sundance-2013

All good things must come to an end, including film festivals. If I could, I would live only at film festivals, like George Clooney in Up in the Air, but with film festivals instead of airplanes, and probably less crushing despair. But Sundance ended and I had to come home to LA. Here’s what went down those last three days of movie-seeing.

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Cloudy Park City.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 24th

Dirty Wars

A documentary about American drone strikes and night raids around the world, including in countries with which no war has been declared. A deeply troubling film, excellently made. However, there is an excess of stylistic flourishes that detract from the overall effect of the film. Additionally, it venerates its main character to a ridiculous degree.

Kill Your Darlings

Daniel Radcliffe continues his bid to make everyone forget about Harry Potter by playing Allen Gisberg in this chronicle of the origin of the beat generation. The real breakout here, though, is Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr, who inspired the movement even though he wasn’t himself a writer. Some cool directorial choices make it stand out from the average biopic, although it ends up paying more lip service to the ideas of the beats than really embodying any of them.

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The crew of ‘Fruitvale’ at the post-screening Q&A. The film got the most applause of any audience I was in during this festival.

Fruitvale

Unquestionably the breakout hit of the festival, winning both the Audience and Jury prizes for Best Dramatic Film. And its accolades are mostly deserved. Based on a true story, The Wire and Friday Night Lights actor Michael B. Jordan plays a man on the last day of his life before he’s murdered by a police officer. Emotionally wrenching in its straightforward nature. This is one to look out for.

Touchy Feely

Rosemarie Dewitt plays a masseuse who suddenly finds that she’s averse to human contact, while Josh Pais plays her brother, a dentist who seemingly develops a healing touch. A very nice, gentle movie, full of good-natured humor, although it’s lackadaisical plot make it a chore to sit through at point.s

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Director Lynn Shelton answers questions after the ‘Touchy Feely’ screening.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 25th

Citizen Koch

A survey of the post-Citizens United political world, in which money equals speech and politicians are bought more than ever before. It doesn’t have too much to say that hasn’t already been said, and it disappointingly does not really look at the titular Koch brothers all that much. But it’s well-made and holds one’s attention.

Fire in the Blood

A documentary about the fight in developing nations to obtain access to AIDS drugs, which were barred from them by Western patent laws for decades. As a result, millions of people who could have lived died instead. Its fairly standard presentation means that the amazing subject matter doesn’t quite get its due. It could have been better than it is, which is merely okay.

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete

Two young boys fend for themselves in Brooklyn over the course of one hot summer. It’s uneven, with plot turns and choices that don’t entirely work, but overall it’s a terrific urban adventure story. The two juvenile leads are incredible, and it’s full of great humor and pathos in equal measure.

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The cast and crew of ‘The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete’ post-screening. Watch those two kids. They’re going places.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 26th

Before Midnight

Unquestionably the best film I saw at the festival this year. The sequel to Before Sunrise and Before Sunset sees Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s characters in Greece, nine years after their previous meeting. Once again, there’s lots of talking about life and philosophy, and this time it’s from the perspective of encroaching middle age. Wonderfully funny and overflowing with blisteringly true-to-life details, there’s no doubt in my mind this is one of the films for which 2013 will be remembered.

Don Jon’s Addiction

Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes his directorial debut, in which he plays a ladies’ man trying to change his porn-addicted ways. Not bad for a first feature at all, although some of the themes Levitt tries to present are questionable in nature (Rom coms for women are the same as porn for men? Really?). But it’s funny and well-made, and it makes me interested in whatever Gordon-Levitt may direct next.

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt after ‘Don Jon’s Addiction.’ The audience was over the moon for him.

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DJ at the closing night party.

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Drunken dancers and schmoozers at the closing night party.

And that’s all he wrote. Well, not really. Look for reviews of all of these films in the coming days and weeks! Thanks for keeping up with #schindance 2013!