"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." –Maya Angelou. The official "tagline" (or motto or whatever it is) for the 2018 Sundance Film Festival is: "The Story Lives in You." This line of text is emblazoned upon all the banners, and shows up during the opening intro video before every single screening at the festival. At first I thought it was just a nice tagline, but after seeing over 30+ films here, I realize it's the very central theme of the festival. Almost every film I've seen has something to do with telling a very personal, intimate story. Yes, every film has a story to tell, that's what filmmaking is all about. But the more films I see here, the more I realize there is something unique about telling a personal story, expressing what's inside of you and your own experiences, and turning that into cinematic art. It's inspiring.
Another year, another Sundance. There's no place I'd rather be. I'm so so happy to be back again. This is my 12th year in a row returning to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, and I'm totally ready to jump in and start watching films. I've written so many of these introductory posts over the years, and I'm well aware that I usually just keep saying the same things over and over. But really, it's how things are at the start. It's all fresh - we have no idea what we're about to see, we don't really know which films will be good or bad, we don't know what we'll discover, we don't know what we'll end up loving (or hating) by the end. It's exciting to be here, nervously waiting for the doors to open and the projectors to fire up. Let's go watch some films.
Another year, another stellar slate of motion pictures seeing release. Despite what others might say about it (once again) being an off year at the movies, there were definitely some true winners worth seeking out. All you had to do was find them. Films that moved us, resonated with us, and out-and-out blew us away all saw release in 2017, so much of them, in fact, that, as with previous years at the cinema, it was difficult coming up with the 10 best. Here you will find my Top 10 Films of 2017, those motion pictures that spoke to me more than others, but someone else's Top 10 could just as easily be a completely different set of movies. It's a testament to just how strong a year is for movies that the Best Of lists are so diverse (view Adam's here).
Over the last 12 months, I've seen more than 100 new releases — that's over eight days of time in total spent watching new movies — and I'm happy to report that it's been another incredible year at the cinema, despite claims that "film is dead." This year, I was lucky enough to see vital new work by visionary filmmakers like Denis Villeneuve, Guillermo del Toro, Steven Spielberg, and Darren Aronofsky. I witnessed soul-stirring performances by Frances McDormand, Timothee Chalamet, Mary J. Blige, Willem Dafoe, Sally Hawkins, and Michael Stuhlbarg. And I was thoroughly entertained by emotionally engaging, visually impressive blockbusters like War for the Planet of the Apes, Wonder Woman, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Blade Runner 2049. So which films did I enjoy the most? Which are my favorites? Let's find out.
If two of the most anticipated movies from this year – Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049 – have anything in common, it's that they are both science fiction and fantasy movies rich with new ideas. In addition, they are also both polarizing films, garnering a divisive response from both hardcore Star Wars devotees and mainstream audiences. In this editorial, however, I want to examine another common thread that binds both movies: how they both deconstruct decades of shared franchise history to show how a hero can be anyone. Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Blade Runner 2049 have something characteristically in common. You might not have noticed this at first, but both films feature heroes, Daisy Ridley's Rey and Ryan Gosling's Officer K, that are more similar than you might think.
What's up next on the film festival tour? My next stop is at IDFA in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, in full known as International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. This is another film festival I've heard about for years, and I'm finally attending it for the first time. IDFA is known around the world as one of the premiere film festivals for documentaries. They only show and host documentaries at the festival (with a few exceptions) but that means it's all about truth and non-fiction and cinema as an important tool for telling stories from the real world. I'm very excited to be here, I love Amsterdam, and I'm happy to start watching more documentaries. I wasn't always a big fan of docs before, to be honest, but I am a big fan now.
There's an adorable little beach town, about a half hour south of Barcelona, called Sitges. Every year, this town hosts a film festival in October called, of course, the Sitges Film Festival. Officially it's known as the Festival Internacional de Cinema Fantàstic de Catalunya (website here). Sitges is a "genre" festival, in the same vein as Fantastic Fest, screening horror, action, sci-fi, thrillers, and any other wacky, weird little features they find around the world. This year Sitges celebrated its 50th year, and for that reason I decided to finally attend this festival that I've been hearing about for a while. Oh my goodness, it's amazing. One of the best festivals in the world, almost so good that I don't want to tell you about it, because part of it what makes it perfect is that it isn't overrun with people (yet). But, it is my job, so I will reveal a little bit about it.
"Sometimes to love someone… you have to be a stranger." Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049 is a unique creation. It comes 35 years after Ridley Scott's original masterpiece, which is a cult classic that was almost unanimously rejected at its original release by both audiences and critics. It's a sequel to a moody, atmospheric science fiction film being advertised as an event blockbuster. While Blade Runner 2049 is not an action film, it definitely should be viewed as an event. While mainstream audiences may not be swarming in large masses to see the film, there is no question to the film's majesty and beauty. Let's take a closer look at why Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049 is the perfect sequel and a singular creation in its own right.
"Venice was and is full of lost places where people put up for sale the last worn bits of their souls, hoping no one will buy." (-Ray Bradbury) The canals, the tiny streets, the little bridges, the amazing food. There's so much to love about Venice, the beautiful Italian city on the water. I wasn't sure what to expect attending the Venice Film Festival for my first time, but at the end of it all, I have to admit it is a wonderful festival in an extremely lovely city. At the beginning of the fest, I wrote about how much I love the Telluride Film Festival and how sad I was to skip that fest and attend this one instead. But, Venice stole my heart, and has shown me there's just as much to love about this festival as there is about Telluride. Not only do they show some of the best films every year, but there is a charm to the city that can't be found nearly anywhere else.
Spider-Man finally swung home. Back in February of 2015, I wrote about why Spider-Man swinging back to Marvel Studios would be a good thing for the famed webslinger. Now, two years later, we have Spider-Man: Homecoming, the sixth Spider-Man film that actually feels like the first. The film, which stars Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Michael Keaton as The Vulture, is exhilarating, extremely well-made and most excitingly of all, refreshing. It shows how you properly reboot a character like Spider-Man, cementing Kevin Fiege and Marvel Studios as creative powerhouses who truly care about these characters. Let's take a look at why Homecoming was the perfect Spidey reboot - and what's in store for him after this.
What a crazy few weeks it has been for Hollywood. As we all know, directors Phil Lord & Chris Miller were shockingly fired from Disney's still-untitled Han Solo project a few weeks ago. It was shocking because they were already several months into filming the new Star Wars Story movie, with only a couple of weeks remaining. Lucasfilm eventually announced that Ron Howard had been hired to replace them. Lord & Miller aren't the first directors to not work well within the studio system as of late. Jon Favreau, Edward Norton, Patty Jenkins and Edgar Wright have all faced similar problems in recent years. So, are auteur filmmakers doomed? Let's take a look at why studios like Disney & Marvel still need auteur filmmakers.
When a movie has the word "amazing" in the title, it comes with certain expectations. For The Amazing Spider-Man movies, however, they often failed to live up to their title. After Sam Raimi decided not to try to leave the franchise on a high note making Spider-Man 4, Sony and Columbia fast-tracked their plans to reboot Spider-Man. The response was mixed. After all, Spider-Man 3 had just come out a couple years before. Was a reboot needed so soon? That didn't stop the studio, however. The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, would revisit the origin story over two muddled films, star Andrew Garfield & Emma Stone and would be directed by 500 Days of Summer helmer Marc Webb. In the last installment of our Spider-Man retrospective series in anticipation of Spider-Man: Homecoming arriving, let's take a look at how Marc Webb's Amazing Spider-Man movies were, unfortunately, less than amazing.