Sharp Egg, Inc

Sundance Film Festival 2015

Headed off again to Utah for another round of the Sundance Film Festival. This marked our 14th year of festival going. All in all, saw eight films, which is a pretty good run for a short trip.

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Mistress America

Newest offering from director Noah Baumbach, screenplay by Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig. If I would have never seen Frances Ha, I would have loved this movie. Having done both, this movie felt a bit like Frances Light. Though I really liked Gerwig’s character Brooke in this, she was a little too similar. These movies are not the same, but the quirkiness of Frances was very unique, so this felt like a copy.

That said, this was a thoroughly entertaining movie. Lots of very funny laugh out loud moments.

Lola Kirke carried the film as a college freshman trying to find her place, like we all do at that age. Making decisions on the fly and trying to change up who she is, she uses her to be step sister Brooke, as a muse  for her short stories. She both admires and tries to emulate the slightly older woman, seeing something she likes in Brooke, but also closely noting her faults. Kirke does a fantastic job as the lead character Tracy, and I expect there will be a lot more of her in the near future.

This movie makes me excited to see the next Baumbach/Gerwig collaboration. High hopes it will evolve into an entirely new story next time around.

Festival Link

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Experimenter

Biopic about famed social psychologist Stanley Milgram, played by Peter Sarsgaard starting at the time of his famous obedience social experiment, involving a subject giving shocks to a “Learner” based on their ability to answer questions. The Learner is part of the experiment, not actually receiving the shocks. The experiment is used to measure how far someone will go if they believe they are being told to act a certain way.

The movie uses interesting story telling devices like breaking the fourth wall, with Sarsgaard talking directly to the audience to let them know what is really on his mind.

Interesting enough movie, great subject matter, well acted, but some things left me confused as I watched. Some sets switched to still background photographs rather than sets. I didn’t necessarily mind this, but it happened midway through the film, so I found myself wondering what I missed rather than focusing on what was happening/being said. I suppose it’s meant to make you feel that way, much like some of the characters in the movie feel, wondering if they are part of Milgram’s next experiment.

Festival Link

People, Places, Things

James Strouse directed and wrote this story about a graphic novelist going through a breakup with the mother of his twin girls. Jemaine Clement does a fantastic job as the main character Will Henry. The dialogue is all fast paced, witty, very entertaining. The movie is humorous but heart felt.

The main character feels very real, makes many missteps in an attempt to be fair and honest to everyone. The film is based on Strouse’s real life experience. At our screening, he was even wearing a tee shirt the main character wears.

Very much looking forward to seeing this movie again. It was my favorite of this year.

I realized Strouse wrote he screen play for Lonesome Jim, which we saw early on in our festival adventures.

Festival Link

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Tangerine

I was astonished this movie was shot almost entirely on iPhones. It looked like a slightly lower end camera, but not so much that is was annoying and certainly not like something everyone has in their pockets.

Sean Baker co wrote and directed the movie.  Baker said he wanted his next movie to be  “a Christmas story” and knew the area of town they wanted to film in, then devised the basic plot. He fleshed it out with the actress who plays Alexandria, who has lived this life and experienced some of he things that happen in the film.

Frankly, I was sold on this movie on the first two sentences of the synopsis in the program –

It’s Christmas Eve in Tinseltown and Sin-Dee is back on the block. Upon hearing that her pimp boyfriend hasn’t been faithful during the 28 days she was locked up, the working girl and her best friend, Alexandra, embark on a mission to get to the bottom of the scandalous rumor.

Sin-dee and Alexandra are two transsexual hookers, full of all the attitude you would expect. All the people in the film feel like island of misfit toys, each not quite belonging. Sin-Dee believes her pimp is faithful to her alone and does not see her prostitution as any deal breaker, the Iraqi cab picking up tranny hookers then returning to his family, Alexandra wanting to perform onstage, but having to pay for the privilege.

This is one that I’m not sure would hold up to repeated viewings, and is best  to watch with a friend so you can turn and say “what?” or more than a few times, “gross” (motel scene with multiple people having sex that only solidifies what you would think happens when your read the words “motel” and “sex”). Shows the gritty side of Sunset blvd for sure. You feel like you need a shower after, but the movie is a fun time none the less, ridiculous, over the top.

Festival Link

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Ivy

Turkish movie about a crew docked on a cargo ship. The ship owner has gone bankrupt and the skeleton crew volunteers to stay on the ship to be first in line to receive their pay, the catch being they cannot leave the ship. The movie deals with the sailors slowly going a little mad, food running out, boredom/paranoia ensuing.

The film uses the setting of the ship effectively, showing the close quarters and echoing of any little noise. The director does a great job of creating more tension using sound and the set.

Some very interesting things happen at the end when some of the sailors snap, but I’m not sure I entirely got what was going on. It’s one we should have stayed for the q&a, but hunger, the need to use the restroom and the rush to catch film won out, as is prone to happen at Sundance.

Festival Link

The Nightmare

Rodney Asher’s follow up to Room 327. The Nightmare, a documentary, tells the story of 8 different people who suffer from sleep paralysis. All eight of these subjects have similar experiences.

These incidents are realized in reenactments that are kind of terrifying. I found myself looking away from the screen not wanting those images in my brain. They are the type of things that are familiar to pop culture, the shadow man, aliens, evil cats, red eyes.

The movie references how these archetypes are seen throughout culture, from Henry Fuseli’s painting of The Nightmare to Nightmare on Elm Street.

My main criticism of this movie is they offer no scientific info, psychological or medical. Instead of filming so many stories, they would have been better off with fewer interviews of eye witnesses and more technical info about what they experienced. Especially in light that one of the subjects said they had “unusual EKG results”.

Still, that didn’t stop me of dreaming of beastly shadow men that night, so if the director’s intention was to scare the crap out of me, job pretty well done.

Festival Link

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Welcome to Leith

Documentary of what happened in a small town in North Dakota, leith, when an infamous white supremacist Craig Cobb, comes to town and starts quietly buying up land with the grand scheme of making the area a white haven. I was familiar with the story, having read about it as it was happening.

The film actually does a good job of staying fairly objective, showing Cobb and the towns people both attempting to get the best of each other, the towns people trying to stay within the law and not wanting their little slice of quiet life turned into a circus. Cobb tries to rile the townspeople by using his knowledge of their past tragedies, publishing personal information, walking the streets with machine gun and basically turning the little town into a powder keg.

Two SLC police officers stood guard in the screening, with good reason with how these groups act tend to act. Cops on guard makes for a tense movie experience.

Festival Link

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Turbo kid

Last movie we saw this year. This is the type of movie you want to see in a Festival setting where everyone is excited to be there and give themselves over to the movie. 80’s sounding soundtrack, lots of rainbow stripes, fists in the air. Not taking itself seriously at all, it wants to be laughed at it.

The movie takes place in a post apocalyptic future (or past since it is 1997), where water is short and the law is no where to be seen. Decapitations of heads and hands lead to blood gushing all over the place, limbs are replaced with robot parts. All the violence is so over the top it elicits laughter and groans from the audience rather than shielded eyes.

Nods to Soylent Green (guess what the water is made of), Mad Max, a little arm wrestling ala Over the Top (personal 80s fav).

Over all, just a lot of fun.

Festival Link

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