Before I die, I would like to accomplish a couple of things. One of those things is “be happy.” The other is “attend Sundance Film Festival.”
Sundance, well underway right now in Park City, Utah, is one of the most popular and prestigious film festivals in the world. The festival celebrates a long history of honoring independent cinema and jump-starting the careers of many famous filmmakers including Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Darren Aronofsky. The following selections are attracting insane amounts of attention and high critical praise right now. And sometimes both. Get excited.
“Escape From Tomorrow”
First-time writer/director Randy Moore spent a month inside Disney World with a fragmented crew in order to film this movie. Here’s the kicker: he did it without permission from Disney. The cast and crew used their smart phones to communicate and read scripts, and their choice of camera (Canon 5D Mark II) was inconspicuous enough that it went by unnoticed by park employees. They might as well have been regular tourists with regular cameras. None of that “permission” nonsense stopped the film from being accepted into Sundance, either. Disney would most certainly disapprove of the film, considering that it revolves around a family’s dad going crazy, Disney princess hookers, twisted and disturbing imagery, and even an exploding Epcot. Hear that? That’s the sound of Disney sending a fleet of helicopters packed with lawyers toward Park City. I assume this film won’t see the light of day outside the festival, so here’s hoping it’ll get “leaked” online so we can all enjoy some Disney madness.
Writer/director Shane Carruth premiered his first film “Primer,” a time travel mind-bender, at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and walked away with the Grand Jury Prize. Now he’s back with “Upstream Color,” a feature that he once again wrote, directed, produced, scored, and acted in. I’m not even going to try to make sense of the plot, which is apparently rooted in science fiction with a healthy dose of thriller and romance. Early reviews have been mostly positive, commenting on the obtuse film’s beauty, strong performances, and superb editing. Carruth plans to distribute the film himself in both limited and online release starting April 5th. I can’t wait to try and wrap my brain around this one.
“Don Jon’s Addiction”
You may have heard of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the actor. You may not have heard of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the writer/director. This is his debut about a porn addict (played by himself) as he tries to become less selfish and win the heart of a perfect ten (played by Scarlett Johansson, of course.) Critical reaction has been mixed, with some calling the film hollow or shallow. Others are saying that it’s upbeat, fun, and highly entertaining. Regardless of critics’ opinions, you’ll get the opportunity to judge the film for yourself soon, because Relativity Media purchased the distribution rights for the film for $4 million. Expect to see it here in town at some point this year.
I have one question for you. Have you seen “Oldboy?” If not, go see it and come back.
Okay. Now that you’ve seen it, you just might have a whole lot of giddy anticipation for this film, which pairs up “Oldboy” director Chan-wook Park with Nicole Kidman and a few other familiar faces. I’m steering clear of plot details, but all I know is that it’s some sort of warped, gothic family drama. Fox Searchlight is handling distribution, and Stoker hits theaters March 1st.
“The Way, Way Back”
The Oscar-winning co-writers of “The Descendants,” Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, make their directorial debut with this film starring Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell. The plot revolves around a teenager coming of age one summer at a water park after he becomes friends with one of the park managers (played by Sam Rockwell.) The film is winning audiences over with charm, and after enjoying the treat that was “The Descendants,” I wouldn’t doubt it. Fox Searchlight recently made headlines when it won a bidding war over distribution rights for the film, paying up a whopping $10 million. They’re looking to release this film wide, so expect to see it on a local screen very soon.
This is only a small sample of the movie goodness Sundance is serving up right now, so keep an eye out for these and others as they all release sometime this year.