Looking Again at Sundance 2012
The Sundance Film Festival takes place every January right here in the heart of exotic Utah but, although players come from all over the world to be present at this illustrious affair, to many Utahans this event is little more than a nuisance that makes the streets and ski resorts unnaturally crowded.
However, to me and Jason Sundance is a chance to get an exclusive look at some pretty awesome, and sometimes not, indie films and catch the movie makers and actors.
This year Jason and I again pulled our act together and remembered to register for the locals passes in the fall. We shared half of our tickets with a few lucky friends. (Yes, you are very fortunate that we are willing to let you benefit from all the planning and shuffling we have to do in order to get tickets.) That left me and Jason with passes to five shows, five movie surprises.
As I’ve always said, at the Sundance Film Festival you get a singular opportunity to see movies without any critics telling you what you should think about them. With no trailers to whet your appetite, no ratings to enthrall or appall you, nothing to recommend a show, you are free to experience it with no expectations or preconceptions. Since everyone’s opinion about everything is available at the click of a mouse these days, concluding without the collective is a rare treat indeed.
The downside to not knowing anything about a movie before you see it is that you don’t know anything about it before you see it. You are occasionally amazed, sometimes caught off guard, and quite often just plain confused. But who wouldn’t want to play a little cinematic roulette?
Here’s what we saw:
Bones Brigade: an Autobiography was my favorite film this year. The documentaries at Sundance are generally superb and without fail one of them ends up my top pick every time. This year this one was it. If “Bones Brigade” stirs up thoughts of burial site digging Indiana Jones types then either you weren’t around in the 80s or you were completely oblivious back then. The Bones Brigade was a team of skateboarders that brought the sport up a notch twenty plus years ago. Heard of Tony Hawk? Maybe Steve Caballero? Or Rodney Mullen? How about the tricks they invented when they were merely teenagers: the McTwist, Ollie Pop, Kickflip, Caballerial? If not, you best be a googling.
I’m no skateboarding expert but I still loved this show and was very impressed by the Brigade in general and their treatment of their fans. Nearly all of the gang showed up at our screening to sign posters including Mike McGill, Steve Caballero, Tommy Guerrero, Rodney Mullen, Lance Mountain, and their old manager, the skateboarding legend, Stacy Peralta. Hawk was the only one missing; apparently he had contractual obligations in Australia. All the boys were exceptionally nice but Rodney was an absolute sweetheart.
Declaration of War was a very French portrayal of a couple’s experience when their two-year old son is diagnosed with a rare brain cancer. It was sad and strangely European yet still universally appealing.
Beasts of the Southern Wild was a fantastical journey into the disappearing cultures of the Deep South as seen through the eyes of a fierce darling girl. The unusual characters of this show live in a world almost as extraordinary as the one fabricated by that little munchkin.
I won’t lie, Compliance was one of the hardest movies to watch that I’ve ever seen. It was well done but the subject matter, based on true events, was a depressing commentary on human nature and the power of authoritative figures. The audience was constantly squirming throughout and not all of us made it through.
Grabbers was a fun throwback to the monster movie classics. It was more intense than disturbing and giggling spots were found throughout. I really enjoyed its mix of horror and humor.
We had another satisfying Sundance experience. We saw shows that made us writhe, cry, jump, long to jump, and contemplate the complexities of human behavior. Not too bad for a bunch of films we chose based on a few synoptic sentences.