Sundance Wrap-Up: Top Three Films and More

January 29, 2014 : 1:37 am | by Aaron Levy

Sundance is very different from the two other film festivals, South by Southwest and the Austin Film Festival, that I have attended as a badge holder. Despite its origins, it has become a more exclusive, mainstream event that is just as much a social playground for LA and New York industry executives and celebrities as it is an outlet for indie films. Me and my friends remarked that attending Sundance, in itself, gives other people around you the impression that you are somebody they need to know. For that reason and maybe others, everyone I talked to at parties and in line for movies was really very nice.

Getting up at 7 a.m. to walk in the 20 degree morning to the bus stop, get on the bus, transfer buses then walk to a crowded theater is not something many people consider fun but, because its Sundance, its something people do. The experience was actually incredibly inspiring and reaffirmed my confidence in film as a medium attracting storytellers that have the potential to change the world. I know, thats a bold assertion.

So here they are. The three best films I saw at Sundance.

#3) Wetlands
I wrote about this film earlier in the festival and if anything, I was too critical. To be perfectly candid, it was the first film I saw at the festival and didn’t know how everything else would stack up. In retrospect, though, it was one of the most entertaining and dynamic pieces of the festival. The aesthetic elements of the film – cinematography, music and editing are perfectly suited to fit the writer and directors’ — to use this term yet again — “pop sensibility” while making the movie. The way subplots to the protagonist’s main struggle composed the heart of the film made for an exceptionally engaging movie.

#2) Listen Up Philip
Jason Schwartzman and Elizabeth Moss star in Alex Ross Perry’s lengthy vignette of a young, snarky yet self-loathing novelist in late 1970’s New York. I hadn’t seen any of perry’s previous work but his casting and actor direction is an incredible achievement, yet the film isn’t arrogant about its smartness. Schwarzman plays Philip, the writer, while Moss is his practical, successful, global-advertising-campaign-booking girlfriend. Perry brings out the best in his actors. In Schwartzman he embodies the intillectual, elitist, arrogance of academia and does so with an incredibly sharp pen and knack for timing. Moss’s performance is good too, as is that of Jonathan Pryce, who plays an older, respected yet bored writer who takes Philip under his wing. The film is a fantastic exploration of the moment empathy turns into pity and is incredibly funny.

#1) Boyhood
I already talked extensively about Richard Linklater’s 12-year project before, but in short, he captures the beauty of growing up in a 160-minute feature that defies everything we thought possible in cinema.

The beauty of Sundance is that despite the fact that, like Apple, it became the big bad man it originally set out to defy, it was still an incredibly inspiring experience. Not only are there more good movies than you can possibly see, but you are surrounded by a lot of young people who are hungry to make something of themselves and tell their story. Their is an energy for the full 10-day festival that is contagious. I will be back.


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