Monday, September 23

Reeling in the year

Reeling in the year

With the recent wave of independent films such as Clerks and
Hoop Dreams bringing both public and critical acclaim, the Sundance
Film Festival has become the premier American movie showcase. The
Bruin was there and offers a sneak into the future of cinema.

By Michael Horowitz

Daily Bruin Senior Staff

Although dismissed by some as too predictable, Parallel Sons
throws a few twists into the economical mix, and stands out as
thoughtful and original.

PARK CITY, Utah — Hype and momentum, two unpredictable forces
always at work in the film industry, are cornerstones of the
Sundance Film Festival. As the annual awards were presented on
Saturday night to the dramatic and documentary deserving, the films
that emerged with the most festival buzz were a varied lot. The
best of the movies may or may not have received their share of the
plaques, but quality pictures found recognition one way or

The Brothers McMullen, Edward Burns’ well-liked story of three
Irish Catholic brothers coping with relationships and their
pitfalls, received Sundance’s highest accolade, the Grand Jury
Prize in the Dramatic Competition. Crumb, the Terry
Zwigoff-directed study of cartoonist R. Crumb’s work and
dysfunctional family, was chosen as best documentary of the year
and picked up another award for best cinematography.

Yet the night’s two big winners were joined by a handful of
other pictures given awards in differing capacities.

A few of these films have distribution set up already, and
hopefully some of the others will be able to acquire it based on
their reception here at Sundance. With some luck, these independent
films will make it to theatres over the course of the next

Here’s a look at the best of the films in competition and the
awarded movies. The 1-6 rating (6 being excellent) used by the
Bruin for reviewing the following films is also the system employed
by Sundance Film Festival. At the screenings, festival-goers are
given ballots to decide the winner of the Audience Award.


Brothers McMullen: This overrated triple character study had its
share of humorous moments and honestly attempted to tackle issues
of love and religion, but Burns’ picture was weakened by amateur
performances, simple editing and poor camera work. The small budget
was no doubt a factor in the jury overlooking its serious debts,
but nothing can explain bad lines delivered seriously, such as
"It’s got nothing to do with my balls, and everything to do with my
heart!" Rating: 4

Living in Oblivion: Tom DiCillo’s behind-the-scenes ode to
independent filmmaking, starring Steve Buscemi, got one of the
biggest buzzes of the festival. Well-tailored to the sophisticated
Sundance audiences, but deemed accessible to a larger audience,
Living in Oblivion has been picked up for domestic and foreign
distribution. DiCillo won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for
the movie. Rating: 5

Parallel Sons: Director John Young’s tale of friendship between
a white, small-town teen and a black correctional facility escapee
was one of Sundance’s most polished pieces. Although dismissed by
some as too predictable, Parallel Sons throws a few twists into the
economical mix, and stands out as thoughtful and original. Rating:

Picture Bride: Held back a year before entering the competition,
Kayo Hatta’s deeply personal Picture Bride ended up as the audience
award winner in the dramatic set. Set upon the sugar cane
plantations of colonial Hawaii, this is the story of a woman
arriving to marry a man she’s never met, and ultimately the
experience of a generation of immigrant women. Rating: 5

Angela: Writer/director Rebecca Miller’s Angela overcame early
discouraging words to score big with Miller’s filmmaking peers.
Sundance’s independent directors awarded Miller the Filmmakers
Trophy for her passionate picture of two girls planning to save
their manic-depressive mother. Rating: 4

Party Girl: Parker Posey’s new film is destined to become both a
cult classic and favorite of teenage girls everywhere. Director
Daisy Von Scheler Mayer’s light touch guides Posey’s rave scene
queen into library clerk with doses of fun and romance without
striving for severe artistry. Wonderful fun with great music.
Rating: 5

Four Corners of Nowhere: Steve Chbosky’s ensemble of Ann Arbor
twentysomethings is full of funny scenes and interesting
characters, surely a better take on our generation than the studio
slush we’re force-fed. Yet, Nowhere’s ending is equal parts
ambitious and pretentious, and the message is less memorable than
the jokes that tell it. Rating: 4

Heavy: Director James Mangold received an honorable mention for
his work on this deliberately paced film, where the story moves an
inch during the length of the film. Slow, but with strong
performances, Heavy is a well-crafted piece of work. Rating: 4


Crumb: Brilliantly constructed over nine years, Terry Zwigoff’s
portrait of pop artist R. Crumb is unflinching and amazingly
candid. A must see. Rating: 6

Unzipped: Co-winner of the documentary audience award, Douglas
Keeve’s Unzipped one-ups the latest fashion movies by following
Isaac Mizrahi as he creates his annual fall fashion show. Light,
but very entertaining. Rating: 5

Ballot Measure 9: Heather MacDonald tracks Oregon’s
controversial ballot measure to restrict civil rights for gay
people with precision and insight. Rating: 5

Black Is … Black Ain’t: This picture won the Filmmakers Trophy
due to its exhaustive search to discover the constitution of the
black identity. Director Marlon Riggs, who died of AIDS prior to
the completion of the film, was both praised and second-guessed for
the wide range of issues he tackled. Rating: 4

When Billy Broke His Head … and Other Tales of Wonder: This
hard-hitting look at America’s treatment of the disabled earned
Billy Golfus the Freedom of Expression Award for educating the
public. Rating: 4

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