The 2016 Sundance Film Festival has finally come to an end and to put a wrap on things and finalize our nearly two weeks of coverage, it's time to present our Best of the Fest list. This year it was only me (Alex) covering Sundance for FirstShowing, so I decided to simply reveal my own 5 favorite feature films and 5 favorite documentaries. There are always a couple of films that I didn't have time to see (The Intervention, Eyes of My Mother) that seem to be getting great buzz, just can't make it to everything. But I am very happy to say that I ended up seeing amazing films at Sundance this year that will be on my mind for a while. At least one (or maybe two) of these will end up on my Top 10 list at the end of the year. Let's get right into it.
Here we are at the bitter end once again. I don't know how I did it, but I hit 34 films for my 10th year the Sundance Film Festival. Have I mentioned how much I love Sundance? Yes, I definitely have. The more films I get to see at Sundance, the better, as the festival sets the pace for the rest of the year, introducing the world to a selection of movies that will likely earn even more acclaim as 2016 continues on. I've heard some of my colleagues say this wasn't a great year, but they're wrong. Sundance 2016 was a great year, and I saw some amazing films. Maybe they didn't see enough good films? Maybe they're too picky? I don't know. The Birth of a Nation and Manchester by the Sea will end up being two of the best films of the year, most critics will agree on that. But there are plenty other films I loved, and many more that I certainly enjoyed watching.
When you really think about it - film festivals are a bit crazy. They gather up 100+ films, show them all 3 or 4 times over the course of 10 days, invite thousands and thousands of movie fans to town, and most of us (at least many of my colleagues) watch as many of them as we can. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, we all get to tweet and discuss these films instantly, spreading the word about what's good (or bad) to fellow film fans who are not in attendance. While everyone else around the world is going about their normal day jobs, thousands of us (various members of the press, industry, cinephiles and beyond) are packing in 3, 4, or 5, sometimes even 6 films every day. We're desperate to see something that leaves us in awe. I adore festivals.
It all began in 2007. I drove 9 hours from Colorado across the Wyoming plains, down through the Wasatch Mountains into Park City. It took three days of begging the press office to get a press badge (we'd only been up and running for 7 months at that point), but I luckily had tickets to see films. Now I'm back, for my 10th year in a row, to attend and cover the Sundance Film Festival. (Thankfully I don't have to beg the press office for a badge anymore.) I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it - I love this festival. I feel like I grew up here, made so many friends here, saw so many of my favorite films here. To borrow a line from my friend Peter at /Film, "the Sundance Film Festival isn't just a film festival, but a look into the future of cinema."
"You shall ride eternal. Shiny, and chrome!" Looking back at 2015, it was an exceptional year for movies and if you don't feel the same way, you probably didn't see enough movies. I always struggle to put together a year end Top 10 list, mostly because there's so much I need to watch/rewatch and it's just not possible. This year I came up with a list of 12 movies from 2015, the last two added because I felt like they deserved a spot even though it was already full. These are the movies that I genuinely love the most, that connected with me and stayed with me throughout the entire year. Many of my favorites from 2015 are movies that, if you asked me about them at the beginning of the year, I would've admitted it's unlikely they'd end up here.
Another year comes to a close, another opportunity arises to reflect back on the best in film. As with any space of time, there were ups and downs in the film world throughout 2015. Many films brought with them huge levels of anticipation only to disappoint, some had small amounts of anticipation and completely blew us away. No one ever expects to make a bad film, and the best audience members never go into a film expecting – or wanting – to hate it. We all love movies. The varying levels with which we admire certain, specific films is what makes the entire art form as exciting as it is. The passion we all have for cinema is what keeps us scouring the theaters for the best the artists whose work we're experiencing have to offer.
In cinemas around the world this past weekend, millions of people came out to experience the new Star Wars movie on the big screen. It wasn't just an event, it was much more than that. It's an experience that moviegoers have been anxiously awaiting for years (technically 32 years since last saw Han & Leia & Luke), with many challenging themselves to not watch any footage before release. And I'm not just talking about waiting to see our old friends again, but savoring a chance to go in and experience a movie without any of the major plot points or big reveals being ruined before. It's this kind of communal cinematic experience, and the ensuing discussions/arguments/enthusiasm that arise afterward, that I relish. And it's something I feel has been missing from Hollywood recently. Of course it was Star Wars that brought that feeling back.
This Friday (and in some places, Thursday or even Wednesday night) moviegoers across the nation and even the world will be plopping down in their theater seats as they anxiously wait for the first frames of the first Star Wars movie in ten years, The Force Awakens, to unspool on their screens. The anticipation for this next chapter – directed by J.J. Abrams - in the Star Wars legacy is literally through the roof of the Millennium Falcon, with many lucky journalists and fans having seen the film at the extravagant World Premiere in Los Angeles on Monday. Early word of mouth has been generally positive so far, but let's take a look at why it will be okay if The Force Awakens doesn't meet your expectations.
After years of off-screen hell, the newest movie directed by Guillermo del Toro, titled Crimson Peak, comes out nationwide today to unleash a kind of cinematic hell upon viewers everywhere. However, much like every one of del Toro's films, even though Crimson Peak is being sold as a horror movie (it's not) it's actually far more tragic than terrifying. As del Toro has tried to bring to people's attention on Twitter and other forms of social media, Crimson Peak is much more of a gothic romance than a straight-up horror film. Unfortunately, most people will go into the film this weekend expecting to be scared out of their minds and instead they will find something much more tragic and somber. With that let's take a look at why Guillermo del Toro's movies are never what they seem – and why Crimson Peak is no different.
It was at his intro to Sion Sono's Tokyo Tribe at last year's Fantastic Fest that HitFix's Drew McWeeny put it best: "You are all my tribe," he said to the packed auditorium, and the sentiment was apparent even before the crowd erupted in of approval and applause. There really is no film festival quite like Alamo Drafthouse's Fantastic Fest - about to kick off its 11th year. There is no program like the one put together every year by Drafthouse and Fantastic Fest founder Tim League and his selection crew. There is no, and I stress this, NO crowd like a Fantastic Fest crowd, and the kinship felt among those who have attended and keep returning is undeniable. There's just something about Fantastic Fest.
The Star Wars universe has untapped cinematic potential. Even though we've already seen six Star Wars films and a seventh is on the way, Lucasfilm has barely scratched the surface of the expansive universe that exists within the Star Wars mythology. This is undoubtedly why many are very excited for the first spin-off movie in the Star Wars pantheon, Rogue One (subtitled "A Star Wars Story"). The film aims to explore a ragtag group of Rebels and their attempt to steal the Death Star plans, acting as a prequel to A New Hope. However, even though Rogue One is a prequel, it's not necessarily an origin story. It's not about any one particular individual or how they came to be – and it's all the more better for it. With that said, let's explore why the upcoming Star Wars spin-offs should avoid the origin story approach altogether.
There's nothing like the Telluride Film Festival. This year, with our expenses severely cut, I could only choose one fall film festival to attend (besides the New York Film Festival where I live) between Telluride, Toronto and Fantastic Fest. It's all I could afford. So, I chose the Telluride Film Festival. Why? Because I love this festival. It's only 3 days, and I can only fit in about 10 films, but I had to go back this year. Not only do they usually bring great films (and for the past few years the Best Picture winner has always premiered there) but there is also a certain atmosphere, a vibe, that no other festival has. I suppose it's the magic of the mountains, and the fact that it is a tiny town deep in the Rockies that you must drive into. But it's worth it.
It's time. Time to kick off the fall movie season. We're just about done with summer, the kids are back in school, and most importantly - the fall film festivals are about to kick off. The Venice Film Festival and Telluride Film Festival both open this week, with many big (and surprise) premieres planned. Right after that, the festival season continues with the Toronto International Film Festival and Fantastic Fest in Austin, leading to the New York Film Festival and AFI Fest in Los Angeles, not to mention the London Film Festival. That takes us right into the awards season of November/December. Whether you like it or not, or you hate the awards grind and endless campaigning, this is the time of year when all the good films roll out - last year's gems, surprising discoveries, more films to fall in love with. I'm ready to start watching.
After years of speculative buzz, Zack Snyder finally unveiled a complete look at where the future of DC is headed at Comic-Con with an extended trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Technically speaking, this is a sequel to Man of Steel, but Zack is adamant to remind fans that this is the beginning of something new (meaning: Justice League and other DC movies) and not so much a sequel to Superman's re-imagined origin. That said, it's clear with some of the footage in the trailer that these two movies connect directly. There's a shot of Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) on the ground in Metropolis watching Supes fight Zod as buildings collapse around him. This changes everything about Man of Steel. Or does it?