Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Future Of Film
The 100 Greatest Video Games
Robin Williams: The Big Interview
Kevin Feige:
My Movie Life

The Marvel supremo's pick of the flicks
Want To Be An Empire Journalist?
Find out how here
Empire Blogs
Under The Radar

Back to all blogs Comment Now

Sundance 2012: Fifth Report

Posted on Wednesday February 1, 2012, 23:42 by Damon Wise in Under The Radar
Sundance 2012: Fifth Report

Beasts Of The Southern Wild, by Benh Zeitlin, was an amazing discovery, a film that certainly swelled to fit the confines of Park City but may struggle when it crosses into the wider market. Fox Searchlight picked it up, which was certainly brave of them, since it's not likely even to make a fraction of the figures that The Tree Of Life did for them. Terrence Malick is in some way a good starting point here, since its fractured voiceover and opening, montage-like scenes of an anarchic rural idyll in some ways recall his 1978 film Days Of Heaven. But that film is like Citizen Kane in comparison; where Malick's film saw a very complicated story from a rather simple girl's point of view, Beasts Of the Southern Wild shows a much younger girl wrestling with her immediate circumstances in the aftermath of a huge and devastating Katrina-like weather event.

It promises to be a slice of fashionable poverty-row rural porn, more in the vein of Le Quattro Volte than Winter's Bone, with six-year-old Hushpuppy (
Quvenzhane Wallis) living in fanciful disarray with her harsh but paradoxically libertarian father Wink (Dwight Henry). Like the 2010 Russian film Silent Souls, a film with certain similarities, it presents a small town with strange customs, mostly involving booze and fireworks. It is called The Bathtub, and we soon find out why: in the course of a massive storm, The Bathtub fills up, leaving Hushpuppy and Wink without a home. What follows is an episodic trek in which the two reconnect with their fellow townspeople and decide on a dangerous plan of action to reclaim their roots. In some ways, it resembles an arthouse Mad Max 2, but with the crucial difference being that this world is ours, it isn't some apocalyptic future. The message, though, is a refreshing change from the kind of Sting-saves-the-rainforest stuff you might be expecting. From her father, Hushpuppy inherits a precocious militancy that, despite the interference of do-good white liberals, literally prepares her for the end of the world.

Ry Russo-Young's Nobody Walks talks place in our world too, not that you'd know it. I liked this, with reservations; it's a kind of Nicole Holofcener-lite (and that's saying something) ensemble piece about a young, early-twenties avant-garde film director from the east coast named Martine (Olivia Thirlby) who moves in with LA soundman Peter (John Krasinski) and his family. She's pretty, he's not slow to notice, and an affair ensues, with the usual disastrous consequences. If the film had been a more impressionistic slice-of-life piece – Peter's counsellor wife is being courted by a patient she is clearly attracted to – it might have worked, especially because of a subplot involving their thorny teenage daughter, who is dealing with a lecherous Italian teacher. But the focus on Martine as a rootless femme fatale creates a vacuum at the heart of the film that calls to mind Mike Nichols' (to me) horrific Closer, and that can only be A Bad Thing. Still, the performances are all good; Thirlby carries off a hard part, and it's good to see Krasinski play against his usual goofy, loveable type.

Just as loveable as John Krasinski is Josh Radnor, of How I Met Your Mother fame. I must admit I knew nothing about him before his last film, Happythankyoumoreplease, which I thought I hated but later remembered I liked – but only the bits with writer/director Radnor in. On those terms, Liberal Arts (pictured) is an improvement of one thousand per cent. It flounders in the final stages, but until then it is a really sweet, funny and sometimes surprisingly acerbic comedy, in which Radnor stars as Jesse, a thirtysomething college admin worker who is invited back to his old alma mater for his former tutor's retirement party. There he meets Zibby, (Elizabeth Olsen) a 19-year-old student with whom he has an immediate rapport, and what starts as a crush develops into something deeper. Or can it? The great thing about Liberal Arts is that it wrestles with the question that Woody Allen has ignored for the greater part of his career – does age matter? Like Woody, Jesse decides that it may not, but, unlike Woody, he finds it really, really uncomfortable dating a girl 15 years his junior.

I was half dreading this film, because Happythankyoumoreplease suggested two things: a writer who was very talented and a director who needed more discipline. Liberal Arts, however, is very much the work of a writer-director who has reached equilibrium, and, thinking about it now, I'd forgotten how much it made me laugh. Radnor is a natural and gifted comedian, while Olsen, for whom so much is resting on this, makes an effortless transition from drama in a role fro which she is quite ridiculously perfect. A guest spot from Richard Jenkins is enjoyable enough, but special mention must be made of Allison Janney, whose Mrs Krabappel-like Romantics professor brought the house down, and Zac Efron, whose stoner-dude cameo is a genuine delight.

Disappointments? There were surprisingly few this year, although the tin-hatted, copper-bottom bruiser of the bunch was undoubtedly Spike Lee's Red Hook Summer. Ostensibly one of his lighter pieces, like Crooklyn or She Hate Me, this starts in a gaudy one-hot-summer style, with an Atlanta boy being left to stay with his preacher grandfather (Clarke Peters). At about two hours ten, this was looking not to be an easy watch, with lots of musical interludes, bad comedy and even worse acting from its younger cast, who seemed to have to shout to be heard over the layers of deafening music. However, after an excruciating 90 minutes, the film managed an astonishing turnabout, with a sudden burst of drama that almost – almost – made the preceding slog worthwhile. It would be a massive spoiler to explain what happens then, but, suffice to say, Peters' performance becomes a powerhouse, matched only by the superb Nate Parker as a previously little-seen gang member. The film itself should be filed under Minor Spike, but this sequence is one of the best he's ever filmed.

Login or register to comment.

Currently No Comments

Log in below, or register to post comments
Username:
Password:
Remember Me:

CATEGORIES

Empire States (440)

Under The Radar (317)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (57)

Words From The Wise (35)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


RECENT POSTS

Night Visions 2013: The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears, We Are What We Are, Big Bad Wolves
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2013: Jodorowsky's Dune, Nightsatan & The Loops Of Doom
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2013: Adjust Your Tracking (or Does Anyone Actually Miss VHS?)
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2013: Fresh Meat, The Colony, Sawney
By Owen Williams

Film4 FrightFest 2013: Sunday and Monday
By Owen Williams

Film4 FrightFest 2013: Thursday and Friday
By Owen Williams

Bloody Cuts In Conversation
By Owen Williams

European Film Awards 2012
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2012: Silje Reinamo and Thale
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2012: Juan Martinez Moreno and Attack of the Werewolves
By Owen Williams


RECENT COMMENTS

Night Visions 2013: Adjust Your Tracking (or Does Anyone Actually Miss VHS?)
"Or don't..."  Owen Williams
Read comment

Aruba 2013: Juan Francisco Pardo Q&A
"Sadece on altı dakika içinde iyi bir görsel hikaye anlatmak önemli beceri ve bel"  skndrdmr
Read comment

Aruba 2013: Opening Gala
"That really amazing."  ommrudraksha
Read comment

2013 IIFF - The Winners
"Hi Simon, Trying to get in touch with you. Hope this works. I enjoyed your piece on Enter t"  matthewpolly
Read comment

Christoph Waltz will win an Oscar
"although its old now :(, of course he was gonna win it :), one of the many idols of why i wanna be a"  SONYA ALALIBO
Read comment

Brisbane International Film Festival: First Report
"I think it is pretty clear the story revolves around The Blacksmith, in The Man With The Iron Fists,"  owenyunfat
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Thanks for the feedback! I hope I didn't give the impression that Cloud Atlas is a write-off; I just"  Damon_Wise
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Hi Damon With regards to Cloud Atlas, I fear that it will face the same problem a"  ChesterCopperpot
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"No worries! I just try to describe things as I see them, and I often forget that, as Empire has grow"  Damon_Wise
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Don't get me wrong, I appreciate your early reviews from the festivals, and of course, I'm not alway"  pythonlove
Read comment


POPULAR POSTS

Sundance Part Six: In The Loop
13 comments

Basterds Blog
9 comments

Damo's Top Ten Of 2009
9 comments

The Times BFI London Film Festival Preview
9 comments

Sundance 2010: Four Lions blows everyone away!
8 comments

Sundance 2010: The Killer Inside Me causes outrage!
7 comments

Chris Hewitt Of The Year Award!!!!
7 comments

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
7 comments

The Wrestler
6 comments

Where to see Moon...
6 comments


BLOGGERS
Damon Wise (297)
Helen O'Hara (168)
James Dyer (86)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (56)
James White (29)
Phil de Semlyen (19)
Owen Williams (15)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
Ian Nathan (1)
Dan Jolin (1)
David Parkinson (1)

SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
The Future Of Film: The Streaming Services Will Be Major Studios
(Or how Hollywood will have to start worrying about Netflix)

The Empire Podcast #129: Liam Neeson Interview
Plus Max Irons, Sam Claflin, Douglas Booth, Holliday Grainger and Jessica Brown Findlay drop by to talk The Riot Club

The Future Of Film: We'll Be Watching Films In Virtual Reality
Immerse cinema aims to become the must-have experience for the filmgoers of the future

The Future Of Film: Cinema Will Cross The Uncanny Valley
The future of VFX, from believable digital humans to underwater mocap

The Future Of Film: There Will Be Another Indie Golden Age
Independent producers are growing from micro-budgets to something a lot bigger

Empire's Epic Interstellar Subscribers' Cover
The countdown begins to Christopher Nolan's sci-fi masterpiece

Shut Up, World! Gary Busey Is Talking!
Strap yourselves in and meet a true Hollywood original.

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 6 Issues Of Empire For Only £15!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 6 issues of Empire for just £15!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)