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sundance 14.5: “nanking” and “smiley face”

sundance 14.5: "nanking" and "smiley face"

arakiSQ.jpgAnother day in Park City, another pair of movies. Bill Gutentag and Dan Sturman’s Sundance competition title “Nanking” is a stark and tragic look at the horrifying Japanese occupation of China’s capital city in 1937. Like the opening night film “Chicago 10,” the story is told through a combination of actual archival footage and first-person stories voiced by famous actors. However in this case, the actors are assembled on a soundstage, deilvering their lines to a camera. As a result, the film really walks a tightrope. I found it easier to accept actors re-creating real people when they were animated. In “Nanking,” which certainly offers a valuable window into a sad, shocking story, much of the action often plays like a filmed screenplay reading.

During another overcrowded night on Main St. it was great to have a sit-down dinner invitation in hand. Last night it was Picturehouse celebrating “Rocket Science” with a terrific meal at Wahso, while tonight Magnolia Pictures and HDNet Films welcomed about 60 people to Chimayo for a top-notch dinner. Lengthy meals are a luxury during a festival like Sundance and on a night when Park City is filled with tourists and gakwers crusing Main St. in SUVs, blaring music with their windows rolled down, the intimate events were truly a great escape.

After spending some time at the Riverhorse for First Look Pictures‘ “Smiley Face” bash for the new Gregg Araki film, I was faced with a choice between UTA‘s late-night party and the 11:30 p.m. screening of Araki’s movie. The swelling crowd outisde the agency bash made it a very easy choice. As Araki teased back at the party, the fils is certainly a departure from his recent “Mysterious Skin.” Perhaps a bit of a creative palette cleanser, “Smiley Face” is simply lot of fun and Anna Faris is the runaway star of Araki’s self-described stoner/slacker comedy. I already want to watch parts of it again, just to re-experience her sometimes outrageous characterization.

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