Infinitely Polar Bear is the appropriately terribly named movie that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this past week. It is, and I say this with great conviction, absolutely awful. It is the worst film I’ve seen since M.Night Shamalamadingdong’s The Happening. In fact, those two films share so much that I wonder if director Maya Forbes used it as her main inspiration. Both pieces of media (”film” would be ruined as a word if used in discussion of either of these works and “movie” gives both too much credit) have stupid titles, bad acting, bad directing, bad writing, and if both had a shot of a liquor bottle in them then advertising executives would congratulate the directors on getting every viewer to drink more. More of everything, from cheap vodka to the tequilla in the back of your parents liquor cabinet to the blue stuff in the garage. Anything.
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. (more…)
The 2014 Sundance Film Festival blew away all my expectations of what it would be. Everything from the town of Park City to the films being played left me in total awe. My eyes were opened to a whole new perspective on what film culture can be. You can read about the Sundance film festival all you want, but until you are there and live it, you’ll have no idea.
The week and a half of preparation in class was definitely a help for me. Not coming from a film studies background, I was able to study independent film in a way that would help me to think more critically about what I was watching. Had I not had any time to realize this, I don’t know that my experience would have been as impactful. (more…)
Sundance has been a strange and interesting experience. Though it was only a week long, it feels like I have been gone for months. That isn’t to say that I didn’t have fun, I enjoyed every minute of the festival, but the early to start and late to end days really takes a tole on the mind, as does watching so many movies a day. As someone who had never been to a film festival before, it was certainly a shock to the system. Now, sitting in the afterglow, exhausted from the flight home, I can only bemoan the fact that it is over.
I can’t say this without sounding like a huge hipster, but my taste in media tends to fall outside of the popular consciousness. Rarely do I see movies in theatres anymore, and when I do they generally do not impress me. But Sundance was different, it’s demographic sharing more of my sensibilities, with movies that had not yet needed to go through the ratings board and needed to appeal to less people to turn a profit. Its documentaries were about people or subjects that would make many people uncomfortable. Films like Wetlands and R100’s graphic and unapologetic sex acts would have been uncomfortably discarded from the desks of a mainstream publisher. Cooties, which features graphic violence inflicted on children, would have been asked to tone it down for a wide release. Not to mention the numerous foreign films that would not have been palatable without an English dub. Overall it was just refreshing to be somewhere where my tastes were more popular for once.
My eating situation eventually became better. Strangely I found Mexican and Asian restaurants to be safe havens, which I usually have to avoid. I also eat the best gluten-free pizza that I’ve ever had, strangely enough. My luck with theaters also continued to be not great, with a few drunken shouters and one old man who absolutely reeked of urine. I was lucky, however, as I enjoyed all the movies I saw. The documentaries continued to be the highlights, though Web Junky Made me experience an anger I had not felt because of a film since I watched Jesus Camp.
This trip was profoundly incredible. It scratched my itch to finally go to a film festival, but has replaced it with the desire to go back. One of my trip mates disunited it best when he said that his life would now be thought of as pre- and post-Sundance, it’s an experience that I would not give back for the world.
As Sundance grows in popularity, its films seem to be more and more user friendly in a way. What I mean is, is that independent films are acquiring more and more mainstream actors, and are able to shoot a fairly high quality film on a relatively low budget. This means that more films are distribution ready when they hit Sundance. And this year’s class has shown that well. Here’s a list of films at the festival that have been picked up so far. (more…)
It wasn’t until arriving at Sundance that I began to really understand the term ‘film junkie’. So, I thought I would try to provide some tips to ensure that you will have a positive experience without having your eyes clawed out by the merciless beasts that want to get into every film before you. So read these three tips and rejoice! So what if they seem pretty obvious and not all that helpful? That’s just your opinion. You haven’t even been to Sundance yet so why am I listening to you? Or maybe you have in which case this really isn’t for you. Either way I don’t care what you think. That’s a lie, I do care. I guess I’m just insecure. Shut up. Now you’re probably thinking: “What is this guy talking about? Is he actually going to give his stupid tips or not?” So, without further ado, let’s get started. (more…)
This morning I finally got the chance to see the film I was most excited about. I read about it in the brochure before we left for Sundance and told myself it was one I couldn’t miss. Fed Updirected by Stephanie Soechtig left me leaving the theater full of ambitions and hope for future change in the American food industry. This documentary revealed some of the horrifying truths about what we as Americans are consuming on a daily basis and how detrimental these products can be to our health. Everyone in the audience is presented with a handful of case studies and is told heartbreaking stories along with loads of statistics and evidence on obesity rates and nutritional value. Fed Up reveals that the long-held misconception that less calories and more exercise leads to lowering obesity rates is simply a tactic being used to cover up the real danger in our foods; sugar. The nation is being deceived by major food corporations into thinking that labels on products are truthful. (more…)
The night started with me seeing a photo on Instagram that Flea (bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers) would be at a certain Sundance event celebrating music in film. I had no idea if he was just going to be moseying around, or playing, or what, but regardless I knew would be there to find out.
The Oculus Rift has been on my radar since the original kickstarter, which I did not donate too because of the laughable success rate for hardware funded through that site. As the months went on, however, it became more and more clear that the people behind it knew what they were doing, and my passive interest turned into excitement. The list of supported games grew ever greater, and people in the gaming and technology press had almost universally good things to say about it. I was not yet convinced, as it seems to me that allowing oneself to get excited about an expensive and unfinished product without trying it yourself is foolish. Still, I was itching to give one a try, so imagine my surprise when, while flipping through the Sundance brochure, I came across a page saying that it would be there to try for free.
For those who do not know, the Oculus Rift is a virtual reality visor that contains two screens that are viewed through two curved lenses that trick the eye into perceiving the image as 3-D. There are also a series of sensors that detect the movement of of the wearer, which can then be interpreted to allow the user to look around a virtual environment. Similar devices have existed in the past, but because of recent advancements in technology coupled with the wide range of games that are working to support it makes this device possibly the biggest leap in the field of personal virtual reality that has ever happened.
The day I got there, I went to the vibrantly red New Frontier lounge, and got in line for the demos. After experiencing what the device has to offer, I have to say I am very impressed. The first I saw was Clouds, which was a smaller version of another instillation in the lounge. As far as an introduction to the device, it works well but is unimpressive overall. It is essentially a series of interviews about various technological advancements set to abstract landscapes that the viewer can look around in. There were also some demos using a Beck concert and a clip from The Girl From Nagasaki that were interesting. The real show stealer, however, was Eve: Valkyrie. made using assets from the MMO RPG Eve Online, Valkyrie is a spaceship combat simulator that is set to be a launch title for the device. Although the demo is fairly simple, the ability to look around the cockpit while flying in real time feels absolutely incredible. It is sometimes hard to keep track of everything that is going on, but the feeling of craning your neck to find enemy spaceships is honestly unprecedented.
I was lucky enough to have gotten an interview with a representative from CCP games, developers of Eve Online. There was also a representative from Oculus present, but unfortunately he was unable to comment.