Sundance Film Festival

Sundance Docs ‘Going Clear’ and ‘Prophet’s Prey’ Ask: Religion or Cult?

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PARK CITY, UT: Late in Prophet’s Prey, Amy Berg’s provocative
and powerful documentary case against FLDS church head Warren Jeffs, author Jon Krakauer says this about the church’s continued dedication to a man who is clearly a monster: “It speaks to something disturbing about human nature. Once you believe something, it’s very, very difficult to give that up completely.” That simple yet undeniable truth lies at the center of not only Prophet’s Prey but Going Clear, Alex Gibney’s already controversial look at the history and methodology of the Church of Scientology. Both films use extensive documentation, buried tapes, and testimony from departed members to paint portraits of organizations that would call themselves one thing (church), while most sensible people would call them another (cult).
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Sundance 2015: Baumbach and Gerwig’s ‘Mistress America’ Looks Behind the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Mask

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PARK CITY, UT: “I could only agree with her,” Tracy says of Brooke, in the opening moments of Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America. “It was too much fun to agree with her.” Tracy (Lola Kirke) is a college freshman, failing (and frankly, not trying all that hard) to fit in at Barnard. Brooke (Greta Gerwig) is her older future sister-in-law, a whirling dervish, jazzy and odd and prone to non sequitur. She’s comfortable and confident and all the things that Tracy’s not, so it’s easy to see how Tracy both idolizes and idealizes her. If that were all that was happening in Mistress America, it’d still be worth seeing; it’s got a fast pace and screwball spirit, and is the closest thing Baumbach’s done to pure comedy since his peerless debut picture Kicking and Screaming. But there’s a lot more going on here than just laughs.
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‘The Hunting Ground’ and ‘Hot Girls Wanted': Sundance Docs Investigate the Sexual Exploitation of Young Women

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PARK CITY, UT: Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s The Hunting Ground starts on a note of deceptive hopefulness. To the familiar and triumphant strains of “Pomp and Circumstance,” we see YouTube and home video images of hopeful high school seniors finding out that they’ve been accepted to their schools of their dreams. We see addresses and welcoming speeches from university administrators, promising them that these will be the most important and memorable years of their lives. It’s all light and exciting and even funny — and then they drop the hammer. The film’s title comes from an offhand mention by an interview subject, a rape survivor. It seems an apt description for how the rapist sees a college campus, and perhaps even for society at large, as another Sundance documentary called Hot Girls Wanted reiterates that the sexual exploitation of young women is not just an epidemic, but an industry.
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Sudeikis and Brie’s ‘Sleeping With Other People’ is Sundance 2015’s First Disappointment

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PARK CITY, UT: During the highly entertaining Q&A that followed last night’s Sundance premiere of Sleeping with Other People, the gleefully crass and very funny writer/director Leslye Headland mentioned that she pitched the movie to star Jason Sudeikis as “When Harry Met Sally for assholes.” It got a big laugh from the crowd, as it should; it’s a funny line. But the more you think about that description, the more it describes why, in spite of many big laughs and an insanely likable cast, Sleeping with Other People doesn’t quite work—because “When Harry Met Sally for assholes” is actually a terrible idea for a movie. Assholes don’t like movies like When Harry Met Sally, and for good reason; they’re sweet and gushy and neat and inclined towards happy endings. Assholes like movies like Headland’s debut, Bachelorette, which was a mean, nasty little dirty bomb in wedding comedy drag. And therein lies the disappointment in this follow-up: somewhere along the line, somebody sanded down Headland’s rough edges.
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Sundance 2015: Rowdy Laughs and Prosthetic Penises in ‘The Overnight’

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PARK CITY, UT: There’s a lot about Patrick Brice’s The Overnight that’s unique—its peculiar tone, its anything-goes storytelling, its candor in matters of sexuality—but it’s also one of the few non-pornographic movies I can think of where the male nudity far exceeds the female. There’s an asterisk, though; the male genitalia on display are made of plastic. Jason Schwartzman’s Kurt whips off his pants to reveal a member whose width and girth rivals Dirk Diggler’s; Adam Scott’s Alex is, well, cursed with a very different organ. “Yeah, let’s make this clear right now: they were both prosthetics,” Scott announced in the Q&A following the film’s Sundance premiere Friday, and it’s probably worth noting that the frequency and prominence of their nudity isn’t even the most unpredictable thing about this very unusual comedy/drama.
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12 Sundance 2015 Movies We Can’t Wait to See

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There’s always a feeling of tense anticipation heading into the Sundance Film Festival — after all, this is the starter pistol for the year in independent film, introducing film fans, critics, and the industry to the movies they may well be talking about all year. But this year’s festival (which kicks off tonight) falls squarely in the middle of an awards season dominated by last year’s biggest ticket, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, reminding us of exactly how far a splash at Sundance can take you. Will any of this year’s high-profile indies and docs take that kind of hold in 2015? Here are a dozen movies we’re keeping our eyes on in Park City — and beyond.
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