Sundance 2021

I bought a day pass to the Sundance Film Festival. On one hand it’s cool to see all these premieres… on the other, this was just sitting in bed watching TV all day. And sure, fests are curated, but it’s nice to read the first round of critic reviews (like I’m doing right now with Berlin) and decide which few sound the most exciting, instead of relying on the one-paragraph plot descriptions like I did when choosing these.

I started the day with a TV pilot, a shorts series, a feature, half of another shorts series… and going into the next feature, I reloaded the schedule page and noticed all the non-premieres (the movies that had premiered a couple days earlier and were now on-demand) had changed status from “sold out” to “watch now.” Not sure which status was a bug, but I quickly made some adjustments. Catching Strawberry Mansion (and having to eat meals to stay alive) threw my schedule, and I skipped my reservation for We’re All Going to the World’s Fair in favor of Knocking, wanting to get in something from the Midnight section, oops.

I like that the opening titles tell me to “please turn off all electronic devices,” even though I’m watching the movies on one. Since the Roku is on the fritz, I hooked the laptop to the TV and could therefore get screengrabs – funny that I can do this with restricted world-premieres, but can’t while watching The Saddest Music in the World on Criterion Channel. The intros must’ve been pre-taped… Ana Katz said “hello and good evening” at her movie’s noon premiere (2pm in Buenos Aires). I first noticed during Mayday that the picture looked film-grainy… but more like static than grain, and saw the same pattern on all subsequent movies, what was that all about?

These Days

The pilot (from the “Indie Series” section) was chosen for costarring William Jackson Harper. Marianne Rendón (who recently played Patti Smith in a movie) is lonely, going on a series of bad quarantine zoom-dates when she meets charming Harper. But he’s only there to write a magazine story about lonely women who go on virtual dates, as we learn in his next call to his editor. His mom zoom-bombs them on his personal link, a dated detail thanks to the software update that sticks everyone in the waiting room. Marianne’s zoom dance is good, as are all of Harper’s line reads, but I dunno how this would sustain a series, nor who would fund it now as a hundred million vaccine shots are heading to the states. Director Adam Brooks, who wrote the Bridget Jones Diary sequel and is not the Adam Brooks who made The Editor and starred in the latest Guy Maddin movie, calls it “our film,” and says the whole cast was mailed camera gear and filmed their own scenes.

In the Earth (Ben Wheatley)

I started this after Knocking, giving myself a midnight bedtime, so watched about fifteen minutes. So far, an unmasked guy got tested extensively by some park rangers before setting out on a journey with one of them joining him. They were pitching tents on their first night when I ditched, so it hadn’t gotten good yet… but why was everyone masked at the beginning except the outsider they were testing? Shouldn’t the rule be that he stays masked until he passes the tests? The poster shows a backlit axe murderer so I’ll surely get back to this at some point.

Rachel Handler in Vulture, on pandemic movies:

I could conjure the 2019 version of myself that might’ve enjoyed them, but the 2021 version of me, who has the hair and temper of a cartoon Disney villain, could not find the patience for dreamy, moody movies where an imaginary sickness stood in for something else, where it was desperately mined for meaning … I wondered if every movie ever made had actually been about people being alone and sad and I just hadn’t noticed.

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