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Sundance PS

Posted on Sunday February 1, 2009, 15:48 by Damon Wise

After being reminded by JLG87 it occurred to me that, no, I didn't see Black Dynamite (pictured above). I gambled on it being repeated at the end of the festival, but it wasn't. I heard good things about the first 30 minutes, but my spies said that, after that, it drifted a little into pastiche. Still, Sony bought it for North America, and a few UK distributors were looking at it too, last I heard. But thinking about Black Dynamite reminded me of a few other films I saw but didn't write about: mostly, but not solely, because I didn't like them. Interestingly, two of my duds were Iraq movies. The Messenger stars Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson as two soldiers whose job it is to knock on doors and inform the residents of their loved ones' demise. It's an angry, well-played film, but, try as I might (director Oren Moverman co-wrote my beloved I'm Not There), I just couldn't get involved with it, especially when Steve Buscemi made a cameo as a displeased father. It skew...

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Sundance Part 10

Posted on Monday January 26, 2009, 10:49 by Damon Wise

When I ran into director Ondi Timoner at the opening party, I asked her how long she was staying in Park City. She told me she'd be there right through to closing night. Why? “'Cause we're gonna win,” she said. And by God they did. Apart from Tom DiCillio's When You're Strange, a very interesting film about LA rockers The Doors, I didn't see a single other documentary among the 22 films I caught there, so I can't compare it with the favourably mentioned The Cove (about dolphin harvesting in Japan) and Afghan Star (about an Afghan Pop Idol star). But her new film We Live In Public is certainly strong. The focus is Josh Harris, the most successful dotcom entrepreneur you've never heard of, and even after 90 minutes in his orbit I still feel that, even though I know who he is now, I actually don't much more about this strange, paradoxical individual. That's not to say Ondi doesn't try to get under his skin, just that Harris is an enigma even to his family ...

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Sundance: The Winners

Posted on Sunday January 25, 2009, 17:03 by Damon Wise

Don't have much time to blog today. The main winners, announced at the closing night party (above) were:

Grand Jury Prize: US Dramatic: Push: Based On The Novel By Sapphire, directed by Lee Daniels

Grand Jury Prize: US Documentary: We Live In Public, directed by Ondi Timoner

Audience Award: US Documentary: The Cove, directed by Louie Psyhoyos

Audience Award:US Dramatic: Push: Based On The Novel By Sapphire, directed by Lee Daniels

World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic: The Maid, directed by Sebastian Silva

World Cinema Jury Prize: Documentary: Rough Aunties, directed by Kim Longinotto

World Cinema Audience Award: Documentar: Afghan Star, directed by Havana Marking

World Cinema Audience Award: Dramatic: An Education, directed by Lone Scherfig

Wrap and review of We Live In Public (and we do) coming soon!

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Sundance Part 9: oh, all sorts

Posted on Saturday January 24, 2009, 10:03 by Damon Wise

It's hard to see everything here in Park City, so I've seen a very small percentage of the films in the competitions. However, the half dozen I've seen have been quite diverse and pleasantly decent. Big Fan is one I particularly enjoyed but I can't imagine it ever getting a release in the UK, since it's about American football – which is ironic, since there isn't actually a single scene of American football in the movie. If I had money to burn I'd by the remake rights, since it would transfer amazingly well to soccer. It stars Patton Oswalt as Paul, a guy in his 30s who still lives with his mother in Staten Island. Paul is a Giants fan, obsessed with quarterback Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm), and when he and his loser best friend see Bishop at a filling station they decided to follow him. Bishop's first stop is a crack house, though Paul doesn't realise it, and then they move on to a strip club, where Paul approaches Bishop in the VIP area, explaining that they've been following ...

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Sundance Part 8: Cold Souls and World's Greatest Dad

Posted on Thursday January 22, 2009, 18:15 by Damon Wise

Cold Souls was something I'd been hearing a lot about about over the last week, but I knew nothing about it other than it starred Paul Giamatti and had shades of Charlie Kaufman, or rather Being John Malkovich. Turns out these comparisons were well founded: the film stars film star Giamatti as film star Paul Giamatti, and when we first meet him he's doing a terrible job in an off-Broadway stage production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. Giamatti is feeling blocked and useless, and to help him through this ennui his agent shows him an article in the New Yorker magazine extolling the virtues of soul storage. So Giamatti makes an appointment, meets the friendly but vaguely sinister Dr Flintstein (David Strathairn), has his soul removed and has it put into storage.

But being soulless has its downside: Giamatti becomes rude and thoughtless to his wife, and his performance in the play becomes even worse. To help, Dr Flinstein suggests a soul transplant, and Giamatti buys the soul of a Russi...

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Sundance Part Seven: Adventureland

Posted on Wednesday January 21, 2009, 17:51 by Damon Wise

I almost missed Adventureland because the trailer seemed a bit twee but I'm so glad I saw it. This is the perfect summer movie: very funny, very sweet, with a range of flawed but adorable characters that you really enjoy spending time with. Set in 1987, it stars Jesse Eisenberg as James Brennan, a college kid who's planning on going to Europe for the summer before moving to New York with his best friend. His father's demotion, however, means that his parents can no longer afford to pay for it, and the only work available to a bright Pittsburgh kid who's only ever mowed lawns before (and has a letter of recommendation to prove it) is a job at the shabby amusement park Adventureland.

Working in the games division, James falls for the pretty Emily (Kristen Stewart), not realising that she's having an affair with handsome park technician Connell (Ryan Reynolds). When Emily seemingly cools on him, James turns his attention to dim but nice funfair babe Lisa P, who initially lik...

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Sundance Part Six: In The Loop

Posted on Tuesday January 20, 2009, 15:41 by Damon Wise

I'll declare a shocking secret here and admit that I've never seen his TV series The Thick Of It, but Armando Iannucci's hilarious film debut immediately makes me want to. It's not terribly cinematic but the writing and the acting are both superb, which is more important to me. After seeing it, I had the bad luck to see Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, a choppy story of a woman's disillusionment with men that tried so hard to be visual and different it absolutely bored the hell out of me, since no clear narrative was ever established. In The Loop (pictured), though, is just perfectly constructed and astonishingly sustained. If you like your comedy puerile and stupid but very, very clever, you're in for a treat.

The film it most reminded me of is the Ealing comedy The Man In The White Suit, in that it's about man who's under fire from every quarter. Tom Hollander, an actor I've never really been bothered about before, is just great as Simon Foster, the UK's Cabine...

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Sundance Part Five: I Love You Phillip Morris

Posted on Monday January 19, 2009, 17:05 by Damon Wise

Going into I Love You Phillip Morris (pictured) I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd seen the trailer, which made it look kind of garish, with Jim Carrey as a cop who leaves his strait-laced religious wife to become a flamboyant Florida homosexual and resorts to fraud to finance his lifestyle. I was worried that I'd seen the whole movie in microcosm, but I was surprised to find that the trailer pillages quite a lot of scenes from the opening half-hour, making them appear to be excerpts from a wacky, outrageous comedy, which, from the makers of Bad Santa, it sometimes is. But Phillip Morris is a very unusual beast, and it's hard to say why without spoiling things. It's a film that pulls you in but never quite takes you over the top, as you feel it should. It might even underwhelm you, but the final reveal (if you haven't read the book) explains the directors' coyness. This is a staggering true story that leaves you quite simply flabbergasted. And you can't even say you weren't warned; the most im...

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Sundance Part 4: 500 Days Of Summer

Posted on Sunday January 18, 2009, 15:36 by Damon Wise

After a relatively quiet start, Sundance hit its stride yesterday with the world premiere of 500 Days Of Summer, a Fox Searchlight release that has been getting a lot of buzz after test screenings in the LA area. It's very much an LA film, so it doesn't surprise me that it should hit the spot there, and there was so much love in the room that I was a little sceptical as to whether this was really a public screening or a private party. And as for the standing ovation, well, that was very nice, but I'm afraid it takes more than one good movie to have me on my feet applauding. But I digress, because that's what this cheerfully disarming romance does. Somewhat in the style of Memento, it's a film that charts 500 days of a young man's obsession with a girl at work, but not in chronological order. Zig-zagging through time, it finds unhappy greeting cards writer and frustrated architect Tom (Jo...

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Sundance Part Three

Posted on Saturday January 17, 2009, 17:07 by Damon Wise

In the last six years I've only ever attended one public screening on opening weekend here, so I felt pretty good about starting with two this year on the Friday. The first was a pretty big deal on paper: the latest by Antoine Fuqua, Brooklyn's Finest is an ensemble crime drama starring Don Cheadle, Richard Gere and Ethan Hawke as three men employed in a subdivision of the NYPD. With a cast like that, you might, as I did, think, Wow, especially when the opening scene sees Hawke offing a big-mouthed gangster with a gun to the face at point-blank range. But after that, Fuqua's film meanders so much, I began to wonder what it was actually about, and whether it would reach outside audiences in the same form. Paradoxically, there's both too much and not enough, and the actors, especially, seem to try too hard in roles that don't quite fit.

Cheadle plays Tango, an undercover cop who is investigating an inner-city drugs ring, but gets too close to the players and finds his loyal...

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Sundance Part Two: Moon

Posted on Saturday January 17, 2009, 10:13 by Damon Wise

I must admit that some trepidation set in as the lights darkened for the British movie Moon. I wanted it to be great, but would it? I needn't have worried. As I'd hoped, the film turned out to be an interesting and, visually, sophisticated lo-fi sci-fi, but it carried more of an emotional wallop than I was expecting. And having said that, I'm stuck. It's hard to know what more to say about it, because the film rather reveals itself in layers, and any one of its elements will have you making an entirely different and more distracting film in your head. So I'll start with the opening salvo, which explains that the solution to the problem of the world's dwindling energy resources lies on the dark side of the moon, where an element called Helium-3 exists in plentiful quantities. Then, over some cool, Space 1999-style credits, we learn that space miner Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is in charge of the base where Helium-3 is gathered and exported back to Earth, and after a violent accident he is confine...

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Sundance Part One!

Posted on Friday January 16, 2009, 22:50 by Damon Wise

Well, if the credit crunch really is affecting Sundance, so far it's done me nothing but good. In fact, after 24 hours solid travelling to get here, changing twice and stopping briefly in Las Vegas, I have none of my usual complaints (where's my luggage? where's my accreditation? what's that dead prostitute doing in my room?). It is simply this: Dear Delta air hostesses, why, when your beer costs $7 a can, and as charming as you are, do you act all surprised when you don't have change? Other than that, the flight was very pleasant, made even more convivial by the fact that filmmaker Steve Sheil and his producer Lisa Trnovski were on the same flight. Steve is the director of Mum And Dad, a very funny, but highly gory black comedy that stars the avuncular Perry Benson (although having said that, I don't have any uncles who have ever tried to shit on a newsagent's floor, as Benson so memorably did in Shane Meadows' This Is England). They're here because the film is screening over a...

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Chris Hewitt Of The Year Award!!!!

Posted on Saturday January 10, 2009, 15:55 by Damon Wise

It was a tough choice, but there was really only ever going to be one winner.

And, ladies and gentlemen, with no further ado, here HE is!!!!!

Well done, Chris! You deserve it!

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The Winners!

Posted on Friday January 2, 2009, 16:28 by Damon Wise

Yes, it's time to announce the winners of the awards that nobody has ever heard of on the blog that hardly anybody reads! But I don't care!!! So without any further ado, let's start with...

FAVOURITE FILM... WITHOUT UK DISTRIBUTION*!
This is the category that caused me the most pain. Three of the films shortlisted have actually screened to public audiences in the UK, which narrows it down to two. And of the two remaining, I'd rather one came out sooner rather that later, as it shows a side of war that it's all too easy to forget about: the dedication and sense of duty in the face of omnipresent danger. So the first award goes to...

HURT LOCKER, by Kathryn Bigelow

*So far. And to the best of my knowledge...

FAVOURITE INTERVIEW
Another tough one. All five nominees were terrific, notably Tarsem and Quentin Tarantino, but I have a special affection for the winner. Going head t...

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The Golden Damo Awards 2008

Posted on Friday December 26, 2008, 22:06 by Damon Wise

As 2008 draws to a close, I felt duty-bound to jot down a few of the things I've enjoyed this year. Everyone else is wanking on about best films and best actors and such, so I thought I'd do something a bit different. So without any more ado, here come the nominations for the first, and possibly only, Golden Damo awards. I don't know what they look like yet, so bear with me. The results will be announced next week...

FAVOURITE FILM... WITHOUT UK DISTRIBUTION*!
I thought I'd find a film that needed a helping hand...

1) The Brothers Bloom
Having seen this four times now, it's safe to say I like it. Rian Johnson's charming conman love story has a fabulous sense of style and mood.

2) Hurt Locker
I can't believe nobody has picked this up. A tense bomb-defusal movie set in Iraq, it's most tense experience I've had in a cinema this year.

3) Louise-Michel
From the makers of Aaltra, t...

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