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Thread: Sundance Film Festival January 19-29, 2023

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    Sundance Film Festival January 19-29, 2023

    Sundance January 19-29, 2023 - with in person premieres again.

    The following reports are from various sources.

    Reviews from Sundance: top film?

    PAST LIVES (Celine Song) (Premieres)
    Close childhood friends/sweethearts from South Korea reunite in New York decades later. One has now been seven years married; but the bond has remained strong. This one listed for A24 in the Screen Daily list of deals so far, the screenplay/director debut of playwright Celine Song, is given a rave now on YouTube's The Oscar Expert; both "bros" give it a ten out of ten and say the entire Sundance theater was in tears, that it will be in critics' top tens at end of year. They mention MINARI (also A24): it is also a deeply touching American movie much of which is in Korean. See the David Rooney HOLLYWOOD REPORTER review "Greta Lee plays a woman observed at three points in time, with Teo Yoo and Kelly Reichardt actor John Magaro as the men whose fates are tethered to hers across two continents." Rooney is certain this will one of the years' best films. Other critics agree, including Alissa Wilkinson in VOX, Benjamin Lee in the GUARDIAN, Peter Debruge in VARIETY. With 12 reviews there, the Metacritic rating is already 95%. Sounds like an indie/arthouse triumph, one full of deep, subtle emotional beats that you just have to see, not read about. And maybe the top film of this year's Sundance?

    FAIRYLAND (Andrew Durham)
    About gay life in San Francisco and the AIDS crisis, specifically families impacted by AIIDS from the POV of the daughter of a gay man who died of AIDS during the worst time of the virus. Sofia Coppola originally planned to direct, then passed the project on to her creative collaborator Durham. With Scoot McNairy and Emilia Jones, based on Alysia Abbott's memoir of her father, they're calling it a "Queer father-daughter weepie," which sounds dismissive (so does Abbott's own title, perhaps), but reviews seem positive.

    RYE LANE (Raine Allen Miller)
    The Oscar Expert bros on YouTube loved this movie - one gave it a ten out of ten - about a black couple in England who meet and go around remembering breakups. They said the mise-en-scène was incredible and it was a joy from the start with "unstoppable" energy, one of the best debuts in memory. They watched it with an enthusiastic Sundance audience but regret that it's only slated for release to HULU now. Other reviews on RottenTomatoes are uniformly positive.

    MAGAZINE DREAMS (Elijah Bynum)
    It has a "decidedly mixed" from "Brother Bro" on "The Oscar Expert' on YouTube, who*reviewed*it today. On*Metacritic it has a 73. There is no trailer; premiere, no release date yet. Jonathan Majors, Haley Bennett, Talour Page and Harriet Sansom Harris are featured and Majors (THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO, DA 5 BLOODS) is "Killian," an over-the-top, very isolated and socially needy amateur body builder whom Owen Gleiberman in*VARIETY compares to Travis Bickle: "Jonathan Majors Is Fantastic as a Bodybuilder Grappling with a Self-Destruction Borne of Rage." Could be a 2024 Oscar Best Actor nominee; but how many will want to see it? 2 hours 4 minutes. (Does every "serious" movie have to be over two hours now?)

    FAIR PLAY (Director: Chloe Domont)
    Also reviewed very favorably earlier by the "Oscar Expert" bros. It's about a romance in a Wall Street firm the couple (Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich) has to hide, and seemed to them engaging and very well researched. A promotion alters the balance and surprises gender expectation and the relationship goes on altering dramatically so it turns into a psychological thriller. Benjamin Lee in his GUARDIAN review gives it 4/5 stars and calls it a "knockout thriller," a "ruthless, and ruthlessly entertaining, feature debut." Netflix acquired the film in a $20 million deal.

    FANCY DANCE (Erica Tremblay)
    Lily Gladstone (of Kelly Reichardt’s CERTAIN WOMEN) stars as Jax, a Queer woman, in Erica Tremblay’s FANCY DANCE, set in the Seneca-Cayuga Reservation in northeast Oklahoma. It's about custody and parenting. Gladsone takes on the care of her young niece when her sister disappears, but then a CPS (Child Protective Services) person shows up and finds her unfit for this task. This illustrates the paternalistic role of CPS with Native Americans. Explores the systematic mishandling by the police and the FBI of missing and murdered indigenous women. The "Oscar Expert" bros love Lily Gladstone ("a phenomenal actress") and felt you care a lot about the people and gave it high eights out of ten.

    EILEEN (William Oldroyd). Mixed reactions on this one from the maker of the arresting LADY MACBETH - even the Oscar Expert twins split on it. About an exciting woman (Anne Hathaway) who brightens the life of the titular young woman (Thomasin McKenzie) in 1960's New England at a prison facility where they're now coworkers, and then a thriller shift to loony Hitchcockian crime develops. Similarities to Todd Haynes’s CAROL are mentioned by the bros and also Benjamin Lee in his 2/5 star GUARDIAN review. Not pushed to the weird enough, Lee feels. See the appreciative VARIETY review by Jessica Kiang, who calls EILEEN an "audacious, wondrously twisted period psychodrama" and "deliriously movie-literate."

    Much anticipated due to Finley's previous success with THOROUGHBREDS (2017) and BAD EDUCATION (2019). Meh but interestingly weird, this is sort of an indie sci-fi form critique of capitalism in which a race of alien invaders assume the highest level of economic control over all others. Bro calls it "wonderfully bizarre" and gives it 8/10, and "Expert" a 7/10. GUARDIAN's Lee would not agree and says the film is "baffling" and "misses its mark" and gives it only 2/5 stars. "Oscar Expert" admitted the ending was very obvious and there is too little relationship among characters. The twins said not to watch the trailer because the aliens and their look are the best part.

    FLORA AND SON (John Carney)
    By the maker of ONCE (2007) and SING STREET (2016) and BEGIN AGAIN (2013) - "Waddaya Know, it's another movie about people learning the power of music to uplift themselves" and "honestly, he could keep making these movies forever as long as he gives us interesting characters and he gives us that breezy John Carney movie charm," said YouTube's Oscar Expert. Eva Hewson's Flora rescues a guitar from a dumpster and it saves the life of her son Max (Orén Kinlan). Joseph Gordon-Leavitt is Flora's guitar teacher. VARIETY review by Owen Gleiberman who says this is Carney's best movie since ONCE. Metacritic has a solid 76% rating.

    PASSAGES (Ira Sachs)
    Benjamin Lee gives PASSAGES 4/5 stars in an enthusiastic review headlined: "The writer-director makes a return to form with an explicit, emotionally bruising film about a bisexual narcissist." I have reviewed Sachs' MARRIED LIFE (2007), KEEP THE LIGHTS ON (2012), LOVE IS STRANGE (2014) and LITTLE MEN (2016), all solid low-key indie explorations of relationships and sexuality. Sachs' 2019 Cannes-debuted FRANKIE, with Isabelle Huppert (which I've not seen) - AlloCiné press rating 2.9 (58%) - was a "misfire," Benjamin Lee says. Here, TRANSIT's Franz Rogowski plays self-obsessed film director Tomas, married to artist Martin (Ben Whishaw), "but forever curious for more." Adèle Exarchopoulos plays the woman Tomas takes into his exploitative web. Read the full VARIETY review by Peter Debruge. MUBI acquired it.

    THEATER CAMP (Molly Gordon, Nick Lieberman)
    The Oscar Expert and Brother Bro gave this 7/10 and 8/10 and found this film, which loosely follows the form of a mockumentary, to be a very entertaining partly improvised comedy about, and ode to, summer theater camp in which the director falls into a coma and her idiotic son is put in charge. The emphasis is more on laughs than plot and the laughs keep coming, they said. It's a directorial debut of Gordon and LIeberman and stars Ben Platt, Jimmy Tatro, Noah Galvin, Patti Harrison, Owen Thiele, and Gordon herself. Searchlight bought this reportedly for big money.

    Premiered already at Venice but US debut here. The French reviews were glowing: AlloCiné press rating 4.1 (82%). Virginie Effira plays a high school teacher who falls in love with a man and soon grows a close bond to his 4-year-old daughter, making her grapple with her own ambitions with motherhood. Costarring Effira with French cinema stars Roschdy Zem and Chiara Mastroianni, it's a surefire arthouse audience favorite. Music Box bought US rights prior to the Sundance showing.

    YOU HURT MY FEELINGS (Nicole Holofcener)
    The long happy marriage of Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), an author, and Don (Tobias Menzies), a psychiatrist, is shaken when an overheard remark reveals to Beth that Don has been lying about liking her latest novel and it really leaves him cold According to Owen Gleiberman in his VARIETY review, "the whole movie is a sly satire of our fetishistically supportive and oversensitive therapeutic culture of positivity"; he says when Holofcener is "on her game," as here, where Louis-Dreyfus "shines," "the sparkle of her dialogue is like neurotic champagne; it gives you a lift." Benjamin Lee, in his GUARDIAN review, gives YOU HURT 4/5 stars and says Holofcener "delivers another winner."

    AND ALSO...
    Other important films at Sundance not here but included in VARIETY's 17-film best-of list, some of which are documentaries: BEYOND UTOPIA (Madeleine Gavin), CASSANDRO (Roger Ross Williams), CAT PERSON ( Susanna Fogel), THE DISAPPEARANCE OF SHERE HITE (Nicole Newnham), KOKOMO CITY (D. Smith), A. LITTLE PRAYER (Angus MacLachlan), LITTLE RICHARD: I AM EVERYTHING (Lisa Cortés), MILISUTHANDO (Milisuthando Bongela), NAM JUNE PAIK: MOON IS THE OLDEST TV (Amanda Kim), POLITE SOCIETY (ida Manzoor).
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-29-2023 at 01:12 AM.


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