election

SIDEWAYS and the bitterly human comedies of Alexander Payne

SIDEWAYS and the bitterly human comedies of Alexander Payne

Is SIDEWAYS, which airs tonight at 10P on Sundance Channel, Alexander Payne’s masterpiece? It’s got some competition, to be sure: Many would cite ELECTION, his bitter satire about a high school student council election, as the Payne film that continues to resonate most over the years. Personally, I always had a soft spot for ABOUT SCHMIDT, his Oscar-nominated comedy-drama about a recently widowed Jack Nicholson traveling across the country in his Winnebago. And then of course there’s THE DESCENDANTS, which netted a bunch of awards and nominations last year (and won Payne his second Best Screenwriting Oscar).

SIDEWAYS and the bitterly human comedies of Alexander Payne

SIDEWAYS and the bitterly human comedies of Alexander Payne

Is SIDEWAYS, which airs tonight at 10P on Sundance Channel, Alexander Payne’s masterpiece? It’s got some competition, to be sure: Many would cite ELECTION, his bitter satire about a high school student council election, as the Payne film that continues to resonate most over the years. Personally, I always had a soft spot for ABOUT SCHMIDT, his Oscar-nominated comedy-drama about a recently widowed Jack Nicholson traveling across the country in his Winnebago. And then of course there’s THE DESCENDANTS, which netted a bunch of awards and nominations last year (and won Payne his second Best Screenwriting Oscar).

What's scarier than a Joe Biden smackdown? Scary Politics, Veep edition

What's scarier than a Joe Biden smackdown? Scary Politics, Veep edition

Nuclear Iran! The embassy attack in Libya! War in Syria! Last night’s Vice Presidential Debate brought up some really scary issues (and if you missed it, catch up here). If scary politics is something that actually floats your boat, then have we got some films for you. From now until Election Day Sundance Channel is giving you a break from all of those horrifying campaign ads. Tuesday nights are now for films scary enough to change an Ayatollah’s mind.

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.

A Republican primary style guide

A Republican primary style guide

Art plays an important role in society. It is a cultural mirror, a telling portrayal of some of our more irrational or eccentric tendencies. We appreciate the perspective it provides, but it’s always more entertaining when life imitates art, as was the case with Rick Perry’s latest presidential commercial. Tricky Ricky asserts that openly gay military personnel are the latest abuse of separation of church and state. Meanwhile, he’s dressed as Ennis Del Mar, America’s tragic man crush. Guess Rick went to the loo during the thirty-second guy on guy love scene in Brokeback Mountain. What else could explain his sartorial choice? No matter, the look works for him. Here’s a quick style guide for a few of the other 2012 Republican contenders. Lights, camera, and all that jazz.

ASIA EXTREME: Economically viable auteurism and the films of Johnnie To

ASIA EXTREME: Economically viable auteurism and the films of Johnnie To

Equally as comfortable with broad slapstick humor as he is with brooding psychological drama or straight-up genre films, Johnnie To is one of the (if not the) hardest working producer/directors in the Hong Kong film industry. A genuine auteurist who also knows how to create a crowd-pleasing hit, To’s career began in television back in the 1970s. Turning to cinema towards the end of the 80s, he spent the next seven years churning out a sizeable number of genre films – everything from comedy, action, suspense, and melodramas both large and small. Most of these films found a fair amount of success at the box office, but none were runaway hits. (The closest was THE HEROIC TRIO, which featured the dream leading-lady trifecta of Michelle Yeoh, Anita Mui, and Maggie Cheung.)
In 1996 he partnered with writer/producer/director Wai Ka-fai and formed Milkyway Image, a production company that allowed for the freedom to direct the kind of films that appealed to them. Early titles, such as WHERE A GOOD MAN GOES and A HERO NEVER DIES were decidedly different than typical Hong Kong fare of the time. These were darker stories, with a greater emphasis on character than on action. As liberating as that freedom was, To soon realized he’d have to find a balance in order to remain commercially viable, so he and Wai decided on an alternating pattern – “one film for the audience, one film for us”. (Example – The somewhat abstract and dark, complex crime film FULLTIME KILLER versus the lightweight, audience-friendly RomCom NEEDING YOU.) Yet even within his mainstream films, which strictly adhered to genre convention, To still managed to insert enough signature directorial flourishes to distinguish them from the multitude of titles flooding the market at that time.

Asia Extreme: Thirteen Cool Movies for a Hot August

Asia Extreme: Thirteen Cool Movies for a Hot August

Scene from TRIAD ELECTION
Just in time for the dog days of summer, Sundance Channel is gearing up to launch the sixth season of Asia Extreme, which features thirteen incredibly cool films to dive into beginning August 1 free on demand. Just as past seasons brought an eclectic mix of cutting edge Asian cinema from visionary directors breathing new life into (and in some cases subverting) such genres as horror (ONE MISSED CALL), thriller (A BITTERSWEET LIFE), action (SAVE THE GREEN PLANET), or science-fiction (NATURAL CITY), so too does the new lineup offer fresh takes on familiar forms.

Iran: Open Letter to the Sundance Community

Iran: Open Letter to the Sundance Community

This weekend, Iranian-born artist Shirin Neshat, a Sundance Institute Artist Trustee, sat at our annual Board Retreat and described in terrifying detail a situation we all know about, but perhaps not in enough detail. Among many others recently arrested in Iran’s post-election demonstrations are Iranian artists, journalists, filmmakers and human rights leaders, including some filmmakers…