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Sundance 2012: The Great, the Good, and the Blah

Sundance 2012: The Great, the Good, and the Blah

I’m finished with Sundance 2012. And despite some painfully frustrating circuitous shuttle rides, this year’s American independent movie brouhaha was a fairly good one. As I have mentioned before: some strong docs, as always, and a number of bold indie films that dared to go against the commercial grain.

I count a total of four movies—two from U.S. directors—that I believe are powerful works of cinematic storytelling that spoke to my personal tastes. Which, as I also mentioned previously, is just enough to make it a memorable festival. And there are probably a handful of New Frontiers films I should have seen and would have appreciated, but didn’t have the time to seek out. Ay, that’s the rub of Sundance.

Indeed, I feel sorry for all those reporters who had to attend the glossy films in the Premieres section every night—nearly every one of them a more tiresome and banal reflection of what middlebrow movies can be. For all those who loved “The Surrogate,” I say look past the tender subject matter, and at the movie more closely and you’ll begin to see its faults, its slim character development, its awkward intercutting. And this is a movie that should have everyone in the audience bawling by the end. But it’s just not that good.

Anyway, here’s my evaluative breakdown of the 18 films I saw from Sundance 2012:

Top of the heap…

“Searching for Sugar Man” – blurb
“Compliance” – review
“Simon Killer” – review
“The Law In These Parts” – blurb


“Safety Not Guaranteed” – review
“The End of Love” – review
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” – review

Strong Docs…

“The Imposter”
“Under African Skies” – review
“Playback” – review
“The House I Live In” – review

Solid, but not for me…

“Keep The Lights On” – review
“The Surrogate” – review

Still wrestling with…

“Nobody Walks” – review

Watcheable mainstream blah…

“Robot and Frank”
“Arbitrage” – review

Just plain annoying….

“2 Days in New York” – review

This Article is related to: News


Jon Haskell

I'm enjoying the blog. I was wondering if u can take credit for declaring "Celeste+Jess Forever"
Is an "Overwhelming underwhelm"?


agree with most but the american tendency to lop onto imitation euro films still astounds me. while technically ok, simon killer was mostly just a bore–compliance pushed more buttons in a much more nuanced way. moreover if you have issues with character development in the surrogate, id dare you to rewatch SK–although I don't especially want to.

bob hawk

Ooops! There's unintentional humor in your using the word "balling" (rather than "bawling"), since THE SURROGATE is about a 38-year-old guy in an iron lung attempting to lose his virginity with a sex surrogate.

Your evaluations are interesting, albeit, with 21 films under my belt, I've only seen three of the films you have — and I have six or seven more to go, which include three more in your list. I'll save my evaluations 'til after it's all over.

Always enjoy ReelPolitik!


your taste is kinda not bad ;

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