Sundance Film Festival is in the books. This was my 19th year attending, and while it has
become increasingly difficult to acquire tickets in advance, the grueling,
magical experience that is Sundance remains one of my favorite events.
I could care
less about festival politics. In the simplest, purest of terms, the reason I
continue to attend is I hope I'll make that special connection with that
special film, and Sundance has offered up thousands of such films through the
years, from “Reservoir Dogs” to “Usual Suspects,” “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” to
“Memento,” and “Once” to last year's “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” The list of
exceptional titles that have sprung from this iconic independent showcase goes
on and on and on. In terms of inspiring artistic expression, Sundance 2013
continued its trend of excellence. This isn't to say all 23 films I experienced
hit it out of the park. The ones that did connect with me, though, swirl around
inside my head like wonderful dreams, and I want to share those dreams with
everyone I know. Unfortunately, I haven't the room in this article to cover
everything I saw, but we'll be offering up extensive coverage at Zboneman.com.
Feel free to have a look. In the meantime, here's my annual “Best of Fest” report.
Linklater, Julie Delphy and Ethan Hawke return with the richly textured
character piece “Before Midnight” – the third chapter in a series that started
back in 1995 with “Before Sunrise.”
Midnight” begins, we discover that Jesse and Celine are now officially a
couple. In fact, they've been together since the final moments of 2004's
“Before Sunset.” Seemingly happy and content raising two young daughters, Jesse
and Celine spend the majority of “Before Midnight” walking through a small
village in Greece and conversing about the past, present and future – but it
isn't all fun and games as their deep-rooted conversation eventually turns into
Midnight” is a stunning achievement. It’s smart, playful, observant and
incredibly intimate. In fact, there were moments during this picture when I
felt like I was eavesdropping on the lives of these characters. It was like
being a fly on a wall. By this point, Jesse and Celine feel very lived-in and
you'd swear that Hawke and Delphy have experienced all the emotions they're
displaying throughout this picture. Captain Linklater has fashioned an honest,
insightful, articulate conversational piece, and I'm extremely confident that
“Before Midnight” will be talked about come next year's Awards season.
powerhouse of a documentary follows 20-something Rocky Braat as he leaves his
native Philadelphia and heads out to India, where he dedicates his life to
helping children afflicted with HIV.
The film was
put together by Rocky's best friend, Steve Hoover. Hoover does an expert job
not only showing how Rocky affects the lives of these wonderful children but
how they profoundly affect his life in return. But this isn't a one-note story
about a hero and his determination to aid those less fortunate; that's
certainly at the heart of this film, but there's a lot more to this stunning
documentary. Braat is a man with doubts. His road to compassion is not an easy
one. By the time the raw and incredibly gripping “Blood Brother” entered its
final act, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.
reason this unforgettable picture won the Documentary Jury Prize and Audience
Choice Award. “Blood Brother” is that great.
As was the
case with “Blood Brother” in the documentary category, the outstanding drama
“Fruitvale” won awards for U.S. Dramatic Feature and U.S. Dramatic Audience
Choice. Based on a true story, this thoughtful movie traces the events leading
up to a highly publicized police brutality case that took place in Oakland,
Calif., in 2008.
weaves a gripping, poetic tale around 22-year-old Oscar. After being released
from prison, Oscar wants to move past a life of crime and make his girlfriend
and young daughter proud. “Fruitvale” takes place over the course of one day,
and as this powerful film came to a close, I was flooded with a wave of
emotions. Mostly anger.
outstanding performances by Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer, “Fruitvale” manages
to dramatize without over-dramatizing. Writer/director Ryan Coogler is a major
talent, and we'll be seeing a lot more from him in the future.
In 2011, Jeff
Nichols further established himself as a distinct voice in American independent
cinema with the under-appreciated apocalyptic drama “Take Shelter.” With his
new film “Mud,” he continues to emerge as a truly gifted storyteller.
two Arkansas teens as they attempt to aid a vagabond (played by Matthew
McConaughey) who is in hiding in the Arkansas backwoods. Tonally speaking, this
slow burn has shades of “Winter's Bone,” but at its heart, this tale of
adolescence is more akin to the likes of “Tom Sawyer,” “Huck Finn” and “Stand
Michael Shannon, Sam Shepard and Reese Witherspoon are exceptional here, but it’s
young Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland who carry the film.
Nichols is a
master in the art of building tension. In short, he directed the shit out of
it be known that “S-VHS” is for hardcore horror fans only.
“VHS” was one
of the big midnight buzz movies at last year's fest, but, truth be told, I
thought it was somewhat overrated. That horror anthology offered up five short
stories and a wraparound tale, but of the five shorts, only two impressed me.
“S-VHS,” by comparison, improves upon the last picture in every conceivable
way. This follow-up offers up four new horror shorts involving ghosts, zombies,
aliens and the devil.
This film was
put together by the makers of “Blair Witch Project,” “The Raid,” “Macabre,”
“Hobo With a Shotgun,” “A Horrible Way to Die,” and the folks at
Bloodydisgusting.com. Simply put, “S-VHS” is what midnight movies are all
about. It’s high energy, innovative, full of great scares, relentlessly paced,
gory beyond all recognition, and overflowing with creative camera work. I was
blindsided by this one. A ton of fun!
directorial debut, “Sound City,” is a loving tribute to North Hollywood's legendary
recording facility. It’s also a joyful celebration of the numerous iconic
musicians who recorded there through the years – musicians like Fleetwood Mac,
Rick Springfield, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Nirvana, Ratt, and Barry
Manilow, just to name a few.
The roster of
talent to come out of this iconic studio is eclectic and diverse, to say the
least. Most importantly, though, Grohl's outstanding documentary is an
exuberant and timely exposé on human interaction and the importance of
maintaining a human element in this day and age of ever-expanding technology.
To call Grohl an affable individual would be a gross understatement. “Sound
City” is filtered through his passionate, energized and undeniably infectious
spirit. He's not just an accomplished musician and filmmaker – he's also a fan,
and it shows in a every frame of this magnificent documentary.
Addiction,” “Breathe In,” “El Mariachi” (20th Anniversary
Screening), “Jiseul,” “In a World” and “Upstream Color.”