker and documented the process and how it changed, and didn't change, their world. At the heart of the film is a wonderful love story, told through wonderful archival footage and photos.
We saw two blocks of short films. Shorts can be real hit or miss and the programs we attended were generally weak. There were a couple of films I wish I could have seen like Joe Strummer and Waitress. Considering we don't go for the entire festival and we don't buy any kind of pass, I think we do an okay job of seeing a good variety of movies.

Oh, and for anyone who is curious...the one celebrity I did see was Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who was Mr. Eko on Lost. I've been a fan of his since hi played Adebisi on Oz. It was a good one.


Anonymous said...

"Hear and Now" sounds like it would be in interesting companion piece to "Sound and Fury" about deaf people who resist getting their children cochlear implants for fear of losing their deaf culture.

The Mad Doctor said...

Thanks for the reviews; like stan I immediately thought of "Sound and Fury"

I had a celebrity sighting while I was in Newark - Annie Leibovitz. MUCH better looking than on tv or in print.

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