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February 3, 2010 3:28 AM
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"Exit Through The Gift Shop," "GasLand" Top indieWIRE's Sundance Critics Poll

A scene from Banksy's "Exit at the Gift Shop." Image courtesy of the Sundance Film Festival.

As the 2010 Sundance Film Festival comes to a close indieWIRE's poll of dozens of Park City-present critics and bloggers has attempted to make clear the best and worst of this year's fest. Hundreds of grades have been entered, leaving Banksy's "spotlight surprise" "Exit Through The Gift Shop" the best-reviewed film of the fest, and Josh Fox's doc "GasLand" and Derek Cianfrance's "Blue Valentine" as the best-received documentary and dramatic competition titles, respectively.

Other films that have found overwhelming praise include Lisa Cholodenko's "The Kids are All Right," Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing's "12th & Delaware," Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg's "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work," Mark Lewis's "Cane Toads: The Conquest," Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington's "Restrepo," and two films that premiered prior to coming to Sundance - Luca Guadagnino's "I Am Love" and Jacques Audiard's "A Prophet."

The following is a list of the top ten films in both competition and non-competition programs (that have received 3 or more grades apiece), as well as the ten worst films playing at Sundance. For a full list of all grades click here.

Ten Best Competition Films
1. Gasland (Josh Fox, U.S. Doc) film page
2. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, U.S. Doc) film page
3. 12th & Delaware (Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, U.S. Doc) film page
4. Last Train Home (Lixin Fan, World Doc) film page
5. My Perestroika (Robin Hessman, U.S. Doc) film page
6. Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance, U.S. Dramatic) film page
7. Waiting For Superman (Davis Guggenheim, U.S. Doc) film page
8. Restrepo (Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington, U.S. Doc) film page
9. Winter's Bone (Debra Granik, U.S. Dramatic) film page
10. The Oath (Laura Poitras, U.S. Doc) film page

Ten Best Non-Competition Films
1. Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy, Spotlight) film page
2. I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, Spotlight) film page
3. The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko, Premieres) film page
4. A Prophet (Jacques Audiard, Spotlight) film page
5. Lourdes (Jessica Hausner, Spotlight) film page
6. Catfish (Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman, Spotlight) film page
7. Please Give (Nicole Holofcener, Premieres) film page
8. Cane Toads: The Conquest (Mark Lewis, Premieres) film page
9. Cyrus (Jay & Mark Duplass, Premieres) film page
10. Teenage Paparazzo (Adrian Grenier, Spotlight) film page

Five Worst Films
1. Twelve (Joel Schumacher; Premieres) film page
2. The Violent Kind (The Butcher Brothers, Park City@Midnight) film page
3. Bass Ackwards (Linas Philips, NEXT) film page
4. Obselidia (Diane Bell, U.S. Dramatic) film page
5. The Romantics (Galt Niederhoffer, U.S. Dramatic) film page


Patricipating Bloggers and Critics (with links to their pages)
Sam Adams
Marjorie Baumgarten
Alex Billington
Justin Chang
Peter DeBruge
Gregory Ellwood
David Fear
Marshall Fine
Susan Gerhard
Tim Grierson
Brandon Harris
Eugene Hernandez
Aaron Hillis
Jake Jacobson
Christopher Kelly
Robert Koehler
Eric Lavallee
Eric Kohn
Peter Knegt
Andy Lauer
Dennis Lim
Karina Longworth
Justin Lowe
Sean Means
Patrick Z. McGavin
Noel Murray
Rob Nelson
Mark Olsen
Bryce J. Renninger
B Ruby Rich
James Rocchi
Matt Singer
Anne Thompson
Scott Weinberg

TAGS: Features
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9 Comments

  • Peter Knegt | February 11, 2010 3:26 AMReply

    Up until a few days ago My Perestroika had less than 3 votes so it wasn't included as per noted rules, but a late vote - entered after this article was written - made it 3, and did in fact push it well into the top ten. I've corrected.

  • turtlesturtlesturtles | February 11, 2010 3:23 AMReply

    Not sure I understand the math: My Perestroika seems to be the highest rated of Sundance (along with 12th and Delaware, Waiting For Superman, Last Train Home and Gasland) - did the reviews come in too late for this assessment?

  • martyfly | January 31, 2010 1:13 AMReply

    i call that too much ego, to listen to someone smarter. if you let someone in this business, make your deals, guess you don't dont know to run your own business. cause first, the rep's are leeches, and sell you out. agree with thumb, also!! stupid system.

  • martyfly | January 31, 2010 12:55 AMReply

    actually you needed another list, the average list. that would be the generic predictable ones sold first. straight to dvd, that money means you still live in a one rm apt. with just the bragging rights. filmmakers should get advice from smart people, not the bloodsucking socalled movie representatives and dealmakers! why go independent, then sell your blood? in the end, for cheap? by going into the system? to make it, or market? stupid rookies.

  • refferref83 | January 29, 2010 6:18 AMReply

    Unfortunately, the exclusion of "Sympathy for Delicious" as one of the best renders this list COMPLETELY useless.

  • dividewatch | January 29, 2010 5:57 AMReply

    Despite the natural gas industry's long reign of silencing truth, an individual has arisen to challenge our perceptions of how energy is pursued and traded in America... and at what cost.

    No one else could have told this story in a way which so quickly and completely mobilizes our sense of human concern and personal responsibility.

    For his driven passion, his artistic vision and his technical skill, I am deeply grateful. It is this unique combination of attributes that has given rise to this incredibly telling film.

    But for all the brilliant efforts of Mr. Fox and his crew, it means nothing... we mean nothing... if we choose to ignore its message.

  • pegu | January 29, 2010 4:54 AMReply

    @thumbsucker, keep on sucking; you don't get the point.

    1) There are links to reviews. I don't see them often, but they are there.

    2) Rottentomatoes is fundamentally flawed, since it "grades" the reviews, i.e., interpreting the reviewer. So if a reviewer gives a "3/5", it may (or may not) say that it's "good" or "bad", and the quotes they pull are random (at best).

    At least this grading system gets the grades directly from the reviewer.

  • thumbsucker | January 29, 2010 4:02 AMReply

    This whole concept of giving "grades" to films in lieu of meaningful criticism is reductionist and lazy. Not only do you not provide links to the reviewers' actual reviews (as far as I can tell), but there is another site that does this much better called rottentomatoes.com. Indiewire has gone way, way downhill in their coverage. Are there other good "indie" film sites to pick up the slack?

  • thumbsucker | January 29, 2010 3:10 AMReply

    Also: a list of "worst films" is just plain mean-spirited. What is the point of that, other than making the filmmakers feel terrible? At least you've reduced it from 10 to 5....