Elle Fanning in Daniel Barnz’s Phoebe in Wonderland
Not that anyone was asking, but five days into Sundance, Jeffrey Wells pulled a Walter Cronkite and declared the festival “over.” It’s his considered opinion that Sundance always ends 5 1/2 days after it starts. “The voltage turns down,” he yawns, “there are fewer people on Main Street, all the presumably hot titles (i.e., name casts, advance-hyped) have been screened.”
Apparently, it’s all about sniffing around to find the next Little Miss Sunshine so it can be trumpeted to readers a few months before they see it themselves. There is nothing here about finding a little film that needs care and feeding to find an audience. There’s no joy or anticipation of genuine discovery. It’s a grind. Make your list of “hot titles,” put your ear to the ground for buzz from the dilettante festival monkeys, try to be there for the big hit if it comes and then pack your shit and move on. Wells has done all this and his response? “Meh.”
It’s cynical and it’s depressing.
Moving on to people who still seem to enjoy going to the movies, early on in my potpourri of festival links, I noted a single bad review of the irritatingly titled The Wackness. Subsequently, I’ve read more good reviews than bad so it’s only fair to point this out. For example, Devin Faraci of CHUD declared it just might be the best film of the festival.
Faraci also takes a peek at Morgan Spurlock’s documentary Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? and wonders: where in the world is the documentary? “The movie’s funny,” he says, “but it’s only informative if you haven’t been paying a bit of attention over the last seven years.” Sadly, that probably describes 68% of the population of the United States.
At FilmMaker Magazine, Brandon Harris notes that half way through the festival, the documentaries seem to be outshining the narrative films. He especially likes Holdout, the story of a man who refused to leave his flooded New Orleans neighborhood in the wake of Katrina; and My Mother’s Garden, Cynthia Lester’s documentary about her Polish immigrant mother with a form of OCD known as Hoarding Disorder.
Cinematical’s Kim Voynar enjoys The Broken, a horror film from Sean Ellis (Cashback) that’s more about sustained tension than blood and guts. Lena Heady plays a woman who becomes convinced her boyfriend isn’t her boyfriend.
Kim is even more enthusiastic about the debut film from writer/director Daniel Barnz called Phoebe in Wonderland. Dakota Fanning’s little sister Elle plays Phoebe, a 9-year-old with a special fascination for Alice in Wonderland. The film also stars Felicity Huffman as Phoebe’s mother and Patricia Clarkson as her unconventional drama teacher. Calling it her favorite of the festival, Voynar singles out young Ms. Fanning for praise as she carries the film.
Also at Cinematical, Erik Davis picks A Complete History of My Sexual Failures as one of his personal favorites. It’s about a guy who’s been dumped 15 to 20 times turning to his ex-girlfriends to figure out why he’s such a loser.
Filed under: Film Festivals