SFF 2010

Spike Jonze's short film I'M HERE

Article: Spike Jonze's short film I'M HERE

In his feature films, Spike Jonze has successfully melded his singular sensibility with other equally distinctive voices (Charlie Kaufman in BEING JOHN MALKOVICH and ADAPTATION, Maurice Sendak and Dave Eggers in WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE). But for a taste of pure, unadulterated Jonze — to really appreciate the deadpan high concepts, the absurdist melancholy, the skewed sense of enchantment — turn to his music videos and short films.

Written and directed by Jonze (and financed by Absolut Vodka), the half-hour I’M HERE, the high point of a strong opening shorts program, follows in the venerable tradition of sci-fi stories about robots who discover the contradictions of the human heart. Sheldon (Andrew Garfield) is a sad-eyed android librarian in an unfriendly Los Angeles where the robots lead an underclass existence and seem fated for a lonely obsolescence. (He and his fragile fellow bots certainly look like last century’s models: boxy heads, Lego-like appendages, protruding wires.)

No good happens after 1 a.m.

Article: No good happens after 1 a.m.

Repeat after me: no good happens after 1 a.m. WHEN WILL I LEARN??? I pinched a nerve so badly I can’t turn my neck. At all. I look like one of those freaky wooden dolls where you push a lever and their bodies and necks turn with their heads while the lips move. I am creeping myself out. That and I have a zit. Which pisses me off as my mother told me when I was 14 that I’d stop getting zits when I turned 18. But then again she also told me I could get pregnant by sitting on an unprotected toilet seat, so there you go.

Opening Night, aka who the hell wants to be sexy at Sundance?

Article: Opening Night, aka who the hell wants to be sexy at Sundance?

Still from HOWL.

So, I’m doing my schedule for this week and at one point I was wondering if Sundance was a film or a music festival. Seriously. ASCAP has a music series with LeeAnn Rimes, Joey + Rory and the Fray, along with like 20 others. Lyle Lovett is here, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, John Legend, you name it. And I am in heaven.

The festival has finally started – slowly. By tomorrow you wont even be able to walk down Main Street without thinking horrible, dark thoughts about the couple in front of you who insists on strolling slowly down the narrow sidewalks, holding hands – and therefore holding up the foot traffic for miles. And the weather ain’t helping. Eight inches of snow dropped last night and they are expecting at least another six more tonight. Thank God for waterproof boots! Although, the amount of high heeled snow boots I’ve seen already is astonishing. I mean, seriously? Who the hell wants to be sexy at Sundance? It’s like picking up someone on the treadmill. Yech.

RESTREPO, how’s this for an opening salvo?

Article: RESTREPO, how’s this for an opening salvo?

Still from RESTREPO.

How’s this for an opening salvo? RESTREPO, the first documentary to screen at Sundance 2010, kicks off with a grunt’s-eye view of being caught in a roadside-bomb explosion, and only gets more intense from there. In 2007 and 2008, journalist Sebastian Junger and photographer Tim Hetherington made 10 trips to Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, a six-mile corridor near the Pakistan border, at the time the focal point of the fighting between U.S. forces and the Taliban. A raw, often harrowing piece of frontline reportage, the film uses post-facto interviews with the soldiers to orient the viewers, but mostly, it opts for disorientation — for the surreal ground-level experience of combat, alternating between restless downtime and confusing firefights.

Making music at Sundance

Article: Making music at Sundance

Still from ODDSAC.

Music is surely a strong theme at this year’s Sundance Film Festival: In Sam Taylor Wood’s NOWHERE BOY, a teenage, pre-Beatles John Lennon finds an escape from his dysfunctional family through music (watch a clip here). The band Animal Collective will debut the film it has spent years collaborating on with Danny Perez, ODDSAC, a psychedelic mix of abstract music and visuals. TWILIGHT’s Kristen Stewart stars as rocker Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning plays Jett’s bandmate Cherie Currie in Floria Sigismondi’s rock-and-roll biopic THE RUNAWAYS. And that’s just for example.

How you can help in Haiti

Article: How you can help in Haiti

Cine Institute Students Effort from Ciné Institute on Vimeo.

One of the issues the Sundance Film Festival has set out to explore this year is the role of the arts today — how filmmaking and other art forms can not just stay relevant, but can actually be an agent for positive change in a world that surely needs all the help it can get. It’s hard to think of a better example of the transformative power of art than the efforts of the students at Cine Institute, Haiti’s only film school, located in the country’s cultural capital, a seaside city called Jacmel.

Sundance films coming soon to YouTube

Article: Sundance films coming soon to YouTube

Those of us feeling sad about being stuck at home during the Sundance Film Festival yet again this year will be relieved to hear that our distance from Park City is a diminishing disadvantage. Today’s news? Audiences across the United States can view three Sundance feature films on their very own computers even before they screen for Festival audiences, thanks to a deal Sundance has forged with YouTube.

FROM PARIS TO PRECIOUS (aka PUSH): Sundance switches gears

Article: FROM PARIS TO PRECIOUS (aka PUSH): Sundance switches gears

Main Street in Park City, UT during the Sundance Film Festival.

I have two words for you: Lyle Lovett. My Mason-Dixon reared soul is all a flutter over this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

I will be honest: I haven’t gone to Sundance in four years. I used to cover it when I was the deputy editor for Page Six at the New York Post. For a gossip columnist, it was like shooting ducks in a barrel. Celebrities abounded, bad behavior – thanks to alcohol consumption, high altitudes and a distinct lack of spousal companionship – was everywhere, and I was in heaven. I would see some great movies, interview some actors, and then go to premiere and agency parties, collecting information all along the way. It was fun and I got some good work done.

Until 2006.

Trend-spotting at Sundance Film Festival 2010

Article: Trend-spotting at Sundance Film Festival 2010

Image from HOWL

Journalists at film festivals invariably find themselves with the task of connecting the dots among dozens of disparate movies — looking for the big picture, whether in the form of a new fad or a larger cultural moment (e.g., last year’s elusive search, during a Sundance that coincided with a historic inauguration, for the quintessential Obama movie). Expect lots of trend-spotting once Sundance 2010 kicks off on Thursday night, and expect these three topics to get plenty of play:

Raw weather, rawhide and ready for Sundance 2010!

Article: Raw weather, rawhide and ready for Sundance 2010!


Thank God Park City is too cold for PETA protesters. (Seriously – you ever notice how PETA works out of kind of cold places like NYC or not so cold places like LA, but they leave Chicago and Utah alone?). In preparation for Sundance, I went on weather.com and almost cried for my imaginary abuelita when it informed me that this year’s festivities fall directly in line with a snowstorm.

Buzz, like swine flu is something you can pick up at a party

Article: Buzz, like swine flu is something you can pick up at a party

Image from THE OATH, the story of Salim Hamdan

That ephemeral Sundance commodity known as buzz used to be something you picked up at parties, on shuttles, waiting in line at screenings — now it’s quantified before the festival even begins, with films ranked on the Sundance site according to page views (and, once the screenings actually get under way, star ratings). Based on the track records of the parties involved (and on totally unscientific early word of mouth), here are the four movies — one from each of the competitive sections — I have the highest hopes for…

And the Sundance Film Festival judges are…

Article: And the Sundance Film Festival judges are…

Actor David Hyde Pierce will be announcing the awards at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

The Sundance Film Festival has announced the names of the jurors who will determine which films competing in five different categories will take home awards from Park City this year. The awards will be announced at a ceremony hosted by actor David Hyde Pierce on January 30. The winners in the Short Film category will also be announced earlier, at a separate event on January 26.

HBO nabs Sundance film in early deal

Article: HBO nabs Sundance film in early deal

Although the shimmering wave of industry bigwigs and cinematic glitterati won’t roll into Park City for a few more days, the Sundance Film Festival business deals have already begun. Last week, HBO announced that it had acquired the U.S. television rights to New York-based Argentinean filmmaker Nicolas Entel’s feature documentary SINS OF MY FATHER.

Sundance Film Festival from the comfort of your own home

Article: Sundance Film Festival from the comfort of your own home

An image from 7 DAYS.

Four words of advice for film-loving humble folk who aren’t packing up their parkas and heading to the Sundance Film Festival this year — and especially for the even humbler folk who aren’t near any of the eight theaters around the country that will screen Festival films and host filmmaker Q&As on January 28 as part of the Sundance Film Festival USA audience initiative: Turn on the TV.

The best of "best of" movie lists for 2009

Article: The best of "best of" movie lists for 2009

Some people vow to lose weight and start exercising in the New Year. I resolve to whip my Netflix queue in shape, trimming out last year’s worthy crap and replacing it with this year’s best offerings, which I have 12 months to get through before they turn into last year’s worthy crap. Aiding me in this task are the nation’s critics, who dutifully spend all year watching movies and the last few weeks in December compiling “best of” lists. Many of these lists tend to look more or less the same, but some offer the occasional surprise. These critical taste quirks are the spice of list reading.

So here, in the spirit of 10 best lists, are the 10 best “10 best movie” lists of 2009. I must warn you that, as a parent of two small children who only rarely leaves the house to sit in the dark with cinematically minded strangers, I have seen very few of the movies on these lists. (Thus the great importance of proper Netflix queue maintenance.) Then again, given how many kid-friendly movies made it onto the lists this year, that excuse may be a bit flimsy. Too bad. It’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. On to the list of lists!

Hollywood 2010: slimmer and healthier?

Article: Hollywood 2010: slimmer and healthier?

Was 2009 the best of times or the worst of times for Hollywood? That probably depends on whom you ask: the scads of people who lost their jobs at studios, networks and production companies over the last year or the audiences who hightailed it to the movies in increasing number, looking for a fantasy escape from bleak economic realities.

Sundance Film Festival's Top 10 Oddest Couples

Article: Sundance Film Festival's Top 10 Oddest Couples

To count down to the Sundance Film Festival, we’re blogging about some of our favorite movie moments in the festival’s history. Back in December we wrote about the Top 10 Lessons in Love from Sundance flicks, then last week we covered the Top 10 Lessons in Young Love. This week, it’s odd couples! Romeo and Juliet, Louis and Clark, Donny and Marie these couples are not:

  1. Crazy Love: An ambulance-chasing attorney with a wife and disabled child hires a thug to throw lye in the face of his ex-mistress. She’s disfigured and half blinded, he goes to jail. Fifteen years later they marry. True story. WTF?!

  2. The Last Word: A woman falls for a man she doesn’t realize writes suicide notes for a living, including the note left by her dead brother.

What does it mean to be an artist today?

Article: What does it mean to be an artist today?

What does it mean to be an artist today — and what can artists look forward to in the next decade? Will we be overwhelmed with information, stymied by Tweets and status updates, emails and IMs and an ever-faster news cycle? Will we throw up our hands (and put down our paintbrushes and mouses) in the face of economic woes? Or will we find inspiration in it all, a renewed sense of art’s importance and role in our lives — as well as distribution opportunities we never thought possible?

Sundance welcomes women directors

Article: Sundance welcomes women directors

Responding to the last-minute addition of three films to the Sundance Film Festival lineup this week, New York Times’ Carpetbagger blogger Melena Ryzik noticed something that, I confess, I overlooked: All three of the newly added films — Gurinder Chadha’s “It’s a Wonderful Afterlife,” Lisa Cholodenko’s “The Kids are Alright” and Galt Niederhoffer’s “The Romantics” — are from young female directors. In fact, there are several other women directors who will be presenting films in the festival’s Premieres category: Sam Taylor Wood, Nicole Holofcener, Floria Sigismondi and Shari Springer Berman among them.

Sundance premieres: Quirky mix, big names

Article: Sundance premieres: Quirky mix, big names

This week, the Sundance Film Festival announced that it would be adding three world premieres to its out-of-competition lineup, all of them from directors who’ve shown films at Sundance before: Lisa Cholodenko’s THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT, starring Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo and Annette Benning; Gurinder Chadha IT’S A WONDERFUL AFTERLIFE, starring Shabana Azmi, Goldy Notay and Sally Hawkins; and Galt Niederhoffer’s THE ROMANTICS, starring Katie Holmes, Anna Paquin, Elijah Wood, Candice Bergen and Josh Duhamel.

Catching up with the "Crude" court case

Article: Catching up with the "Crude" court case

When it premiered in January 2009 at the Sundance Film Festival, Joe Berlinger’s documentary CRUDE opened many filmgoers’ eyes to the plight of 30,000 people from five indigenous tribes in Ecuador. These residents of what had been a beautiful, biodiverse rain forest were suffering the effects of what has become known as the “Amazon Chernobyl,” in which, they and others contend, 18 billion gallons of toxic oil waste had been dumped in their rivers and on their land. The water they drank, bathed and played in had been poisoned, and their children, siblings and parents were sick and dying in alarming numbers.

Sundance competition films: juicy, mopey, risky, arty?

Article: Sundance competition films: juicy, mopey, risky, arty?

The 2010 Sundance Film Festival won’t kick off for a few weeks, but the press is already dusting off its snow boots and readying for action. (“Should the Bagger rent a car in Sundance, or are the shuttles where all the good gossip is?” wonders The New York Times’ Melena Ryzik, the new Carpetbagger blogger and a festival first-timer. One reader suggests a Norwegian kicksled.)

2010 Sundance Film Festival line-up unveiled

Article: 2010 Sundance Film Festival line-up unveiled

Sundance Institute announced the films that will be in competition at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival in both the U.S. and International dramatic and documentary categories. The festival will run from January 21-31 in Park City, Utah. There are a few changes this year as there will be no opening-night picture and the festival will take select festival films to eight cities during as the fest plays out.