A funny, perhaps Freudian slip occurred while I was putting together a list of my favorite and not so favorite films from Sundance 2014. I wrote the title "Love is Violence," an accidental amalgam of two of the best (and very different) movies from the festival, Ira Sachs' lovely and intimate multi-generational drama "Love is Strange" and Goran Olsson's "Concerning Violence," a found-footage stunner that focuses on the colonization of Africa and the process of decolonization in the 1960s and 1970s. 'Love is violence'--now that's a movie I'd like to see.
At last count, I saw about 20 movies from Sundance 2014, and I'd say only about five were really terrific. If you're a gambling person, that's not great odds (20%), but if you go to a lot of film festivals, it's really nothing to complain about.
Below, find some rankings, links to reviews and further thoughts where I have not done so already.
"Love is Strange" - review
"Concerning Violence" - doc overview
"A Most Wanted Man" - review
"Boyhood" - review
"The Green Prince" - review
The pretty darn good
"Life Itself" - review
"Listen Up Philip" - If I'd never seen a Noah Baumbach film before (or one by Cassavetes, Chabrol, Truffaut or Rohmer), I'd probably say it's a masterpiece.
"The Overnighters" - doc overview
"Infinitely Polar Bear" - review
"Web Junkie" - some sad, touching and telling moments about disaffected Chinese youth, internet addiction and China's ideological apparatus
"Land Ho!" - fun in Iceland with old people, but I wanted more.
Memorable, but not for everyone
"We Come as Friends" - doc overview
"Jamie Marks is Dead" - moody, beautifully shot, and I applaud any movie where a character goes from horror-film monster to wounded, fragile soul within seconds.
"The Notorious Mr. Bout" - it could use some trims, but there's one absolutely amazing character, a grizzled white-haired former U.N. inspector who nails the movie in a single line: "He is not 'The Merchant of Death'; he is a merchant of some death."
"Finding Fela" - doc overview
"Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger" - excellent digging, but boring filmmaking.
"Marmato" - doc overview
Not for me
"I Origins" - Mike Cahill may make some beautiful images, but as a devout atheist and unrepentant cynic, I find his films grandiose, overly precious and a bit naive.
"White Bird in a Blizzard" - review
"Fishing Without Nets" - review