Okay, so I'm back from the festival and now that I've had a few hours of sleep I am going to write up a few recaps of the better movies I saw at the fest. I wound up watching 41 movies total while there and these are the ones that stuck out that didn't seem to get a full review up on the site.
Greatest Movie Ever Sold
I enjoyed Super Size Me and completely detested Where In The World Is Osama, so it was a relief to find that "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" is Spurlock's most enjoyable documentary yet. It's a very unique film, the film charts the making of the film where they try to enlist various companies into advertising in the film and thus funding the film. Incredibly meta, but also incredibly entertaining. It also contains pretty insightful commentary about advertising and product placement in our culture.
Also the director interviews cutting between Quentin Tarantino, JJ Abrams, Peter Berg, and Brett Ratner contain some priceless Ratner douche moments.
Elite Squad 2
The first Elite Squad was one of my favorite films the year it came out, it was like Brazilian Johnny To cop movie, i wore out that dvd showing it to everyone I came across. So I was a little excited for the premiere of the sequel at Sundance this year. It's very much a different film from the first one, while still managing to reuniting the surviving members of the original squad. This film deals more with the political dealings as Captain Nascimento is promoted to a supervisory position away from the squad early on in the film. It's an exceptionally well made film, that I think will get better on repeated viewings. Although I must say after the first one I was expecting many more favela action sequences that never happened.
While nowhere near the perfection of her first film "Me, You, And Everyone We Know" Miranda July's new film is an absolute delight. This follows a quirky couple who are in the process of adopting a cat, get to the point where they are supposed to pick it up and then are told that they have to wait 30 days to pick up the cat. The film is narrated by the cat waiting in a cage in the shelter. If you liked Me and You and Everyone, I'm willing to bet you will also love this film. I really loved The Future, I want to physically hug it.
Quint has already discussed this one, but I'd also like to weigh in for a second here. This movie is a fucking kick in the nuts man, and that's meant in the most positive sense. I almost feel bad for loving it, it covers some very delicate subject matter, but the main thing that matters is that Lucky Mckee is back and lets hope it doesn't take a million years for his next film.
Tom Mccarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor) is officially three for three. In Win-Win Paul Giamatti's character becomes the surrogate to an elderly man (Burt Young) as a ploy to collect $1500 a month from his estate. Also he is the coach of a High School boys wrestling team. Oh and the old man's grandson winds up being thrown into his life and everything changes when he realizes that he is an accomplished wrestler. Somehow all that comes together into a sweet little film. I don't think there was a soul at sundance that disliked this movie. It may not be anyone's favorite film of the year, but it sure was a crowd-pleaser.
Now I wasn't exactly smitten with this film as some other people were, but I would be remiss in not mentioning it. It was pretty much film chaos, with bits of complete flame thrower and apocalyptic mad max car insanity. Unfortunately it also contained a whole lot of randomly motivated unlikeable characters, some very poorly scripted scenes, terrible acting, a director mis-casting his girlfriend in the lead, and about an hour of relationship bickering that would make any mumblecore-ite proud.
I know Quint already wrote about this one, but I would remiss if I didn't mention how fucking awesome it is. It's such a sweet and hilarious coming-of-age film, I'm now in the process of trying to watch every single thing Richard Ayoade has had a hand in.
I'm a big fan of Paddy Considine and Peter Mullan, I really wanted to like this film. Ultimately though it felt a little flat. Mullan gives an exceptional performance, as does the female lead. I found it really hard to get into the film, it's a lot of horrible people doing horrible things to each other, then more horrible shit happens then it ends.
This was the best documentary that I saw at the festival, it's a film about Kevin Clash the puppeteer that brings the Sesame Street character "Elmo" to life. I didn't really know much about him before seeing the film and I was taken in by his story of being a child fan who had a dream and against all odds wound up working with his idle Jim Henson straight out of high school.
Here's a short clip from the film:
I don't believe this one has been picked up yet, but it's only a matter of time. It was one of the most sought after documentary tickets at the fest.
I loved the premise of this film, after spending a few days giving excuses to his boss about not coming into work. His boss won't take anything, he must come to work, all of a sudden Lonnie (Joshua Leonard) just goes and blurts out that his daughter just died. People from work start coming by his house giving condolences and everything just spirals out of control. It's a hilarious touching little film with great performances by Joshua Leonard, Mark Webber, and Jess Weixler.
This film begins with Joshua Leonard strumming a guitar and singing a folk song, and I must admit for those first few seconds I though the projectionist had fucked up and started playing "The Lie". Higher Ground follows the life of a devout Christian woman (Vera Farmiga) and her raising a devoted Christian family. I really enjoyed this film, it examines the results of holding religion too close to your heart while never judging her. It really opens an interesting discussion about faith getting in the way of life. None of the characters are ever an exaggeration. It's an incredibly accomplished work for a first time actor-director.
Okay thats it, I'm done.