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Sundance 2012 – Top Eight and Bottom Three

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This was an unusual Sundance. Going into the festival, there were only two or three movies that I was really excited about. Maybe low expectations helped the scores, which were pretty high throughout. Here are my eight favorites and three that you should avoid.

Top Eight

Indie Game
Score: 93

West of Memphis
Score: 93

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Score: 92

Safety Not Guaranteed
Score: 92

Sleepwalk with Me
Score: 92

Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap
Score: 92

The End of Love
Score: 91

The Raid
Score: 90

Bottom Three

Red Hook Summer
Score: 44

I came into the festival looking forward to this movie, the latest from Spike Lee. It disappointed on almost every level.

The one level it didn’t disappoint on was Clarke Peters’ work. No matter how tone deaf or mannered the dialogue, Peters really throws his weight behind it, and brings a sense of the inner life of a widowed pastor. Unfortunately, this only makes him stand out more from the rest of the cast, most of whom appear to be first-time actors. Given the number of careers that Lee has launched over the course of his career, it’s difficult to see what drew him to anybody in this particular cast. Nearly all of them fade into the vibrant, oversaturated background and those who don’t stand out simply because their work feels like it might be more at home on a small community theater stage.

The sound design and mix felt almost as amateurish as the acting. Music cues drowned out dialogue in more than one place and simply felt like a demand for an unearned emotional response in others. It was a fundamental mistake to score this film with music from open to close. Many scenes seemed extended for no other reason than to make sure that entire musical phrases. There may be a tighter 45-minute movie screaming to get out of this 135 minutes, but finding it would first require that it be untethered from the unpleasant music.

If you were searching for areas to edit, it bears noticing that during the course of this movie, I sat through church three separate times. Each time, I got a full sermon and sometimes even more. One would think that judicious editing could start there. In fact, I don’t recall a single scene in the movie that felt paced at anything fast than a shuffling gait. I stopped counting the number of times that I checked the clock to see what time it is, and the first was 30 minutes in, which may be some kind of new record for me.

Spike asked Sundance audiences to make sure that people know this isn’t a sequel to Do The Right Thing. The two movies hardly belong in the same universe much less the same sentence with one another, but some of the confusion may come from the revisiting of Mookie, Lee’s own character from the previous movie. I suppose I can see the appeal of the cameo for Spike as an attempt to inject a few moments of levity and believable acting into the movie. At any rate, there is such a step backward in all areas of film making that I don’t think that, without his name on the poster, many people would identify this movie with the earlier one.

Score: 33

I enjoyed Rubber moderately. This movie was as interminable as the director was condescending and pretentious during the Q&A.

Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie
Score: 26

I haven’t the words and, if I did, I doubt I’d waste them. Run.

Written by ireviewsomething

January 30, 2012 at 8:13am

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