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.

11 Responses to “Sundance: Jeffrey Wells is Over”

  1. Ironically, I’ll be arriving at Sundance on Friday for the final weekend to support a pair of friends who have shorts playing there. Apparently I will be voyaging into a post-hip ghost town of nobodies.

  2. Well, it’s certainly going to be Post-Wells.

    I’d say that’s a positive.

  3. Did you expect anything else than arrogant cynicism from Wells?

  4. You’re giving poor Walter a bad name. . . .

  5. Matthew. Sadly, no. He pulled the same shit last year and pretty much every other festival he covers. I’ve just about had it with that guy. The Heath Ledger stuff was nauseating.

    Pierre. I mean no disrespect to Walter, but disrespect to Wells for thinking he was a Walter.

  6. Yeah, it’s hard to take anyone seriously that uses TMZ as a source. Case in point – I noticed FOX News uses TMZ as a source quite often now in its near constant “Britney Watch.” It even has its own graphic.


  7. I saw that TMZ reference from Wells. A guy who postures himself as a real journalist stooping to the bottom feeders at TMZ is a joke.

    It was 50% the TMZ thing which made me cranky in the first place and inspired the classless rant I opened this Sundance synopsis with.

  8. Between Ledger, his obsessiveness about certain topics and movies, his affectations and the generally negative and bitter tone he sets for the postings, I’m pretty much sick of H-E. If I wasn’t unemployed (again) I’d probably rid myself of it completely.

  9. I have heard some interesting good things about A Complete History Of My Sexual Failures.

    But I’m thinking it’s gotta be extreme with that title & synopsis. So it will likely be awesome (though no doubt quirky & offbeat) or a complete car wreck. No in between. Sink or swim.

    Kinda early to tell. But who knows?

  10. Re: “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.

    Remember, though, Spurlock is a guy who made his bones telling people McDonald’s food might not be something to eat all the time. And I’m not jabbing at him for doing that, either. I don’t mind someone telling me stuff I already know if they can do it in a unique and entertaining way.

    I thought I’d never find an expression that irritated me as much as when people write/say, “Bwahahahaha!” or “Muahahaha!” to indicate malevolent laughter. Then people started responding to movies with “Meh.”

  11. as others have noted, at least he’s temporarily put “mezzo-mezzo” on hold.

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