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My Verdict on Sundance 2011: Not Half Bad

My Verdict on Sundance 2011: Not Half Bad

Okay, it was actually better than half-bad. I’d say it was pretty good. While Sundance 2011 still has a few more days to ago, it’s over for me. Back in New York, I’ll be catching up on a few smaller titles on DVD, but my festival experience is finished.

Covering about 15 films in 5 days, not to mention the handful I caught pre-fest, I’d say the majority were worth watching. And even the ones that I thought were lame (see “Like Crazy”), they were useful to see in order to join the conversation. I do think that lowered expectations also helped make my Sundance satisfying. In contrast to Cannes, which I found to be a total disappointment last time around, I don’t go into Sundance with the same sort of anticipation or high cinematic bar to reach. I think that’s why I gave films like “Higher Ground” and “Cedar Rapids” such positive reviews in my work for Screen Daily. I was just happy to see something decent that made me laugh.

Here’s a list of the Sundance films I saw, partitioned into easily identifiable categories of appreciation (and dislike), with links when relevant:

Very Good:

“Perfect Sense” – Screen review. Going in, I never thought this was going to have as much of an impact as it did. I was expecting some sci-fi Europudding mess like “It’s All About Love.” But when the epidemic hits, making the afflicted suddenly break down in overwhelming grief, I was hooked. Upon reflection, it may be my favorite of the fest.
“The Future” — Miranda July’s funny, philosophical and endearing sophomore effort requires a second viewing for a full evaluation. But I know that one sequence — in which July dances entirely encased in a large T-shirt — will undoubtedly go down as my most vivid Sundance memory.
“Martha Mary Marcy Marlene” – Screen review.
“Project Nim” – Screen review.
“Terri” – Screen review.

Good:

“If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front” – an interview with director Marshall Curry at WSJ.com.

Guilty Pleasures:

“The Devil’s Double” – Screen review.
“Cedar Rapids” – Screen review.
“Uncle Kent” — Not nearly as bad as initial reviews suggested, Joe Swanberg’s latest taps into familiar veins of loneliness and sexual neediness in the digital age. I thought it was pretty funny, with one three-way sex scene — in which the 40-year-old slacker hero can only get into the mix by petting one of the girl’s feet — is as good as early Woody Allen.

Respectable Art-house Entertainment:

“Higher Ground” – Screen review.
“Win Win” – Screen review.

Ambitious, Intriguing Mess:

“The Details – Screen review.
“Red State” – Screen review.
“Vampire” – Screen review.

Lame:

“Like Crazy” – Screen review.
“Salvation Boulevard” – Screen review.
“The Off Hours”
“The Lie”

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