Continued from My Sundance Film Festival 2020 Recap and Mini-Reviews: PART ONE.
Okay, I finished my last post with the Tuesday midnight show. Now, let’s finish out the week, culminating with my favorite film of the festival. Away we go…
MY WEDNESDAY FILMS:
Zola was on a lot of the “best of” lists from this year’s Sundance, but holy lord it is an unpleasant movie to watch. Just like Kajillionaire, this is the other movie at the fest that had great acting, interesting characters, and a crazy plot, that I really couldn’t enjoy. It was another example of really ugly characters doing really ugly things. Even your protagonist isn’t someone you can get behind because of her bad decisions. Based on a series of “true” tweets, Zola follows two strippers through an insane road trip in Florida. While there is a lot going on, all I did was feel bad for everyone involved. Sad ugly people doing sad ugly things. Well done, but for me, it was simply not a pleasant experience to wallow in.
Spree was such a damn fun movie. Sure, the story of “someone who wants to become internet famous so they go to extreme measures” isn’t necessarily a new one, but here it feel super fresh. Besides the deft directing job, the main reason for this is the star Joe Keery (Steve from Stranger Things). He is so damn likable that even when he starts doing heinous things to the passengers that get into his Spree car (it’s like Uber or Lyft), you still, oddly, kind of root for him. It’s a bizarre place to be in, but it’s true. This movie is funny, disturbing, and pretty damn violent. I highly recommend it, especially to people who are social media obsessed. Let’s see how you feel by the time this flick is over.
I think I liked Run Sweetheart Run a lot more than many people in my theater. Let me just say this. Some movies use subtext to get their messages across in a subtle way. This movie uses a sledgehammer to split open your head with its message, and that didn’t sit well with everyone at my screening. This is 100% a feminist horror movie, and I gotta say, I dug it. Essentially it’s about a blind date gone VERY bad, but it won’t take you long to see it’s about a lot more. I expect a lot of backlash from insecure men, but put those fools aside and you’ve got a really fun flick here that will make everyone contemplate things in a different way. Although I’ll warn you, even as a secure man, you can’t help walking out of this movie feeling like the enemy.
MY THURSDAY FILMS:
Ahh, Possessor. Directed by Brandon Cronenberg, but it sure does have all the feels of his daddy, David. This is a Cronenberg movie through and through, and if you know me, that means good times indeed. It’s equal parts heady sci-fi, body horror, highly disturbing visuals, and over-the-top bloody violence. It’s about a futuristic company that sends agents into the brains of unsuspecting victims, takes over their bodies, and makes them commit assassinations. But yeah, as you’d expect, things go awry, in a very bloody and melty way. I super dug this flick. It’s got a lot of twists and turns and one hell of an ending. Not for the feint of heart, but if you like Cronenberg films, this one is definitely for you.
And now for the film coming out of this festival that most people heard about. Definitely the belle of the ball, Palm Springs set the record for the largest sale ever at Sundance… by 69 cents. And well, I’m here to say the praise is absolutely justified. Palm Springs is fantastic. It’s basically a new version of Groundhog Day, only in a super vulgar, romantic comedy version, complete with spectacular Lonely Island-esque dialogue. The overall vibe reminded me of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, another movie I love. Such an important thing to have characters you actually root for (including my favorite JK Simmons!) Palm Springs may have an indie spirit, but I guarantee this is going to be a major breakout hit.
Save Yourselves! is an interesting movie. It’s a small little animal with a fun idea and a big heart. The overall idea is what happens when two millennials who live on their phones (and laptops, and Google Homes, Echos, etc…), and have ZERO actual skills, get caught in the middle of the woods with no cell service during an alien invasion. It’s a nice send up of how inept so many millennials can actually be. The only problem is the size. 90% of the movie is the same two characters in every scene, so no matter how amazing their chemistry and dialogue are, it feels very small. Not much action since most is implied, but there are some fun moments, and the two leads are super funny and entertaining. A good time, although, the filmmakers obviously had no idea how to write an ending.
Surge is an interesting movie. It’s not a fun movie to watch… nor an entertaining experience… nor redeeming in any way. But damn, it sure is interesting. Surge is basically about a meek, subdued man, who suddenly SNAPS. Once his brain seemingly shatters, he starts wreaking havoc on the world around him. It’s like Falling Down, but without a single iota of playfulness or fun. This is a disturbing viewing experience, and I mean disturbing. You essentially spend over 90 minutes watching a man have a complete nervous breakdown, where he goes from robbing banks to getting in fights to wrecking hotel rooms and even crashing a wedding. It’s… not pleasant. But damn, Ben Whishaw is incredible. If you like nihilistic cinema, this is all for you.
MY ONE FRIDAY FILM BEFORE MY FLIGHT JUST HAPPENED TO BE MY FAVORITE:
Promising Young Woman is flat out incredible. There really is no reason to mince words here. It is a complex, difficult, exciting, thought-provoking, frustrating, exhilarating, and lingering film experience, perfect for the #metoo era. Starring the incredible Carey Mulligan as a vengeful juggernaut who sets up elaborate traps in order to distill revenge on men who take advantage of women. What is she doing? Why is she doing it? What is her endgame? There is no way I’m going to answer anything else about this movie because you need to experience it for yourself. The filmmaking has so much style that it feels like you’re on a roller coaster from beginning to end. And I dare you to find any other movie that uses a symphonic version of Britney Spears’ Toxic to such a perfect effect. Plus, you’ve got Bo Burnham, Laverne Cox and a whole slew of other incredible actors in smaller roles. I could go on and on, but that would defeat the purpose of the “mini-review” I set out to do. But dammit all to HELL, I loved this movie. I truly hope it finds mass success when it opens wider. Best of the fest for sure.
Okay, that completes my Sundance Film Festival 2020 Recap and Mini-Review Extravaganza. Well, it wasn’t as much of an extravaganza, more like a small get together with friends.
Regardless, Sundance will always be one of my favorite weeks of the year and I hope to attend it for as long as I humanly can. Who know, maybe I’ll see some of you there in the future. If any of you go, be sure and let me know. We’ll grab a beer and see some flicks.
Take care, all.