Sundance Wrap: The 5 Best Films Of The Festival, Plus Our Complete Coverage

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by The Playlist Staff
January 28, 2013 2:09 PM
15 Comments
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"Prince Avalanche"

It's been a rough few years to be a David Gordon Green fan. We didn't begrudge him his shift into commercial comedy with "Pineapple Express," partly because the film was so much fun, but subsequent excursions, in "Your Highness" and "The Sitter" tested the patience of fans who fell in love with his early pictures like "George Washington" and "All The Real Girls." But the director was back on form in a big way at Sundance this year with the "meditative, funny and sublime" "Prince Avalanche." A remake of the Icelandic film "Either Way," it's essentially a two-hander starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch as a pair of highway road repairmen -- Alvin (Rudd) and his dim-witted brother-in-law Lance (Hirsch) -- that according to Rodrigo Perez's review, serves as "an affecting meditation on men, relationships, nature and rebirth that might be Green's most vital film to date." The two actors "have chemistry to spare," while the film's also aided by gorgeous cinematography and a "wistful and sonorously beautiful" score, making it a combination of Green's recent comic work and his more lyrical early pictures that feels like "the logical, next-phase direction for the filmmaker." Ultimately, Rodrigo's review concluded by saying that the film is "a deeply enjoyable, wondrous delight that you shoudl give yourself over to when it eventually hits theaters," which will come courtesy of Magnolia.

"Escape From Tomorrow"

Playing in the NEXT section with almost no fanfare, "Escape From Tomorrow" quickly became one of the word-of-mouth buzz titles of the festival, in part because people were unsure if the film would ever be screened outside of Park City. The feature debut of writer/director Randy Moore, the film follows a father on vacation with his family at a theme park, who discovers he's been fired from his job, and starts to lose his grip on reality. The twist? The film was shot surreptitiously (in black-and-white, no less) entirely at Walt Disney World in Florida, without the approval of the Mouse House suits. It may yet cause legal headaches down the line, but aside from the conceptual talking point, the film was deemed an impressive debut, not least by our correspondent William Goss in his review. He acknowledges that the film is "bugnuts," but "clearly stems from some of the very real frustrations that families are met with in the face of overwhelming corporate homogeneity." And while it's "a bit on the sloppy side," there's some impressive craft involved, not least from composer Abel Korzeniowksi ("A Single Man,") who contributes " a score of unlikely grandeur",  and from leading man Roy Abramsohn, who "handles the story's unlikely demands with aplomb." The legal issues are looking up, according to some experts, so hopefully "this potential cult classic" will be able to be seen by all before too long, though it currently doesn't have distribution.

"Toy's House"

 Three years back, the short "Successful Alcoholics" premiered at Sundance, and became something of a Playlist favorite. This year, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, fresh off his Comedy Central series "Mash Up," returned with his first feature, and the results were just as pleasing. Following a trio of kids on the cusp of adolescence, who avoid their strained relationships with their parents by escaping into the woods to build a house, the film blends Amblin Entertainment, Terrence Malick and Michael Bay into "a crockpot of comedy and coming-of-age film without a trace of irony." According to Cory Everett's review, the young, mostly unknown cast (excepting TV favorites like Nick Offerman, Alison Brie and Hannibal Burress) "are excellent," especially the "completely unpredictable" Moises Arias, and while the film has an out-there premise, "the feelings are all real... and the film treats them seriously." The director and first-time writer Chris Galletta "are in perfect unison, harmonizing to create what feels like a fresh comic voice," and while there are obvious comparison points, "the film firmly carves out its own identity." "Beautiful and dark and also funny," it has a good chance of becoming a crossover success when CBS Films release it into theaters.


Reviews:

"Upstream Color" [A]
"Ain't Them Bodies Saints" [A-]
"Prince Avalanche" [A-]
"It Felt Like Love" [A-]
"Escape From Tomorrow" [B+]
"Toy's House" [B+]
"Breathe In" [B+]
"Narco Cultura" [B+]
"Afternoon Delight" [B+]
"Don Jon's Addiction" [B+/B]
"Before Midnight" [B]
"The Spectacular Now" [B]
"In A World" [B]
"Crystal Fairy" [B]
"The Way Way Back" [B]
"S-VHS" [B]
"The East" [B-]
"C.O.G." [B-]
"Touchy Feely" [B-]
"Kill Your Darlings" [C+]
"Austenland" [C]
"Emanuel & The Truth About Fishes" [C-]
"The Look of Love" [D+]
"The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman" [D+]
"Stoker" [D-]
Preview: "Top Of The Lake"

Interviews:

Drake Doremus ("Breathe In")
David Gordon Green ("Prince Avalanche")
Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Julianne Moore/Tony Danza ("Don Jon's Addiction")
Frederik Bond ("The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman")


The 15 Breakout Artists Of Sundance 2013

   - Oliver Lyttelton & Rodrigo Perez

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15 Comments

  • Mass | January 29, 2013 6:25 PMReply

    @ Shelly: You're an idiot. No one cares about black people and racism anymore, so on behalf of everyone here stfu and GTFO.

  • MASSALOU | January 30, 2013 10:55 AM

    HAHAHAHA You told him! Didn't you know this blog's readership consists mainly of highly educated white dudes with excellent cinematic taste?

  • Mass | January 29, 2013 6:25 PMReply

    @ Shelly: You're an idiot. No one cares about black people and racism anymore, so on behalf of everyone here stfu and GTFO.

  • Edward Davis | January 29, 2013 2:50 PMReply

    They were there for like 4 days. I think it's pretty well understood that this is the best of what they saw. That is, unless you're an idiot. And no one avoided Fruitvale, dummies.

  • Shelly | January 29, 2013 2:17 PMReply

    Wow this really is a white ass list

  • Lou | January 29, 2013 9:12 PM

    Keep fighting that revolution on the internet, Sister Souljah.

  • shelly | January 29, 2013 2:15 PMReply

    "Fruitvale fell between the cracks". AKA it was made by and starring black people so you didn't bother seeing it even though it had huge buzz.

  • Rafaela | January 29, 2013 9:32 AMReply

    Shouldn't it be: the best 5 films from the ones we watched? There was a lot of hype regarding the film Concussion and it didn't even get a review. It's hard to say which are the top 5 films (of the whole festival) if you only saw the list above...

  • 5673 | January 29, 2013 3:00 AMReply

    There were 117 features at Sundance 2012 -- I can't find a 2013 number, but we can probably assume it's close to 117. The guys and girls of The Playlist announce their "Five Best Film of the Festival" list, yet you didn't even see Fruitvale, one of the most hyped pics of the fest. You saw, roughly, 25 of a possible 117 features; 21%; about 1 in 5. So, given this, is it really responsible to make a list at all, or are you just blindly generating more hype for already hyped titles? Cuz honestly, this is just a prefab list of Sundance's 'most seen, liked and talked/blogged/tweeted' about features (that aren't completely commercial/assured of huge release), of a possible ten or so (you could've interchanged Breathe In or The Spectacular Now to no net effect). Not only did you miss a bunch of other 'big' titles (Fruitvale, Mother of George), you didn't even touch anything that lay off the beaten track. Surely you don't have the resources to have seen everything, can't be blamed for that, but perhaps making a list that simply reinforces the Sundance 2013 canon -- while remaining ignorant of the vast majority of what was actually offered -- isn't thoughtful, informed 'film journalism'

  • imnotcocteau | January 29, 2013 12:28 AMReply

    I've just finished reading two flawed articles on indieWire [this one and the feature on delayed films]. After I checked to see who were the culprits, I learned there was only one: Oliver Lyttelton. With titles that draw in the reader, what's follows is sophomoric banter. The content is lacking and the writing barely rating a C. Are these really the best films of Sundance? Although they may be, I'm not convinced by the tepid rationalizations. This roundup comes off as if Lyttelton were on deadline and chose 5 indieWire reviews at random. With the "delayed films" article, the writing is sloppy and the arguments unconvincing and clammy. Why not include interviews with experts in both pieces? If Mr. Lyttelton is in his teens or early twenties, I apologize, and I applaud indieWire for giving space to a neophyte, even at the expense of its well-earned reputation. [I would suggest that this scribe first polish his craft at rags like Tiger Beat.] On the bright side, Lyttelton's jargon brought back happy memories of a Richard Matheson short story: “In less than an hour I have to hold class for a group of idiot freshmen. And, on a desk in the living room, is a mountain of midterm examinations with essays I must suffer through, feeling my stomach turn at their paucity of intelligence, their adolescent phraseology." Thanks for this little joy.

  • bwaters | January 29, 2013 12:58 AM

    I love how you're mocking his writing style while writing really badly.

  • Aron Campisano | January 28, 2013 4:14 PMReply

    Aaand the most overlooked film of the festival is... We Are What We Are. Did anyone else see this movie?

  • joe | January 28, 2013 2:26 PMReply

    Just wondering, did you guys get around to "Blue Caprice"? Looks like one of the more interesting films of the festival.

  • Rob | January 28, 2013 2:17 PMReply

    It Felt Like Love got a higher grade than some of the films on your top 5. Why isn't it on there?

  • Oliver Lyttelton | January 28, 2013 2:57 PM

    Another writer saw it as a screener ahead of the festival, so we felt it wasn't quite fair to compare it to the other stuff was there -- seen in a different context etc. No slight on the film.

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