When it comes to the next generation of filmmakers, Jonathan Levine is one of the few who is leading the way. His film from Sundance this year, The Wackness, was a huge hit that played well with audiences of all ages, eventually winning the coveted Audience Award. Thankfully we had the opportunity to sit down and chat with this up-and-coming filmmaker and talk about everything from memories of 1994 to Biggie to marijuana to Kubrick and even There Will Be Blood. I'm very glad I had this chance to talk with Levine, because not only is his film The Wackness one of the best this year, but he had a lot to say. If you're curious to know more about The Wackness or just want to hear what goes on in a filmmaker's mind, then this interview is a must read.
There is probably no one more badass both in person and on-screen than Larry Bishop. This guy has been riding motorcycles and making biker films for over 40 years. Although, most may know him as the "asshole on the elbow" club owner from Kill Bill Vol. 2. A couple years back, before even Kill Bill was being filmed, Quentin Tarantino discovered Bishop and gave him the opportunity of a lifetime. Now Larry Bishop is here as the writer, director, and lead actor, in Hell Ride, a awesomely fun exploitation grindhouse-like biker flick that's a throwback to Bishop's motorcycle films from the 60's. Luckily I had the opportunity to chat with Bishop while at Sundance about everything from Quentin Tarantino, to motorcycles, to Marlon Brando.
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.
Almost in the blink of an eye, the Sundance Film Festival is over and February has arrived. Every year I lament the last day of the festival, where I celebrate the last 10 days of movies, filmmakers, friends, and snow, by enjoying one last meal at Main Street Pizza & Noodle. My eyes fill with tears that instantly freeze as I walk through the cold and snow one last time to our condo to begin packing for the long trip home. I love everything about Sundance: the sights, the sounds, the smells, the snow, the people, my friends, the crowded buses, the movie theaters - every last detail. It's sad that it's over, but it's two weeks that I'll never forget.
The end is near... or is the end here? Either way, the official award winners of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival have been announced. The big winners are Trouble the Water for Grand Jury Prize, Documentary and Frozen River for Grand Jury Prize, Drama, two movies I never saw or heard much buzz about at all. However, The Wackness took the Audience Award prize this year and I am more than happy that it got some awards mention. Another upset was Sleep Dealer, a movie I did not like at all, that won the screenwriting award and technology award. Read on for the complete list of Sundance winners!
Two more Sundance acquisitions have been confirmed, and they're both two of my favorite films from the fest. The lil' low budget comedy horror movie from the Duplass Brothers titled Baghead was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics for under $1 million. And one of the most highly praised films of the fest, The Wackness, was finally also picked up by Sony Pictures Classics for a reported sale in the low seven figures. What a glorious time at Sundance - two new purchases means two great films on their way to theaters for all of you to see!
I just hit the 30 film mark at Sundance (in 8 days, mind you) and I'm getting quite exhausted. The funny thing is I just want to go home and relax... and watch more movies. I'm getting burned out on these bad indie movies, and I just want to watch some good shit when I get home. The last really good day was Wednesday, where I saw quite a few fantastic movies (see below). Although, American Teen last night and Hamlet 2 this morning were refreshingly fun films as well. Speaking of those two, I've discovered one of Sundance 2008's big trends - high school movies. Don't believe me? Let's explore this topic a bit further.
Written, directed, and starring Marianna Palka, Good Dick is a bland romantic drama about video store clerk that is obsessed with one of his weird customers. I'm a fan of some very low budget indie filmmaking, including being involved in every aspects of the film, like Marianna was, but with Good Dick the result is a bland mess, with issues arising from the script and progressing into every other element of the film. Although, the more I think about it, the more the story's sweeter elements come to mind, but I can't forget that it was almost painful to watch.
Anything with Ellen Page is usually guaranteed to be great, except maybe X-Men 3. Smart People is a surprisingly impressive, remarkably fun, and completely entertaining ensemble comedy. Even though the film is about a professor from Carnegie Mellon University, the college I attended, and was shot on the campus, I wasn't ready for the kind of great dialogue and quirky humor that Smart People is full of. It truly is a smart film with plenty to offer, including Thomas Haden Church's funniest performance since Sideways.
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is the second of two movies from Sundance that were set and filmed in Pittsburgh, a city I spent most of my college years living in (the other movie was Smart People). That alone got me interested in this and I went in looking forward to something funny and cheesy, particularly because of Rawson Marshall Thurber's previous film, Dodgeball. What I discovered was not particularly funny, but rather a very endearing drama with a wonderful score and great characters. It's not anything close to a masterpiece, but Mysteries of Pittsburgh is still a great film.
When it comes to documentaries, it takes a lot to impress and even more to entertain me. Thankfully American Teen did both - it was often hilarious, even at parts I'm sure I wasn't support to laugh; it brought out intense emotions, including frustration and sadness; and got me thinking about our society implications more than any other movie in the last few years. This is a brilliant documentary that explores the American high school system in an unforgettable way.
I'm sure you're thinking, a guy from Colorado wouldn't be mesmerized by snow, and I wasn't. It was just a great day because right smack in the middle of it, some thick, heavy snow started falling. It didn't last too long (damn!), but it did give me enough time to ride over to Main Street downtown and go on a quick photo shoot before catching my 5:30PM movie. And beyond that, it was a glorious and good day in Park City. Not only did I catch three more movies, one being incredible, but I interviewed three great filmmakers. And when that happens, I go to bed with a big smile on my face.
› Posted January 25 in Sundance 08 |
Let's just get right into this. Funny Games is a remake of a 1997 film of the same name that's directed by the same filmmaker, Michael Haneke. The only change is that it's in English, not in German. I'm not going to be shy on my thoughts. People are going to HATE this movie, absolutely hate it (in fact, I think I even know one). There are more than a few reasons why, most of which I'm not going to mention for spoilers sake, but be warned. Funny Games twists your heart and screws with your emotions, and that's not even all that it does either.
I love high school movies, don't you? With the Sundance 2005 film Brick, high school movies finally could be smart, interesting, and entertaining. With Assassination of a High School President at Sundance this year, I've discovered yet another great high school movie that combines the strength of both Brick and last year's Rocket Science to create one awesome unforgettable film. I went into this not even looking forward to seeing it and was delightfully surprised.