Well the trip is done and I would like to write to a few people who really deserve some thanks.
First thank you Dr. Andersen for setting up this trip, I had a great time. Thanks for showing me how to use the buses it saved me a lot of time. Thanks for taking us all out tubing, that was a lot of fun, and for taking us out for Train Burgers afterwards, I'm glad you and Ryan enjoyed those burgers so much. Thanks for giving me that ticket to see This Film Is Not Yet Rated, it was hysterical. Thanks for the sushi, I'm sorry I was to sick to come with you guys. Finally, thanks for being a really great professor and teaching a cool class.
Thank you Ryan, you were a good helper monkey for Nate (Thank YOU, PAt. -Ed.), if there were a monkey of the year award you would get my vote. Thanks for keeping a great website. Thanks for saving me tickets and places in line and all that, and thanks for being a chill roommate, even when I woke you up with my hacking at 4 A.M.
Thank you Dr. Andersen, the younger, for the prescriptions that got me through the festival. I was really dying and you got me what I needed to continue.
Thank you classmates I'm very glad you were all really nice and no one hurt themselves or anyone else. I liked all the people on this trip and I'm glad to meet all of you. Have a great year and I hope you all had a good time.
There are several words of advice that I would like to share to all those who would like to do the Sundance winter term. Number one: bring lots and lots of socks. There is no need to bring 10 changes of clothes (that's way too many), but bringing lots of socks is a must. My feet were constantly cold unless I would wear 2 pairs, and then I ran out. Wearing socks 2 days in a row is pretty gross, and they aren't as warm the second day for some reason.
The second thing I would like to add is look for the free stuff during the afternoon. There was a lot of free stuff to get (although you needed to be 21 for all the good stuff), and the best time was to go around noon to main street and look around for people carrying cheap looking stuff. Follow the trail of people and you'll find the free stuff.
See lots of movies. This seems like a given, but the more you see the more likely you are to find a good one. Not all independent movies are good, and as a matter of fact most are pretty bad. The only way to find a good one is to go to tons and tons of movies. Do not believe the hype on most of the movies, because the ones that I did hear that were good ended up being pretty bad. Pretty much a person has to go to the movies themselves to find a good one. And do not choose a movie just because it has some stars in it. I saw 20 movies, and I only liked 2 of the movies that had any Hollywood star in it.
I also wish I would have brought more to do in the lines. On any given day I spent 5-8 hours in line, which was spent doing little to nothing. I read two 400 page books, and played cards, which seems like a lot, but I needed more. Bringing 4 books would have been better, and I should have brought my laptop or a portable DVD player. The lines got pretty repetitive, but when I had something to do they really seemed to go further.
And as for my personal experience this is my conclusion: It was awesome! I got to see lots of celebrities (which another word of advice if you want a picture or autograph take a seat near the isle), and I even got to talk to a few of them. The food was pretty bad, and the waiters were the worst I have ever encountered in any given town. I should have just bought lots of food at Albertsons and took that around in a backpack, but I did not. The hotel was pretty bad because the walls were really thin so sound traveled very well, and the maids did not clean up or replace your towels unless you somehow ran into the maids. I had a good overall impression of the movies, and I only wish I could have bought more tickets (online). The people who went were all really cool, and it was just an amazing experience.
Having now seen an entire Sundance Film Festival, I think I can say that unfortunately the soulless minions of commercialism have won out. I hoped to find that underneath the celebrities and the flashy graphics and sponsors the festival was still about a love of films, and the freedom of independent films. Unfortunately I don't really think that's the way it is any more. Time and again I would tell people I didn't have anything to do with the film industry, and time and again they would respond, oh my goodness, are you just here because you love movies? They themselves were of course there to network. Sundance is as if the entire greater Los Angeles area has gone on vacation together, and brought some friends from New York along for the ride. When you walk down Main Street your bound to pass at least ten clubs, many set up by the festival it's self, which are sure to have signs up telling you you're not nearly rich or famous enough to enter. Thankfully it's still possible to talk to some people who really do enjoy films and are there for the movies; however, there are a great deal of people in attendance for less noble reasons. There are the rich kids who get mommy and daddy to send them along to Sundance so they can ski with their rich friends and buy their way into their rich parties. Also there are journalists, who rather than show the world all of the wonderful movies, instead talk about the antics of the celebrities and the idle rich. You can recognize these people by their incredible haircuts that move not an inch in the wind and the boom mike and camera that follow in their wake. The people to talk to are the ones that wait with you in line for three hours. Those surprisingly few fans that can be found paging through the Sundance guide continually with a grin on their faces. These are my favorite people, and these are the people that Sundance should really be for.
This documentary surprised me mainly because I anticipated that it would be a record of Neil Young's life and career. Instead this documentary proved to be a concert with some of the most amazing songs. Neil Young appeared just before the film started and as he walked to the microphone I shouted, "Go Neil!" He looked at me with a bewildered look on his face, but at least I was able to get his attention.
Anyhow, the documentary did capture the level of emotion that Neil instills in his songs. Each word that comes from his mouth is infused with a memory or feeling so strong that it registers on Neil's face. Neil's facial expressions proved that some part of him was going back in time when he first wrote the lyrics, he was remembering those experiences.
Neil is so talented, he can play the harmonica, the banjo, the guitar and the piano; the man mine as well be a god!
"Uten Tittel" is both beautifully stylized and filmically unique employing a smooth montage style which lets the film flow, its story unfolding gracefully. The shots are very creative. Though they are stills, the shots are not static or one-dimensional. For example, in one shot, a few isolated elements faintly drift through curtains in the background while the rest of the frame is still. The next shot is of the same scene viewed from a different angle creating spatial dimensions and allowing the same elements to convey a bit more seen in a different way. Breien also conveys movement through still-frame shots. The camera scans a line of people in different stages of the same activity - some turning to leave, some facing the camera, some walking away, etc.
Breien creates an air of suspense from the beginning, opening with shots of people who have gotten out of their cars in the middle of the street to stare confusedly at the sky. The phenomenon is finally revealed to be hundreds of black balloons floating ominously over the city. The image creates an unsettling tone as it offers no explanation for why this is happening. The balloons eventually deflate and fall to ground, each, upon inspection, bearing a name attached to it. Spectators of the event begin to examine each balloon and decide to bury each one in the snow.
Breien explained after the film that had been of an existent person who died innocently as victims of war and hate crimes across the globe. That the the circumstances of each death were completely unrelated to another serves to highlight Breien's point. It's about the senselessness of people killing people in general, not localized to one event.
By leaving out the particulars of each death and representing all the victims uniformly as black balloons, Breien removes prejudices which some would want to use to justify as a death. This compels one to examine the situation as simply life, and ending of life.
Breien displays a mastery of filmic aesthetics while delvering a powerful message with a social conscience.
"Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine", Austria, 2005, Directed by Peter Tscherkassky
I was not too impressed with this film. The beginning was somewhat intriguing mostly because I wasn't sure what was going on. An overexposed shot shows an old man drawing what looks to be some sort of looking glass up to his eye and peers through. Words like "head", "tail" and "survive" are spliced between the scenes upside-down and at odd angles. The film was really audio-visually abrasive and dragged on for way too long. I didn't detect any meaning really. It seemed just like some kids messing around in an AV lab.
"High Plains Winter", U.S.A., 2005, Directed by Cindy Stillwell
The film centers around ski-joring competitions in Montana and Idaho, showing the good and bad aspects of the sport. However, the real substance of it, I think, is the shots of desolate unpopulated tundra, stoic and snow-covered ountain ranges and herds of cattle marching across barren snow-deserts. Stillwells shots mirror each other, communicating a feeling of sameness and isolation. Some of my favorite shots were of electrical towers, their angular geometric shapes and enormous stature contrasting sharply with the flat Idaho and Montana landscapes. Stillwell pairs these with images of electrocuted birds hanging from the wires connecting steel giants. This film seems to say a lot through what it leaves out (there's no dialogue, and no commentary on the images). I liked her technique of placing two separate frames of similar images next to each other and scanning the shots so that they seem to approach a common point from opposite directions. This creates the effect of mountains being swallowed up into each other at the place where the frames meet.
"Quimera", Brazil, 2005, Directed by Eryk Rocha
Sequences of jump shot show cats walking down a street, close-ups of their eyes as a car approaches, a man shaving himself and shaving a cat, and blurry headlights drawing nearer. There is a sort of menacing tone and it's sort of implied that someone is perhaps mistreating the cats or that they are about to get run over in some shots. Still, you don't really know what's going on - it's like fragments of a story but you don't have enough to make it complete. Nonetheless it makes more sense than "Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine". It also had more of an artistic feel.
"Viscera", U.S.A., 2005, Leighton Peirce
Memories translate into blurry and disjointed images. Sounds are in disconnected clips. Very artsy but somewhat unremarkable. An examination of how sensory perceptions become ingrained in our memories.
"True North", United Kingdom, 2005, Directed by Isaac Julien
This was the only one with an actual plot. The film's story is based loosely upon the experience of Matthew Henson, who traveled to the Arctic with Robert E. Peary in 1909. He is supposed to have been the first man to reach the North Pole, but this was disputed at the time because he was African American.
Voiceovers from "The Negro Who Traveled to the Pole with Peary" are inserted throughout; the sincere tone of the text complements the intensity of the film. Julien uses a handheld camera to create an uneasy and slightly threatening feeling at times. Out of focus shots convey a cloudy-headedness, as if the cold, undernourishment, and weariness of the traveler were getting to her head. Shots jump from the protagonist to what looks to be thousands of pounds of falling ice-water illustrate the frailty of human life and the odds that one is up against in the icy abyss. It's man pitched against nature at its most extreme.
The text adds a morbid beauty, discussing the glory of death in a place like this and examining what it means to commune with or be part of something greater than oneself and how one defines their orientation to the world, the universe, God.
Though Julien uses varied mediums, every aspect of this film blends well together.
"Las Vegas", Italy, 2005, Directed by Olivo Barbieri
The director used a tilt-and-slide lens effect to make real images of Las Vegas look like a model. He said this was to mimic the skewed and superficial perceptions of the place (its backwards morals and representations of monuments in places half-way around the world, deifying celebrity and wealth, etc.). It seemed a lot more interesting when he explained but pretty much failed to communicate a lot of this as a film and was really boring to watch.
I thought "Son of Man" was a tremendous movie and as a South African myself I was able to notice a lot of things that made it stand out all the more. The language of the film was Xhosa, one of eleven languages officially spoken in South Africa. I was amazed at how they used authentic Xhosa rituals and songs in the film; for instance, at one point they showed Jesus covered in white mud, there is a Xhosa ritual where young men cover themselves in that white mud and build a hut. They stay in that hut alone together for some weeks undergoing rituals and trials and when they come out they are men. This was contrasted with Jesus' tribulations in the desert.
One of the most memorable parts of the movie for me was when Mary Magdalene was about to be set on fire. I remember the person sitting next to me seemed shocked, but if all they were going to do to her was set her on fire she would have been lucky. South Africa at that time, in the townships was an insanely violent place. The political violence was unbelievable and it did not recognize neutrality. For instance, Rastafarians represented a peaceful subgroup in South Africa that stayed out of politics; however, when one of the two parties, for there were two political parties that the white government would play off each other to keep black South Africa under control, would catch a Rastafarian they would make him eat the necklace he wore.
The film is very much an authentic record of South Africa, as well as a retelling of the gospel. As a South African I'm truly glad to get this chance to see the country again and to hear the story of its people.
This film blew me away. I had goose-bumps the entire movie. This is a documentary which exposes what American news sources have not been able to show their public. This film shows innocent Iraqi citizens being slaughtered at the hands of American troops. The problem, according to the soldiers interviewed, is that there is little to differentiate a civilian from an armed enemy.
In addition to the problems in Iraq, the soldiers bring problems home with them. Many veterans are suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). This is a serious psychological disorder that if untreated can permanently alter brain function and structure, which results in severe psychological problems.
This film convinced me that war is not the way to settle an economic need for oil. Innocent lives are being lost and this message needs to get out to the American public. I think this film does an excellent job of expressing some of the most pressing issues with the war in Iraq.
"Come Early Morning" was an amazing film. I waited in line for two hours in order to see it and it was worth it. The film stars Ashley Judd, Jeffrey Donovan, Diane Ladd, and Scott Wilson. It is directed by Joey Loren Adams. The film is about a young woman who's dysfunctional family life has driven her to become an alcoholic. Judd's character is Lucy and Lucy wakes up nearly every morning with a hang-over headache beside some strange man she does not know.
Lucy flees the scene of her crime so she does not have to endure the "morning after" awkwardness with the men she has slept with. Rather, she pulls on her jeans, calls a taxi and returns to her home to drink a soda and swallow aspirin powder to cure her headache. Lucy's morning ritual shows audiences just how determined she is to avoid any kind of intimacy with men. Soon we are introduced to Lowell, Lucy's estranged father. Lowell is also a drunk. Lucy attempts to forge some sort of relationship with Lowell when she asks to attend church with him. He reluctantly agrees to arrangement but his taciturn nature never changes.
Instead, we see Lucy grow increasingly desperate and frustrated to reach out to her father. In one pivotal scene Lucy drunkenly appears at his door in the middle of the night. She bangs on the door and begs for Lowell to let her in. When he ignores her pleas, she becomes hysterical. This is really the first time in which we see evidence that Lucy has feelings. Until this time, Lucy has used alcohol to numb any feelings she might have otherwise been able to show.
By the end of the film, Lucy comes to realize that she has to stop looking at her father, her family and the men that she sleeps with as the problem; rather she has to look at herself and figure out what she can change.
I really enjoyed this film because it explores how fragile human beings are, even though some of us try to hide our vulnerability. This film made me optimistic about my future. Sometimes we all feel alone, as if few people can understand or connect with us. However, sometimes it is just a matter of looking at yourself to understand why we feel alone.
This movie has the horror formula right: sexy vixens and lots of Chuds, cannibalistic humanoid underworld dwellers that is. I've gotta recommend this one to all the horror fans out there, just listen to the premise: a bunch of beautiful, athletic, young women decide to go spelunking in order to help one of them overcome the loss of her husband and child. Right off the bat it got my attention. Well, at least there was the promise of lots of tight squeezes in hot steamy underground caverns.
I really ended up enjoying this movie and I don't usually like horror films. The Chuds looked really great and it was nice to see an all-female, hapless cast of monster bate. I'm no misogynist; I just get sick of it time and again being that only that men know that the ice axe goes through the monsters skull.
The foreshadowing was handled very well. Anyone who has seen a horror flick can pick out some great monster indicators that build up the suspense: bloody claw marks, slime where there should be no slime, and the occasional mysteriously rotten animal. All very well done, and the gore is also top notch. This director utilizes blood well, and often. The chuds of course spray gallons of blood in a several foot splash zone and like any good chud have blood pools that the main character conveniently enough falls into. After that we get to see a crazy blood covered vixen poping chuds with a torch and an axe, magnificent.
The trip to the Sundance Film Festival was a really good experience for me. It opened my eyes to what independent film truly is. Most of the movies I had the chance to watch didn't have that Hollywood spice to it with the happy endings. In the movies I had the chance to watch the filmmakers and hear about their creative process. Also, during the festival I had the chance to meet a lot of different people and
spark conversations with them about different movies and where they were from in the world. I met people from Hungary to all parts the United States. Overall, the Sundance Film Festival was a great experience and I'm glad I went on the trip.
One day I went down to Main Street with Mike Hopkins looking for some free giveaways. Nate told us to check out the Cargo Magazine place since they were giving away some cool stuff such as high quality shampoo and other essentials of that kind. Both Mike and I got into the lounge and we got to listen to some good music from some local artists (mostly the Salt Lake City area). Both Mike and I had the chance to meet some other people from the festival as well and chatted with them for a little bit. We met this one girl from whom we got a number, hoping she could get us into the Counting Crows Concert which was on Saturday night. Incidentally, Mike and I were wandering around some place and we saw the lead singer of Counting Crows. Mike quickly grabbed his camera for a picture to which the lead singer agreed. However, his camera batteries were dead and lost another chance for a picture of a celebrity. This trip and technology has not been my friend. First, being with Willie Nelson earlier in the trip with my camera phone, to my digital camera acting up before getting a picture with Jessica Biel, and now to Mike's camera running out of batteries and not getting a picture with the lead singer of Counting Crows. Technology these days?
Director Kriby Dick examines the functions and motives of the Motion Picture Association of America(MPAA) and it's founder, Jack Valenti. The MPAA, in some form or another, has been controling access to film since 1930 when the first president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, William H. Hayes, created the Production Code. This code dictated what films could and could not contain in the way of violence and sex, and anything else controversial. The MPAA controls fimls in the same way by giving them a rating which is supposed to be a useful tool for parents in determining what is okay for their children see and what's not. What Dick wants to know is who are these people weilding the black bar of censorship and what qualifies them to speak for the entire country? They clearly lack respect for the artistic visions of many filmmakers and also phenomenally influence their careers, whether their messages are heard, and by how many people. Dick unearths lots of questionable practices/policies of the MPAA. He demonstrates their strong bond to the government (Jack Valenti is the former "special assistant" to president Lyndon Johnson, and as president of the MPAA was the seventh highest paid Washington trade group cheif), recalling the House Committee on Un-American Activities' investigation of actors, directors and screenwriters (a Hollywood Blacklist of "communists" was created). Dick exposes a number of the MPAA's discrepencies such as falsely maintaining that members of their rating group have children between certain ages, have no involvement in the film industry or the field of psychology, and are "average American people". What does it mean to be an "average American" anyway? The MPAA doesn't even really hide where its interests lie. Firstly, it is comprised of Walt Disney Company, Sony Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Studios, New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. It also shows anconfortability with certain things like female sexuality and "immoral" and "unchristian" things. I think the best part was that the MPAA, who sues people for millions of dollars when they copy media, made illegal copies of this film when Dick sent it to them.
"I for India" (England/Italy/Germany) 2005 Dir. Sandhya Suri
I For India is a colourful montage of images. Suri contrasts two very different worlds using footage from videos that her father, Yash, sent his family when he moved from India to England. Yash moved in 1965 to received medical training and found that the best way to communicate with his family was through the medium of film. For years they sent videos back and forth depicting cultural and scenic differences and also documenting social changes in their respective countries. The film also, perhaps without meaning to, reveals what happens to a family when separated for so long. Yash could not be there for the death of his mother or the marriage of his sister, and found himself torn between the need to be with his family in India and his desire to earn a decent living and bring up his daughters in a good environment. The two worlds are so different, one sort of experiences a degree of culture shock just through watching it. There was an intimacy about this film; it really demonstrated how important the people closest to you become when faced with so much that is entirely foreign. I for India is sometimes comical, at others, very moving; it is consistently dynamic and exciting. The film's conclusion sends a message that one must handle change gracefully, and take ownership of one's life.
So. I'm writing all my entries at once, because I doubt I will have time to stop and breathe again before this trip is over. Despite the streets being full of people I scorn, with all their fur and leather pants (why?) and generally snobby nose-in-the-air attitudes, I have been thoroughly surprised at the general kindness illustrated by everyone I've met. Every time I have dropped something or seen someone else drop something, the person right behind them has picked it up and handed it over with a kind word. Men on the bus get up and stand so women can sit down. I have seen people drop money and it not get stolen... I am so surprised by these acts of kindess that I try to be less judgemental of people I see... So. I really feel that Park City, or at least the people at the Sundance Festival, are a community with a general love of independent films. I love it here. I am cold, tired, and sore from being a complete faiure at snowboarding, but I could stay here another month (if the festival were here, at least.) Thanks, Park City residents, for being so hospitible.
I have been so busy here in Park City that this is the first time I have been online this entire trip! Amazing! I love it here and if possible would totally come again... no stipulations. This has been such a great experience, despite a few doors being shut in my face because I'm not 21. (wah not as much free stuff!) Anyways, my favorite movie thusfar has been "Adam's Apples", a Danish film about a neo-nazi leaving prison to spend three months in a 'half-way house' or alternative to probation(?) at a country parish with an eccentric minister. By the end of the three months Adam must make an apple pie from the apples on the parish's apple tree. Though some of the connections were rather shallow (the Devil testing Adam through attacking the apple tree), this was a great film that, after waiting in line for hours to see mediocre films, really made my day. When it comes out on dvd, I will definately buy it and make my friends watch it (look out!).
So I went and saw "Forgiven". The movie totally blew me away. It reminded me a lot of "Traffic" in the format that it was shot and dead man walking in the type of script. I think that Paul Fitzgerald has written and directed an amazing film which will hopefully get picked up by a major distributor. Russell Hornsby played an amazing character. I could really feel his pain and isolation after he was released from jail. I think that this movie raises some important questions about our legal system. How can we expect people who have been incarcerated to just go back into society and be "normal" after living in such hellish conditions?
After the film was over there was a Q&A session with the cast and director. I had the opportunity to ask Russell Hornsby what it was like to be black and play this type of character. He responded by telling me that as a black man he has seen his friends and even family members incarcerated. He built upon all of those experiences to mold the character that he played. After the Q&A I had the opportunity to talk to him one on one. He was a really nice guy and we had an even more in-depth conversation about being an African American actor in Hollywood. I loved "Forgiven" and the cast members, especially Russell Hornsby, were all extremely nice and talented.
Fun on Main Street
After hearing about a really fun club yesterday morning, Brian and I walked over to Main Street to see what all the fuss was about. After making it past the bouncers, we made it into the Cargo magazine party. I was really surprised at how nice the club looked on the inside. I had only seen the club in passing on the way to the Egyptian theatre. It always had a long line in front of it, and I was told that Jennifer Aniston had hosted a party there on opening night. We walked around the club and received "goody bags" which were filled with magazines, gift cards, clothes, and really nice hair products. We sat down on the really nice couches and listened to a couple of good bands while we drank our FREE drinks. After about an hour and half of relaxing in the club, and working our way onto the guest list for the Counting Crow's concert the next night, we left the cargo party to see what other free gifts we could find.
"Moonshine" was one of the worst movies I have ever seen. A group of us went to see it at midnight on Wednesday at the Egyptian theater. From the first ten minutes, I had no idea what was going on in the film. Because of the low budget, the director used jerky cutaways when gore would have been necessary. According to the synopsis, "Moonshine" is about a small town that becomes the victim of a blood-thirsty vampire. Even after the movie was over I had no idea that was what the movie was about. The only mildly redeeming aspect of the entire film was the relationship between Brian Greer and Sarah Ingraham. I thought that these two actors did a great job playing off of each other and keeping the film afloat. As I looked to my right and my left, I saw one person asleep, and the other one trying to figure out why they stood outside in 15 degree weather to see this horrible film. I, on the other hand, was just trying to figure out if I had remembered to pack an extra pair of socks.
I went to the premier of the film "Stay" which was written and directed by Bob Goldthwait. "Stay" is a hilarious comedy in which a girl's (Amy) relationships are destroyed when she reluctantly reveals a past indiscretion. I won't ruin the surprise for you, but "Stay" was in incredibly hilarious movie. Bob Goldthwait has made a great film which posseses some interesting questions. Bryce Johnson plays Amy's fiance. He suggest that the couple be completely honest and tell each other everything. When Amy finally gives in, encouraged to tell the truth by her coworker and mother (neither of whom really knows what she has to disclose), and reveals her secret, all hell breaks loose. Melinda Page Hamilton steals this movie with her amazing acting skills. She manages to keep each scene fresh and hilarious while still making us feel bad for her. For those of you that have seen the film, this is a pretty impressive task.
After the movie was over, Goldthwait came on stage to say a few words. That is exactly what he did, Goldthwait pretty much cursed for 10 minutes, while adding in a few words. After listening to him talk and explain certain aspects of the movie such as budgeting I could tell that Goldthwait was the only man that could ever have made this movie. It was somewhat reminiscent of "There's Something About Mary" and "Meet the Parents", but it had its own unique spin that will probably make it a cult classic. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you even may puke, but in the end, you'll be glad you spent 10 dollars to see this movie.
"Right at Your Door"
So I was extremely excited to see the Mary McCormack film "Right at Your Door". As a long time fan of "The West Wing", I was sure that this was going to be a great film. Unfortunately I was pretty disappointed. "Right at your Door" reminded me a lot of the film "Salvage"; it was about an hour too long. The first 20 minutes of the film were great. When McCormack leaves for work, and her husband (Rory Cochrane) finds out that a bomb has gone off in the same vicinity as his wife, I was emotionally gripped with him, hoping that she's ok. After about 30 minutes, I started to lose that emotional attachment. That attachment then turned to anger when Cochrane would not let McCormack's character into the house because of "possible" contamination. It may just be me, but no matter what I would never leave my wife outside during a massive terrorist attack. I don't care how much of a risk I was taking. This film reminded me a lot of a rollercoaster. It would take very high emotional peeks, and then bottom out. Every time the film appeared to be getting good, it would bottom out and I felt like I was loosing my emotional attachment. The end of the movie threw a huge curveball that disappointed and to come degree angered me. After the film was over, I didn't even feel like staying for the Q&A because I felt like I had just sat through a made for TV movie. If a made for TV movie is what the director and actors were shooting for then they did a great job, but if they were truly trying to make a great film, then I think that they did not succeed. McCormack was the only shining star in this drab movie, her reaction to being locked out of the house was one of the only "real" moments I could relate to.
So I don't mean to complain because I really have had a great time here. However, its almost time to leave, and I'm very excited to get home. As amazing as the snow has been, I am tired of being so cold, wearing so many clothes, and watching my every step so I don't fall and break my tailbone. Also, I miss my flip-flops. You cannot shuffle properly in boots. It simply doesn't work. This experience has been amazing though. The last time I was around so much creativity was in high school at the Thespian Conference, but that was only a weekend. I have enjoyed seeing all these movies, meeting all these people, and seeing real snow. Having my first real snowball fight was a plus too.
I wouldn't trade this experience for the world, but the homesickness is finally kicking in. I'm ready to head back to Florida and share all my stories with all my friends. I never thought that I would miss campus as much as I do, but here I am, excited to go back.
Also, I've begun to notice a small cultural difference here. All the people I meet at the movies and in line are great, even the annoying guy from LA that kept hitting on me before Wristcutters was at least nice and pleasant to talk to. However, I've noticed that the rich people who are here, not for the movies, but for the stars and possible sightings, are horribly rude! I cannot tell you how many times I have nearly been run over by someone chatting on their cell phone, who then turn to me and make this horrible face that simply reminds me of high school cheerleaders sneering at the "un-cool" kid.
It is not my fault you can't walk and talk at the same time, please, have the common decency to say "I'm sorry" or "Excuse me", or something! Maybe its because I'm from the South, where, southern hospitality is still alive and well, and if someone accidentally bumps into on the street will apologize profusely, if not invite you for a drink or something along those lines. I was complaining about it to a friend of mine from home who simply laughed and told me that I wasn't in the South anymore. Just a bit of culture shock I guess.
Anyway, I have had a great time here, and I would recommend this trip to anyone. Although, I'm sure it will be a while before I feel up to heading to the movie theatre again. But, the most important thing I've learned here is, how great it is at home.
click thumbnails for detail view
You know what I found out the other day? Paris Hiton is at Sundance.
So I am obviously feeling some of the same things about the festival as Barb (hope you read her latest post). But I disagree with her on some key points. She says it is too cold and remote here. I disagree. I think that they should move the festival to the inside of a volcano because Park City is obviously not remote enough if charlatans like Paris Hilton come here. The good thing about having a festival inside a volcano is that only hard core movie lovers would come here and not just people like Paris Hilton.
I wonder if she has seen any movies yet... "Ummm, yeah, like, I saw this movie about the little skinny african children and it was about Jesus, and, ummm... haha... it was like so cool because it was like 'hey, it's Jesus, but he's black'. Hahaha. It was soooo cool. I think Jesus should be in everyone's life, including the children of Africa and rich, wanton, knavish heiresses who party constantly and offer nothing to society except lavish amounts of vomit and gross debaucherous nights at the Hilton estate.'"
If I were a filmmaker who had a film at Sundance, I would lead a raid against Paris Hilton's home where she holds her parties, because her parties take people away from the films. I would tie her up and pry open her eyes and make her watch classic Italian films for hours and hours without any booze or drugs. She would be like, "Oh, no! Art? I can't look at art, it burns my eyes ::horf, horf::"
So sorry about the venting. But basically the message I am trying to convey is that I am not sure where Sundance is headed. So Sundance is winding down. In these last days I have seen some pretty good films. So far I have seen about 24 films. Out of those films, I liked maybe 7. 2 out of those 7 were amazing. But Nate pointed out something which was very insightful the other day. He said that it seems that the festival is making a conscious effort to bring in films from new directors this year. This is a great thing, granted. Some of these debut efforts have been really amazing. Moreover, it gives us all an idea about what kinds of things are coming out of this new generation of filmmakers. Okay, so I am trying to keep this post positive while still being able to convey my general concern about the future of the festival. I will have a re-cap of all the films I have seen and a general, closing remark about my experience at Sundance this year. Also, keep your eye out for the last ideas about criticism in the context of watching "Into Great Silence". Be well.
I found myself bored waiting around the hotel with nothing to do. There were not any movies I really wanted to see, but I did no feel like staying in for the night. So I took a chance and went to see the movie Salvage, which was playing at midnight in the Egyptian movie theater.
The plot of Salvage was very interesting. A 19 year old girl living in a small town keeps on getting killed. And no that is not a type-o, she really does keep getting killed. After she is killed she wakes up at a convenience store where she starts out her day again. A large white hillbilly eventually finds her and keeps on stabbing, torturing, and cutting off the face of this girl. Throughout the story I kept on thinking that I had it figured out, but in truth there were only 2 real clues as to what was happening and both were very subtle. The ending was phenomenal, and there is no way anyone will see it coming. Salvage was picked up for distribution so I am sure Bay Walk will get it sooner or later.
Another aspect added to my movie going experience, and that was the audience. Because there was very little investment into the main character whenever she would die the audience would laugh in unison. It was not ever a funny event, but it became funny because all of us could see how fake and meaningless her death was. People would jump all at the same parts, laugh at the same parts, and a lot of the people walked out at the same part. It was a very interesting experience seeing a movie with such an animated audience.
So we are going to move on from the bare bones of identification in film to something perhaps more complex. So, before I talked about the aspects of a film that one could point out that are essential to it, or, rather, are true of it. Just to remind you, we are talking about "Die Grosse Stille":
1)It is a film which portrays the life of monks in the Chartreuse Monastery in the Swiss Alps.
2)It contains images of scenery from both outside and inside the monastery.
3)It contains very little dialogue.
4)There are repeating scenes and imagery.
5)There is no non-diagetic (outside the realm of the film) sound.
6)There are intermittent cuts of quotes (assumedly from the Bible).
By noticing these things we are identifying what one could think of as the skeleton of the film. These aspects are what make up the film in its essence. The aspects of the film beyond these could be said to be interpretive, based on signifiers which are, what film theorists Christian Metz calls, imaginary. How can I explain that in more coherent terms? Let's take this one aspect: the small amount of dialogue. This is something that anyone will recognize, unless they are zombies who lick refrigerator doors when they are hungry. So this is a given.
Beyond this is what the viewer does with it. The sparse dialogue is what we call in film theory a signifier, in that it has the potential to suggest something. For instance, I may notice in Jim Jarmusch's films that the shots are quite static. This is significant and can point the viewer to a particular thing, or perhaps even an idea. So what can we say, potentially, by noticing the signifier in "Die Grosse Stille" of little dialogue? We could say any number of things. But I would argue that once we take that step, we enter that ethical arena where whatever we say can change the film.
Today I was listening to the director of "Forgiven" and he said, "This is your movie now. You've seen it." Is it our movie? I think there is some truth to this. But what about those critics who are imposing their interpretation of the film (or, THEIR version of the film) onto other viewers? If we have read a review of a film before watching it, we are indeed watching another film. So if I say, "go see this film because it has little dialogue (here comes the dangerous part) and that is good because it allows the viewer to think about the images instead of the words. To put it in other terms, we are urged to pay attention to what is NOT said." So you would go to this film thinking, "Okay, I am going to pay attention to what is NOT said. Good. I am excited about this. I know what's going on." But wait, what if the precious few moments of dialogue are in reality the most amazing moments of the film? What if the potential meaning for you lies in those moments? Your ability to connect to that film has been undermined. Hmmm... let me think about this. More on this topic to come...
The Hawk May be Dying, but Paul Giamatti's Performance Soared:
Yesterday, even though I was not feeling too up to par, I decided to go and see Julian Goldberger's second Sundance film, "The Hawk is Dying". The plot was somewhat odd, as it concentrated mainly around "a nobody" auto upholster named George Gattling, performed by Paul Giamatti. The movie was one of those soul-searching flicks that I have come to notice are very particular of other Sundance films, such as "Battle in Heaven" and "The Aura". (Well, this may be simplifying it a bit. Please try not to categorize. It is dangerous. -Ed.)
The movie itself was alright, as far as plot goes, but really the only aspect that kept me interested in this film was Giamatti's acting. I have always been a huge fan of Giamatti, ever since I saw the movies Private Parts and American Splendor (Private Parts?? -Ed.). I feel that he stays true to what independent filmmaking is supposed to be all about: becoming the character and capturing the intimacy instilled within the script. Even though he is one of the more famous actors within the Sundance arena, I'm not so bothered by it because I think he is full of so much talent, that he is able to inahbit his character and not himself within a film. Giamatti is just one of those actors that you know will spellbind you and create a film worthy of watching.
My Take on the Sundance Film Festival:
After over-hearing two journalists discussing their journey from Hungary to a little town called Park City in Utah, I began to realize that this thing is becoming huge. For two weeks, we studied independent film and were constantly asked by Nate what we thought Independent film was. After experiencing an entire week at Sundance, I want to share my honest opinion about what I believe American Independent Cinema is and what the Sundance Film Festival is.
First, I think it is a joke when famous actors want to be in an independent film. I really don't feel like watching Hollywood's face because each time I am thinking "Oh, look how hot Bruce Willis is." Seriously, I don't want to think about his career or his persona; I came here to see the real thing and therefore I don't think that a famous actor can capture the true "indie feel" of an independent film (so independent film somehow embodies something virginal? -Ed.). Aside from my disgust with famous actors at Sundance, I can't help but loathe all of the advertisement and business involved within this festival. Granted, I understand that in order for this festival to flourish, it needs money, but I am still highly against all of the advertising I see. It seems to me that in order for something to be "independent" it should, well... be independent; it should not rely on big businesses for sponsorship.
I am also going to complain about the lines. Come on, we are waiting for MOVIES, it's not even a live concert. Maybe I am just jaded or don't like movies as much as other people, and that is why I find it so ridiculous to have to wait in line for something that isn't even three dimensional (Wait, what? Barb, we need to talk. :) -Ed.).
Not to mention, it's FREEZING HERE. I want to know why the word "sun" is even incorporated in the title... I think they should rename the festival "Come freeze your ass off while you wait in line for a movie that you don't even know you'll enjoy." (Its a leap of faith. Don't we engage in this kind of act everyday? -Ed.) I feel like you are taking such a risk. For instance, I waited in line for three hours to see "The Aura", and I ended up falling asleep for over half of it because I was so exhausted from all of the line lingering (This is really something to think about. These lines admittedly affect the filmwatching experience. -Ed.)
Honestly, one of the only great things about the Sundance Film Festival is all of the cool people I am meeting and the friendships I have made. I also really enjoy the documentaries. Last night I was in such a slum, I thought I would never get out of it, until I saw an awesome documentary about Hip-Hop culture. I saw two more documentaries today, so my attitude towards Sundance isn't as melancholy and malicious as it was yesterday. At least from the documentaries I am learning something valuable and actually feel something while I am watching them (and not to mention staying awake).
So, sorry if this offends anyone, but I had to get it off my chest. I suppose in the end, in my life I want to experience as much as I can, but that doesn't mean I have to enjoy it. I am not forcing myself to love Sundance, but I do respect it and all of those people out there trying to make it big, or those trying to change lives, or even those who just love films and film making; more power to you.
Hey, I've been Struggling with that too: Hip-Hop Today...
Last night saved me from going in to a deep, self-loathing solitude. Not only was a sick, but I had to wait in line for a film that I really wasn't sure I was going to be interested in. It was "Beyond Beats and Rhymes": A Hip-Hop Head Weighs in on Manhood in Hip-Hop Culture directed and written by Byron Hurt was absolutely spell-binding. Hurt's documentary focuses on his own struggle with hip-hop; on the one hand he loves it because it is part of his culture, as well as loving the beats and rhythms within hip-hop, yet the lyrics and the music videos that rappers such as Nelly, Ja-rule and Mos Def ensue within the media, he feels, is wrong. Most hip-hop songs concentrate on money, bitches, hoes, gangs, stealing, guns, sex, drugs, dealing drugs, etc. Hurt questions famous rappers as well as those aspiring to become famous why he or she feels that this is what manhood is.
Is it a way for the white man to keep the black man down and if so, then why is the rapper keeping this image of himself? Truly, everyone knows that not every black person is the same, whether he or she grew up in the ghetto or not. So why keep rapping about it? Why are they instilling this image upon themselves? (Who is "they"? -Ed.)
Hurt also brings up the issue of homosexuality within hip-hop music and how, even though a true thug would never be gay, there is some sort of homo-eroticism instilled within hip-hop. (For an insightful look into the issue of homo-sexuality in African-American culture, read a book called "On the Down Low". -Ed.) For instance, rapper Snoop Dogg always wants to make sure his boys are "gettin' some too" and how about all of those shirtless pictures of 50 Cent and L.L. Cool J?
I happen to love hip-hop, but I feel the same exact way Hurt does; isn't there more to life than just rapping about how much money you're bringing in and how many bitches you are getting with? (I would like to see this film. But I don't think one can say that this kind of thinking is represented in ALL hip-hop. -Ed.) Not only that, but this idea of masculinity--to be hard--makes men, especially black men, struggle with who they are. This film was so brilliantly laid out (courtesy of Sabrina Schmidt Gordon, editor) and asked so many questions of black-youth hip-hop culture. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone, even if you aren't at all interested in this type of mainstream music.
click thumbnails for detail view
Yesterday I saw 4 films. I got up and went to the Egyptian theatre to see the latest film from Zhang Yuan ("Beijing Bastards"). It was this child-centric film about kids living in an orphanage. I was pretty impressed with this film, especially considering how hard it must have been to direct all of those children. There was a lot of child tushie in the film which got kind of embarrasing. But I really liked it, haha!
I then went and saw one of the worst films I have ever seen in my life. It was called "Wristcutters". It was about this kind or purgatorial place where people go after they commit suicide. The movie was supposed to be funny and heartbreaking but the only break it got out of me was a break from being awake.
The highlight of my day was seeing "A Battle in Heaven", which I can honestly say is one of the best movies I have EVER seen. It was so full of rage and was so incredibly, brutally honest. The director was unrelenting in his portrayal of sex (first film I have ever seen with obese people making love). It was also so beautifully shot and edited. The performances were stunning and the soundtrack was so incredibly intense. I was literally almost knocked off my feet. I think this movie is going to get picked up so I urge anyone who reads this to keep your eyes out for it. Truly incredible.
I met Zhang Yuan, director of 13 films including "Beijing Bastards"
It was January 18, 2006 and I was walking down Main Street with Michael Hopkins and I looked up for split second and who do I see in front of me, the one and only Willie Nelson. At first I was star stuck and was questioning my eyes to actually believe it was him. Then these three girls behind overheard me saying Willie Nelson and then yelled him name out loud. Willie had then turned and the girls asked to get a picture with him and Willie agreed. I quickly grabbed my camera cell phone to take a picture of the famous country singer. I took the picture and was about to save it and I hit the wrong button. All I see on my phone is this picture has been discarded. I screamed in frustration to lose such a memorable picture of a celebrity.
So I thought this one deserved a posting instead of a mere journal entry. Today Ryan took me up to the Filmmaker's lodge, where there was a viewing of an interview with Neil Young. I listened for a while, and then they mentioned that the film had been filmed in Nashville. I rushed over to the library and got in line for the wait list. I was number 10. You see, Nashville is near my hometown, and I spend the majority of my time at home in Nashville. When the movie started, I was overjoyed to see sights like the Ryman, Tootsie's, and many other downtown Nashville sites. And I was even more overjoyed to see that Emmylou Harris was in the film. My father, before he became a preacher man, co-owned a record label in Nashville, and I grew up on stories of how he used to drink a beer or two at Tootsie's with the likes of Willy Nelson. And Mrs. Harris just happens to be one of his favorite musicians whose music he raised me with. The entire film is simply a well-edited performance of Mr. Young's concert at the Ryman in August 2005. The Ryman has been played by the liked of Hank Williams, Willy Nelson, Emmylou Harris, and many other greats. I myself have been there for several concerts that some of my childhood friends played in. The director, Jonathan Demme, did a wonderful job of capturing not only the magic of Neil Young and Emmylou Harris on stage, but the magic of the Ryman itself. Its walls still seem to echo with the sounds of Hank William at times.
All in all, I cannot say enough about this film. Besides being a wonderful tribute to the music of Mr. Young, it gave me a small taste of my home, and reminded me of many childhood memories of my father. It was well worth the two and a half hour wait.
Also, Mr. Young himself stopped by before the film to say hello.
Well I honestly was pretty lost for this movie, but I usually am with foreign films. I tried to follow what was going on, but the more I tried the harder it got. Basically it's about a 35 year old woman floating through life and she's a manic-depressive. She goes from high to low and they are extreme. She goes from guy to guy and even goes around with this pervert. She screwed around with this politician who has erectile dysfunction and well as her cousin who left his wife and his lover left him. The story is actually quite boring because it's just the everyday life of the main female character. The part I loved best is how many pictures she took and the she posted them on the internet. That is how she came across a depressed gang member and he had been looking for. She happened to take a picture of a tire park and he saw it. He had apparently went there as a kid and wanted to make sure it was real. Strange? But she is a really charming girl. She's funny and funny, she just has her really low moments. I have to say that the relationship between her and her cousin was kind of strange. I mean, it is sexual and that's not right. But I couldn't figure out if that was her real cousin or not. She has a tendency to lie a little bit, especially about how her parents died. She told everyone they died in an earthquake when it was really a fire. And since her parents died she's lost her mind. I don't really understand the film, but by the end she's alone and her cousin had left to go to his wife and kid, and her pervert friend had a girlfriend and so did her politician. Then as she is about to go visit her cousin, her uncle called and said he drove his car off the pier after signing divorce papers. Lovely story. It doesn't go anywhere really and it's just a lot like life. (Sounds great to me! -Ed.)
"Son of Man" has, to say the least, left an impression on the folks who have seen it so far. No matter what my reaction to it was, I am fully aware of the importance of this film and can tell that it might just be a classic in the making. However beautiful and poignant and poetic and simply original this film was, I was nonetheless quite disturbed by it in many ways.
In case you haven't already heard, "Son of Man" is a modern re-telling of the story of Jesus played out by tribal Africans. Janelle, in her great post earlier, mentioned that she thought that the film abstracted the narrative of the Bible and was perhaps somehow not subject to its direct teachings and implications.
I was talking to a woman after the show and she could tell that I was quite jarred by the film. I told her that although the film was stunning, my experience was nevertheless somewhat undermined by a certain discomfort. I told her that I felt that the act of re-telling the myth of Jesus in a cultural arena which is essentially disconnected from that mythology seemed to me perhaps an act of assimilation. She then told me that she was the producer. So that was interesting. I was very happy with how open she was with me and how understanding she was of my idea. Her response was that the film was political more than anything. This might be true but what does it mean to abstract the political history of a country by displacing it and attributing to it an alternative narrative which is admittedly not at all connected to the actual history. I would tend to disagree with her insistence that the film is largely political because the film does not, as Nate pointed out, render the miracles ambiguous.
Moreover, I feel that in some way there could be something else going on here. The Biblical narrative has for all practical purposes become assimilated by western storytelling (in movies, books, theatre). Therefore, could there be some kind of colonization going on here, in terms of the fact that the filmmaker has attributed this traditionally western narrative to the story of a place far removed from the west? Is this a suggestion that western narrative could perhaps save African cinema? Are they patronizing these people by "letting" their stories be abstractions of the ultimate story of the white man?
I look forward to more debate on this issue as more students see this film.
Today I had a movie called "The Illusionist". This is a premiere movie staring Jessica Beil, Edward Norton, and Paul Giamatti, so it was very hard to get into. We did not have tickets so we had to go into a wait list line, and so wewaited in line for 3 hours to get a ticket to the movie. We were at the very front of the waitlist line, and when we got into the theater we discovered that all of the good seats were taken. We had to sit on the far left-hand side of the theater, in the third row, but this worked to our advantage.
When the movie was over Jessica Beil and Paul Giamatti came to the front of the theater to wait for the credits to conclude. They were literally 10 feet from me. And after the credits were over the stars went to the front of the theater for Q & A. There was a bunch of stupid questions again, but at the end Brian, Carrie, and I went to the front of the theater to try and meet the stars. I went up to Paul Giamatti first, and got his autograph on my "The Hawk is Dying" (a movie he is also in). He was really nice about it, but I did not take up his time with a long discussion (In actuality all I said was "Can you sign this, it is the movie that you're also starring in" to which he replied "Yeah sure, oh this is that hawk movie", but however short the conversation it was life altering)
Brian got right next to Jessica Beil and got a picture with her......with JESSICA BEIL. Jessica is so hot that it was hard to believe she was actually a real person. I was standing next to her while Carrie was getting her autograph, and I almost touched her. I tried to get a picture with her too, but as soon as she signed Carrie's book she turned and went for the exit. Again, all too brief, but man oh man is she HOT!
I woke up late this morning, around 9am!!. I guess my body just really needed to catch up on sleep. I've been getting up at 7am and watching movies until 2am. So far I?ve seen about 18 different films, some mediocre but a few quite brilliant. Among my favorites have been "Adam's Apples" and "Stay". The first is a darkly comic film that depicts a metaphysical struggle between good and evil, and between faith and science, by way of the story of an angry unreformed neo Nazi who is released from jail on condition that he work within a parish run by an eccentric pastor who sees Satan everywhere but refuses to believe that individuals can be evil, ignoring all evidence to the contrary. Stay is a surprisingly tender and hilarious film about family and relationships, that is built around a single disgusting event.
A number of recent films, like Wedding Crashers and the 40-Year Old Virgin, have been touted as "crass comedy with a heart," but both of those films relied for their comedy on offensive stereotypes and objectification of women. While the event at the core of this film (fortunately never portrayed on film but only described) is indeed disgusting, and a great deal of humor is built around it, I found that there was nothing in the film that offended me in the way that the humor of those others did.
"Son of Man" actress Andile Kosi and Director Mark-Dornford May answer questions about their breath-taking film
I saw an incredible film late last night -- called "Son of Man", created by an African theater troupe, it is a retelling of the Jesus story in a roughly contemporary African kingdom, run by a puppet dictator named Herode, whose regime is supported by the military of a colonizing power that represents Rome. The teachings become political -- Jesus as an advocate of truth and genuine democracy in the political process, achieved by non-violent means, and involving the reclaiming of tradition by Africans who have been suppressed and colonized. For people whose colonization also involved Christianization, the film represents a powerful way to ?reclaim? the Christ story for themselves in an African context and speaking to the condition of the colonized and oppressed. Still, apart from that it is a spiritual and beautiful film -- that doesn't shy away from including some supernatural elements such as angels played by precocious young boys ornamented with feathers. Judas collects evidence for the gang leaders by videotaping what Jesus does; there are even some female disciples: Simon becomes Simona, etc. Probably my favorite film so far.
Today I woke up late (at 10 AM!) and literally ran to the screening of Christopher Boe's Allegro". I felt like I was going to cough blood when I arrived at the Egyptian Theatre but was happy I had gotten there in time. Then the attendant reminded me that the screening for the movie I was seeing was at another theatre. Without responding, I summoned up the last bits of my lung power to run to the bus station. The lady on the bus told me that it would take ten minutes to get there. She was wrong and I will never forgive her for that. The uber-packed bus finally stopped at the Holiday theatre and I practically climbed on the heads of people to get off. Thankfully, they had not given my ticket away. I sat down at my seat with my frozen junior mints and tried to clear the last bits of metallic taste from the back of my throat. Then Nate came casually walking in and said "Ryan, you didn't save me a seat." I almost fainted.
Let me just take a minute to explain something. Even though one of my goals for these posts is to explore the actual process and meaning of criticism and talking about films in general, I WILL actually talk about the films I have seen and why I like them and what they mean to me.
"Allegro" is an insanely original film about this man who falls in love with a woman and she ends up committing suicide for some reason. Instead of trying to understand why it happened, the man forgets about it and moves away from Copenhagen. The consequence of this act of forgetting is dire. What happens is this: when he leaves, the area surrounding the spot where he decides to forget becomes enclosed by an invisible wall. The area which is inhabited by this wall comes to be known as "the zone" Years later, a man comes to find the lost lover and lures him back to Denmark to visit the zone. What he finds inside are his memories.
I don't want to talk much more about what happens but let me say why this film was important to me. This man is trying to escape from his past because he reasons that it would be too painful to remember. But this film is trying to say that there is always a consequence to such a decision... consequences which manifest themselves in the physical realm. By trying to escape his past, the main character had in turned forsaken himself, the woman he loved, and his city. When he finally remembers, he feels regret but we must believe that this will be a good thing for him. If we cannot feel regret for the things we do, we cannot evolve.
Anyway, keep your eyes out for that one. It is one of the best films I have seen so far at Sundance. I also saw a film called "Open Window" today. I guess it was okay. It was about this couple to whom a horrible thing happens. It was poignant at times but you know, I am just sick of watching films about the problems that face white suburbanite thirty-somethings. The disintegration of the quotidian in American suburbia is a theme taken to the extreme and I am sick of it.
But anyway, I will keep trying to keep this site fresh. I am getting into the groove of things and am having less trouble accessing the internet to update the site. So I will keep them coming and please, keep on visiting.
By the way, email any comments or requests to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Main Street and Movies
click thumbnails for detail view
How to write a movie review? Who is your audience? What should you expose about the film? Is it ethical to expose ANYTHING about the plot? Is it right to deem a film good or bad? Perhaps you may say I should stop thinking so much and just write the review. But for me it is infinitely more complicated than that. I must have written over a hundred reviews (whether they have been for a class or a paper or a website or just for myself) in my short life. So why am I choking now? Because I have a fairly large audience. Plus, I am really trying to think about this! What REALLY is a movie review and what should it do? Throughout the rest of my time here, apart from my posts about my experiences here and about the films, I will continue to explore these ideas by exploring the film "Into Great Silence".
Let's start with some facts. When you see a film, what can you actually say about it? I mean, what can you say about it which will not deviate from what other people notice about any film? So I will point out some facts about "Into Great Silence".
click for detail
1)It is a film which portrays the life of monks in the Chartreuse Monastery in the Swiss Alps.
2)It contains images of scenery from both outside and inside the monastery.
3)It contains very little dialogue compared to most films.
4)There are repeating scenes and imagery.
5)There is no non-diagetic (outside the realm of the film) sound.
6)There are intermittent cuts of quotes (assumedly from the Bible).
In my mind, notes like this are the bare bones of a movie review/critique. What happens from here on out depends on the audience and the critic. Moreover, it seems to me that the stakes get higher when you expound on any such points. I would like anyone who is reading this to reflect on these points and consider perhaps where I could go from here. Stay tuned...
Last night the Egyptian hosted a screening of the film Son of Man. It was excellent, but that is not why it has stuck with me through the next 24 hours. When introducing the film, the Sundance programmer for the evening noted that the movie caused him to realize that he is a "closeted Christian". This phrase stuck with me, and I continued to mull it over during and after the film. What does it mean to watch a film that can change the way you view religion, mythology, or the supernatural? Does it mean that people are too easily swayed by the ideas of others? Or does it show the lacking attention paid to this area of human existence? I contend that it is a little of both. However, the question of how easily people accept new ideas is a far longer discussion, so I will focus on the lack of films with a good religious discussion.
Many religious films and especially texts are aimed at a particular audience, but Son of Man overcomes those boundaries by taking liberties with several elements of the New Testament. In this way, it becomes applicable to individuals with a far wider range of religious persuasions; it is not a story of Christ but a story of good and evil doing battle over the power of convictions. Among the changes are locale and nationality (Judea is in southern Africa), time (modern, Jesus wears jeans, and a few disciples sport golf shirts), and gender (disciples Simon, Phillip, and Judas Thaddeus become Simone, Phillipa, and Thaddea). Skewing the accepted narrative of the Bible allows one to remove him- or herself from the constraints of the traditional story [but why would one want to do this? Perhaps to be able to keep themselves unabstracted? A film called "Adam's Apples" which is screening this year at the festival seems to be doing a similar thing with the traditional biblical narrative. -Ed.].
I attribute the strong reaction of the audience (including myself) to the need for a movie about sacrifice that was moving but not aimed at teaching us something. Indeed, one woman became so choked up that she was unable to ask the director her question. Despite the religious origins, the film only told the story: no assertions were made about God and no laws were laid down. One curious spectator asked the director how he thought the film would compare to Gibson's The Passion of the Christ; the director replied that he had no idea because they were so different at their cores. Son of Man told a new story, and thus was newly engaging.
So, Nate totally warned us that not every film at Sundance was going to be spectacular, or even decent for that matter. I couldn't agree more, as I seriously felt sick to my stomach when I viewed A Darkness Swallowed written and directed by Betsy Bromberg. After an hour of witnessing bizarre photographs of an old car, some statues and bones, and what looked like a combination of snot, mushrooms and cobwebs, I decided that I was in too sober of a mind state to watch fleeting images and therefore I walked out. I figured since the film was putting me to sleep anyway, (not to mention making me nauseous), I might as well just go back to the lodge and dream of something better than watching the worst artsy-on-take of the discovery channel. Seriously, unless you enjoy looking at complete pointlessness to the point where you wish you didn't eat before watching, do not go see this film.
So, it's pretty much freezing here in Park City, Utah. Luckily there are so many indoor activities going on, I never find myself getting too bogged down by the weather. Other than the fact that Utah is one of the dryest states in America, it is one of the most exciting places to be right now, as there are tons of films and concerts to go to. A couple of nights in a row, I found myself at X-Dance, a "Sundance spin-off" festival, created in order for filmmakers interested in shooting extreme sports, have a chance to show off their work and perhaps get noticed for their unique editing and out-of-control shots.
One of the most interesting films at the X-Dance, titled Flying Cross by Train Jump Entertainment, combined a plot with extreme skiiing. The central plot of the movie involves a young man's attempt to dangerously ski down an illegal slope in order to obtain a medal. While attempting this, the director utilized many close up shots, allowing the viewer to see the facial expressions of the skiier as he goes down the rough and monsterous slope. However, he is chased by police officers that caught him going down the slope. It was so amazing to see such a unique and different take on a classic chase scene.
Many of the other films, such as Adrenaline Hunters and Kidz, cropped their footage and put different types of music to it. The range of extreme sports was fascinating, from skiing, to cliff hanging, to sky diving and rafting. There was even a spoof film about a guy wanting to "tube" with fellow white-water-rafters.
There is tons of free schwag at this event and it is still going on today, Monday the 23rd. I highly recommend hitting it up.
The concept behind Destricted was this: six directors were given complete artistic freedom to express their ideas on sex and pornography. The result was a movie that was completely different than any I, and by their reactions, any other audience member had ever seen. Essentially the film was an art house porno, a union of genres that proved to be one of the strangest experiences I had ever had in a movie theater.
I couldn't really conceive of becoming aroused at really any point during the film, in fact I didn't even want to look at the screen for long portions of it, as long periods were given over to explicit close ups of people performing either very personal or very bizarre sexual acts. During these times I found it captivating to look at the audience, whose faces spanned a gamut of emotions from raucous amusement to out right horror. After about half an hour I noticed the first person walk out, by the end close to two thirds of the audience had left. A Q & A period with four of the directors followed the movie; however, no one had any idea what to say. After a few confused and halt thought out questions awkwardness descended with lots of uneasy laughter and shifting eyes. No one knew what to make of it, and I can't say that I blamed them; Destricted was a truly odd assault on the mind.
One can't really understand this movie entirely until forced to sit through it, but I feel that in the interest of giving you a general idea of what this film is, I should describe a few of its segments. The first film was Hoist by Matthew Barney. I think this was meant to show how disturbing the sexual union of organic and mechanical is. Perhaps as a commentary on the encroachment of technology on the previously completely natural sexual act, i.e. the advent of recorded pornography and sexual devices; although, Barney's film is so unbelievably grotesque it is conceivable he simply wanted to produce some of the most shocking footage ever. In short a man, of whom all we can see is a torso and legs covered in moss and with a bulbous tuber like plant protruding from the rectum, smears his seamen on the rotating drive shaft of a six ton truck suspended from a crane. He then proceeds to grind his penis into the rotating car part for several minutes, most of which I spent in utter shock or watching the disgust play out on the faces of the audience. After Hoist I knew that this was going to be a profoundly strange movie.
Marina Abramovic, with Balkan Erotic Epic, brings out the bizarre sexual traditions of Balkan lore, including a group of men penetrating the earth to ensure an abundant harvest, and women running to and fro thrusting their vaginas into the rain to bring about good weather. Gasper Noe's "We F*&k Alone" is a long and creepy piece which uses a strobe effect that will give you seizures. Meant to show the depravity of sex with the human interaction removed this film switched between a girl engaging in self-pleasure in a room with only her teddy bears and a man watching pornography and having disturbing intercourse with a blow-up doll. The other films, Sam Taylor Wood's Onan: Death Valley, Marco Brambilla's Sync and Larry Clark's Impaled, each depict similarly explicit explorations of similar topics. Overall I would recommend Destricted only to those who don't mind being utterly shocked.
Today I got up at 730 for my movie "Lucky Number Slevin." I was lucky to get up at 730, because I had a movie the previous night that did not end till 130, and there are no alarm clocks in the hotel rooms. I got up and got dressed as quickly as I could in order to make my 830 movie. I took a bus that not only seemed to go around in circles, but it actually did go around in circles. It took me 30 minutes to get to my movie.
The line for ticket holders was very short, because most of the ticket holders were already in the theater. I was one of the last, but since I was alone I found the perfect seat, one single seat dead center of the movie theater. I took my seat and the movie ensued. "Lucky Number Slevin" was a captivating movie that kept me involved for the 2 hour duration. The only thing disappointing was the end. Every single twist was explained through a series of drawn out flashbacks. This left me with a question, "Why not just leave out those flashbacks and only keep in maybe 1 or 2 (there were around 6), but instead just let the audience draw it's own conclusions?"
The movie was over though and so I, as well as many of the audience, began to leave. Just as I got near the door one of the Sundance staff said that we have a surprise for you, the director, Josh Hartnett, and Lucy Liu are here for a Q&A. I was thinking that is great so I took a seat close enough to that I could get a good look at everyone (Josh Hartnett seemed pretty tall, like 6'6" or so, but Lucy Liu was beautiful, however she was only 5'). Anyways, the questions began, and this was my chance to ask my question about the ending. I raised my hand as high as it would go, but there was not time for that many questions. Instead of hearing the answer to my important question I herd idiots in the audience ask "What is the symbolism of the sandwiches?" (there was none) And someone asked Josh "How did you prepare for your towel scene?" I was left thinking are people seriously asking such stupid questions, I have a real question to ask call on me. And when the Sundance staff member said "One last question, and make it a good one" what did someone ask? Well a middle aged woman asked the director if he liked wallpaper. Yeah that was a gret question...
I recently saw "So Much So Fast". This film touched me emotionally. The film was about a family who is dealing with a brother named Stephen who has ALS. The amount of positive feelings and devotion and love in the film is amazing. The documentary spans five years and covers the progression of Stephen's ALS and the foundation his brother Jamie created to help him. His outlook on life was so positive from the beginning and the entire family had the greatest sense of humor through it all. I hated watching Stephen get progressively worse. I felt the pain and loss of hope his family and he were feeling. It was an honor to see the family there in person. I just had to tell Stephen and his wife how adorable their little boy was. I was moved to tears by the end of the film and really wanted to donate to find some drug for freaking ALS. No matter what happened Stephen still spent time with him family, his child, his wife, his brothers and he still designed houses. To watch him lose his muscle control just made me want to get out and do something. I felt so close to these people's lives because of the way the filmmakers filmed it.
The filmmakers became a part of the family and I almost felt like I did too. I felt so much compassion for them. I wanted to go up and hug them all [This is one of the most interesting things about the festival experience... this direct connection to the people onscreen. More on that soon. --Ed.). I don't really like animal testing, but I think it is necessary for finding cures. You can learn a lot from mice I suppose, but it kind of scares me that they want to do testing on humans. But if you really have nothing to lose I guess it's up to you. I wish Stephen and his family all the best and knowing that he may decide to come off the respirators and die, I hope his little boy knows what kind of man he is. I love how all the brothers were so close and so positive. They were all so intuitive to each other's feelings. They all got married and Jamie and Stephen had kids at about the same time. The 2 kids were so adorable. All the brothers helped raise the kids and raise money. And I loved the opening shot of the three brothers as boys climbing up a sand dune and then having the same shot for the closing. It just shows that the relationships between them throughout all the circumstances had not changed. Beautiful film.
What an insane couple of days. It is Sunday night and I have seen 6 movies in two days. I woke up at 6:00 in the morning on the first day of the festival, thinking I would have an upper hand as far as the line at the ticket box office goes. I was very wrong. I walked through the early-morning snow for about 20 minutes and arrived at the box office. When I got there I was behind 60 people waiting to buy tickets just for that day. I learned from a man who was thirteenth in line that he had arrived at five AM and the man in front of him had arrived at three AM. I was startled to hear that the man who was first in line arrived at eight PM the night before. There is certainly no dearth of movie fanatics here, not to mention ones who are willing to sacrifice sleep to see a couple of flicks. Charming stuff, really.
Continue reading "Madness ensues"
Films and Folks
click thumbnails for detail view
Today was my off day, so I decided to spend my time taking in some of the seemingly adorable shops on Main Street. The first place I hit because they had shoes on display in the window. Unfortunately, they were over-priced and honestly, not that cute. But this post isn't about shoes, so I will move on. I stopped at one of the coffee houses, grabbed some lunch and coffee, and left. The food is amazing here, I must say. You usually don't get this many great restaurants in a town this size. Speaking of the size, I am amazed that this town can hold this many people at one time! I mean, it isn't that much larger than the town I'm from (let's call it Hickville, TN so you can get the picture) and it also has a little Main Street with adorable shops. However, my town would probably implode from the sudden burst in numbers. Granted, I'm sure all the resorts help things, because my town only has a very few places to stay. I went into the little Chocolate Factory place to get a few things for some of my friends, who all adore chocolate. Compared to most gourmet places like this, the prices were pretty reasonable. Now the only problem will be keeping myself from eating what I bought, because they look divine. As far as the people, most of the ones I saw did not look like they were here merely to take in the films. No, they looked like they just bought out one of the many fur shops here in town, and were merely waiting to accidentally "run into" one of the stars that often frequent this festival. Which is honestly too bad because it takes away from the crowd of people who are here to see artists create what they love. There was one other store that I went in that was worth it. They sell mostly things made from Alpaca wool, which led me to discover that Alpaca is much softer than traditional lamb's wool. Anyway, I bought a hat that looks utterly ridiculous on me, and some jewelry for my mom made with stones from Peru. They were having a sale, so it was rather cheap. I struck up a conversation with the lady who was working there. Judging from her accent, she was from Australia. I told her about snow tubing, and she began telling me about a sledding party she had been to a few nights before. She also mentioned how crazy it is for this one week in the year when Sundance is here, but she didn't complain because it brought good business. All in all, for an off day, it was pretty exciting.
I attended a panel discussion today named "Cinema on the Move." It was concerned with the way portable media is developing and how short films might be able to take advantage of the market. The moderator was a journalist for the Wall Street Journal and the panel members came from various sectors of themarket (cellular and video iPod).
They discussed the benefits of streaming media (most cellular phones)
versus media saved to a hard disk (iPod or a phone with some removable storage card). Several complicating factors were addressed: certain formatting is necessary to transmit the data for streaming, encoding may make some videos viewable in one platform but useless in another, and to increase revenues, cellular providers may turn to advertising which is not controllable by the subscriber. Additionally, cellular phone screens are prohibitively small and will likely not catch on for use with full length television shows or films.
Many advances are on the horizon, including forms of distribution of short films to cellular and iPod video users which would result in a profit of up to 80 cents per viewing to the filmmaker. A folding or rolling screen has been considered and seems to be the best solution to the size problems of highly portable products.
click thumbnails for detail view
Ok so I have realized that it is a lot easier to go see movies and go places by myself. However, I didn't know anyone really well on this trip but I'm starting to get to know people better, but not many people have the same movies at the same times and people don't really like to be dragged along places. The more I'm around people the more I get to know them and get to like them. I discovered that the shuttles aren't as scary as they seem and everyone is relaly helpful on figuring out which shuttle takes you where. People in general will talk to you and help you with tickets or anything. I've met a lot of people while waiting in line or on or for a shuttle and everyone will talk to you about the films they have seen or their life. It's really neat and and amazing way to meet people. I have talked to young people and old people and smart people and dumb people, but they all have plenty to say and will offer their opinions. I love how friendly everyone is. I even ran into the french guy that barely knew any english and was trying to ask about god knows what. He was drunk and walked in to the interveiw that was goign on with a director. Man, ya gotta love the French. Most of this trip I have felt pretty left out and alone, but I'm beginning to warm up to people. I think part of it is that I'm pretty reserved at first and I was sick so it just wasn't much fun initially. I managed to find a health clinic and get medicine so I'm on the mend now and actually having a great time. I'm still kind of confused about what to do with all these problems I am having with the tickets, but I'm not going to worry too much becasue I've worried too much already.
Today our class headed out for some fun in the snow. Something very new and different for those of us from Florida or other parts of the South. As for me, I'm from Tennessee, so our idea of snow is around 1/8 of an inch, and the entire city shuts down. Going into this, I had no idea what to expect. The biggest surprise for me was discovering how they got you up the hill. I never even thought that they might have a small version of a ski-lift for tubes! The first time down was a huge rush. No one mentioned that maybe, when you go down face first, you shouldn't look up at where you're going. I got a face full of snow that made my face go numb instantly. The second time down, I knew better. The 17 tube snake was amazing. Katie was behind me, and she has short legs, so I was hanging onto the tips of her tennis shoes determined not to let go. At the bottom, we were all a site to behold, since we looked like living snow-people. Nate, however, looked like the best. He looked like the spitting image of a Yeti! (or at least what I would imagine a Yeti looks like, seeing as I have never actually seen one.)
After several more trips down, and discovering that knees-first in the tube was the best way to go, and that jeans are not the best snow-wear, we headed out. We stopped at a place called Dairy-Keen, which I guess is Utah's answer for Dairy Queen. The burgers were amazing. I'm not sure if it was that I was so incredibly hungry, or that they were really that good, but I have never tasted a better burger. And the milkshakes, well, they spoke for themselves. Once back at the Chateau, I crashed. And I don't believe a bed in a hotel has ever felt so comfortable. It was a great day!
|Check out more tubing photos.|
click thumbnails for detail view
My name is Ryan. I am a senior majoring in Film Studies. I will be posting regularly as the trip to Sundance unfolds and through the end. But this will not just be me talking all the time. Each student in the class will be posting at least five times before the trip ends. You can expect a lot of logs with pictures to complement. We will be talking about both our reactions to the films and our experience at the festival in general.
What does it mean to watch a movie? Why do we watch movies? Is it purely for escapism? Is it some Jungian shadow from which we attain self-identification? What about those of us who watch films compulsively? Well, perhaps compulsively is not the right word. What about those of us who watch movies all the time? Anyway, he said, "Cinephilia, in one way or another, seems to be indicative of a mild form of autism" (not an exact quote but pretty close ;). I thought about this a lot. I believe that it is true to an interesting extent. Because of course communication is an innately deficient aspect of any human being's life. Why is it deficient? Because there is really no such thing as effective verbal communication is there? We are all unable to communicate in the sense that we are unable to get across what we really think. We are impaired in that sense. Once the words I have verbalized have been processed by my fellow interlocutor, the idea which originally gave me the compulsion to speak those words has already been lost. The idea is already dead in my mind and is certainly dead by the time my words reach his ears. Verbal communication is definitely indicative of some immaterial specter. Film is beautiful because it encounters perhaps the same phenomenon and is therefore reminiscent of the human condition of essentially being unable to communicate. We are perhaps related to film in this sense more than any thing else.
What is the reel of celluloid strip which is passed through the projector and illuminated by a lamp to be projected onto a wall? In one sense it is this beautiful magical thing which almost hypnotizes the viewer. But on the other hand, it is indigestible. It is the unknown. It is mortality. The projections on screen are what film theorist Gil Perez calls "the material ghosts". They are dead but very much alive... like a spectral idea doomed to be held in the indecisive memory of time-space for all eternity. But we can never really understand them. But of course in both film and verbal communication there are moments of transcendence. These are moments when we perhaps realize something about what is really being communicated. Perhaps that idea was not known to the filmmaker/interlocutor originally but it came out nonetheless. Film is beautiful and terrifying. It is indicative of both our inability as humans to understand the other but also of our ability to transcend our communicative boundaries at special moments... to defy memory and perception. In the same sense that Emmanuel Levinas said that the encounter with the other is the encounter with some sort of terrifying force (like mortality) so is the encounter with the projected moving image.
Therefore, how can such importance be put into the evaluations critics put on films, since they are really this kind of other which cannot be firmly grasped? No matter how much I see that one of the movies that I like has been creamed by some critic I respect, I still like the movie. Well, I am definitely not super totally righteous about that kind of stuff. I go massive critic pile-up sites like rottentomatoes.com. But we really must ask this question of this tendency to perhaps put too much credence into what any critic says. For instance, is it ethical to map generalize the plot of a film and say it is part of a "review"? Shouldn't a story tell itself? Is it right to say a certain movie is bad because of this ultimately petty matter? What makes a movie good? Well, one might say, "It's a number of factors." But are those factors really clear? Can there exist a kind of criticism that takes into account all of these questions and their implications?
|Nathan Andersen and filmmaker Andrew Bujalski at Eckerd College/ICS presentation of "Funny Ha Ha"|
Click for detail