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Quint is intrigued, but let down by documentary DINOSAUR 13 at Sundance 2014


Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the first evening of Sundance 2014's B-side, the second feature in a two feature day. I opted for a movie called Dinosaur 13 because... well, it's called Dinosaur 13.

As a kid obsessed with dinosaurs I have vague memories of the discovery of Sue, the most complete T-Rex fossil set ever discovered, but wasn't caught up with the shitstorm that happened after “she” was discovered.

Basically the paleontologists that discovered and unearthed her at great expense were about a year into their delicate touch up process when their door buzzed and the FBI was there to take Sue away with claims that they essentially stole her from US Government lands, even though they paid the owner of the land in which she was discovered.

What follows is an example of the worst aspects of our federal government in action and a supremely flawed judicial system as our loveable rugged paleontologists fight to get back their baby and, sooner than later, for their own freedom. It's a David and Goliath story that almost seemed cooked up by the loonier of the right wing of this country. It is afterall big government stealing a small business' property and using their full weight to destroy the little guy's reputation and livelihoods. Somewhere Glenn Beck has a boner and doesn't know why.

It's a pretty amazing story, one that would be soul crushingly depressing if it wasn't for the incredible resolve of Peter Larson and his team (they're the ones who dug up Sue). They went through hell and yet they still tell their stories with their heads held high.

The filmmaking itself wasn't my favorite. I'm a bit of stickler when it comes to my docs. I really hate reenactments. Nothing makes a documentary feel like some cheap cable true crime or legal system show than reenactments. The ones done in this doc weren't awful, but they were overdone and arty farty out of focus shots of the back of people's heads and stuff. Call me old fashioned, but I'll take a talking heads doc any day of the week over one heavy with reenactments.

I'd also say that the movie goes on for a bit too long, although I wouldn't know what to cut. It might just be the story itself, especially when it comes to the incredibly complicated court case, is dense and has many threads to follow. Still, they couldn't have cut all their reenactments and had the same story... and we don't need the 5 minutes of slow “we hired a camera drone for a day” aerial shots of pretty desert country side.

Dinosaur 13 is the kind of doc you catch on cable, enjoy and then flip over to the next thing that catches your attention. That's not meant to trivialize what Peter Larson and his friends, family and colleagues went through, but the doc itself isn't as emotionally engaging as it could have been. It's fine, and competently put together, but it didn't blow my hair back.

Make sure to Follow Me On Twitter as I continue to wade through all the crazy movies (not to mention the snow) at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. I'll be tweeting my immediate thoughts throughout the festival and other nonsensical stuff.

-Eric Vespe
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