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Thread: Sundance 2020

  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.

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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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    Three strange ones.


    ETHAN HAWKE IN TESLA

    TESLA (Michael Almereyda) is a biopic starring Ethan Hawke whom Almereyda worked with in 2000 in his radical re-imagining of 'Hamlet', as the inventor Nikola Tesla, still a subject of much interest today, who died penniless in a hotel in 1943. Amy NIcholson reviews it in VARIETY. David Finch muse Kyle MacLachlan plays Tesla's rival Thomas Edison. David Erlich in INDIEWIRE finds this filmn "equally inspired by "Derek Jarman, Henry James, and certain episodes of 'Drunk History.'" He says it's more a musing on the life than biopic.

    NINE DAYS (Edson Oda). Peter Debruge of VARIETY says this Brazilian first film is unique, dealing with character itself rather than individual characters, is a film of "dizzying conceptual ambition." It appears to focus on a kind of purgatory where people are judged. Eric Kohn of INDIEWIRE thinks this a "dreary slog" that "never quite realizes its potential." Anthony Kaufman of SCREEN DAILY thinks it a "standout debut." Here's an interview where he talks about creating the screenplay: CLICK. Mike D'Angelo in a review for subscribers did not buy into it, found inconsistencies, felt it rips off Koreeda's AFTER LIFE, didn't share the audience enthusiasm at all, and gave it a 41 rating.

    SURGE (Aneil Karia) has an airport worker on the heading into a "full-fledged psychotic breakdown" played by Ben Whishaw. This expands on the 2013 short film BEAT by young Brit filmmaker Karia, which also featured Whishaw. LIttle more than unrestrained rifs by Whishaw and lengthy tracking shots, says Fionualla Halligan of [ISCREEN DAILY[/I], though Karia is clearly talented, "a touch of the jangling nerviness that the Safdie brothers." Peter Bradshaw of GUARDIAN found it an "intriguing essay in mood," but felt the feature length for the film "tests the material."
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-30-2020 at 01:55 AM.

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    Misfires.


    ANNE HATHAWAY IN THE LAST THING HE WANTED

    FOUR GOOD DAYS (Rodrigo Garcia) is a drama starring Glenn Close as the mother of a 31-year-old heroin addict played (and made up to look a total wreck) Mila Kunis, who is given a precious chance to beat her addiction with a special medication. Both Owen Gleiberman of VARIETY and David Rooney of HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, not to mention an even more blunt writer for the NEW YORK POST, conclude as Rooney says, that this "never quite gets beyond its inspired-by-a-true-story, issue-driven TV movie-of-the-week template."

    THE LAST THING HE WANTED (Dee Rees) is a disastrous adaptation of the Joan Didion novel about a conflicted journalist of the Eighties, which must have seemed a great idea, with its literary source and "a stacked cast of Oscar winners and nominee" led by Anne Hathaway, but it turns out to be not a "charmless catastrophe" as some are claiming, but it's "strangely incomplete," due to material that doesn't adapt. So says Benjamin lee in his GUARDIAN review. A Netflix production that might have done better as a miniseries. Mike D'Angelo in another of his subscribers' reviews found this "a truly epic failure" and rated it a horrible 22."Not the kind of bad movie that's guilty fun to watch, but the maddening kind that just makes you say 'Huh? Whaa?' over and over again." "A misfire," "a complete letdown" and otherwise a failure, say all the critics.

    DOWNHILL (Nat Faxon, Jim Rash) is an unnecessary remake of the 2014 Swedish film by Ruben Östlund FORCE MAJEURE about the man who fails his family at a moment of truth, then dodges the issue. The American version stars Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Owen Gleiberman of Variety says it "stays true (enough) to the original" but. . . I am, personally, very leery of remakes unless, of course they are creative ones like Jacques Audiard's brilliant creative remake of James Toback's FINGERS, THE BEAT MY HEART SKIPPED. True "enough" doesn't do it. The GUARDIAN'S Benjamin Lee calls this "redundant" and gives it a paltry two stars. It's a widespread view that this remake doesn't justify itself.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-31-2020 at 10:47 AM.

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    Winning comedy and a surreal anthology of shorts.



    SAVE YOURSELVES! (Alex Huston Fischer and Eleanor Wilson
    ) is a survivalist rom-com about a goofy Brooklyn couple who go north to escape their internet addiction and miss the beginnings of an alien invasion. It's a comedy that's "hilarious from start to apocalypse" according to VARIETY'S Amy Nicholson. Mike D'Angelo in a supbsribers-only review singles it out for a 64 rating (high for him) and compares it to his favorite part of SHAUN OF THE DEAD. The low-fi aliens are praised by both writers. D'Angelo dscribes them as "a uniquely memorable, often hilarious threat," due to their "innocuously floofy body and deadly frog-like tongue (or proboscis?)," which can penetrate cars, or walls and kill with one stroke.

    OMNIBOAT: A FAST BOAT FANTASIA (various) a collection of short films with a nautical focus, is praised by D'Angelo, who gives is a 54, and repoorts this anthology comedy on themes revolving around a boat by multiple hands, including Terrence Nance of AN OVERSIMPLIFICATION OF HER BEAUTY and RANDOM ACTS OF FLYNESS, a collection that he says is wildly uneven but when it's working achieves "sublime absurdity." Anthony Kaufman of SCREEN DAILY says this experimental short film series "repeatedly drifts off course," but several of the pieces "have some good laughs" or "inspired trips of surrealism."
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-31-2020 at 11:06 AM.

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    An appealing Asian American story, a horror film, and a comedy.



    MINARI (Lee Isaac Chung) is the "most loved" film of Sundance, says Benjamin Lee of GUARDIAN (not 5 stars but 4/5). It quietly tells director Chung's semi-autobiographical story of Korean-born parents and American-born children making a go of a farm in 1980's rural Arkansas. It comes with great credential - including Brad Pitt's production company Plan B and A24's canny distribution choice. And says Lee, it's "built up considerable steam," and now "been unofficially – and deservedly" dubbed the year's "first truly great movie" and one "we'll be talking about for quite some time." As the film begins the couple leaves California and acquires a large chunk of isolated land in the midwest to cultivate native Korean plants to sell to fellow immigrants. The trajectory is low-keyed, a matter of minutiae, details like the young kids flying paper airplanes saying "Don't fight" when their parents are arguing. This is Chung's fifth film, but it's been a rocky 13-year road to this success VARIETY'S Peter Debruge notes the movie's "deeply personal and lovingly poetic rendering" and the more important because Asian American experience is "vastly underrepresented in Hollywood." The film features BURNING star Steven Yuen, previously known from multiple TV series but also in OKJA and SORRY TO BOTHER YOU among other features. Todd McCarthy of HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, who outlines the plot dynamics, says this is a "modest pic but very human and accessible."

    RELIC (Natalie Erika James) is an "unsettling debut" by a Japanese Austrialian fllmmaker, a "slow-burn haunted house movie" tht turns into a "disturbingly effective allegory for the ravages of dementia" -a disease that this time spreads through the entire family. The "compelling performances" headline Emily Mortimer and Bella Heathcote, recounts HOLLYWOOD REPORTER'S David Rooney.

    PALM SPRINGS (Max Barbakow) is the comedy that won this year's dubious big bid war, with $17.5 million and 69 cents paid for the vehicle for SNL alum Andy Samberg that AV CLUB's A.A.Dowd thinks this actually may be a winner this time, unlike other previous Sundance bid war winners, because it's really enjoyable and funny. In this story Samberg is trapped along with a woman (and J.K. Simmons) in a GROUNDHOG DAY-style (but more ironic and self conscious) time warp at a Palm Springs California wedding. Dowd says this is a "sweet, madly inventive, totally mainstream romantic comedy, buoyed by inspired jolts of comic violence." But he gives it only a B+, not an A-. Peter Debruge in VARIETY sums up the movie as an "ironic, irreverent and at times insane rom-com" from the "Lonely Island gang" that "does something new with a genre audiences have experienced a million times before."
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-01-2020 at 10:46 PM.

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    An eye-opening doc about social media and a Mirandy July movie.


    STILL FROM THE SOCIAL DILEMMA

    THE SOCIAL DILEMMA (Jeff Orlowski) asks about the ethics of social media - and ultimately, as a result, whether we should wind up uninstalling it all. Orlowski is the proven documentarian of CHASING ICE (Filmleaf 2012 and CHASING CORAL. This features former Silicon Valely stars who started social media and then who turned around to question the whole thing and have gotten out of it. The main speaker is an Orlowski colleague at Stanford, Tristan Harris, former design ethicist at Google, now head of the Center for Humane Technology. HOLLYWOOD REPORTER'S Leslie Felperin says this "manages to unpack this perplexing issue with precision" yet avoiding "any moral panic-mongering, condescension or dumbing down the complexity of the science stuff." David Erlich of INDIEWIRE calls this documentary "horrifyingly good." CHASING ICE was horrifyingly good - so I'm ready to believe this new one also goes deep and is essential.

    KAJILLIONAIRE (Miranda July). The festival blurb reads: "Low-stakes grifters, Old Dolio and her parents invite a chipper young woman into their insular clan, only to have their entire world turned upside down. Cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Gina Rodriguez, Richard Jenkins, Debra Winger." This has a Metascore and it's 80% based on 11 reviews. Bilge Ebiri, now of THE VERGE, says this may be July's "bet film yet" (his headline). KAJILLIONAIRE is the mistress of the twee's first in nearly a decade, following the 2011 THE FUTURE (Filmleaf SFIFF 2011) about an alike-looking, terminally tentative couple. This one by the maker of the popular debut YOU AND I AND EVERYONE WE KNOW might just be her best yet: so says Bilge Ebiri of VULTURE. The subject is an Los Angeles family of con artists and is well-crafted, patience-testing, and more abstract than previously, highlighting the absurdity of our world that we barely notice, to quote some of the 11 Metacritic reviews that add up to an 80% score. The plot focus is on the long-coming meltdown of the family's overly-isolated home-schooled daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) called Old Dolio. She's bound to break out. But someone the family meets on a plane trip is also important. Peter Debruge of VARIETY says it's all "less about the con than it is the connection." Debruge is a declared Miranda July fan, and admires the "insights" the new film provides "into what it means to be human."
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-01-2020 at 10:48 PM.

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    A quiet study of poor people.


    SHANE PAUL MCGHIE AND RICHARD JENKINS IN THE LAST SHIFT


    THE LAST SHIFT (Andrew Cohn) - the director has made related documentaries - was originally an Alexander Payne project, and he did executive produce. Richard Jenkins plays a retiring career fast food worker in the "shit hole" town of Albion, Mich. who's changed, maybe, by training his young black successor (Shane Paul McGhie), a once-promising African American writer on probation for defacing a public monument, whose girlfriend's law school has been derailed too. David Rooney of HOLLYWOOD REPORTER calls this "a funny-sad chamber piece" and it evidently has subtle shifts and subverts expectations in interesting ways, though it just may be too drab and downbeat for many. Amy Nicholson of VARIETY alludes to a "gut punch" and says it's "wonderfully sad."
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-31-2020 at 11:07 AM.

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    Sudan and Saudia in two Sundance films.


    STILL FROM SAUDI RUNAWAY

    HIS HOUSE (Remi Weekes) is a debut feature that's an unusual mix of social commentary and horror as it depicts a Sudanese family seeking asylum in England whose life is torture both in their house and out of it, according to Benjamin Lee of GUARDIAN (he gives it four stars). The escape by sea is covered, one that's touched by tragedy. Once in England, rules of the couple's asylum means they can't vacate the rundown house in a village they're given, no matter what, says Tim Grierson in SCREEN DAILY, even when the house starts spooking them, and we get " Terror laced with social commentary." "Weekes surprises us with his ingenuity and the depth of his themes," says Grierson.

    SAUDI RUNAWAY (Susanne Regina Meures) is a documentary about the escape of a young Saudi woman from an arranged marriage compiled from cell phone footage shot by Muna. The film was made in collaboration between the two women at a distance via phone and encryption. Superficially Saudi Arabia has been relaxing its restrictions, but the country remains deeply conservative and repressive of women. This records the run-up to Muna's escape, Adrian Horton of GUARDIAN explains in a Sundance report. Sheri Linden of HOLLYWOOD REPORTER adds that though this is a well-off family, the father beats his young son. Muna goes through with the wedding since the honeymoon in Abu Dhabi will be her chance to escape. It's risky and dangerous - but the film reports that a thousand women escape from Saudi weddings every year.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-31-2020 at 06:37 PM.

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    Titles there was a buzz about. Add these to your Sundance Best List.


    NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS

    NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS (Eliza Hittman) from the maker of BEACH RATS has a Metascore of 92%! The premise: A pair of teenage girls in rural Pennsylvania travel to New York City to seek out medical help after an unintended pregnancy. Andrew Barker (VARIETY) calls it "a quietly devastating gem" and a "significant step forward from BEACH RATS and its predecessor IT FELT LIKE LOVE. VULTURE writer Alison Willmore points to this as a "spiritual cousin" of the celebrated Romanian abortion film [I]4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days[/I] (NYFF 2007) and says this account may be bleaker than it needs to be, but not as bleak as Ceacescu's Romania. (Many analyses can be found on Metacritic.) In his Best Of Sundance 2020 roundup A.A. Dowd of AVCLUB thinks this may win the fiction feature prize.

    BLOODY NOSE, EMPTY POCKETS (Bill and Turner Ross) is "Think LEAVING LOS VEGAS meets 'Cheers,' says Leslie Felperin on HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. It "brings a profound eye to a day in a dive bar," explains Jordan Raup in THE FILM STAGE. Like their admired previous film WESTERN (ND/NF 2015), this blurs the boundaries between documentary and fiction, but it premiered in the U.S. Documentary Competition section at Sundance. Already much reviewed, it has a current Metascore of 83%.

    SCARE ME (Josh Ruben). The director stars with Aya Cash as two writers telling each other stories during a rural blackout. Until, says John DeFore in HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, Ruben decides something besides the antagonism of the two interlocutors should happen.

    BLACK BEAR (Lawrence Michael Levine) is "twisty meta-exploration of the creative process and its toll on relationships," says David Rooney of HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. An artistic couple retired to the country (a "lakeside home in the Adirondacks") is hosting a writer-director attempting to write, but neurotic sparks of conflict are flyingbetween the three people get in the way of progress. It's all self-conscious, self-reflective, and hermetic. In "Part Two: The Bear by the Boat House," everything shifts, Rooney reveals, to unfold a "wrap day from hell on the shoot of a film within the film" and the cast triangle is reconfigured (how cannot be revealed). Brian Tallerico of ROGEREBERT.COM suggests this be paired with the Elizabeth Moss vehicle SHIRLEY for two neurotic portraits, BLACK BEAR too being an "actors showcase."

    [A.A. Dowd of AVCLUB'S Sundance best list starts out with THE ASSISTANT ( Kitty Green), the portrait of a young woman assistant of a powerful, abusive executive and THE CLIMB (Michael Angelo Covino), the study of the friendship of two cyclists over many years (with an 82% Metascore). But as Dowd acknowledges both these films, though shown at this year's Sundance Festival, really debuted at Telluride (and Cannes) last year, so we can't include them here. We can watch for them, however.]
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-03-2020 at 09:21 AM.

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    Best documentary?


    RENE GARZA INBOY'S STATE

    BOYS STATE (Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine) gets a total rave from Jason Gormer of SLASHFILM: "Smart, entertaining, darkly comic and profoundly unsettling, BOYS STATE is simply brilliant, the best film of Sundance, and already in contention to be one of the best films of the year," he says. Focused on the "Boys State" summer program tun by the American Legion in various states across the country as dispatched in this case to Austin, Texas to run in mock elections, the documentary focuses on four keenly political youths, whom Gormer describes. John DeFore of HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, who attended Texas Boy's state himself as a youth and was disenchanted by it, approaches this film with skepticism. He opines that the American Legion ought to reimagine its program, "and add an apostrophe after 'boys' while they're at it." He argues that these four boys can't stand for the thousand at the gathering. In their need "to squeeze this strange experience into a familiar doc template," DeFore says, the filmmmakers have done some serious distorting. Andrew Kaufman's SCREENDAILY review more moderately suggests that this film uses "a combination of luck and proficient editing" as well as a judicious choice of personalities, but still shows today's party divisiveness and dirty tricks. SCREENDAILY also finds much to admire in the film's " unassuming hero, Steven Garza," the son of Mexican immigrants, and his chief rival for the Boys State governership, Rene Otero, "a supremely charismatic African American former Chicagoan" who like Garza seems out of place but rises "through the ranks" through his remarkable oratorical skills. If this sounds stimulating, Apple and A24 may have done right to pick the film up. This team's THE OVERNIGHTERS (2014) is one of the most memorable documentaries I've seen in recent years, so this film comes with strong credentials. Possibly a dissent? Mike D'Angelo indicates on his website that he walked out.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-05-2020 at 09:02 PM.

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