My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Screenings

As promised, here are a list of the screenings that I went to at Sundance. I only saw a portion of The Go-Getter as I had to leave early to catch The Nines. Enjoy!


Destiny Manifesto
Martha Colburn
U.S.A. , 2006 , 9 Minutes, color

An exploration of the visual and psychological parallels between the American western frontier and the conflict in the Middle East.
(more info) Dreams and Desires--Family Ties
Joanna Quinn
United Kingdom , 2006 , 10 Minutes, color

After acquiring a new digital video camera, Beryl becomes obsessed with the filmmaking process, using it to articulate her dreams and desires with disastrous results.
(more info) Duct Tape and Cover
Yong-Jin (Gene) Park
U.S.A. , 2005 , 4 Minutes, color

A satirical response to the Department of Homeland Security's recent advice for Americans to ready themselves for possible chemical and biological warfare.
(more info) Everything Will Be OK
Don Hertzfeldt
U.S.A. , 2006 , 17 Minutes, color & b/w

A series of dark and troubling events force Bill to reckon with the meaning of his life--or lack thereof.
(more info) Golden Age
Aaron Augenblick
U.S.A. , 2006 , 22 Minutes, color

The shocking true stories of the world's strangest cartoons.
(more info) One Rat Short
Alex Weil
U.S.A. , 2006 , 10 Minutes, color

Led by the mesmerizing ballet of a discarded food wrapper, a subway rat crawls into an adventure of love and loss on a dark Manhattan night.
(more info) Paulina Hollers
Brent Green
U.S.A. , 2006 , 15 Minutes, color

A religious-zealot mother commits suicide so she can find her dead son in hell and escape with him.
(more info) Phantom Canyon
Stacey Steers
U.S.A. , 2006 , 10 Minutes, b/w

A curious woman encounters enormous insects and an alluring man with bat wings in a surreal recollection of a pivotal journey.

U.S.A., 2006, 113 Minutes, color & b/w

Rod Lurie
Allison Burnett and Michael Bortman and Rod Lurie, based on the LA Times Magazine article by J.R. Moehringer

For all his ambition, Erik (Josh Hartnett) is a Denver sports reporter fast on his way to being yesterday's news. His writing lacks personality, and his editor, Metz (Alan Alda), is unwilling to pull him off the boxing beat. To make matters worse, his personal life is down for the count. Recently separated from his wife, Erik tries to maintain his good standing with their young son. When he rescues a homeless man, "the champ" (Samuel L. Jackson), from some local hoods, he learns that the destitute man is actually a former boxing champion thought to be long dead, and it appears that Erik has stumbled onto a knockout story.

Rod Lurie proves that he is an intricate storyteller here, discovering in the material a range of complex emotions and poignancy. Bolstered by subtle performances from Hartnett and Jackson, the film asks what it means to be a man, not a champ. It grapples with relationships between fathers and sons and taps into a core component of masculine self-deception--an urge to misrepresent. Hamstrung by his own sense of failure, Erik tries so hard to appear special in his son's eyes that he lies about being friends with star athletes. But in befriending the champ, who has his own burdens, Erik takes steps to come to terms with his family, the ghost of his father, and his own capacity for forgiveness.— John Nein

Screenwriters : Allison Burnett and Michael Bortman and Rod Lurie, based on the LA Times Magazine article by J.R. Moehringer
Executive Producers : Arnold W. Messer, Bradley J. Fischer, Louis Phillips, Frederick Zollo
Producers : Bob Yari, Marc Frydman, Rod Lurie, Mike Medavoy
Cast : Samuel L. Jackson, Josh Hartnett, Teri Hatcher, Kathryn Morris, Rachel Nichols, Alan Alda

U.S.A., 2006, 111 Minutes, color

Justin Theroux
David Bromberg

Henry Roth is messed up. A New York children's book author who tells kids that Santa doesn't exist, his motto is "Life is nothing but the occasional burst of laughter rising above the interminable wail of grief." After watching an old porn film, he and his illustrator (and best friend) Rudy find inspiration for their next book, Marty the Beaver. It's a smash success, but Rudy becomes ill, and, to save his career, Henry must choose to collaborate with a beautiful, but scattered, young woman or risk collapsing under the weight of his anxieties.

A decidedly modern love story, Dedication boasts an all-star cast that delivers wonderfully nuanced performances. Justin Theroux brings to the director's chair his many years of experience in front of the camera and allows his actors to fully inhabit their characters and world. The first-time filmmaker's impressive visual sense infuses the romantic comedy with an assured aesthetic, filling the story with a lush lyricism seldom seen in a genre film. Using humor and insight, Theroux explores where love resides in our anxious times. Dedication is a comedic love story with a plaintive emotional delicacy that gets under your skin and into your heart.— Trevor Groth

Screenwriter : David Bromberg
Producers : Celine Rattray, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Galt Niederhoffer
Cinematographer : Stephen Kazmierski
Editor : Andy Keir
Production Designer : Teresa Mastropierro
Composer : Ed Shearmur
Costume Designer : Heidi Bivens
Cast : Billy Crudup, Mandy Moore, Tom Wilkinson, Dianne Wiest, Bob Balaban, Martin Freeman

New Zealand, 2006, 87 Minutes, color

Taika Waititi
Taika Waititi

Which is the more dangerous predator: an eagle or a shark? That's a trick question. Don't try to answer it. You'll have your own opinion by the end of Taika Waititi's deliciously tangy, deadpan feature debut about two colorful misfits thrown into each other's orbit.

Lily is one of those weird, sweet-natured girls with stringy hair who is quite lovely and charismatic under a surface of shy awkwardness. But most people don't have enough vision to notice, and the truth is that Lily isn't looking to change. She cashiers at a fast-food joint and pines for Jarrod, the self-aggrandizing, clueless geek from the computer store across the way. Fiercely optimistic, Lily crashes Jarrod's animal/video-game extravaganza, impressing him enough with her shark suit and gaming prowess to score a hookup with Eagle Lord (Jarrod) himself. Soon Lily and her brother are driving Jarrod back to his hometown to confront his childhood nemesis. But here Jarrod's self-absorption blossoms so mightily that it may drive even the most adoring of girlfriends away. As Jarrod prepares to exact his revenge on the past, Lily's quiet power gathers force as well.

With so much subtlety and precision in Loren Horsley and Jemaine Clement's straight-faced, oddball performances, Lily and Jarrod's attempts to reach each other are hilarious and excruciatingly real. Meanwhile, Phoenix Foundation's charming, moody score perfectly reflects lopsided hearts as they stumble through uncomfortably transformative terrain.— Caroline Libresco

Screenwriter : Taika Waititi
Executive Producer : Emanuel Michael
Cinematographer : Adam Clark
Editor : Jono Woodford-Robinson
Sound Designer : Dave Whitehead
Costume Designer : Amanda Neale
Cast : Loren Horsley, Jemaine Clement, Craig Hall, Rachel House, Brian Sergent, Joel Tobeck

Canada, 2006, 98 Minutes, color

Andrew Currie
Dennis Heaton, Robert Chomiak, Andrew Currie

Fido whisks us away to a beautifully Technicolor alternate reality where zombies roam the earth. Not to fear--their never-ending appetite for human flesh has been stifled by a patented domestication collar, manufactured en masse by megacorporation Zomcon. Citizens can sleep at night knowing their zombies are not there to eat brains but to mow lawns, deliver milk, and serve food--as model zombie citizens should.
In this faux-'50s suburban utopia, young Timmy Robinson's family is behind the times. Due to an unfortunate zombie experience in his past, Timmy's father is unwilling to allow even one into their home, while everyone else on the block has multiple undead servants. Tired of helplessly trying to keep up with the Joneses, Timmy's mother goes against her husband's wishes and brings home the family's first zombie. Timmy immediately takes to the loveable brute, forming an unlikely friendship, though this family pet is not your average Lassie.

In Fido, director Andrew Currie has provided a version of the 1950s idyllic world like never before, and a welcome addition to the burgeoning genre of undead comedy.— Adam Montgomery
Screenwriters : Dennis Heaton, Robert Chomiak, Andrew Currie
Producers : Mary Anne Waterhouse, Blake Corbet
Cinematographer : Jan Kiesser
Editor : Roger Mattiussi
Production Designer : Rob Gray
Composer : Don MacDonald
Cast : Carrie-Anne Moss, Billy Connolly, Dylan Baker, Tim Blake Nelson, Henry Czerny

U.S.A., 2006, 93 Minutes, color

Martin Hynes
Martin Hynes

Left with an aching instinctual itch to explore America after a traumatic loss, a curious teenager named Mercer suddenly steals a car in Oregon and develops a life-altering telephonic connection with the forgiving and mysterious girl he took it from. As he sets out with her phone calls as guidance, Mercer's motives find focus as he travels across the postmodern highways of the former Wild West to seek self-knowledge and a sense of belonging.

Played with truth and nuance by Lou Taylor Pucci, young Mercer follows the clues and confronts struggles, both good and bad, on his spiritual journey toward manhood and an end to his grief. Supporting him in a range of unlikely relationships and chance encounters is an eloquent set of performances that include Zooey Deschanel as the car's owner, Jena Malone as a precocious distraction in Reno, and Maura Tierney as his brother's old flame.

Byron Shah's dreamlike cinematography and M. Ward's original soundtrack add to this "mix tape" of emotional discoveries. Perhaps most impressive is the way writer/director Martin Hynes vividly and creatively steers the viewer on this cinematic ride, where there are some roads still worth driving down.— Joseph Beyer
Screenwriter : Martin Hynes
Producers : Lucy Barzun Donnelly, Lori Christopher, Larry Furlong
Cinematographer : Byron Shah
Editor : David Birdsell
Production Designer : Damon Fortier
Music : M. Ward
Costume Designer : Marie Schley
Cast : Lou Taylor Pucci, Zooey Deschanel, Jena Malone, Judy Greer, Maura Tierney

U.S.A., 2006, 90 Minutes, color

Jake Paltrow
Jake Paltrow

The Good Night tells the story of Gary, once a moderately successful musician who has fallen on hard times. Although he has a beautiful girlfriend and a steady, if unexciting, career, something is missing…until he meets Anna, a breathtaking, exotic, intelligent woman who happens to love Gary. She is quite literally his dream girl. And that's the problem. Gary can only see Anna in his dream life, so he has to find a way to carry on his most satisfying relationship in his dreams. His quest for lucid dreaming techniques introduces Gary to some crazy characters, who ultimately give him a new perspective on life. But will he be able to maintain his dual life, and if he does, will it bring him the happiness he desires?
Writer/director Jake Paltrow (his short film An Eviction Notice played at the 1996 Festival) returns to Sundance with a first feature that follows through on his early promise. He assembles a world-class cast to enliven his charming and perceptive script about a man's search for perfection in a world that seldom measures up to the romanticized images that constantly bombard it. The Good Night explores how lost you can get pursuing perfection, so lost you may even miss seeing the beauty that's right in front of you.— Trevor Groth
Screenwriter : Jake Paltrow
Executive Producers : Oliver Hengst, Ernst-August Schnieder, Jim Seibel, Robert Whitehouse
Producers : Donna Gigliotti, Bill Johnson
Coproducer : Nicky Kentish Barnes
Associate Producer : Wolfgang Schamburg
Cinematographer : Giles Nuttgens
Cast : Penélope Cruz, Danny DeVito, Martin Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Simon Pegg, Keith Allen, Amber Sealey

U.S.A., 2006, 90 Minutes, color

James C. Strouse
James C. Strouse

Stanley Phillips, a patriot and father of two, is overwhelmed when he gets news that his wife, Grace, has been killed in the Iraq war. Though distraught himself, he tries to rally the strength to tell his young daughters. Instead, he bundles them in the car and heads out on a road trip to their favorite amusement park. Inside, he knows what he needs to do. But he must first learn who his daughters are before he can begin helping them overcome this tragedy.
John Cusack's achingly poignant performance is the backbone of Grace Is Gone. He is always superb in finding pathos in characters, but as Stanley, he exhibits a newfound maturity as an actor. His two young costars turn in amazingly realistic performances as they attempt to decipher their dad's sporadic behavior, and Alessandro Nivola, as the liberal brother, is the perfect foil for Stanley's belief systems.
With an elegant film that's as topical as it is devastating, writer/director James Strouse rightfully secures a place on the indie scene. His dialogue is sparse; instead, carefully chosen images convey this family's difficulty in reconnecting. That Grace Is Gone can be construed as promilitary guarantees its greatest impact. It is sure to be exalted as the freshest and best antiwar movie of this troubled time.— John Cooper

Screenwriter : James C. Strouse
Executive Producers : Reagan Silber, Paul Bernstein
Producers : Galt Niederhoffer, John Cusack, Grace Loh, Celine Rattray, Daniela Taplin Lundberg
Cinematographer : Jean-Louis Bompoint
Editor : Joe Klotz
Production Designer : Susan Block
Composer : Max Richter
Cast : John Cusack, Alessandro Nivola, Shélan O'Keefe, Gracie Bdenarczyk

U.S.A., 2006, 93 Minutes, color

Mike Cahill
Mike Cahill

King of California is a cinematic voyage through the landscape of a contemporary southern California community shaped by one unconventional man's quest. Writer/director Mike Cahill's debut feature, squired by producers Alexander Payne and Michael London, among others, recounts the story of a teenage girl, Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood), and her mentally dysfunctional father, Charlie (Michael Douglas), a man who has spent his life pursuing his passions and has just returned home after a two-year hiatus in a mental institution. Miranda, struggling to stay afloat in her rapidly enlarging community, is swept up, albeit reluctantly, in her dad's latest madness, a search for gold left behind by Spanish missionaries.

With an energy that both disarms and delights, Cahill transforms the stereotypical image of the California eccentric and the even-more-familiar tale of pursuing your dreams into a dramatically powerful and imaginative fable that explores both the difficulties of a father/daughter relationship and the excesses of people and societies run amok.

Directed with a restraint and sensibility that belie Cahill's inexperience and displaying a classical sense of craftsmanship throughout its many twists and turns, King of California is a flight into a realm of inspiration and delusion that offers viewers an engaging and uplifting respite from the burdens of life.— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screenwriter : Mike Cahill
Executive Producers : Boaz Davidson, Danny Dimbort, Trevor Short, John Thompson, George Furla, Elisa Salinas, Vance Owen
Producers : Alexander Payne, Michael London, Avi Lerner, Randall Emmett
Composer : David Robbins
Cast : Michael Douglas, Evan Rachel Wood, Willis Burks II, Laura Kachergus

U.S.A., 2006, 102 Minutes, color

John August
John August

Three actors--Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis, and Melissa McCarthy--are a delight playing different roles in the three different scenarios that comprise John August's film The Nines. In "The Prisoner," a troubled television star finds himself under house arrest with his chipper publicist and disillusioned neighbor providing his only link to the outside world. "Reality Television" is a Project Greenlight-style show tracing the behind-the-scenes tribulations of a half-hour sitcom. And in "Knowing," an acclaimed video-game designer and his family have car trouble on an outing and find themselves stranded deep in the woods.

Writer/director August is firmly at the helm of this unique film. The three stories are linked to each other on a metaphysical plane, forming a stylish puzzle of coincidences that questions the underlying notions of both life and art. Does the creator have a responsibility to his or her creations? If we shape the lives we lead on any level, why not on all levels? Are we or are we not responsible for our own happy endings?

If you need tidy conclusions to these and other questions films sometimes pose, The Nines may not be for you. But if you love great writing, direction, and performances and are willing to ask questions, The Nines offers an upbeat, as well as enlightening, adventure.— John Cooper

Screenwriter : John August
Producers : Dan Jinks, Bruce Cohen, Dan Etheridge
Associate Producer : Todd King
Cinematographer : Nancy Schreiber
Editor : Douglas Crise
Composer : Alex Wurman
Cast : Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis, Melissa McCarthy, Elle Fanning, David Denman, Octavia Spencer, Dahlia Salem

U.S.A., 2006, 100 Minutes, color

JJ Lask
JJ Lask

If we tell ourselves stories to live, as a famous author puts it, then the task of modern cinema is not just to allow us to experience but also to revisit and become conscious. And if all this seems so ethereal, so academic, meet JJ Lask, the author and creator of some of the most original storytelling I've seen this year.

On the Road with Judas is a film based on a real novel, written by a writer, played by an actor, about the real characters and the actors playing those characters in this story. It is also a delightful and fun romp about crime, love, and David Lee Roth.

Lask, the novelist, lives in two worlds, and both exist inside his mind. His characters are both "real" and "actors." His main character, Judas, is also a man living a double life as an entrepreneur and a petty criminal. But when he falls in love, he must deal with things which he simply cannot handle.

This deliciously playful tapestry of narrative point of view--at times recondite but always stimulating--of the author, the filmmaker, and the subjects is seamlessly integrated and invigoratingly sophisticated. Poignant as well as cerebral, the postmodern and charming On the Road with Judas resonates with a multiplicity of voices that underscore the complexity of truth and fiction.— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screenwriter : JJ Lask
Producers : Amy Slotnick, Ronan P. Nagle
Cinematographer : Ben Starkman
Editors : JJ Lask, Jason Kileen
Production Designer : Jennifer Dehghan
Music : Human
Costume Designer : Annie U. Yun
Cast : Aaron Ruell, Kevin Corrigan, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Eleanor Hutchins, Amanda Loncar, Alex Burns, Leo Fitzpatrick

Denmark, 2006, 84 Minutes, color

Pernille Rose Grønkjær

Wills are tested, and lives are changed forever in this heartwarming and often-hilarious documentary that tells the story of two very different, yet equally obstinate, people thrown together by chance--or destiny. Lovable, eccentric, and decidedly set in his ways, Mr. Vig is an 82-year-old virgin living alone in a dilapidated castle in the Danish countryside. Sister Ambrosija is a young, ambitious, headstrong Russian Orthodox nun (think "control freak").

All his life, Mr. Vig has dreamed of turning his castle into a Russian orthodox monastery. His dream may finally come true when the patriarchate agrees to send nuns and priests to appraise and help develop the site. The delegation is led by Sister Ambrosija, who has her own ideas about the way a monastery should look and be run.

Director Pernille Rose Grønkjær unwittingly becomes an unseen character in her own delightfully unique documentary. Mr. Vig asks the filmmaker for advice and, at times, even help with the chores as Sister Ambrosija's demands for repairs pile up. Painterly cinematography captures the fallen majesty of the castle in subdued hues, while casual interviews explore Mr. Vig's childhood and his views on life, love, religion, and even Sister Ambrosija, his nemesis, who becomes, arguably, his closest friend.— David Courier

Executive Producer : Michael Fleisher
Producer : Sigrid Dyekjaer
Line Producer : Ane Mandrup Pedersen
Editor : Pernille Bech Christensen
Sound Designer : Kristian Eidnes Andersen
Composer : Johan Söderqvist

U.S.A., 2006, 93 Minutes, color

David Wain

Ken Marino, David Wain

The Ten is comprised of 10 blasphemous and hysterical stories that put the insanity back in Christianity. Inspired by each of the Ten Commandments, every story is told in a different style, but the characters and themes overlap. It's all held together by a narrator who has his own moral problems. Finally, everyone is united at the end for a rousing finale that answers the question, "What's it all about?"

These hilarious stories feature a careless skydiver who becomes an accidental superstar, a doctor who kills patients as a "goof," two neighbors who compete over who can amass the most CAT-scan machines, and a woman who falls for all the wrong men, including a ventriloquist's dummy.

David Wain returns to Sundance with a subversive, multilayered ensemble comedy from the creators and cast of Wet Hot American Summer, The State, and Stella. Jam packed with huge stars who aren't afraid to let it all hang out, The Ten is a comedy of biblical proportions that pulls no punches in skewering the most sacred topics. God damn, this movie is funny.— Trevor Groth

Screenwriters : Ken Marino, David Wain
Producer : Jonathan Stern, Morris Levy, Ken Marino, Paul Rudd, David Wain
Cinematographer : Yaron Orbach
Editor : Eric Kissack
Production Designer : Mark White
Composer : Craig Wedren
Casting Directors : Beth Bowling, Kim Miscia
Cast : Paul Rudd, Adam Brody, Rob Corddry, Jessica Alba, Winona Ryder, Liev Schreiber, Justin Theroux, Gretchen Mol, Oliver Platt, Famke Janssen, Ken Marino

U.S.A., 2006, 105 Minutes, color

Andrea Nix Fine, Sean Fine

In War/Dance, a profoundly moving cinematic work of art, an indomitable beacon of light shines within a world of darkness. For the last 20 years, northern Uganda has been at war with a rebel force, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). In this war zone, children are not only the victims of the rebels--they are the rebels. The LRA employs a horrifically effective process to fill its ranks--abducting children.

War/Dance follows the historic journey of three of these children--Dominic, Rose, and Nancy--and their school in the Patongo refugee camp, the first school from the northern war zone to make it to the finals of Uganda's national music and dance competition.

Amidst unimaginable violence and grief, these children sing and dance: they sing with vitality; they sing without fear; they sing in protest and in celebration. They dance and stomp to the rhythms of their ancestors. Devastated by the horrors of war, they carry the hopes and dreams of their entire village with them. Husband and wife filmmaking team Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine have crafted a consummate work that elevates nonfiction filmmaking to its highest level. War/Dance will renew your faith in the power of the human spirit to soar despite unspeakable odds.— David Courier

Executive Producers : Susan MacLaury, Mark Urman, Daniel Katz
Producer : Albie Hecht
Coproducers : Josie Swantek, Kari Kim
Associate Producer : Andrew Herwitz
Cinematographer : Sean Fine
Editor : Jeff Consiglio

1 comment:

Adam said...

Wow, THIS is a good Sundance rundown.