SUNDANCE 2022

Sundance 2022: Ramin Bahrani's Incredibly Good '2nd Chance' Doc

2nd Chance Review

Who would've thought that a documentary about some bozo that invented a new bulletproof vest would be this fascinating and this unsettling?! But that's exactly why I had to watch this film and find out what it's all about and holy sh*t, it's totally nuts! This guy is nuts! But that is the story, that's the entire point of making this film. Another tale of the "American Dream" gone wrong. Iranian-American filmmaker Ramin Bahrani (making his first doc after many features including Man Push Cart, Chop Shop, At Any Price, 99 Homes, The White Tiger) has cooked up his version "Tiger King" with this documentary called 2nd Chance, which just premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. The engrossing documentary tells the story of Richard Davis, a doofus from Michigan that somehow invented some lightweight bulletproof vests as part of a police fanboy fantasy. The way it plays out from there is totally crazy, and it gets even crazier as the story goes on.

Sundance 2022: Alex's 10 Favorite Films - The Best of the 2022 Festival

Sundance 2022 Best of the Fest

The 2022 Sundance Film Festival wrapped up last week after a series of virtual premieres. Now it's time to present our annual Best of the Fest list. I was able to catch a total of 60 films this year (my full list on Letterboxd), watching online from home (to stay safe and save some money). This is my 16th year in a row covering Sundance, and this fest still has a special place in my heart. I am always excited about the films and filmmakers they bring. I am presenting one big list of my 10 favorite films - a mix of docs and features. All of these below are worth watching, and I highly recommend seeking them out whenever they show up at your local cinema. I am glad Sundance has continued to do their best with a film festival even in this crazy times during an ongoing pandemic, because we all need good cinema like this. Below are my favorites, the films that connected with me and have remained on my mind all the way through the 10 days of the festival.

Sundance 2022: Oliver Hermanus' Ravishing 'Ikiru' Remake 'Living'

Living Review

"I don't know what I've been doing with my life all these years." It's time to start living! I finally watched the Akira Kurosawa classic Ikiru (from 1952) just last year, and of course it's wonderful. I had no idea that the film was getting a remake for its 70th anniversary, and I didn't even realize this new film is that remake until I caught others chatting about it during the festival. Living just premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and it is indeed a remake of Ikiru, with multiple references in the opening credits to Kurosawa and the film's original writers - Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, and Hideo Oguni. South African director Oliver Hermanus worked with Japanese writer Kazuo Ishiguro (!!) to adapt and update the 1952 script, and create this new film set in London instead of Japan. And I am very happy to report this is one of those rare remakes that is as good as the original. Critics have been raving about it, and yes it deserves the praise.

Sundance 2022: A Vietnamese 'E.T.' - Kids Sci-Fi Adventure 'Maika'

Maika Review

Hidden in the "Kids" section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival is this kooky, cheesy, fun kids movie called Maika from Vietnam. I don't even know how or why the festival decided to include this movie, because it's barely good enough to be considered a TV movie, but it does slide right into the so-bad-it's-good territory a few times. As ridiculous and impractical as this movie is, it's honestly so likable and so charming. One geeky Vietnamese kid gets caught up in an adventure with an alien girl who helps him save the day and take out some bullies. I can't help but admit it's harmless "kids movie" fun and I'm glad I watched it; goofy cinema but worth it. For all the really bad scenes in this, there are some really wonderful scenes that balance things out. It's an entertaining, earnest sci-fi story with some truly mediocre VFX with its heart in the right place.

Sundance 2022 Awards: 'Nanny' & 'The Exiles' Win Grand Jury Prizes

Sundance 2022 Awards

The official awards for the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, usually held in Park City, Utah every January, were announced this evening with a small ceremony held on social media. The festival continued on with an at-home online event after the in-person show in Utah was cancelled. Nonetheless, there were many great films to discover at the festival this year. Sundance gives Jury Awards and it also gives out Audience Awards, voted on by any and every viewer after they watch the film. The prizes this year are a completely surprising, eclectic mix of interesting films all around. None of what I was expecting, except for Cha Cha Real Smooth, but I'm glad to see the jury going with their gut(s) anyway. As always, if any of these films interest you, we hope you note them down and take the time to watch as soon as you can. All 2022 winners are listed below.

Sundance 2022: An Inspiring Indigenous Story in 'The Territory' Doc

The Territory Review

Fight the power!! One of the best documentary films premiering at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival is a story of an Indigenous tribe in the Amazon rainforest. The film is called The Territory, and it's made by an up-and-coming filmmaker named Alex Pritz, making his first feature, and it's produced by none other than Darren Aronofsky and his company Protozoa Pictures. The film features some of my favorite scenes in any doc film at the festival, following these people around their territory as they defend their land from non-Native invaders. The film very diligently and very empathetically establishes a dual narrative, and also very carefully uses the right words to describe how these Natives are being attacked by dangerous outsiders. I only caught up with this film late in the festival, after watching nearly 50 other films, and it still completely rocked me. Powerful filmmaking combined with a powerful must-tell story makes for an unforgettable film.

It Came From Finland! 'Hatching' and 'Girl Picture' at Sundance 2022

Hatching - Sundance 2022

There are two excellent films from Finland playing at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival this year. Both are great discoveries at the fest – and both deserve to be talked about, too. The first one is a portrait of Finnish youth called Girl Picture, though the original Finnish title is much better - Tytöt Tytöt Tytöt which just translates to Girls Girls Girls (watch the trailer). The second one is a freaky little horror comedy film called Hatching, also known as Pahanhautoja in Finnish (watch the trailer), about a girl who finds a strange egg that becomes big and hatches something evil. Both of them feature similar themes of perfectionism, growing up, what it's like to be a girl in Finland, and how hard it is to deal with parents. But they're very different films and I'm delighted to report that each one is enjoyable and worth watching. While there are plenty of films coming out of Norway & Sweden already, talented Finnish filmmakers are finally on the rise now, too.

Sundance 2022: Friendship Comedy 'Am I OK?' with Dakota Johnson

Am I OK? Review

This is the story of Lucy and Jane – two friends who have always been best friends. This is the story of two women who finally realize it's time to grow up and figure themselves out on their own. Am I OK? is a new buddy comedy made by actors / lovers / partners Stephanie Allynne & Tig Notaro, both making their feature directorial debut. In addition to making a film about friendship and how important that is, this film is meant as a guide for young women who are struggling to come to grips with a realization that they might be lesbian or bisexual or queer or whatever. The film is about a woman who, at age 32, realizes she has never dealt with the feelings deep inside her telling her she might not be straight. But instead of encountering hate or other trouble, Notaro & Allynne made a film that offers support and understanding. It's a compassionate comedy that will make you laugh and smile, and by the end you'll feel much better. No matter who you are.

Sundance 2022: Aubrey Plaza Finds a New Life in 'Emily the Criminal'

Emily the Criminal Review

Yo ho, a criminal's life for me. Maybe doing something illegal might actually be better than working a "real" job? There's clever commentary worked into this new film about the inherent problems with capitalism and corporate culture, ultimately hinting that the quickest and easiest way to earn money might actually be the best way. Which is why so many people choose this path instead of a formal career. Emily the Criminal is a slick, engaging credit card scam heist thriller starring Aubrey Plaza - who also produced the film. This is one of the final premieres at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and it's a late fest highlight, one of my faves. It remains hyper focused and never wanders, with a 96 minute runtime that is just right for this story. A few critics have compared it to Uncut Gems, but I'd say it's much more similar to the black jack scam movie 21.

Sundance 2022: Something's Not Right in Extra Eerie 'Resurrection'

Resurrection Review

There's something wrong with Maggie. She is not who she seems. But I'll get back to that. Resurrection is an exceedingly eerie thriller premiering at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and it's one of the best films I've seen at the festival this year. This meticulously crafted film follows in the footsteps of Yorgos Lanthimos' The Killing of a Sacred Deer as an unsettling film that gets crazier and crazier as it carries on. There are no easy answers, in fact there are no answers at all. The film hides many details in almost every single frame, and there's a foreboding feeling that builds throughout. I think a key part of my enjoyment experiencing this film is not knowing anything about it before watching. Festivals offer us this very special opportunity to discover films that have never been shown publicly before, there's no marketing or PR around them yet, all we have to work with is a vague synopsis and photo. The rest we discover as the film unveils at its premiere.

Sundance 2022: Embracing Pleasure in 'Good Luck to You, Leo Grande'

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

This is a knock out! There is nothing wrong with enjoying sex. But we still live in a world that pushes back against this. There's still many people who believe it is this taboo, private thing, and the only real use for it is creating children. Or something that they don't have control over because they never learned about their own body. This film finally pushes back against this misunderstanding and intolerance, and reminds us that we all need to learn to appreciate and enjoy sex more. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a lovely little revolutionary film about sex and pleasure, directed by the Australian filmmaker Sophie Hyde (director of Animals previously), from a screenplay written by Katy Brand. It's a beautifully intimate, honest one-room drama about a woman who, at age 55, finally wants to have some real, good sex. And though she's afraid of it, and has never had an orgasm, with the right conversation and right touch, she's finally ready to open up.

Sundance 2022: Jesse Eisenberg's 'When You Finish Saving the World'

When You Finish Saving the World

Once you finish saving the world, don't forget about your family either. American actor Jesse Eisenberg is one of the next actors to try their hand at filmmaking. His feature directorial debut is a film called When You Finish Saving the World, which premiered on Opening Night at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. It's both written and directed by Eisenberg, but he doesn't appear in it. He's made a film that seems to be a personal story inspired by his own experiences growing up (and falling for a smart girl) about the disconnect among a dysfunctional American family. The festival introduction at the beginning of the screening included a mention the film The Squid and the Whale, Noah Baumbach's 2005 drama that also played at Sundance. It's apparent that Eisenberg loves this film as much as everyone else because When You Finish Saving the World is very much the same style, the same kind of story about a family, and the same kind of film overall.

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