Sundance Film Festival

Sundance 2014: How Richard Linklater Spent 12 Years Chronicling ‘Boyhood’

PARK CITY, UTAH: Early in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, Mason’s mom (Patricia Arquette) asks him to paint the doorframe. They’re moving out of their apartment — the first of several relocations over the film’s dozen-year narrative — and painting everything back to white. On the frame, Mason finds those little marks charting his and his sister’s growth, how tall they were at which age. More than any other contemporary filmmaker, Linklater understands cinema’s inherent value as the keeper of those little marks. The story of Boyhood‘s 12-year production (“We started this film 4,208 days ago,” Linklater joked at yesterday’s Sundance screening) is so fascinating that it threatens to overpower the narrative — since the former is so ambitious, the latter so slight. But this is a moving and powerful film, one that is all but without precedent. … Read More

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Sundance 2014: Kendrick, Lynskey, Dunham Shine in Swanberg’s ‘Happy Christmas’

PARK CITY, UTAH: As the opening credits roll in Joe Swanberg’s Happy Christmas, the festivalgoer’s eyes have to do a quick adjustment. Here, in a sea of slick, crisp, clean high-def video, Swanberg has gone retro; for the first time, the prolific video filmmaker is shooting on Super 16mm film, with cinematographer Ben Richardson aggressively pushing the grain. It lends the picture a roughness, a homemade quality, recalling the works of John Cassavettes, who encouraged the improvisation of actors and frequently cast his friends and family (as Swanberg does here). Swanberg’s let-the-camera-run aesthetic can go either way — towards self-indulgence, or overheard, naturalistic candor. Thanks in no small part to the considerable gifts of stars Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, and Lena Dunham, Happy Christmas goes the right way. … Read More

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Sundance 2014: Aubrey Plaza Reinvents Herself in ‘Life After Beth’

PARK CITY, UTAH: Aubrey Plaza underplays so adroitly, on Parks & Rec and in films like Safety Not Guaranteed and Funny People, that it’s easy to wonder if she’s working with a limited range — that she’s merely playing the “Aubrey Plaza type” (and it has certainly become a type). If her new film Life After Beth — a dizzy little zombie comedy that premiered at Sundance yesterday — does nothing else, it should put those concerns to rest. She’s magnificent in a role that couldn’t be further from April Ludgate; hell, by the end of the picture, she couldn’t be further from the character she’s playing at the beginning. Her Beth is a brilliantly realized comic creation, and an awe-inspiring testimonial to exactly what she’s capable of. … Read More

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Sundance 2014: How Crowd-Funding Harmed Zach Braff’s ‘Wish I Was Here’

PARK CITY, UTAH: Normally, when a Sundance alum returns to Park City with a new feature, it’s hugs and handshakes all around. Zach Braff, star of the long-running Scrubs, brought his feature directorial debut Garden State to Park City exactly ten years ago, and he rushed to finish his follow-up, Wish I Was Here, in… Read More

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Sundance 2014: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About George Takei

PARK CITY, UTAH: No one, it seems, is happier with the new documentary To Be Takei (which premiered last night at the Sundance Film Festival) than the film’s subject, George Takei. “I can’t tell you all what a heady experience this is,” he said after the premiere, alongside his husband Brad, “to share our lives will all of you, and hear the laughter and the applause and the good feelings that you’re sending our way.” Takei’s unlikely ascension to beloved pop culture icon, via political activism, a series of self-aware television and film appearances, and a witty and well-curated Facebook presence, makes a good story, and To Be Takei tells it well. … Read More

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Why We Need So Many Indie Films

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The Malick-Style ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’ Is Better Than Anything Malick’s Made in Years

Since the Sundance debut of Ain’t Them Bodies Saints back in January, the name of Terrence Malick has been dropped in reference to it nearly as often as that of writer/director David Lowery. The influence, to be sure, is hard to miss: a rural Texas setting; an abundance of sun-kissed, magic-hour photography; even an Affleck, Casey in this film matching Ben in Malick’s spring release, To the Wonder. The comparisons haven’t been entirely flattering. “Lowery, it can’t be denied, has Malick’s moves down pat,” writes The A.V. Club’s A.A. Dowd. “It’s the Malick touch that eludes him.” Dowd may be right — inasmuch as the “Malick touch” has lately verged on self-parody and narrative inertia. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, on the other hand, is better than anything Malick has made in at least a decade. … Read More

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7 Artists Whose Airbnb Would Have Been Better Than Donald Judd’s

If you were enticed by the Airbnb ad for the late Donald Judd’s renovated former home and studio in Soho, prepare to be bummed. The ad was quickly taken down, and an artist in Detroit named Tyler Taylor has spoken with ARTINFO to announce that it had been a prankish work of institutional critique. In any case, given the city’s recent crackdown on shady short-term sublets, the Judd Foundation’s (ostensible) asking price of $2,000 a night would have probably been offset by a $1-5,000 fine. … Read More

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Sundance 2013: Awards, Deals, and When You Can See Them

Indie producers at Sundance would be wise to steer your film editor away from their screenings, since (for the second year in a row, to say nothing of Tribeca and SXSW) practically none of the films I saw over my six days in Park City managed to grab any prizes at Saturday night’s big award ceremony. I’m all out of theories for why I’m so bad at picking these things — but it’s something we’re all going to have to come to terms with, apparently. Not to worry, though; many of the very good films I did manage to see will be coming your way over the next few months, so let’s take a look at films that won both awards and big-money deals. … Read More

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