Previewing The Fien Print's Sundance Film Festival coverage
Expect reports on gypsy boxes, beloved puppets, dying newspapers and more
Every July, the madness of Comic-Con flows into the insanity of the Television Critics Association press tour.
That's a mighty exhausting window.
It's positively relaxing compared to the three-plus weeks in January when the winter TCA press tour and the Sundance Film Festival grind up against each other like dueling tectonic plates, leaving rubble and detritus in their wake.
While Comic-Con and TCA have ample overlap from a press point-of-view, press tour and Sundance are generally covered by different people. Since my blog straddles the line between movies and TV (mostly TV, but far from exclusively), I get to be an exception. And even if Sundance + TCA pairing leaves me a mumbling, sleep-deprived lunatic by the end of the ride, I wouldn't have it any other way.
I love Sundance, even if trying to fathom the ebb and flow of the next week is like attempting to fit the biggest round pegs in the smallest square holes over and over and over again. There's no way to make everything fit at Sundance, no way to see all of the movies you want to see, no way to interview all of the people you might hope to interview, no way to get all the rest you might need to retain brain function, no way to avoid eating too many hasty meals at the establishment best known only as The Bad Chinese Buffet.
My approach to the 2011 Sundance Film Festival is after the break, including a handful of the films I'm most anticipating. Our 2011 Sundance Film Festival's Most Anticipated gallery is like the site's Sundance preview, but this is the preview of what you can expect from this blog...
HitFix has a big team at Sundance and we all have our roles. Drew McWeeny is doing Midnight Movies, big movies and whatever random and eclectic things fit into Drew's purview. It's a big tent. Gregory Ellwood is, as ever, approaching the Festival from an awards-driven perspective, catching films in competition here and providing early insight into future Oscar contenders. Melinda Newman and Katie Hasty will be covering the intersection between music and movies in Park City (as well as a bunch of other stuff). Alex Dorn will be filming and editing our interview footage, battling subpar available wifi at every turn.
And me? I'll be filling in several gaps.
It's the same role I filled last year, when I saw films in every available Sundance category, including international and domestic docs, international and domestic competition films, quirky Spotlight and NEXT entries and more than a few big ticket premieres. That's how my 2010 Sundance included the first screening of "Winter's Bone," as well features from Bolivia, Brazil and Belgium, plus documentaries focusing on climate change, unethical anthropologists, Joan Rivers, Reggie Miller and more. I may have been sad that I didn't catch things like "Restrepo" or "The Kids Are All Right," but what can you do?
Robert Redford grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change...
My 2011 Sundance is sure to be similarly off-the-wall.
I kick things off tonight with "Project Nim," which is James Marsh's follow-up to "Man on Wire," a deserving Oscar winner. It's in the World Doc Competition, but I'm looking forward to it because I like Marsh's work and I love monkeys (or, rather, chimpanzees). I'll have a review of that one posted at some point very early in the morning, though I may see the hopefully-scary "Silent House" first.
I continue the World Doc trend on Friday with "Knuckle," which focuses on Irish Traveller bare-knuckle boxers (think Brad Pitt's character in "Snatch") and probably "Green Wave," a media-mixing look at young people in Iran. My Friday agenda also includes the possibility of a Harry Belafonte doc, a French-Candian drama about a car salesman and a movie from "Old Joy" and "Wendy & Lucy" helmer "Meek's Cutoff," in which Michelle Williams looks sad and uncomfortable. Or maybe I'll see none of those and I'll end up seeing something ever better. Or even worse. Last year, the only reason I ended up seeing "Winter's Bone" that first night was because Sundance organizers under-estimated interest in "Catfish" and I got squeezed out of my top choice. A full 95% of the Sundance experience is figuring out how to improve. The other 5% is figuring out have to survive exclusively on energy drinks and movie theater popcorn.
Another piece of my agenda will be covering the intersections between film and television. Even if Elmo isn't one of my Top 10 "Sesame Street" Characters, I'm really looking forward to "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey," which focuses on man-behind-the-muppet Kevin Clash. I'm going to try to get to a few of the documentaries already acquired by HBO. And you can expect to see me interviewing TV-stars-at-Sundance like Jeremy Piven and Rob Lowe.
A few other films that intrigue me and that I'm hoping to catch (far from the only ones):
"Page One" (U.S. Documentary Competition) - There's something quaint about a documentary focusing on the New York Times' desperate attempts to remain relevant in the digital age, but I'm amused by how many people I follow on Twitter appear to be featured in the film.
"The Redemption of General Butt Naked" (U.S. Documentary Competition) - I'm not sure if I'm interested merely because it has the Festival's best title, but I can certainly be intrigued by the story of Joshua Milton Blahyi's journey from Liberian nightmare to evangelist. [On the African doc front, I'm also intrigued by the self-explanatory "An African Election."]
"Senna" (World Doc competition) - I enjoy a good sports doc and the story of race car legend Ayrton Senna may be my best shot during the festival.
"The Future" (Premieres) - I loved Miranda July's "me and you and everyone we know." I don't know if this'll fit into my schedule, but I'm sure somebody from Team HitFix will see it.
"Bobby Fischer Against the World" - If "Senna" doesn't work, I may need to count this one as my Sundance Sports Documentary.
"The Interupters" - Between "Hoop Dreams" and "Stevie," on on-board for anything Steve James does, even if this story of former Chicago gang members who now attempt to intervene in dangerous neighborhoods, has a running time of 160+ minutes, which scares me a little.
"Reagan" - No, I'm not a fan of our 40th president, but if you've seen "The Trials of Henry Kissinger" and "Why We Fight," you know that Eugene Jarecki does "pragmatic" extremely well.
"The Troll Hunter" - Norwegian student filmmakers assume trolls are merely legends until they learn the truth? Count me in! Well, "Count me in" unless Drew tells me it's awful.
Anyway, stay tuned to The Fien Print and to all of HitFix's blogs for extensive Sundance coverage in the week to come!