sundance-2013

I have not disappeared! I have merely been seeing many movies! An update on days 5 – 6 will soon follow! The festival was only warming up, and this is where things began to take off.

press office

The press office, where critics like me come in to beg for tickets to public screenings.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 20th

S-VHS

Sequel to last year’s found footage horror anthology. Leaps and bounds better than the original. The wraparound segment is useless, but none of the four main shorts are bad. One of them, about reporters infiltrating an Indonesian cult only to stumble into apocalyptic chaos, is an amazing cavalcade of insanity and nightmarish stuff. An extremely fun (and unbelievably gory) romp, or series of romps.

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Linsanity

Biographical documentary about basketball sensation Jeremy Lin, focusing on his life, his career, and his faith. A harmless but likeable film, supported by the likeability of its protagonist. But it’s most hero-worshipful, not really digging into any of the issues and phenomena raised by “Linsanity.” It also feels kind of soon to already be making a movie about the guy – he hit the big time less than a year ago.

MARC

The MARC theater, which isn’t actually a theater at all, but a converted sports arena.

Circles

The product of cooperation between several European countries, this film follows the consequences of a single act of sacrifice performed during the Bosnian war. Various people try to live up to one man’s death, as they are confronted with difficult choices to make in their own lives. A powerful, well-shot and acted film about what it really means to have and demonstrate grace. One of the best surprises at the festival so far.

sundance HQ

Inside Festival Headquarters at the Park City Marriott.

Escape from Tomorrow

Covertly shot at Disneyland, this surreal, Lynchian film features an ordinary family as it slowly unravels over the course of a day at the park. The bright and clean design becomes increasingly sinister as events wear on. Some have speculated that Disney isn’t going to allow this movie to make it past the festival circuit. It remains to be seen where it’ll go, but it’s a great critique of the myth of family-friendliness and often quite funny and unnerving.

MONDAY, JANUARY 21st

eccles

The ginormous Eccles Theater.

Stoker

South Korean director Park Chan-wook, known for his bizarre, philosophical, stylish, and quite violent films, makes his English-language debut. Mia Wasikowska plays a young woman who is both drawn and repulsed by her mysterious uncle (Matthew Goode), who comes into her life after the sudden death of her father. Park has lost none of his edge, and this is a gross, often willies-inducing piece of work. It doesn’t rank among his best work, but it’s promising.

stoker

Director Park Chan-wook and actors Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, and Matthew Goode at the ‘Stoker’ post-screening Q&A.

C.O.G.

Jonathan Groff stars in the first adaptation of David Sedaris’s work, as a preppie grad who tries to go on a “journey of self-discovery” by working on an Oregon apple farm, only for everything to go horribly awry. Takes a turn from comedy to drama in the last third that doesn’t wholly work, but it’s funny and gently humanistic in a winning way.

sundance store

The best place to buy overpriced t-shirts and winter caps.

Manhunt

Think of this as the documentary companion to Zero Dark Thirty, focusing on the government agents who were tracking Osama bin Laden even before most of us knew who he was. Riveting and challenging, this film makes no bones about how morally murky and uncertain the field of counter-terrorism is. A very good meditation on where the US is now in its “War on Terror.”

hash

Screw that. Follow #schindance on Twitter to see all my tweets from the festival.