This is one festival where it's nearly impossible to see 3-5 films a day as one can do elsewhere. Logistics (long distances between venues) and timing (long lines beforehand, Q&As afterwards, and long wait times for buses) usually allow for only 2-3 screenings a day at best unless one simply picks a venue and stays there. Not very practical if you have a list of specific films you want to see. But such is the nature of Sundance.
Overall, this year's festival was largely disappointing. Some highly anticipated films were letdowns (Adventureland
). Most did meet my expectations (Don't Let Me Drown, Victoria Day, Dare
) but didn't blow me away. Only a few exceeded them. Many of the actors and filmmakers I was hoping to meet/see again/photograph/interview either didn't show up at all or didn't appear at the screenings I attended. The one film that I'd call the nicest surprise was The Greatest
. Even then, it ended up on indieWIRE's poll of critics and reviewers as one of the festival's worst films. Go figure.
My experience at Sundance this year was such an aberration. Unlike almost every other festival I've attended, none of the films I saw won awards or ended up on any "best" lists or got great reviews. Conversely, none of the films that did win awards or ended up on "best" lists or got great reviews were either on my schedule or films that I wanted to see but couldn't make it to (which is a good thing, I suppose). And the films which I did see that were expected to be among the best fell short. And the films which I wanted to see but missed didn't get great reviews (which is also a good thing, I guess). It means a lot less work for me now, though, since there is absolutely no video for me to post, pictures I took of people which may not even be worth posting, and very few films worth reviewing. I guess there's a silver lining.
Besides being in theaters, I was pleased that I got to spend some time with Mark Rendall (Charlie Bartlett, My One and Only
), Georgia Menides (Still Green
writer/producer) and Delaney Dragon (Rough Hustle
director -- Michael Welch's new film). My sincere thanks to all for being so gracious and kind. Those who were no-shows shall remain nameless.
Please keep in mind that many were enjoyable -- only a few were truly disappointing. But most I would not recommend or see again. In the end, there are only three that I'd not only recommend, but also see again and
buy the DVD. Here are my Top Picks from the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.
#1 - The Greatest
- U.S. Dramatic Competition (USA) 2008
Director: Shana Feste, Screenwriter: Shana Feste, starring Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandon, Carey Mulligan, Johnny Simmons, Aaron Johnson, Michael Shannon.
The one thing I live for (at festivals, at any rate) is a film which truly exceeds my expectations. And I already had pretty high ones going into The Greatest
as it is, with its ensemble cast featuring Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon. But it did more than that. This was one of those rare films that left me saying "wow" as the credits rolled. It's what I was waiting for. The same sentiment was echoed among moviegoers I spoke to when discussing our favorites. It's dark in the Ordinary People/Snow Angels
sense and was certainly difficult to watch. But it's a first-class, stunning achievement from first-time filmmaker Shana Feste.
#2 - Unmade Beds
- World Cinema Dramatic Competition (United Kingdom) 2008
Director: Alexis Dos Santos, Screenwriter: Alexis Dos Santos, starring Deborah Francois, Fernando Tielve.
#3 - The Vicious Kind
- Spectrum (USA) 2008
Director: Lee Toland Krieger, Screenwriter: Lee Toland Krieger, starring Brittany Snow, Adam Scott, J.K. Simmons, Alex Frost.
The 2009 Sundance Film Festival has come to a not-so-exciting conclusion and I've returned home to take stock of my experience there. As in previous years, and as I do following every film festival I attend (31 since the start of 2006), this wrapup will conclude with my list of Top Picks.