Jesse Hassenger

Best of the Fests: Top 10 All-Time Film Festival Essentials

Best of the Fests: Top 10 All-Time Film Festival Essentials

During January, movie fans would be forgiven for thinking of the Sundance Film Festival as the only game in town. It comes at a perfect time: right in the midst of January’s new-release doldrums, just as everyone catches up on all of the awards movies from the previous year, and well before the annual Cannes hoopla. But as many of the year’s high-profile releases first play at Sundance, there are other film festivals that launch important, weird, and/or fascinating movies that might not otherwise get so much attention.

10 Seriously Messed Up Movies

10 Seriously Messed Up Movies

Spring may seem an unlikely time to crave a messed-up movie marathon, but the trippy films on this list are worth a screening any time of the year. Full of iconic (read: extremely bizarre) scenes and surprising performances from many now “mainstream” actors, these are movies that will get under your skin and stay there. Of course, it’s hard to get too bummed out by a well-told story or a stylishly made film (then again: Dancer in the Dark), but here’s a final warning: these are 10 seriously messed-up stories.

1. Grizzly Man (2005)
Like much of Werner Herzog’s work, Grizzly Man has moments of poetry as well as dark humor. But Timothy Treadwell, the central figure of this documentary, suffers a fate so horrific that it’s shown in the film only via Herzog himself listening to audio of the incident and advising that it be destroyed and never played for anyone ever again. The audio exists because Treadwell documented his life among the bears in Alaskan wilderness; some of the astonishing footage appears in the movie, as Herzog ruminates on the “chaos and murder” he sees in the natural world Treadwell so adores. You may want to chase this experience — or this entire list — with Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World, another nature-related doc with less grisly results.

2. Hard Candy (2005)
Before she was Juno or fulfilling her Woody Allen movie destiny, Ellen Page played a cunning teenager in Hard Candy, which manages to toy with its viewers so much that it appears to tell about five different totally messed up stories before it’s over. It begins queasily enough with Patrick Wilson meeting Page in a public place and bonding over the band Goldfrapp, then gets queasier as he invites her back to her place. But Page, playing on her mini-person physicality as well as her natural ability to seem smarter than her young-looking years, is not who she appears to be. This isn’t a gory horror movie, but your stomach will probably still churn with each plot twist.

Top 10 life lessons from John Cusack

Top 10 life lessons from John Cusack

Photo Credit: Listal

John Cusack’s entire career is something of a life lesson: you don’t need to be conventionally macho to become a leading man. Even in the golden age of muscled-up testosterone, the eighties, Cusack found success in offbeat roles while seeding a career with far fewer rough patches than, say, Sylvester Stallone’s. This month, Sundance Channel is showing two of Cusack’s very best, SAY ANYTHING and HIGH FIDELITY; in those movies and others, Cusack has much to teach us.

Top 10 reasons we love comedian Matt Walsh

Top 10 reasons we love comedian Matt Walsh

If you’ve watched a few Hollywood comedies in the past three or four years, chances are you’ve caught a glimpse of Matt Walsh. Comic bit player is sort of his secret identity, which transforms into super funny Upright Citizens Brigade founder and improv master on stage. Here are ten reasons to love this under-sung comic genius.

Tune into see Matt Walsh on THE MORTIFIED SESSIONS, Monday November 12th 10p.

Top 10 terrifying films on Sundance Channel

Top 10 terrifying films on Sundance Channel

Just in time for Halloween, the ten most terrifying movies on the Sundance Channel run a gauntlet of horrific styles. For traditional slasher-movie thrills, we’ve got the original FRIDAY THE 13TH (and, inevitably, a slasher sequel with FRIDAY THE 13TH PART II). Others are horror classics too distinctive to be called traditional; David Cronenberg and Roman Polanski rarely seem more at home than when they channel their own personal obsessions into the horror genre with movies like ROSEMARY’S BABY, THE FLY, and SPIDER. Lars Von Trier’s ANTICHRIST fits into this pattern, too; it bears little resemblance to its genre brethren and is unmistakably the work of Von Trier, yet it is a horror picture, of sorts, filtered through the director’s bracing, often lyrical misery. Of course, there are other ways to get scared without even going into horror; Danny Boyle’s THE BEACH offers a scary vision of paradise corrupted, and, come to think of it, so does David Lynch’s BLUE VELVET, in its own way. If you want to freak out, there’s no shortage of options.

Top 10 films Mark Duplass thinks you should watch

Top 10 films Mark Duplass thinks you should watch

Actor-writer-director-all-around-indie-MVP Mark Duplass recently completed yet another project: recommending a streaming movie on Netflix every day for the past year. Here, then, are Duplass’ top ten selections from his hundreds of suggestions, nabbed from his Twitter handle @MarkDuplass. Long live #Netflix365!

Top 10 reasons we love Mark Duplass

Top 10 reasons we love Mark Duplass

If it seems like you’ve been watching Mark Duplass on screen forever, it’s not because you have (unless you are 7). He’s only been in features for the past seven years or so, but in that time he’s starred in about a dozen movies, co-directed five, and written a few more. Duplass is an indie film hit-machine. He brings a plainspoken authenticity to both the movies he makes and the roles he takes; he’s an indie performer with a dash of low-key movie-star charisma. Here are ten reasons to love him.

Catch Mark on Sundance Channel’s THE MORTIFIED SESSIONS this Monday 10/22 at 10P.

Top 10 reasons we love Mark Duplass

Top 10 reasons we love Mark Duplass

If it seems like you’ve been watching Mark Duplass on screen forever, it’s not because you have (unless you are 7). He’s only been in features for the past seven years or so, but in that time he’s starred in about a dozen movies, co-directed five, and written a few more. Duplass is an indie film hit-machine. He brings a plainspoken authenticity to both the movies he makes and the roles he takes; he’s an indie performer with a dash of low-key movie-star charisma. Here are ten reasons to love him.

Catch Mark on Sundance Channel’s THE MORTIFIED SESSIONS this Monday 10/22 at 10P.

Top 10 films that will scare the politics out of you

Top 10 films that will scare the politics out of you

Election Day’s proximity to Halloween is more than a boon for manufacturers of freakish-looking rubber Romney and Obama masks; it’s an opportunity to reflect on all manner of partisan terrors. There aren’t many movies that explicitly mix election-year issues with horror-picture tropes, but there are plenty of movies on Sundance Channel this month that will scare the ever-loving politics out of you, at least for a couple of hours at a time.

Top 10 seriously messed-up movies

Top 10 seriously messed-up movies

Summer may not officially end until later in September, but come on: Labor Day has passed, and summer is over. It’s time to put away summer spectacles and let cool breezes and chillier moods wash over you. You can get away with less ebullient movies in the fall than you can in the summer; this goes for Sundance Channel, too — just check out this month’s lineup. It’s hard to get too bummed out by a well-told story or a stylishly made film (then again: DANCER IN THE DARK), but these are 10 seriously messed-up stories. In ascending order of potential to disturb you…