Sundance 2007 | 01.22, 3:35 p.m.

This "first two-thirds bad, last third good" thing has become a trend as of late of the films I've seen here.

 

Although I'm still planning on seeing six movies today, since it is Monday and the library no longer has funny hours and also I have an odd hour gap between movies that I don't have to give over to waiting in line, it looks like I can check in for the day, which is good. It sort of defeats the purpose of these things if I can't write one every day, but if I don't see lots of movies, I won't have anything to talk about in them. Catch-22.

Moving on, in the 72 or so hours since I last wrote anything for this, I've seen 17 movies. My plan to see six a day from Saturday through today has not gone completely as planned; Saturday I managed to see seven films in the theater in one day (a personal record), and yesterday I only saw five. Also, today, I didn't notice when I was making my schedule that my 5:30 p.m. screening is exactly 90 minutes long, and is a five-minute walk from my 7:00 p.m. screening. I have yet to decide what to do about that.

After writing in this thing on Friday, I headed to the smaller of the two screens in the Yarrow to see the new Crispin Glover film, It Is Fine. EVERYTHING IS FINE. Glover was on hand for a Q&A afterward, which was odd (yet entirely welcome), as I've never seen a filmmaker do that at a press screening before. The film bears little to no resemblance to its predecessor, What Is It? It was written by and stars Steven C. Stewart, a recently deceased, middle-aged man with normal mental faculties but severe cerebral palsy. It concerns Stewart's character fetishizing young, pretty girls with long hair, having sex with them if the opportunity presents itself, and then strangling them. Needless to say, it was wonderful. Also, it co-stars Margit Carstensen, who, along with Hanna Schygulla and Irm Hermann, was one of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's most used actresses.

I had planned on waiting in the waitlist line for The Ten for a few hours hoping to get in after getting out of It Is Fine, but when I arrived at the library, about three hours before the film began, there were already over a hundred people in the waitlist line (the library only has 448 seats), and, for the time being, the line was outside in the five degree weather. So, I gave up on that idea and went back to the Holiday Village for the press screening of Crazy Love, a documentary about Burt Pugach and Linda Riss, from Dan Klores, the guy who had Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story here a few years ago. While I thoroughly enjoyed Crazy Love, it seems like it will be a kind of hard sell, because the joy of the film for me was hearing Pugach and Riss' story, which is already known to people who have watched the news in the past few decades, but was previously unknown to me. I'm not going to talk about it anymore, because I'm caught in some thorny "don't want to give away surprises but movie sounds boring without them" issues here.

That was the last film I saw Friday night, and in the end, it was sort of good that I didn't see The Ten, because I'd've gotten out much later if I had (Crazy Love started at 10:30 p.m. while The Ten started at 11:30), and Snow Angels, the new David Gordon Green, was at 8:30 a.m. the next morning (meaning I have to get up at about 6:45 a.m. to get ready, walk to the theater, and stand in line forever). Speaking of The Ten, I said in my last Sundance Diary entry that it was the new film from John August, which is not true. John August's new film is called The Nines, which is the one I'm going to try to see at 7 p.m. tonight. The Ten is a comedy about the Ten Commandments. (Incidentally, on the first day of the festival Variety wrote a very funny, front-page article about how the films at Sundance have way-too-similar names this year.)

Also, regarding that five-degree weather for the waitlist line…this is my third year at Sundance, and the first two were unseasonably warm (usually high of 40 or so and low of 25 with no precipitation and no wind), but this year it has been seasonably cold, which has been a shock. I've been so cold most of the time I've been here.

As should not be surprising, Snow Angels is the best film I've seen so far at Sundance this year. I'm totally stuck up David Gordon Green's ass. This one has the same tone as George Washington and All the Real Girls, but is a little more plot driven than those (like Undertow, but this time it isn't really a thriller). It primarily is about the post-divorce disintegration of a man and wife, played by Sam Rockwell (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) and Kate Beckinsale (Underworld), but also finds some time to follow the life of a young coworker of Kate's. The film is really well cast, too; this was the first time I've liked Beckinsale in a film, except for maybe The Aviator, and relative newcomer Olivia Thirlby is a real find. Plus, it finds a good, only sort-of comedic role for Amy Sedaris, who is great.

I finished a half-hour session halfway through that last paragraph. I'm on a second one now, which I think the librarians secretly frown upon, and I don't have time for a third anyway, so what I don't finish here today I will try to catch up on tomorrow (I only have four films scheduled, unless something else comes up).

I had originally planned on seeing the new film that Guillermo Arriaga (Babel) wrote, The Night Buffalo, but instead I decided to see Teeth, the film about the girl with vagina dentata. Hopefully they'll re-screen The Night Buffalo. So far, Teeth seems to be one of the big hits of the festival, but I was underwhelmed. If you haven't already guessed, or just known in the first place, vagina dentata is a mythical disease where a girl grows teeth in her vagina. My problem with Teeth was that it was neither serious enough nor campy enough, but in a weird area in between. I would have preferred it a black, dry comedy, or a Troma film, but as it is, there's maybe two gross-out scenes, and the rest of it just feels like a stunt. I'm kind of surprised that people are going for it, but whatever. Watch it be a hit later this year.

After Teeth, I saw An American Crime, which stars Catherine Keener, Ellen Page, and James Franco. It's only 90 minutes long, and the first hour or so I was really bored; it wasn't so much that it was bad, but it was slow, and nothing that I hadn't seen a million time before was going on. The last half hour was really pretty good (sans a false ending). This "first two-thirds bad, last third good" thing has become a trend as of late of the films I've seen here. An American Crime is based on a true story of a single woman with six kids who agrees to watch a couple of travelers' kids for a few months, only to wind up torturing one of the two kids under the guise of "punishment."

A lot of people have been complaining this year that all of the films are too depressing, and the press screenings of Snow Angels, An American Crime, and the next film I saw, The Good Life, are often the examples to complainers go to. The reason I saw The Good Life was because Zooey Deschanel is in it, whom I love, but the film really sucks. It's about a kid with a hard life. That's about it.

The first five films I saw on Saturday were all in the big auditorium at the Yarrow, which is my least favorite (and the least comfortable) of the three press screening venues. The fifth was Broken English, which stars Parker Posey and Drea de Matteo, and comes from Zoe Cassavetes. There have been a lot of comparisons to Lost in Translation regarding this film (just look at the title; plus, it concerns at least partially an alienated American in France), which I would normally disregard as reductive and easy, but it is well known that Cassavetes is friends with Sofia Coppola, and even thanks her in the credits, which makes the whole film pretty glaring. It is watchable, though, at least. I always like Parker Posey.

After my marathon five films in a row in the big auditorium at the Yarrow, I saw a film in the smaller auditorium in the same hotel, a Chinese film called How Is Your Fish Today? HIYFT is one of those odd films that I thoroughly enjoyed, but it is hard to describe in a venue such as this, because it isn't exactly plot-driven. Instead, it is really good at making you think about stuff, only some of which is relevant to the goings-on in the film. Needless to say, films that stimulate thought and are nice to look at are welcome when you're seeing a ton of films all in a row, most of which are described by others as "depressing."

(For the record, I never find good films depressing, even if their plot is depressing. I just enjoy seeing good films—who cares if it makes me happy or sad or whatever?)

Okay, I've only got about five minutes left here, so I'll talk about the next film I saw, the new Gregg Araki, Smiley Face, and then call it a day. I'll talk about the films I saw yesterday and today when I make it in tomorrow. Sucks being behind on writing these things.

So yeah, at 11:30 p.m. Saturday night, I went to the world premiere of Smiley Face, a comedy starring Anna Faris who smokes a lot of pot on a day that she has a lot of important errands to do. I've been telling people that Snow Angels and Smiley Face are the two best films I've seen here so far, and they are quite an unlikely pair, as Smiley Face is broad as hell. Still, Faris is a genius comedic actress and should probably be cast in everything from now on (until she loses it, at least). The Office's John Krasinski also shows up in a supporting role, as a guy hopelessly in unrequited love with Faris (if that sounds familiar, it's worth mentioning that Krasinski here is a far cry from The Office's Jim), and Danny Masterson and Adam Brody also show up in unlikely supporting roles. I'd like to talk about it more, because it is hilarious and I loved it (and they gave me a free cupcake at the end), but I'm out of time. Maybe tomorrow. | Pete Timmermann

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