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  1. #1
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    Sundance 2020



    Sundance 2020 (Jan. 23 - Feb. 2).

    Among the jam of press at the festival, Guardian newspaper again has excellent coverage and AV Club will have reports. Hollywood Reporter is publishing daily reviews as is Variety - the two American movie trade journals maintaining quality of coverage. There's even Salt Lake City Weekly's "Daily Feed." I'll be culling some summaries from these and other sources to provide a limited overview of this important American film festival and the films people are liking. The founder Robert Redford, has stepped down as the "face" of the festival but reportedly is still deeply involved.

    The Sundance 2020 lineup (see the whole thing HERE) includes features starring, among others, Angelina Jolie, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tessa Thompson, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell, Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Glenn Close, Michael Keaton, Lena Waithe, Julianne Moore, Ana de Armas, Jude Law, Ella Balinska, David Oyelowo, and Anne Hathaway, and more, including of course newcomers, who are often the most interesting. Directors, some back for a repeat visit, include Dee Rees, Julie Taymor, Justin Simien, Alan Ball, Benh Zeitlin, and Viggo Mortensen, the latter making his directorial debut after 35 years as a lead actor.

    The documentaries include an opening night one by Lana Wilson on on Taylor Swift (Miss Amiericana), one by Ron Howard about the devastating California "Camp" fires of 2018, Rebuilding Paradise, and Kim A. Snyder’s Us Kids, about the 2018 Parkland shooting survivors and the movement they began. There are also films about Russell Simmons' sexual abuse (which Oprah supported, then withdrew from), and about Hilary Clinton.

    Women directors have made a very strong showing at this festival and are very well represented.

    You can find a list of all the competing films in this year's Sundance HERE.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-01-2020 at 10:41 PM.

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    MOSS IN SHIRLEY

    Some of the films.

    THE NEST (Sean Durkin) Benjamin Lee of the Guardian give this 4/5 stars. It features Jude Law and Carrie Coon and is directed by Sean Durkin of the memorable and disturbing Martha Marcy May Marlene (NYFF 2011). This one is about a successful entrepreneur (Law)who relocates to his native London and finds his marriage start to unravel because his American wife hasn't traveled well. Durkin himself was born in Canada and then moved to London, and next New York and draws on youthful experience in this slow burner. Peter Debruge links this with Kubrick's THE SHINING in his Variety review. In a private review Mike D'Angelo expresses great admiration for its use of space,editing, Jude Law's "knockout performance," and dp Mátyás Erdély who shot SON OF SAUL, SUNSET, and the original MISS BALA (whose cinematography I remember Ed Lachman admiring) and he gives it a, for him, very high score of 73. Said it's made like a horror movie, but with no horror elements, which he likes.

    SHIRLEY (Josephine Decker) This depicting a segment of writer Shirley Jackson's life gives Elizabeth Moss "one of her most daring roles to date," says Lee in the GUARDIAN, who gives if 4/5 stars. It's a "willfully unconventional" literary portrait by Madeline’s Madeline director Josephine Decker. Todd McCarthy in Hollywood Reporter calls this movie "a classy and nasty little item that gives some fine actors a chance to go at it with claws out and liquor bottles open."

    WORTH (Sara Colangelo) Is a fact-based legal drama in which Michael Keaton plays Ken Feinberg, the lawyer appointed by Congress to lead the committee tasked with deciding how best to compensate the families of those killed in the 9/11 attacks, a frustrating and morally dubious job. McCarthy calls this an "s intelligent if not entirely realized political film," but he and other critics say Michael Keaton's performance in an unusual role for him is the draw. The lead actor is Stanley Tucci. Colangelo's first film was THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER, a remake of the Nadav Lapid Israeli film starring Maggie Gyllenhaal. Lee gave this four stars too. McCarthy sounds more dubious.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-30-2020 at 01:51 AM.

  3. #3
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    Some attention-getters.



    IRONBARK (Dominic Cooke) sounds interesting in Benjamin Lee's 3/5 star GUARDIAN review. It's a Cold War drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch, sort of like Spielberg's BRIDGE OF SPIES, but manybe even better, according to Joe Bendel of J.B. SPINS , who says it should be remembered at awards time in December. But it's (Lee says)"an unashamedly commercial film, wearing its tried-and-tested box-ticking formula on its sleeve, for better or worse." "Ironbark" is the real-life code name of Russian spy Col. Penkovsky. Bendel gets so into it he summaries more than I want to know, but...sounds fun.

    AMULET (Romola Garai) Is a horror movie with a fresh quality. Kate Erbland of INDIEWIRE, whose comments on the Oscar documentary shorts I was just quoting, says this "announces a chilling directorial debut" that "announces a smart new horror voice." This movie seems to be getting a lot of attention, anyway. Fionualla Halligan of SCREEN DAILY starts out "What a shocker!" saying the filmmaker "weaves an almost absurdly delicious feminist revenge fantasy into the genre teaser Amulet."

    GLORIA (Julie Taymor) stars Julianne Moore and Alicia Vikander in a "sprawling bio-drama" about the women's rights movement leader Gloria Steinem. But Taymor, says David Rooney in HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, " blurs the line between freewheeling collage and mess, its directorial flourishes sometimes smacking of self-indulgence." Roonsy's "bottom line" however is that it's "Imperfect but uplifting." David Rooney of HOLLYWOOD REPORTER calls it "sprawling."
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-31-2020 at 11:22 AM.

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    COLMAN, HOPIKINS IN THE FATHER

    THE FATHER (Florian Zelle)r. This film about dementia starring Olivia Colman as daughter and Anthony Hopkins as mentally declining dad Benjamin Lee of the GUARDIAN declares the scariest picture at Sundance this year. More terrifying than the best horror movie - which would probably be AMULET, though he doesn't mention it. Lee gives THE FATHER, with its sterling cast, 4/5 stars. The film, a stage-to-film adaptation in English by French writer and playwright Zeller, puts us, the viewers, in the mind of the man who's losing his, with things losing their identity and sense, which reminds one of the French Oscar nominated animated short, MÉMORABLE. Owen Gleiberman's Variety review calls Hopkins' work here a "tour de force" and this "a brilliant, mercurial, and moving performance." Sounds like one of the year's best, potentially, one combining human relevance and stylistic innovation. And all in 97 minutes! I'm in.

    BAD HAIR (Justin Simien). A comedy-horror film mixing Brian De Palma with PUTNEY SWOPE, says Eric Kohn in INDIEWIRE, by the makier of DEAR WHITE PEOPLE. A woman gets a hair weave on advice to help her in her music career: then the hair develops a mind of its own. But Kohn thinks Simeen tosses in too many genre elements and BAD HAIR (a much-used title, by the way) is a "ludicrous ’80s-spiced supernatural B-movie" that "doesn’t know when to quit, much like the demonic weave at its center." Other critics were more favorable, and the film has a 65% Metascore now.

    WENDY (Benh Zeitlin) by the maker of BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, 7 1/2 years later, is a variation on "Peter Pan" that a few notable critics truly loved, including David Erlich of INDIEWIRE ("a gorgeous reinvention") and Todd McCarthy of HOLLYWOOD REPORTER (Every frame of the film is excitingly alive and freshly conceived") - but others thought just a replay of the director's debut, whose look and style isn't surprising anymore (Metascore so far a pretty dismal 59%). Jordan Hoffman (GUARDIAN) says this is a Peter Pan fantasy "that never grows up into an interesting film." We'll have to see for ourselves. I had somewhat mixed feelings about BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, but who could not be taken by its lush handmade originality?

    PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN (Emerald Fennell)
    : Carie Mulligan headlines in this ambitious debut about revenge. The film goes into rich, shocking detail about the sexual abuse and repression that led the protagonist to drop out of medical school. She begins as a drunk, but ends as an avenger. HOLLYWOOD REPORTER'S Todd McCarthy explains. He calls this "a gutsy and pertinent debut." Brian Tallarico of ROGER EBERT.COM, who tells a bit too much if you haen't seen the movie yeet, says this is "as confident as its protagonist." This has been much reviewed (Metascore 74%) and is coming out April 17. Trailers are in theaters now.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-01-2020 at 10:38 PM.

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    Sundance documentaries.


    DREW DIXON IN ON THE RECORD

    THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS (Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw)). Is about truffle hunting dogs and the old northern Italian men who hunt white truffles with them. It's an obscure topic, but a very delicious one. Executive produced by Luca Guadagnino. Tomris Lafry in VARIETY says this "oozes a cinematic perfume both delightful and distinctive" and calls it "this year's HONEYLAND." That would make it one of the top docs of the year.

    ON THE RECORD (Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering). details accusations of sexual misconduct and assault by THE music mogul Russell Simmons, primarily from the point of view of the former music executive Drew Dixon, who was driven out of the industry by harassment. Oprah Winfrey, who produced and arranged a distribution by Apple, suddenly withdrew it all, leaving the filmmakers to seek a distributor at Sundance. She admits Simmons pressured her to withdraw her4 support, yet claims that was not the reason she did so. According Jake Cole of the Toronto GLOBE AND MAIL the film received "a huge ovation" when shown two days ago. Simmons vehemently denies all allegations from more than a dozen women. Owen Gleiberman in his VARIETY review calls this film "powerful, traumatic, and convincing." No wonder Oprah abandoned it.

    HILARY (Nanette Burstein). VARIETY'S Caroline Franke says "The Hulu docuseries on Hillary Clinton and the 2016 election, which premiered at Sundance, is more ambitious than it is revealing."

    TAYLOR SWIFT: MISS AMERICANA ( Lana Wilson) is the other big personality explored in a Sundance doc premiere, about the outspoken singer songwriter - an activist on women's rights and female empowerment - though the buzz may be that it's a letdown, or just like Taylor Swift is always playing herself, even offstage, so the film never gets behind the managed image. So says Leslie Felperin of HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. So this one is more ambitious than revealing too.

    REBUILDING PARADISE (Ron Howard) The Sundance blurb: "On November 8, 2018, a spark flew in the Sierra Nevada foothills, igniting the most destructive wildfire in California history and decimating the town of Paradise. Unfolding during the year after the fire, this is the story of the Paradise community as they begin to rebuild their lives." Leslie Felperin's HOLLYWOOD REPORTER review calls this "A sincere and skillfully assembled tribute to a community's fortitude."

    THE DISSIDENT. ( Bryan Fogel) Explores the gruesome disappearance of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal l Khashoggi. Fogel won an Oscar for ICARUS. In VARIETY Todd McCarthy says this one is "a first-rate documentary about a scandalous political tragedy."
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-31-2020 at 11:14 AM.

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    Swoony nostalgia.


    TESSA THOMPSON, NNAMDI ASOMUGHA IN SYLVIE'S LOVE

    SYLVIE'S LOVE (Eugene Ashe) is another rave (four stars) from GUARDIAN'S Benjamin Lee, which he calls a "heartfelt period romance" that's 'a thrilling throwback." Set in New York in the summer of 1957, it's about the romance of a woman working in her father's record store with a saxophone player who wanders in looking for a Thelonius Monk record and winds up working there too. This is a "tribute to the glossy studio romances of the 50s and 60s" with black lead characters - and from former musician Ashe, a lot of smart period music, chiefly jazz. Leslie Felperin in HOLLYWOOD REPORTER says this "will send grandparents and fans of Golden Age cinema swooning with nostalgia." Fifties production values are scrupulously recaptured. The story background is softened and made "anodyne," she says, but if you put that aside, you're "in for a treat."
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-28-2020 at 08:08 PM.

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