The Sundance Film Festival is a crucible for industry trends and finding emerging talent. Festival watchers tend to focus on the weak economic prospects for many of the films showcased in Park City. The independent marketplace is slowly evolving, but there was plenty to see. So what if no one film galvanized the festival the way BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD and FRUITVALE STATION did in recent years? The festival probably erred in starting off with its best offering, jazz thriller WHIPLASH. No other film topped the buzz generated by this one.
2014 Sundance Film Festival
Sundance Review: Fela Kuti’s Wild Life of Sex, Drugs, and Afrobeat Takes Center Stage in FINDING FELA
FINDING FELA, prolific documentarian Alex Gibney’s latest work, faces the challenge of depicting a contradictory artist. But that’s not to say it isn’t entertaining. On the contrary, the film — about the life, times and music of Afrobeat superstar and Nigerian revolutionary Fela Kuti — is exceptionally watchable. Kuti’s wild life never loses its surprise ingredients: from the time he married 27 girls in one ceremony to his involvement with a “spiritual guru” who slit throats for party demonstrations. The film’s challenge lays in its difficult hero, an enormously talented and charismatic man who was also troubled, stubborn, unpredictable, and probably not entirely sane.
Sundance: Aaron Paul on Why He’ll Never Be the Next Tom Cruise and Resurrecting Jesse Pinkman for AMC
Aaron Paul is not Jesse Pinkman. Thanks to five trailblazing seasons on Breaking Bad, it’s damn near impossible not to think of Paul as anyone else. But as he stressed to Indiewire in Park City, the deeply troubled Pinkman is his “opposite.” The same goes for the alcoholic father he plays in Kat Candler’s scorching directorial debut, HELLION, which premiered in competition here at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival late last week.
Only three weeks into 2014, Elisabeth Moss has already won a Golden Globe for TOP OF THE LAKE, world premiered two films at the Sundance Film Festival, and shot some scenes for the upcoming final season of Mad Men. Talk about a great way to kick off the new year.
Sundance Review: You’ve Never Seen a Vampire Movie Like the Beautiful, Touching A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, Produced By Elijah Wood
For centuries, vampires have provided handy metaphors for social and physical dilemma, but in the stylishly muted deadpan romance A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, the threat is personal. Writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour’s stunning debut, produced by Elijah Wood, follows the experiences of a small Iranian town haunted by a vampiric presence who’s just as lonely as the other locals.
Sundance Review: Despite a Hilarious Setup, Madeleine Olnek’s THE FOXY MERKINS Is a Disappointing Sophomore Effort
In 2011, Madeleine Olnek’s debut feature, CODEPENDENT LESBIAN ALIEN SEEKS SAME, premiered at Sundance to positive (if ultimately limited) reception. Made on a shoestring budget, (think space ships made out of tin foil), the warm and witty spoof on sci-fi B-movies firmly established the writer-director’s singular comedic sensibility. In her follow-up, THE FOXY MERKINS, Olnek turns the male hustler genre on its head to imagine what a lesbian prostitution ring in might look like.
Sundance Review: Ten Years Since Zach Braff Brought GARDEN STATE to Sundance, With WISH I WAS HERE, Has Anything Changed?
“I want to make more movies like GARDEN STATE. I mean, Woody Allen was my hero. He’s someone who, in his heyday, in the era of his films that I love the most, was making movies that were just taking the social temperature of his group of people in New York City, and I’d like to make more movies like that for people my age.”
—Zach Braff, 2004
A decade has passed since actor-writer-director Zach Braff made the above declaration in an Indiewire interview at the Sundance Film Festival. Despite his idealism, Braff wouldn’t succeed at directing another feature for a full 10 years, but his wish finally reached its completion this past week at the Sundance Film Festival, with the world premiere of WISH I WAS HERE, the widely documented Kickstarter-backed comedy in which he also stars.