Well, we officially wrapped up the 2013 Sundance Festival last night with the Awards Ceremony. As in previous years, there were precious few films deserving of rewards, butt that’s never stopped the Awards Committee before and it didn’t this year either. Besides, it’s a necessary formality, and the excuse for one last extravagant party before Park City rolls up the red carpet along with the sidewalks and settles down as a ski resort for the balance of the winter.
Sundance came to its official close this year as Joseph Gordon Levitt - who made his directorial debut this year with Don Jon's Addiction (hint, Porn)
- opened the awards ceremony by stating: "This isn't basketball. This is the movies. There are no winners and losers. This is art."
If he really believes that, it may explain a lot of the unwatchable movies (including his) screened each year at Sundance. In fact though, I think he only said it because his porn-art movie didn’t win.
Anyway, right after announcing the middle-school policy of no-losers, we’re all equal around here, Mr. Levitt proceeded to announce which of this year’s contenders are more equal than others in several film categories.
For people who talk about it incessantly, and with such admiration and reverence, these people seem to have no grasp of the meaning of irony.
So without further ado, allow me to announce the artists who were deemed to be a little more artistic than their peers:
- Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the U.S. Dramatic competition: Fruitvale
“…the true story of a senseless police shooting that takes the life of yet another young urban black man;”
Do you need to know any more? Forest Whitaker, produced, Ryan Coogler, directed and Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer starred:
“The film is a gritty portrayal of the last day in the life of Oscar Julius Grant III, a 22-year-old Oakland resident shot to death by a Bay Area Rapid Transit policeman on New Year’s Day 2009 — an incident that brought national focus to racial tensions in the San Francisco area…”
In other words, it was artists portraying policeman doing what artists think policemen do: shooting innocent black men.
Thankfully we now live in a post-racial America and we can all just leave this senseless ugliness behind.
- Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award in the U.S. Documentary competition: Blood Brother
“Rocky Braat is a hero, but no plaster saint, in this sweet as-it-happens documentary. Braat, a listless American traveling the world, ended up in India at an orphanage for HIV-positive children -- working as a volunteer, returning to the States when his visa periodically runs out. Director Steve Hoover is a friend of Braat's, so the film has an intimate, loosey-goosey feel. The pace is sometimes meandering, but that's weirdly fitting for a wanderer finally finding his place in the world.”
Translation: the film sucks, butt it’s about a white guy doing good deeds for minority children suffering with Aids in India. He’s like Mother Theresa, only without the flaws. If not an Oscar, I smell at least a nomination for sainthood.
Other un-notable winners include:
- World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer
You may recall the tale of the Pussy Riot punk girls, who entered a Russian cathedral after Putin WON his presidential (re)election and staged a rather unconventional protest by performing simulated sex acts. They were arrested, tried and convicted, butt the fact that they chose to desecrate a church had nothing to do with it, it was for making fun of Pooty.
It’s a tale that portents our future. Other than that, it has no redeeming social value.
- World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary: A River Changes Course
Here we have a touching film about the devastation caused by business development in Cambodia:
“(Mam) explores the damage rapid development has wrought in her native Cambodia on both a human and environmental level.”
Let the record reflect that director Kalyanee Mam escaped with her family from war-torn Cambodia in 1979, lived in America, got an undergraduate degree from Yale and a J.D. from UCLA Law school. She is currently a lawyer and a filmmaker. So obviously she knows the downside of living in a developed country.
- Screenwriting Award, World Cinema Dramatic: Wajma (An Afghan Love Story)
“Synopsis: A young man in Kabul seduces a girl. When she tells him she’s pregnant, he questions having taken her virginity. Then her father arrives, and timeless, archaic violence erupts – possibly leading to a crime, and even a sacrifice.”
Director Barmak Akram was born in Kabul, claims to be an autodidact butt let the record reflect that he received diplomas from three major art schools in France, including the École nationale supérieure des Beaux Arts. In other words he’s an artist. From Kabul.
- Directing Award, World Cinema Dramatic: Crystal Fairy
It stars Gaby Hoffman,daughter of Andy Warhol superstar Viva and the product of a rather, uh, non-conformist childhood. You may remember her as the little girl in Field of Dreams and Sleepless in Seattle, never imagining that she was being raised by wolves in New York.
If this doesn’t make you feel old…
In an interview, Gabby relates that she shot (can I say that?) Chrystal Fairy while tripping on mescaline. If you see it (and I recommend you not) you will find that easy to believe.
Then there were these two winners that came out of nowhere:
- World Cinema Documentary: The Square
- World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: Circles
I didn’t see and don’t know anything about either of these other than the Awards Committee has been criticized in the past for not recognizing diversity enough, so this year they added a special “geometric shapes” division to include any minority group that may have been somehow overlooked in the other awards categories.
If you want more, here’s a list of another 10, mostly non-award winning, films that pretty much stink too, including the over hyped portrayal of Steve Jobs by Ashton Kutcher in jOBS:
Proof that physical similarity does not make for a good biopic matchup. Odd, though, that 2 people could resemble each other so much on a cosmetic level yet have a 100 point gap in their IQs.
Austenland (about a fantasy theme park in England based on the life of Jane Austen characters) held great merit as a concept, butt unfortunately fizzled in execution. Great costumes though.
"Necessary Death" is sort of a cross between a Guy Ritchie movie and "Twin Peaks." It’s horrifically violent, bloody, loud, confusing, bordering on soft-core porn and completely full of itself. It’s nowhere near as original as it wants to be.
Funny, I would’ve picked that one as a winner for sure. Odder still, none of this year’s other porn movies won either: Don Jon’s Addiction, Lovelace, and Look of Love – all left out in the cold.
Oh well, there were still enough real porn stars in town to entertain the troops. The erotic pole dancers from Vegas, baby! made the actors just playing porn stars look pretty shabby by comparison.
And then there were the usual “famous for being famous skanks” hanging around town:
Paris and her new hooters show up to show off
As well as the famous-for-once-being-a-famous-skank:
There were also lot of pre-inaugural sightings of important people around town last weekend in order for them to be seen and still hightail it to Washington on Monday for the next REALLY big party: from left, Nichole, Larry David, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keyes, Nancy, Chris and Bobby.
So as the streets empty out, the town returns to normal and the Sundance Film Fest wraps up for another year, I would just like to recommend a movie that won an award this year that may actually be worth watching:
- Directing Award, World Cinema Documentary: The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear
A movie that may just make your every wish come true.