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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Films I Saw at 2011 Sundance


I figured I would finally post my thoughts on the films I saw at Sundance this year. I saw seven features and two shorts programs. I'm not going to rank the shorts because it would just take too long to do and I'm at work right now. Sundance ended over the weekend, so I want to post this before it becomes too late. Special thanks to Jason Stevens for organizing the whole trip. Going to Sundance was one of the best times I've had in long time.

Celebrity Sightings (that I remember off the top of my head):

Robert Redford (first celeb sighting and the best), Harry Belafonte, Ben Foster, Thomas Dekker, Juno Temple, John Salley, Christopher McDonald, Morgan Spurlock, Freddie Highmore, Emma Roberts, Elizabeth Banks (Not confirmed, but I'm pretty sure it was her. I recognized her jacket from some Sundance photos.)

Now onto the actual rankings...

7. Pariah

This was one of the two opening night films I saw. I don't think this was a bad film, but I had trouble getting into it. This was a classic example of a film I would have never watched unless I was at Sundance. I guess that is one of the great things about the festival.

6. The Woman

If Sundance gave out a most disturbed film award, then it would go to this film. A family decides to capture a woman living in the forest and basically torture her for two hours. This was the last film I saw at Sundance and probably the reason I got the flu three days later. While I didn't hate it as much as some people, I still didn't really expect to see a film like this at Sundance. The film has everything from domestic abuse to rape to incest before ending with a bloodbath. A lot of people have been talking about this film since it premiered. In a lot of ways, it's a great horror movie for that reason. It leaves a mark on you, but it's so twisted and disturbing that I really didn't know how to take it all in. Maybe, I need to watch it again. On second thought, maybe I'll just let you watch it for yourself and make up your own mind.

5. Kaboom

This film was really wacky. The ridiculous thing about this film was that it got crazier and crazier as the film progressed. There was like no rules in this film. Definitely made it entertaining to watch as you never knew what was going to happen. There was sex, drugs, more sex, people running around with animal masks, even more sex, and a cult trying to control the world. Then, out of nowhere, everything goes KABOOM!

4. HERE

Okay, I'm not going to lie, I was in bad shape when I watched this film. It was part of my marathon movie watching day of Friday and I was literally exhausted. Combine that with the fact that this film's pacing is slow, I struggled to stay awake during portions of this film. To be fair, I would like to watch this film again and if it ever gets distribution I will go see it because I feel bad I didn't give it a fair chance. Anyway, this was a beautifully shot film and probably the best shot film I saw at Sundance. Some of the landscape shots of Armenia are breathtaking. The film has a Lost in Translation feel to it and if you're down for a less conventional love story, then I thought this film was refreshing.

3. The Ledge

I didn't realize it until after I got out of this film, but the lead in this film was in Undeclared. Just felt like sharing that. I wanted this film to be better. I think my expectations were too high (similar to HERE), but I still enjoyed this film. Part of the reason I liked this film was that it was not a standoff film about trying to convince a guy to not jump, but rather the film is about the guy's relationship with his neighbor and her evangelical Christian husband. Charlie Hunnam's character is an atheist too, which adds an interesting dynamic to the whole film. The film is told mostly in flashback as you watch him and Liv Tyler fall in love and eventually realize why he is on the ledge.

2. Sing Your Song

This was the first film I saw at Sundance. Not a bad first film to see at all. It was actually my number one film until Sunday. I knew a little about Harry Belafonte before, but I actually had no idea how important he was. I actually learned a lot watching this film. The man lived an incredible life. This documentary also did a great job using archival footage especially some of the footage of him and Martin Luther King Jr. I left this documentary wanting to change the world. It was very inspiring.

1. How to Die in Oregon

I remember reading the synopsis of this film months ago. I was pulled in immediately when I read that someone literally died on camera within the first few minutes. I thought to myself, this film is going to be intense and different. I thought this was one of the most powerful films I've ever seen. I was just emotionally drained after watching it along with everyone else in the theater. I'm pretty sure that almost everyone in the theater was crying during this film. The film is about physician assisted suicide or death with dignity in Oregon. I went into this film not really supporting this, but after watching the film, I think death with dignity should be legal in the United States. The film primarily followed a woman, Cody Curtis, who was a woman in her 50s with terminal liver cancer. The film follows her last months as she comes to terms with her own life and really makes you reevaluate your own life. This film is not really about death as much as about living with dignity and leaving this world on your own terms. This film was awarded the grand jury prize in the documentary competition. I believe this documentary will be airing on HBO over the summer. Everyone should watch it. Peter Richardson made an extraordinary film that was by far the best film I saw at Sundance.

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