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Sundance 2014: Highs and Not so highs

Sundance 2014: Highs and Not so highs

A funny, perhaps Freudian slip occurred while I was putting together a list of my favorite and not so favorite films from Sundance 2014. I wrote the title “Love is Violence,” an accidental amalgam of two of the best (and very different) movies from the festival, Ira Sachs’ lovely and intimate multi-generational drama “Love is Strange” and Goran Olsson’s “Concerning Violence,” a found-footage stunner that focuses on the colonization of Africa and the process of decolonization in the 1960s and 1970s. ‘Love is violence’–now that’s a movie I’d like to see. 

At last count, I saw about 20 movies from Sundance 2014, and I’d say only about five were really terrific. If you’re a gambling person, that’s not great odds (20%), but if you go to a lot of film festivals, it’s really nothing to complain about. 

Below, find some rankings, links to reviews and further thoughts where I have not done so already.

The best

“Love is Strange” – review

“Concerning Violence” – doc overview

“A Most Wanted Man” – review

“Boyhood” – review

“The Green Prince” – review

The pretty darn good

“Life Itself” – review

“Listen Up Philip” – If I’d never seen a Noah Baumbach film before (or one by Cassavetes, Chabrol, Truffaut or Rohmer), I’d probably say it’s a masterpiece. 

“The Overnighters” – doc overview

“Infinitely Polar Bear” – review

“Web Junkie” – some sad, touching and telling moments about disaffected Chinese youth, internet addiction and China’s ideological apparatus

“Land Ho!” – fun in Iceland with old people, but I wanted more.

Memorable, but not for everyone

“We Come as Friends” – doc overview

“Jamie Marks is Dead” – moody, beautifully shot, and I applaud any movie where a character goes from horror-film monster to wounded, fragile soul within seconds.

Decent docs

“The Notorious Mr. Bout” – it could use some trims, but there’s one absolutely amazing character, a grizzled white-haired former U.N. inspector who nails the movie in a single line: “He is not ‘The Merchant of Death’; he is a merchant of some death.”

“Finding Fela” – doc overview

“Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger” – excellent digging, but boring filmmaking.

“Marmato” – doc overview

Not for me

“I Origins” – Mike Cahill may make some beautiful images, but as a devout atheist and unrepentant cynic, I find his films grandiose, overly precious and a bit naive. 

“White Bird in a Blizzard” – review

“Fishing Without Nets” – review

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