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Will Sundance 2011 Be Any Good?

Will Sundance 2011 Be Any Good?

For the last week, I and everyone else in indiedom have been prepping for Sundance.

I’ve already seen a handful of movies, both documentary films and smaller narrative debuts, and one thing comes immediately to mind: Keep those expectations in check. This will be my first Sundance after a two-year hiatus (when funds and gigs were in short supply), and I return to Park City with a familiar sensation of bubbling anticipation and the full realization that I will be seeing a lot of bad, ill-conceived or simply mediocre movies in between the few gems.

It’s hard to determine much from those Sundance pre-screenings (as bigger films are usually excluded), and I’m not entirely sure how much I’m allowed to say as reviews should be embargoed until a film’s premiere, but there’s not a whole lot to write home about. Of what has pre-screened, the buzz is strong around “Tyrannosaur,” terrific Brit actor Paddy Considine’s directorial debut, which stars Peter Mullan and Eddie Marsan. (I haven’t seen it.) I’ve also liked a couple of docs–am I allowed to say which ones?–and Joe Swanberg’s latest sad-funny techno-probing sex-comedy shouldn’t disappoint his fans (though will continue to alienate everyone else), but what about the rest?

I’m having my doubts about the film programmers’ hyping of the NEXT section as the future of indie film. While I’ve seen a few interesting aesthetic directorial decision-making in movies from the program, I’ve also seen plenty of let’s-just-put-the-camera-on-the-ground-to-cover-the-action-without-too-much-thought. Here’s hoping the Dramatic Competition section will be stronger.

Here’s one other observation to pique your curiosity: There’s a lot of short movies. I was going over my viewing schedule of many of the bigger films at the festival and noticed that just about everything is not only under 2 hours, but under 100 minutes. While I appreciate this fact with regards to my busy schedule (I might actually get some time to eat between screenings), it also makes me wonder if there’s a lack of ambition there. (In the Competition, Braden King’s “HERE” comes in at a brazen 120 minutes (!), the longest. Everyone loves an efficient cinematic journey, particularly at a festival, but such short running times make me wonder where is the next indie classic, i.e. “In the Bedroom,” (131min) or “Happiness” (132min).

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