This was my first year attending the Sundance Film Festival and I had an absolute blast. I have never watched so many movies and written so many reviews over such a short time span. I not only got to see some great movies (and some not-so-great ones), but I also got to hang out with plenty of awesome people who made my Sundance experience even better.
After the jump, you’ll find my “Sundance Scorecard” which has all of the films I saw ranked from best to worst along with their letter grade. While I’m not a huge fan of stamping a grade on a movie, I figure it’s enough of a hook that the grade will make you want to read the review and figure out why I gave it a particular grade. I’ve also included my thoughts on the festival including where it was outstanding and where it could use some improvement.
The only comparable event to Sundance I’ve attended during my time working at Collider is Comic-Con. However, if faced with the choice of only attending one, I would take Sundance every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Sundance is crowded, but the venues are so spread out that it doesn’t feel like you’re packed inside a can of sardines, which is the sensation you get when moving around the San Diego Convention Center. I also found the majority of volunteers at Sundance to be incredibly helpful and friendly. The shuttle system (which was impressive) can be a little confusing, but the volunteers who are willing to stand outside in the cold so they can tell morons like me “Yes, this bus goes to the Yarrow Theater,” 800 times over the course of a day deserve some kind of special medal.
The festival also knew how to treat press incredibly well. Not only was the press office well-organized and staffed with helpful folks, but they even had a press lounge with seats and the seats had power outlets! (I’m easily impressed) This is in contrast to Comic-Con, where I don’t want to say that they hate press as much as they’re aware how much they don’t need us since they’re “about the fans”. Also, Comic-Con is largely about marketing whereas Sundance is about movies, and my love of film is why I do this job in the first place.
If there is one thing that the festival desperately needs to fix, it’s the power of pass-holders. The festival sells expensive passes that allow a person to skip the line and come in any time they want. While I understand the financial burden of running a festival as massive as Sundance and think that all-access passes aren’t necessarily a bad thing, they can also serve as a giant middle-finger to the average ticket holder.
For example, I was in line for a public screening of The Guard. I wanted to get a good seat and since I didn’t have anything better to do, I decided to get in line 90 minutes early and just write a review while I was waiting. I was the fifth ticket-holder in line for the film. However, because so many pass-holders were able to cut the line, only about ten other ticket-holders and me were able to get in. Everyone else was given a little notation on their ticket saying that they could exchange it for another movie. As a ticket holder, that has to be maddening. You get to a movie super-early, but people with more disposable income show up much later and take your seat, and then you’re left holding a worthless ticket that you can exchange for another ticket that won’t guarantee you entrance to a movie you want to see.
I think Sundance needs to institute a policy of capping the number of pass-holders who are admitted into a screening. These people would still get to cut the line and get their choice of seats, but would have to show up early if they wanted in. The willingness to waste an hour (or more) in a line shows that you want to see a movie more than a person who gets there later and your patience should be rewarded with a movie, not a worthless I.O.U. ticket.
But other than this problem, I thought Sundance was a well-oiled machine. I had such a wonderful time hanging out with other movie bloggers and chatting up strangers about which movies they’d seen and which movies they were looking forward to. I absolutely can’t wait to go again next year.
Finally, here’s the list of the 32 films I reviewed at the festival, ranked from best to worst:
- Project Nim (A)
- Martha Marcy May Marlene (A)
- Hobo with a Shotgun (A-)
- Win Win (A-)
- Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times (B+)
- The Guard (B+)
- The Future (B+)
- The Lie (B+)
- My Idiot Brother (B)
- Submarine (B)
- Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (B)
- The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (B)
- Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (B)
- Reagan (B)
- These Amazing Shadows (B)
- How to Die in Oregon (B-)
- Pariah (B-)
- Take Shelter (C+)
- The Details (C+)
- Red State (C+)
- The Music Never Stopped (C+)
- Bobby Fischer Against the World (C)
- In a Better World (C)
- Higher Ground (C)
- The Interrupters (C-)
- Flypaper (C-)
- Salvation Boulevard (D+)
- Like Crazy (D+)
- Magic Trip (D+)
- Tyrannosaur (D-)
- Homework (F)
- Benavides Born (F)