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Sundance 2008.7: London Calling

Sundance 2008.7: London Calling

(A display of photographs, taken during the production of Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and Elvis Mitchell’s thoughtful and insightful documentary, The Black List. HBO picked up TV rights for the film, which had a small reception at The Black House on Main.)

(Variety festivals editor Mike Jones, feeling a little under the weather as we ride the Sundance shuttle to Main Street from the Yarrow.)

Well, more like Austin calling… I’m getting ready to leave Utah and return back to Texas. Sundance 2008 has been exactly what I expected/hoped it would be. I’m ready to go home, but obviously there’s still plenty available through the rest of the week. The Austin Film Society crew has recently arrived, and a whole slew of fun film folks will undoubtedly enjoy themselves in the snow. Sundance, Cannes, and Toronto are just about the only film festivals in the world where you can stay as long as possible and still not feel like you’ve seen enough. While I spent a lot of my time in meetings and sitting on panels, there are so many films I wish I’d seen. Sometimes, though, it’s not always about seeing films for the first time.

On Tuesday night, I caught the world premiere screening of Jay and Mark Duplass’ Baghead, a film I’ve already seen and enjoyed. Jay and Mark let me see their new film a few weeks ago, and I really liked it. I also had a suspicion that it would play even better to a crowded theater. So, I caught the premiere, and my feelings for the film soared. I’m now in love with it. Jay and Mark pulled off a delicate mission, crafting a terrific genre-bending film. In many ways, Baghead is not what you expect. I wish I could say more, but it would do the film a disservice. Just see it.

(Outside the Prospector theater before the premiere of Baghead, directors Jay and Mark Duplass flank their sales agent, Josh Braun of Submarine Entertainment.)

(Goliath director David Zellner, left, with his girlfriend Jenny outside the Baghead premiere. Goliath has enjoyed some great reactions after its premiere in Park City. Also, Zellner and his brother Nathan, are old friends of the Duplass brothers and even worked on Baghead.)

(Baghead stars Greta Gerwig, far left, and Steve Zissis with Jay Duplass after the warm reception and funny Q&A. Keep an eye out for Zissis, he’s a talent to watch. And, you already know I’m a big fan of Greta.)

After Baghead, I ventured to see Olly Blackburn’s UK thriller, Donkey Punch. I’ve been anxious to see the film since catching a promo reel at AFM in November. The sold-out Egyptian midnight screening was intense and entertaining. The film, which follows a group of young adults as they try to cover up an accidental death onboard a yacht, pulls no punches with sex, drugs, and blood. It’s not a film for everyone, but I was totally entertained. Also, it appears that Blackburn is another talented newcomer with a career to follow.

(Promo items for films is pretty commonplace at film festivals. These hand-warmers from Donkey Punch, are among the best I’ve seen at Sundance this year.)

(The cast and crew of Donkey Punch answers questions following the film’s premiere on Tuesday night. When one audience member asked why there wasn’t as much male nudity as female nudity, one of the actors cracked, “I’m kind of offended you didn’t notice [my nudity].”)

Otherwise, I’ve seen a few really solid films and some major disappointments. As usual, I don’t feel right describing the major disappointments, especially when they are small indie features. But one film that I think needs a little attention, is Red, the Jack Ketchum adaptation starring Brian Cox. A slow-burn revenge film with echoes of 1970s cinema, its the engaging journey of one man trying to find justice against the teenagers who murdered his beloved dog. Cox is amazing, as usual, and the film is a smart drama. Unlike some films you find at festivals like Sundance, I was into Red the entire time.

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