Sundance went quick my friends and I’ve been working on what to say to you about it. It all started when I decided to go after coming up with my New Year’s Resolution for 2012 — watch more movies. My job requires that I’m on top of these things, but I always feel woefully behind. Besides there is much that goes on at Sundance aside from the films themselves showcasing innovation in media. Sundance 2012 was my first experience at a major film festival and I had a great time. I hope to go again next year. While I could talk about the films and the New Frontier forever, here are just three experiences from my time in Utah.

Waitlisting…And Actually Getting In!

On my first night in Salt Lake City I had all but given up the idea that I would see a film that night. Being my first time in the city I was just up for going with the flow. Thankfully, fate stepped in. My host for the night and I ran into a friend of his and his boyfriend. After introductions were done they told us they had to get going to get in line for Grabbers. My jaw dropped and I exclaimed that I wanted to see it too. In fact it had been a top pick that I was not able to buy a ticket for in advance.

So to break it down, I decided to buy individual tickets vs. a ticket package so months in advance I signed up for a time to buy my movie tickets. Sadly everything I had wanted was sold out right before so I bought a few award winners, a couple random ones, and one that I actually did think sounded pretty good. I knew I would have to go to the box office in the morning or to waitlist for anything else.

“Waitlisting” at Sundance means you have to get there a few hours early and stand in line to get a number. We had spot 1 and 2 and thankfully there were spots for us because honestly I think I would have been a bit devastated if it didn’t happen for me.

Grabbers is an Irish horror-comedy in the vain of Shawn of the Dead and Zombieland. In the film mysterious creatures fall from the sky into the water right next to a quaint Irish fishing village. Of course they have a bad habit of killing people, but thankfully the resident cops and local booze hounds soon discover that by drinking excessive amounts of alcohol they have a defense against these slimy monsters. If you like a little chuckle with your blood and guts this is the film for you. Of all the Sundance films I attended this was my absolute favorite by far. I was fully expecting sub-par special effects, but I was surprised to be jumping out of my seat and half hiding behind my partner in sheer delight. It was amazing and I look forward to when more people will be getting the thrill of seeing Grabbers.

Taking a Recommendation

Then there was The Raid. I would honestly never had considered this movie if not for one of my employees telling me that I needed to see it, because he wanted to be jealous and hear a report back from an actual person he knows. I am very glad this happened, because The Raid was, pardon the saying, an ‘adrenaline packed’ martial arts movie that even got me totally immersed and excited. There were some annoying young men behind us that talked through the bit before the movie started and I was about to have a harsh word with them, but they finally hushed up. I guess my angry librarian look still works.

As for the plot, the movie centers on a drug raid that is going terribly wrong and there is of course one good guy that we all are rooting for and some really terrible badies. It all happens at one location which causes the entire film to feel like it is in real time. This in combination with very slick editing (there is some slowing down, speeding up, and sharp cuts which not terribly original did work very well here) and the very talented martial arts skills of the actors/stunts made this film while cringeworthy in bloodiness, also very stunning.

What disturbed me and touched me most about this film is that it went beyond what I normally would have expected and while to be sure there was a glorification of violence on one hand, it also was not simple. Without even getting into the deeper plot because that may ruin it a bit, I will say that I was struck with a distaste knowing that some of the things that happen in the film have at one time or another actually happened. While I enjoyed the film for how intense it all was it also did make me think about some uncomfortable things (something I’m sure the young men behind me did not glean from it). I will say that it is very graphically violent and it is a bit frustrating in the beginning of the movie when there are a lot of guns and not much martial arts, but once they bring it on it is full force. This is a must for fans of the genre.

Selecting a Film for an Actor

As a huge geeky fan of Once Upon a Time I picked out California Solo for Robert Carlyle. Carlyle plays a washed up musician that now works on an organic farm in California and uses drink and a radio show about dead musicians to at first avoid and later deal with the tragedies of his life. He gets in a bit of trouble drinking and driving that turns into a very large problem as he is facing deportation. While fans of The Visitor would appreciate this film for both the topic and tone,it is a film unto itself. Clearly you will have different feelings about the main character in California Solo as his troubles are brought on by himself, I was pulling for him too. I found great joy in this film, but I was made angry and sad when the character disappointed me. So, I reflected and found peace with it because at the end of the day this film was a story truer than often is told. I was touched by this film in great part to this fine actor and I would love to see him at least get some nominations from this one.

Quick Final Thoughts

I also would recommend 5 Broken Cameras for documentary fans and NEXT Award winner Sleepwalk with Me for a comedy. The New Frontier was amazing and I hope to write more about one of the exhibits a bit later. For now have a lovely weekend!