Best of Sundance 2016

The most rewarding experience of Sundance is seeing what the next year of movies will look like.  Of the 120 feature films that were selected to screen at Sundance, I was able to catch 18 in a five day frenzy.  Almost all of them were really good, and several I would consider fantastic.  Here are some of the most exciting future releases of 2016: (more…)

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Experiencing the Sundance Film Festival

2016 was my first year attending the Sundance Film Festival, and the experience was everything I had imagined and more. In four and a half days, I watched 18 feature films, 8 shorts, and a half-dozen virtual reality exhibits. That’s an average of four films a day, seeing as many as six in a single day.

One of the coolest things about the festival is that all the while, I was talking with other cinephiles about which movies to see, and frantically trying to obtain tickets to those films. Many attendees work in the industry, many are locals, and some are press covering the event.  I consider myself extremely lucky; I was able to get in to almost every movie I attempted (you can read about my favorites here).  I learned a lot while attending the festival, and would like to share some of the highlights of the experience. (more…)

The Best Movie Stuff of 2015

2015 has come to a close, and every film critic and blogger has already put together their “end of year” lists. Alas, I still don’t have access to a few of my most anticipated releases as of this writing (The Revenant and Anomalisa in particular), so I can’t make my full “top films” list yet (edit: I have now. It’s right here). However, I feel comfortable putting together a “top stuff” list.  Here are some of my favorite film elements of the year. (more…)

‘Buzzard’: Dissecting the Ending

“Buzzard” follows Marty Jackitansky, a misanthrope and small-time scam artist, as he cheats any system he can while avoiding being caught in the act.  The director, Joel Potrykus, makes no attempt to take a moral position on Marty’s scams, instead letting the movie serve as a study of Jackitansky’s character and the minor horrors he inflicts.

The film shares a number of similarities with “Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter,” a 2015 release about a Japanese woman who pursues the insurance money lost at the end of Fargo.  Both feature outcasts who don’t fit in with their peers.  Both are extremely bored and disinterested with their lives, and are willing to give everything up and sacrifice their comfort in exchange for freedom.  And both feature strange, surreal endings that really punctuate their themes.

“Buzzard’s” ending in particular really reshapes how the audience remembers the entirety of the film, and leaves a lot to be interpreted and explained.  Needless to say, [spoilers] ahead for “Buzzard.”
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Summer 2015 Review: Women in Blockbusters

It’s no secret that women are quite often poorly represented in cinema, especially big budgeted summer blockbusters.  If you look at the last five summers, most years feature an embarrassing 1 to 2 major movies in which women have prominent roles.  Even when a woman is featured, she is often sexualized, one-dimensional, or in a supporting role (mother, daughter, girlfriend) to the main male protagonist.

Fortunately, the tides are starting to slowly shift, as Hollywood realizes that literally half of their potential audience are, in fact, women.  Overall, the summer of 2015 has been an improvement, with several movies featuring very well-written female characters.  Here’s a look back at some of the films of the summer, both the good and the bad. (more…)

‘The Overnight:’ Dissecting the Ending

The Overnight is a small Indie drama that follows a married couple (Alex and Emily) which has recently moved to Los Angeles and are looking for new friends. They are invited to another couple’s (Kurt and Charlotte) house for a dinner party, and eagerly accept. As the night progresses, however, it becomes obvious that intentions may not be as innocent as they seem.

The movie plays as a classic “will they/won’t they?” sex comedy, but with very untraditional style and stakes. From the minute that Alex and Emily enter Kurt and Charlotte’s house, the audience is unsettled by strange, unfamiliar sexual tension. The film escalates its uncomfortable comedy throughout its runtime, with many details only revealed in the movie’s final act.

It is really difficult to stick the landing on a film like this. The premise is very promising and ripe for comedy, sure, but how do you fulfill a satisfying arc, let alone an arc for every character? It’s a movie that draws many comparisons to While We’re Young, a movie with an ending I didn’t particularly enjoy. By contrast, the ending of The Overnight is extremely satisfying, and it’s well-worth talking about. [Spoilers] from here on.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Making a 48 Hour Film

Recently my friends and I participated in the 48 Hour Film Project, a competition in which you have 2 days to write, shoot, and edit a short film with specific required elements. It’s one of my favorite competitions, and this was actually the 7th time I’ve participated.  While we have yet to come close to winning the competition (HA!), we have made several movies that, in my (biased) opinion, are pretty solid.  Here are a few of the personal rules that my team has adopted for making a film in a weekend with no sleep and no budget:

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Things I Learned from ‘Terminator Genisys’

I’m a fan of Terminator films. The first two movies are classics, and I didn’t hate Rise of the Machines. The franchise is ripe for another entry, and with James Cameron endorsing the new film, I figured it was worth checking out. How bad could it be?

Famous last words. I was really, really disappointed with Terminator: Genisys. Here are my biggest takeaways from the film. I’m tagging this post as [spoilers], I guess, though honestly if you’ve seen the trailer and any mediocre action movie in the past 15 years, the movie doesn’t offer many surprises.

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Review: ‘The Primary Instinct’ Exceeds Listeners’ Expectations

This review was written following the International Film Festival of Boston.

A few weekends ago I was able to catch a screening of David Chen and Stephen Tobolowsky’s The Primary Instinct, which premieres tonight and tomorrow at the Seattle International Film Festival. Based on the highly successful podcast The Tobolowsky Files, the movie is a concert documentary in which Stephen recounts stories of his life, finding existential meaning in a variety of seemingly disparate stories.  The result is a fascinating experience unique to Tobolowsky, and one that must be witnessed to be understood.

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‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ VS ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’

Summer blockbuster season begins with two mega-budget colon-sporting action franchise sequels that couldn’t be more different. Mad Max: Fury Road serves as a throwback to the insanity of action movies of the 80’s, while Avengers: Age of Ultron is firmly rooted in contemporary blockbuster filmmaking. While I can recommend both movies, for my money Fury Road is far and away the more interesting of the two.  Mad Max succeeds on so many levels, and it really highlights the shortcomings of Avengers, and by extension, many modern action films.  Mild [spoilers] for both films from here on.

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