…Now, the Party Begins
January 29, 2021
As if Friday isn’t already the most challenging focus day of the week, my resolve was genuinely tested with Sundance reviews popping up in a constant stream. The excitement of day two was palpable. Viewers were off to the races, with one starting off the day seeing “Homeroom,” while another caught “Cryptozoo.” Everyone was watching and sharing their opinions, then moving on to the next film. All this while I was busy with my full-time day job (again, I really wish I could have taken time off).
However, when 7:00PM rolled around, I was finally able to jump into my next cinematic adventure. There was a feeling that this tiny little snowball was beginning its perpetual roll down the hill. I now had an entire weekend to watch Sundance films. With my impossible schedule of films cued up, my anticipation hit an all-time high. I was ready to stagger off this ledge and become the most giant rolling snowball that I can possibly be.
But let’s rewind just a bit, to take in the full day…
8:00 AM — THE SUNDANCE DAILIES
Much like attending the Opening Ceremony, I’m guessing not many veterans attend the “Sundance Dailies” with Festival Director Tabitha Jackson. However, I damn sure got a kick out of it. It was nice to hear her and the other Sundance coordinators talk about what they’re excited to see. They also got me excited to see Edgar Wright’s documentary, “The Sparks Brothers.” Tabitha began by asking them what they were having for breakfast. Russell, sitting next to a Hello Kitty toaster, was having toast. Ridiculously, Ron cracked open a Diet Mountain Dew, citing it contained all the essentials for the day. When asked, “what was the worst thing they ever got from a fan,” Ron quickly quipped, “herpes.” Edgar Wright eventually chimed in, describing the process of getting Ron and Russell interested in the project.
Over the next few days, my schedule will get pretty tight with seeing films, but if I can carve out some time to pop in on the “Dailies,” I most assuredly will.
7:00 PM — FILM #2: “IN THE EARTH“
When I was finally released to the wild following my strenuous workweek, I delved into the Premiere of Ben Wheatley’s latest foray into horror, “In The Earth.” Conceived and produced during the pandemic, Ben pointed out that the film itself was not specifically about the pandemic but did not shy away from it either. About a pair of park rangers headed out into the forest to track down a colleague who had gone radio silent, the film becomes a survival horror flick unlike any you have seen before.
Here’s the quick blurb I put out following my viewing:
“In The Earth” is trippy, terrifying, and borderline traumatizing. The performances are stellar across the board, and the style and mythology were both thought-provoking and squirm-inducing. The real test is getting through the film without a mental breakdown or developing epilepsy.
8:40 PM — “IN THE EARTH” Q&A
Ben Wheatley in an interviewing setting is a gift. The man does not shy away from poking fun at stupid questions, and his dry, sarcastic wit was welcomed. Having adored her performance in the film, it was also lovely to hear from actress Ellora Torchia, who fittingly also starred in “Midsommar.” Ben discussed how it was filmed during the pandemic and where some of the film’s lore came from.
9:00 PM — FILM #3: “KNOCKING”
After taking several hundred calming deep breathes, I dove back into another of Sundance’s “Midnight” series with “Knocking,” a Swedish film locked in at a brisk 78 minutes long.
Here are my quick thoughts following the viewing:
KNOCKING blends the lines of reality and psychosis perfectly, with sound and production design laying the groundwork for a creepy atmosphere. Also, a chef’s kiss to the DIY camerawork, with angles and movements that were part of the film’s high points.
10:30 PM — “KNOCKING” Q&A
Once the technical difficulties were overcome, this ended up being a great interview. Director Frida Kempff discussed the themes she was exploring throughout the film, including women’s treatment when it comes to appearance and temperament. Leading actress Cecilia Milocco discussed her pressures in the extremely abbreviated 18-day production window and how it benefited her character. And Hannes Krantz, the director of photography, discussed creating camera equipment from things in his basement and the camera movements’ evolution throughout the film.
11:00 PM — FILM #4: “MOTHER SCHMUCKERS”
Making the night a “Midnight” movie double feature, I concluded the evening with the comedy(?) “Mother Schmuckers.” Made in Belgium, the story follow two idiotic brothers running around Brussels, trying to find their mother’s dog that they lost. Not only did 70 minutes feel like an eternity, but I also found myself resenting the fact that I’d actually spent money on this one. Obviously, they can’t all be winners, but still.
Here’s my blurb about the pain this one caused me:
The fact that MOTHER SCHMUCKERS was introduced as an “instant Sundance classic” truly illuminates that one person’s dog turd is another person’s dinner. Even at 70 mins, the film plummets past sophomoric and moronic and splatters into unwatchable.
2:00AM — DAY TWO WRAP-UP
I went from watching one film on day one to three films on day two in a true snowball effect. So far, my favorite of the four I’ve seen is “Censor,” hands down. It set the bar pretty high right out of the gate, so we’ll see if anything can overcome it. If you’d like to follow my progress closer to real-time, please add me on Twitter (@NoBadMovie) or on Letterboxd (@haskellch).
Tomorrow, I have five films on the docket, including “Prime Time,” “Coming Home in the Dark,” and “Mass.” I’m also still holding out hope that I’ll be able to snag a “Coda” ticket if one becomes available (fingers crossed). Most of the afternoon will be spent with my children, but I’ll be getting in as many films as I can.
So, for anyone ready to party, I’ll see you bright and early tomorrow morning.