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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

Sundance 2012 – Day Two

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Sundance 2012 – Day Two

That’s What She Said
at SLC Library in Salt Lake
My Score – 69

3:30 pm
The Queen of Versailles
at Rose Wagner Center in Salt Lake
My Score – 86

5:30 pm
West of Memphis
at SLC Library in Salt Lake
My Score – 93

To take a subject that there is already hours of documentary work about and make it feel fresh is an achievement. To make it a beautiful, personal film about the importance of the many standing up for those who are unable is another, even more impressive achievement. As if the films of Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh aren’t enough to respect, the financial and emotional dedication they showed to innocent accused in this case speaks to what amazing people they are. This documentary is heartbreaking, inspiring, and manages to break new ground when it comes to not just reporting a story, but have the filmmakers acting as key players in the story. I am loathe to spend two and a half hours on just about any movie. My usual feeling on a film is that it probably needs 20 minutes cut out of it. This movie couldn’t lost a single frame without doing it great harm and is a very impressive, and truly exhaustive treatment of the subject.

9:30 pm
Red Lights
at Rose Wagner Center in Salt Lake
My Score – 84

This is a disappointing film with a rather enjoyable first half that absolutely slits its own throat thereafter. The Uri Geller v. Amazing Randi story being told up front, had it been followed through on, would have made for a nice, safe, double to left field. Instead, Cortes swings for the fences. I get the impulse because he did the same in his debut feature, Buried, and absolutely lit up the scoreboard. Unfortunately, the success isn’t replicated here. This movie loses its way after the middle and never finds redemption.

The Pact
at Broadway Cinemas VI in Salt Lake
My Score – 87

Movies seen thus far: 7
Today’s Favorite: West of Memphis
Festival Favorite: West of Memphis

Sundance 2012

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I just returned from a week in New Orleans, so lots of reviews on the way. In the meantime, Sundance approaches and here’s my tentative schedule of what I’m planning to see.

6 Wish You Were Here
9:45 The Raid

noon That’s What She Said
3:30 The Queen of Versailles
5:30 West of Memphis or Celeste and Jesse Forever at 6:30 if I can’t make the transition work
9:30 Red Lights
midnight The Pact

noon Indie Game: The Movie
3:30 Beasts of the Southern Wild
6 Filly Brown or 6:30 Hello I Must Be Going
9:30 This Must Be the Place or 9:45 Wrong

6 V/H/S
9 Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap

6 The End of Love
9 Room 327

6 For Ellen
9 John Dies at the End

6 Sleepwalk with Me
9 The Imposter

6:30 Safety Not Guaranteed
9:45 Luv
midnight Excision

noon Arbitrage
3 Red Hook Summer
6 Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie
9:45 Shut Up and Play the Hits
midnight For a Good Time Call…

12:30 The Words
3 Predisposed or 3:30 Robot and Frank
6 The Tower TBA

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