Second Annual Sundance Awards and Complete Review List
by Alex Billington
January 28, 2008
I tried to leave Park City today, but the powers that be wouldn't let me go! The snow was falling too hard and before long the only place I could go was my brother's condo in Salt Lake City. However, now I have the time I need to put together my comprehensive best of the fest awards and complete list of reviews from the Sundance Film Festival 2008. Although almost every straight drama was quite mediocre this year, there were some surprisingly impressive comedies. I know the five I've chosen below I will NOT forget and they'll all probably end up making it somewhere on my year end favorites list, too. Keep your eye on this list of films, they're guaranteed to be big hits sometime this year.
If you missed my ending heartfelt tribute to the Sundance Film Fest, then make sure you read it. It truly is the greatest film festival in the world and it's no lie when someone says that the best films of the year usually play at Sundance. Included within is Alex's Best of the Fest, a complete Sundance 2008 review list, links to all the daily coverage and interviews from the fest.
Brian Cox leads a great ensemble cast in The Escapist.
Alex's Best of the Fest:
#1 - The Escapist - Ever since I was a kid, Escape from Alcatraz has been one of my all-time favorite films. The Escapist is like Escape from Alcatraz, but ramped up 10x with more energy, a better score, and as commanding of a lead performance by Brian Cox as Eastwood. This movie just rocked me to the core. It's almost so good it doesn't deserve to be at Sundance. The Escapist packs one hell of a punch and is entertaining and energetic from its start to its riveting finish. Great characters, a well-written plot, an intricate escape plan, and that damn score, are all part of what made this my favorite film from this year's Sundance.
#2 - Assassination of a High School President - You take everything great from Brick, everything great from Rocket Science, and sprinkle in a better script and a cuter lead female, and you've got Assassination of a High School President. It was such a delightful surprise with a career-making performance from Reece Thompson and a script as amazing as Diablo Cody's work in Juno. This is the best high school movie in the last decade, hands down. It's guaranteed to be a huge hit too and I can't way to see the cultural impact that it will have on all generations.
#3 - Hell Ride - This movie was a fuckin' blast. It's obvious that when my favorite film of 2007 was Grindhouse, a biker flick with that same grindhouse feeling would hit big as well. Larry Bishop is as badass in person as he is in the film as biker gang president Pistolero. Your testicles will easily double in size after you watch this flick, and it is with great pleasure that I include it in my favorite films of Sundance list. It's a non-stop intense ride that never lets up.
#4 - American Teen - I'm really not a documentary guy at all. So when a documentary makes it on my favorites list from Sundance, that must mean something huge. American Teen really delivers in all that it sets out to do. I cried, I laughed, I smiled, and I cheered in American Teen. It's such a great portrait of the American high school system that it really hits on all the right elements of a solid film all-around, not just a documentary. No matter how old you are, there's something great for everyone in American Teen.
#5 - The Wackness - The audience favorite this year and a film that I know is destined to become classic within five years, The Wackness is a hilarious and visually impressive second feature from Jonathan Levine. My Sundance experience started and ended with The Wackness (I saw it twice), and both times I had the same feeling of satisfaction at the end. Ben Kingsley's character was wonderfully hilarious, Josh Peck gives a spot-on performance as the early-90's drug dealer, and Olivia Thirlby tops off the fantastic cast that makes up The Wackness. Whether you smoke weed or not, this is still an incredibly impressive and fun film that I loved every last minute of.
This year we've decided to also include Peter's (from SlashFilm) and Neil's (from Film School Rejects) best of the fest lists as well. The Sundance Film Festival is so subjective that it's not about only what I think is the best, but it's about finding hidden gems in all sorts of different films. And just for reference, if a movie is included on all three of our lists - then I'm pretty sure it is really damn good.
Neil from Film School Reject's Ten Best Films of Sundance:
#1 - Assassination of a High School President
#2 - The Wackness
#3 - American Teen
#4 - Gonzo: The Life and Work Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
#5 - Be Kind Rewind
#6 - Smart People
#7 - Towelhead
#8 - Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?
#9 - Choke
#10 - Sunshine Cleaning
Peter from SlashFilm's Best of the Fest:
List Currently Unavailable
Complete Sundance 2008 Review List:
(Sorted by rating - out of 10)
9.5 - Hell Ride (Dir: Larry Bishop)
9 - The Wackness (Dir: Jonathan Levine)
9 - Smart People (Dir: Noam Murro)
9 - Baghead (Dir: Mark and Jay Duplass)
9 - The Escapist (Dir: Rupert Wyatt)
9 - Assassination of a High School President (Dir: Brett Simon)
9 - American Teen (Dir: Nanette Burstein)
8.5 - In Bruges (Dir: Martin McDonagh)
8.5 - Hamlet 2 (Dir: Andrew Fleming)
8 - The Great Buck Howard (Dir: Sean McGinly)
8 - Be Kind Rewind (Dir: Michel Gondry)
8 - Phoebe in Wonderland (Dir: Daniel Barnz)
8 - Sugar (Dir: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck)
8 - Mysteries of Pittsburgh (Dir: Rawson Marshall Thurber)
8 - Funny Games (Dir: Michael Haneke)
7.5 - Choke (Dir: Clark Gregg)
7 - Pretty Bird (Dir: Paul Schneider)
7 - Chronic Town (Dir: Tom Hines)
7 - Where in the World is Osama bin Laden? (Dir: Morgan Spurlock)
6.5 - Sunshine Cleaning (Dir: Christine Jeffs)
6 - Red (Dir: Trygve Allister Diesen)
6 - Frozen River (Dir: Courtney Hunt)
5.5 - Sleep Dealer (Dir: Alex Rivera)
5 - The Yellow Handkerchief (Dir: Udayan Prasad)
5 - Sleepwalking (Dir: William Maher)
5 - Goliath (Dir: David Zellner)
5 - Good Dick (Dir: Marianna Palka)
4 - Death in Love (Dir: Boaz Yakin)
3 - Blind Date (Dir: Stanley Tucci)
2 - Quid Pro Quo (Dir: Carlos Brooks)
0 - Otto; or Up with Dead People (Dir: Bruce LaBruce)
Sundance 2008 Daily Blog:
Day 10: We've Reached the End
Day 8: It's All About High School!
Day 7: Let It Snow - Park City Style!
Day 6: The Critics Battle and Larry Bishop
Day 4: It's Rob! And I've Got a Damn Cold!
Day 3: Will Do Anything For Tickets!
Day 2: Tom Hanks and Zombie Porn
Day 1: Cold, Tired, Hungry, But Plenty of Movies!
Alex's Sundance 08 Pre-Fest Picks and Peeks
Sundance 2008 Filmmaker Interviews:
Hell Ride Director/Writer/Actor Larry Bishop
Michael Madsen from Hell Ride
The Wackness Director Jonathan Levine
Baghead Directors Mark and Jay Duplass
See you next January in Park City! And keep your eye on all of these films and more...
Thanks to user hustler of culture for the photo from Flickr.