[One day, I will make it to Sundance. Until then, Fred is my eyes and ears there – LYT]
This was the third Sundance Film Festival I attended, and frankly I don’t know what took me so long. If there had been a video game where you could attend six movies a day, meet filmmakers and make friends with film lovers the world over while waiting in line, I would have played that game many times by now. But Sundance is real, and it’s existed for decades, so I have a lot of catching up to do.
As press covering the Sundance Film Festival, I get the best of all Sundance experiences. My favorite part truly is making friends in the hour-long line queues for screenings, but that won’t help you if you weren’t there. Instead, the movie screenings, filmmakers and talent I get to interview, and parties I get invited to will provide you a news fix. Here are the top 10 most notable things about Sundance 2013.
10. Cops Afield.
The films of Quentin Dupieux are abstract and absurd, but they’re still genre because they involve killer tires or worlds where clocks strike 7:60. So the prospect of a new movie from the director of Rubber and Wrong was a Sundance must-see for me, especially because it was only half a movie. Dupieux is still working on this episodic story, so Sundance screened the first three chapters, about 45 minutes’ worth.
Wrong Cops takes place in a future in which the crime rate has dropped so low that the police are bored and angry enough to make their own trouble. It’s a brilliant premise, but I found it a heartbreaking disappointment. Gone is the absurdity or meta commentary, replaced by unfunny screaming and cheap violence. I suspect Luke will like it more because it’s more in line with the “Tim and Eric” type of uncomfortable, awkward humor (it costars Eric Wareheim, alongside the likes of Ray Wise and Marilyn Manson)…even though Dupieux hates that label.
9. Yes to S-VHS.
V/H/S was a found-footage anthology horror movie that premiered at Sundance last year, from producers Bloody Disgusting. This is the sequel, and except for the name it has nothing to do with the short-lived, slightly higher-grade analog tape format of the ’90s. The movie itself, however, steps up the found-footage shorts exponentially. S-VHS covers more subgenres of horror, including zombies, aliens and cults, and more importantly the camera informs the stories, rather than building a story around a fixed camera. It’s nice to see our online friends do well. S-VHS went over like gangbusters at midnight screenings and we’re sure to see this hit theaters or VOD this year.
8. Old Boy, New Tricks.
The first American film from Oldboy director Park Chan-wook was approached with trepidation. Could he maintain his vision in the Hollywood studio system, even if it is the Searchlight arm of Fox? The answer was a resounding yes: Stoker is phenomenal. Mia Wasikowska stars as India Stoker, whose father dies and whose uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) comes to visit his niece and sister-in-law Evie (Nicole Kidman). It’s about family secrets and violence, but what makes Stoker so interesting is Park’s study of subtle behavior. Every scene has something interesting happening in it.
I saw Stoker at 9 a.m. after seeing a midnight movie the night before, and it totally kept me awake. The script by Wentworth Miller wasn’t bad either – there are some awesome kills, but the best parts are the images and the magnitude of what they mean. The closeup of India’s pencil sharpener makes it the deadliest weapon, and the brushing of Evie’s hair dissolves into a grassy field. You’ll never look at hair or pencils the same way again.
7. Bodyslam Buffet.
Now what is WWE doing at an independent movie festival? They make big movies about big guys kicking ass, right? Well, they’ve picked up movies from film festivals before; last year’s The Day was discovered in Toronto. So at Sundance, WWE Studios invited a select group of reporters, really only five or six, to dinner at a sushi restaurant on Main Street, and I was one of them! I had sake with WWE Studios president Michael Luisi and talked about my favorite WWE films, including That’s What I Am and No Holds Barred, which WWE just released on DVD.
Luisi also confirmed the news about Hornswoggle in a Leprechaun reboot and an animated Scooby-Doo movie where the gang solves a mystery at WrestleMania! Unfortunately, they have not planned WrestleMania XXX far enough in advance to base the 2014 release on the actual fight card, but it will have Vince McMahon, John Cena and other superstars voicing their animated likenesses.
6. Shrim, Shrim, Sala Bim!
Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim are no strangers to Sundance. Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie premiered at Sundance last year, and one year later I still can’t forget shrim (they also starred in the indie movie The Comedy). This year, Wareheim was in Park City as part of the cast of Wrong Cops. When I saw him at the premiere, I was tempted to yell, “Shrim!” but I limited my shrimming to a tweet. During an interview, Wareheim confirmed there would be no more shrim, but there are two new Tim and Eric shows coming to Adult Swim.
“There’s only one shrim and we did it,” Wareheim said. “It’s an untouchable thing. No, shrim is the last time we will ever do the doodoo because I feel like it’s the biggest poop joke ever. We’re tired of poop. We have two shows on Adult Swim. Tim and Eric Go to the Moon is a six episode sci-fi series, similar to Wrong Cops in a way. It’s told in 15 minute chunks. We also have a show called Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories which is a short film Twilight Zone series. We’re doing 10 of those. Each episode will be a fucked-up little short.”
They are shooting Bedtime Stories in February, and the first one will involve the characters from their Absolut Vodka commercials. “It’s a few of the characters from the Absolut Vodka guys. Zach Galfianakis. We wore the wigs. It’s an episode of that. We go to a haunted house. we have to live there for the rest of our lives for 1000 dollars. That’s basically the first we’re going to shoot.”
5. jOBS Creators.
The closing night premiere film of Sundance was the highly anticipated Steve Jobs biopic starring Ashton Kutcher. I left too early to see the film, but started checking the buzz online as soon as the premiere ended on Friday night. Reviews seem unanimously mixed, saying Kutcher actually does a great job portraying Jobs; unfortunately, the consensus also says that the film runs through highlights of Jobs’ career like most biopics, without much depth. So we can look forward to a nostalgia trip from the Apple IIe to the iPod, but no new information. jOBS apparently shows Jobs crying and screaming, but glosses over his genuine problems in marriages and workplace relationships. Josh Gad has gotten high marks as Steve Wozniak as well.
4. Que – Cera? Cera?
Michael Cera had two films at Sundance this year, both from director Sebastian Silva. In Crystal Fairy, he plays an American who inadvertently hooks up with the annoying title character (Gaby Hoffman) during a drug binge. In Magic Magic, he plays a really annoying guy who makes a South American vacation hell for Alicia (Juno Temple). I got to interview Cera for both films, and on both occasions tried to get something about the new Arrested Development series coming to Netflix in May.
The first time, for Crystal Fairy, Cera was just making jokes. He claimed George Michael Bluth has an 18 minute shower scene that’s worse than the extended rape scene in Irreversible. The second time for Magic Magic, I asked him how different it felt to have his own George Michael episode, since the new format is each episode focuses on one Bluth. Cera said it didn’t feel like his own episode, because the other characters still overlap. He did say George Michael and Maeby (Alia Shawkat) are the most changed since the Fox series ended, since they are now in their 20s. He confirmed Gob (Will Arnett) has not changed one bit.
3. Disney Demons.
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This is the legend of Sundance 2013. Escape From Tomorrow is a dark drama filmed in Disney World without permission. And I missed it because I did not know that’s what it was. Dude, you should maybe put that in the program guide so I know to add it to my schedule. The first audience members who saw the premiere were blown away by the concept, and felt they discovered a movie that no one else would ever see, since nobody can likely release it without getting sued by Disney. After all that buzz, subsequent audiences said it was overhyped and the concept wore thin after about 10 minutes. Since the only screening I could have possibly made was the day after I left Sundance, I may never know how awesome or overhyped Escape From Tomorrow is.
2. Juno What’s Going On?
Juno Temple beats Michael Cera with three movies at Sundance: Afternoon Delight, Magic Magic and Lovelace. I interviewed her for Afternoon Delight, in which she plays a stripper, and Magic Magic, in which she plays an American tourist going mad. When I asked her about filming Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, she couldn’t say much but she confirmed the following:
-She filmed for one day on a green screen.
-She’s in one long scene and two more short scenes.
In Maleficent, the Disney movie about Sleeping Beauty told from the wicked fairy’s point of view, Temple said she plays a special effect and performed all her scenes in motion capture. She hasn’t seen what she looks like yet and the film isn’t due out until 2014.
1. Color Always Comes After Primer.
Perhaps only true sci-fi fans will know the names of Shane Carruth and Primer. If you don’t, pretend you do and go look them up. Carruth’s first film was an intellectual time-travel movie that made a splash at Sundance in 2004. With nine years to analyze and speculate, Carruth is finally back with a second film that bears a lot of scrutiny in his return to Sundance.
I can’t claim that I completely understand Upstream Color, nor would I want to after only one viewing. I can assert that it’s a beautiful assortment of interesting scenes, some with fascinating science fiction concepts and others simply dealing with the emotional ramifications of messing with people’s minds and bodies. A few people walked out of the screening, and a few haters who didn’t know what they were getting into complained, although how do you go into Shane Carruth’s long-awaited second film at Sundance blind? For the people craving it, Upstream Color provoked fervent debate and fulfilled the promise of Primer.