Sundance '13 Blog: Reflecting on Self-Reflection in a World of Cinema
by Alex Billington
January 22, 2013
Why do we watch movies? Why do we go to film festivals? What does all of this really mean? Is there more to cinema than just entertainment? Asking these questions is the way I continue to challenge myself while at this festival. It's the beginning of Day 6 at Sundance 2013, I'm 16 films in (with three more today and four more days to go) and I can't help but take a brief pause to think about my life at this point. The other night I caught the world premiere of Before Midnight, the third film in the Before Sunrise/Sunset series from Richard Linklater, and it floored me. But left me an emotional mess and I've been different ever since.
Whenever I return home from Sundance every January, I'm a different person. This is my New Year. That may sound cheesy, but it's the honest truth. I'm admittedly not a fan of the conventional New Years Eve and don't do much to celebrate. Instead, I patiently wait for the first two weeks of every January until Sundance rolls around. The festival kicks off, I travel to Park City, UT for two weeks (12 days in total), watch over 20 incredible, emotion, powerful films, and return home a changed man. I return home more reflexive of who I am, this world, the people in it; moved by the films I've seen, the experiences I've had, the people I've met.
My experiences this year, in 2013, have been particularly moving, particularly affecting and maybe even life-changing. In personal ways and in cinematic ways, and we're barely half way through the fest. It's not even over yet, with at least four more days of films and lots more to see. A few of my most anticipated films I haven't even seen yet, they haven't even premiered at all. But what I have seen has already changed me. My favorite films so far, The Spectacular Now, Before Midnight, Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, have been the ones that have left me the most emotionally stimulated. They're the ones I've thought about the most and, I think more importantly, have reflected back upon myself in brutally honest ways. I can't help it.
It's truthfully not easy to talk about these emotions, these thoughts, it's not easy to even think about all of this honestly. But a film like Before Midnight, where it addresses this exact issues so genuinely so perfectly, is the kind that I love seeing. The kind of film that gets to me the most. The recurring theme this year, or maybe I should say in life, everywhere, is love. The mystery of it, the power of it, what it pushes us to do, where it takes us, even if it's against everything we feel is right. We can't help it. It's there, it's a driving force in this world, and capturing that power on celluloid in a way that can then move other people who have no connection is ultimately the real beauty of cinema. And it's certainly found in Park City, especially this year.
While I could go on and on about how these films continue to force me to reflect upon myself, my ultimate hope is for these wonderful films to make it out to the public so that others can have the same experiences. As I've said before, cinema is global, it can affect anyone on any level anywhere around the world. While the films may only be playing here in Utah right now, the best of the bunch will soon make their way around the world, and the feelings they'll eventually evoke will be personal to each and every viewer, but nonetheless genuine. And that's where it really counts. That's when you know cinema is more than just entertainment.
Here's an updated list of all the films I've seen at the 2013 festival so far with a quick reaction for each one.
Alex's Sundance 2013 Films:
1. Who is Dayani Cristal? (dir. Marc Silver) - Liked It
2. Crystal Fairy (dir. Sebastián Silva) - Hated It
3. Shopping (dirs. Mark Albiston & Louis Sutherland) - Liked It
4. The Spectacular Now (dir. James Ponsoldt) - LOVED It
5. Don Jon's Addiction (dir. Joseph Gordon-Levitt) - Loved It
6. Touchy Feely (dir. Lynn Shelton) - Hated It
7. Breathe In (dir. Drake Doremus) - Liked It
8. It Felt Like Love (dir. Eliza Hittman) - Just Okay
9. S-VHS (dirs. Simon Barrett, Jason Eisener, Gareth Evans, Eduardo Sánchez, Adam Wingard) - Loved It
10. Ain't Them Bodies Saints (dir. David Lowery) - Loved It
11. The East (dir. Zal Batmanglij) - Loved It
12. Stoker (dir. Chan-wook Park) - Liked It
13. Before Midnight (dir. Richard Linklater) - LOVED It
14. Upstream Color (dir. Shane Carruth) - Just Okay
15. The Way, Way Back (dirs. Nat Faxon & Jim Rash) - Liked It
16. Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman (dir. Fredrik Bond) - Loved It
Reader Feedback - 5 Comments
Are there any female film bloggers at these festivals? Whenever you do a reaction video it's always the same guys weighing in on the film. You need to find a woman equally passionate about film and traveling, but that's easier said than done. Maybe you already have a girlfriend though and I just missed your point of why films based on love are emotionally draining. I find the opposite happens with me when I watch dramatic stories of romance because they're usually very idealistic which make them hard to relate to in a pragmatic way. I feel like if you take your advice on love from a movie then you're going to end up alone because it's a fantasy of what love is and the reality is that it takes a lot of endurance and compromise. The worst advice on love I ever got from a film in my late teens was that if a girl says no she really means she wants you to try harder and fight for her. This one concept nearly ruined my life because rejection felt like a personal failure rather than just two people not being compatible. I fell into that same rut when I became obsessed with romantic films, but you don't need love to be perfect, you just need a partner who will have your back despite their shortcomings. Film teaches you to put love on a pedestal when in reality it's really hard work. The one time that a film came close to describing real love was when Robin Williams was describing his wife farting in the bed in Good Will Hunting.
Matt Peloquin on Jan 22, 2013
I'm young, so there is a chance (a HUGE fucking chance, in fact there's a 100% chance) that I'm wrong, but the way I always looked at romance films was from a standpoint that they don't explain how to get love, how it is supposed to feel, but rather how one knows when s/he finds it. Or, another thing I've always thought they were supposed to do, is describe exactly how it SHOULDN'T feel (Blue Valentine, my eye is on you). I love that scene you're describing from Good Will Hunting, a great film that should have won Best Picture, but the example that always comes to mind is the first third of Drive. That seems absolutely stupid, I'm sure, but it is. The way the Driver felt towards Irene and Benecio, the way that words weren't needed, the way he seemed to do literally anything to make sure she had a better life... That's love. He seemed sad when Standard came, as her husband, but was accepting, knowing that it wasn't his time. There was a certain level of understanding between the two of them I absolutely adored. That's what I hope love is like, that's what I think romantic films are supposed to do, and that's what I think Alex was getting at. Truly romantic films help you find the way.
Greg dinskisk on Jan 22, 2013
Need a STOKER video nyao!!!
DAVIDPD on Jan 22, 2013
Alex, I think I mentioned before you left that I hope you found at least one film you absolutely adored, and so far it seems that you have!!! I'm glad you did!!! I cannot WAIT to see Before Midnight and The Spectacular Now, thanks for posting reviews for them! They're both on my radar now, especially Before Midnight!!! =) Also, sorry for my 5-page reply, @facebook-100001441031047:disqus.
Greg dinskisk on Jan 22, 2013
Thanks @Alex for sharing you personal thoughts and feelings about film. Film has been one of the most important parts in the development of my thoughts, ideas, views, and outlooks. I love films that challenge previously held notions or assumptions that I have had about the world. I often find that many films have caused me to carefully analyse how I think about what is happening around me. I appreciate your love for film and I always enjoy reading your posts. Thanks!
Isaac Prows on Jan 22, 2013
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