SUNDANCE LOG: DAY 3 (THE WITCH HUNTERS, LATE NIGHT, SUNLIT NIGHT)

Originally my plan for today at the Sundance Film Festival was to see 4 films but by the time I got through film 3 I was tired and ready to go home. Even so, 9 movies in 3 days is nothing to sneeze at! So far I’d say the festival has been a success with the usual combination of studs and duds. Hopefully I will get lucky and this week’s evening shows will be all winners because today swung violently both ways!

witch hunter

The Witch Hunters

First up this morning was the last of the 3 Sundance Kids films for this year entitled The Witch Hunters. Directed by Rasko Milijkovic this sweet film would be a perfect way to introduce a young child to a foreign language film. At the screening they gave all non-readers in the audience headphones with an English interpreter telling them the dialogue and it seemed to go over great. What a terrific experience for kids to be exposed too!

Fortunately the film is also delightful. Most of the story relies on the charm and terrific acting of its two young protagonists Jovan (Mihajlo Milavic) and Milica (Silma Mahmuti). Jovan has cerebral palsy and struggles with the weaknesses of his body and his inability to be like everyone else (a scene where he tries to climb a staircase had me in tears!). Meanwhile Milica is struggling with the destruction of her parent’s marriage and her father’s new girlfriend who they deem to be a witch (she makes her own kombucha and does yoga LOL).

It is so nice to see a story where a girl and boy are just friends and there is no attempt at young love. The parents (even the new girlfriend) are also pleasant and trying their best to do a good job (this isn’t a Home Alone style of disastrous parenting). It’s a sweet story about how friendship and imagination can help us get through the tough times of life- especially as young children.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

late_night_still_1

Late Night

It will be interesting to see how the public accepts Late Night. I worry it has the chance of being seriously overhyped. I came out loving it but then heard it had just set a record of $13 million purchase price by Amazon. Much like The Big Sick, I wonder if by the time normal audiences see it they will be frustrated it isn’t the greatest thing to ever exist? We will have to see I suppose.

Regardless, I can tell you what I thought about it. Written and starring Mindy Kaling, it tells the story of an Indian-American writer who gets her dream job working for the queen of late night television Katherine Newberry (Emma Thompson). As she works in this masculine environment we see both her sensibilities challenged and the Emma Thompson character trying to deal with her declining career.

Late Night, felt like a throwback to a type of movie we don’t get any more. Not since Nora Ephron died have I seen a movie that did such a good job in balancing comedy, story, witty banter and sneaky social commentary. Nora’s movies were always (even the bad ones) deceptively light and fluffy. Sure something like You’ve Got Mail may seem like a basic romcom but hidden inside are loads of little quips about New York, men and women, politics, movies, marriage and more. This is the dynamic Mindy Kaling was able to tap into when writing Late Night. It is funny. It is insightful and there might even be some romance (for both characters in a way).

The supporting cast is also great with John Lithgow and Amy Ryan as special standouts. Late Night is a real winner you should keep your eyes open for!

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

sunlit night

The Sunlit Night

There’s always one movie at Sundance that its acceptance at the festival should give young aspiring filmmakers encouragement to enter their own films next year. Not because of its brilliance mind you, but because it is a complete disaster. Last year it was Ophelia but at least that was unintentionally funny. Instead, this year we get the hot mess that is The Sunlit Night.

Starring Jenny Slate (who’ve I’ve never been a fan of) The Sunlit Night is about an aspiring artist that takes an internship in Norway to work for a curmudgeonly old man who is painting a barn to look like the sun. It is also about Alex Sharp’s character who’s father dies and he ends up in Norway to grant his father’s last wish to be buried at the top of the world.

All of this could be fine but there were so many problems I almost don’t know where to begin. First of all, it is so tonally all over the place. Certain moments are very silly. For example, Zach Galifianakis playing a man from Cincinnati who lives in the Viking reenactment, or any scene with Gillian Anderson as Alex’s Russian Mother. These were so cringe-worthy. All of this was played for laughs but landed like a thud. And then the movie would try to go super sincere and then would be pretty dark. Then other moments it was like a fluffy romcom.

There was also no chemistry between Alex and Jenny. He seemed like a child where she was a fully-experienced woman. Plus, they are together for so little time that the relationship isn’t even given a chance.

The writing was also a mess. I’m told it is based on a book but it dragged (SO BORING!!!) and yet it somehow also had more story than it knew what to do with. For instance, there is a side plotline with Jenny’s sister’s wedding and her parents separating, which just makes her parents look like insufferable jerks. Nothing interesting is done with them so I was left wondering why I was forced to endure these terrible human beings for 2 hours?

It’s also technically a disaster. The editing is weird and there are multiple points where the ADR doesn’t match up with the mouths of the people talking. I was left truly baffled that anyone with a job thought this was fit to air. What on earth?

Norway looks nice. I’ll give it that but everything else gets a giant UGHHHHH!

1 out of 10

Frown Worthy

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SUNDANCE LOG: DAY 2 (ABE, ELEPHANT QUEEN, FAREWELL)

day 2

Day 2 of the Sundance Film Festival has come and gone and despite having only gotten 4 hours of sleep last night I powered through and saw 4 films in 3 different venues today! Maiden is still my favorite of the festival but there were some interesting films today I’m glad I saw.

abe

Abe

The first movie of the day is a film called Abe that was screened at the SLC Library and it is part of the Sundance Kids lineup. It stars Noah Schnapp as a young man of both Muslim and Jewish ethnicity who is trying to balance his backgrounds and the people in his life carefully all through his love of cooking and food.

This one was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I loved everything with Abe and Noah Schnapp does a great job. He’s a very easy character to root for. I also liked all of the cooking and food scenes (particularly when he goes to work for a local Latin American fusion chef it’s very strong. What I didn’t like was all the other adults. They all claimed to love Abe but then would act in such shrill, inconsiderate ways. At one point he makes an elaborate Thanksgiving dinner for his grandparents and instead of eating it like grownups they start a big fight ending with one of them saying Abe should never have been born. I just don’t think a loving Grandparent would behave in such a way in front of their grandchild. It didn’t feel authentic so it was frustrating.

But in the end Abe is a strong enough character to carry his movie. One warning it should not be in the kids section as there is the f word 6 times. It would definitely be rated R by the MPAA.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

elephant queen

The Elephant Queen

Next up in the Sundance Kids section is a nature documentary called The Elephant Queen. Director’s Mark Deeble and Victoria Stone spent 4 years following a group of elephants to make this incredible film. The shots they get from the very small dung beetle to the giant savannas full of elephants are very impressive.

Like Disney Nature films we get names and a narrative to all the characters but it all worked for me and was very charming. I particularly liked the ‘late to everything’ geese hatchling named Steven. Chiwetel Ejiofor narrates and aside from being a touch too long for small kids it’s an adorable film the whole family will love.

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Sister - Still 1

Animation Spotlight

I must admit I go to the Animation Spotlight each year more out of obligation as an animation blogger than anything else. The selected shorts are almost always disappointing. It feels like all the creators are either trying too hard to be Don Hertzfeldt or to be too grown-up and edgy. Last year was a pretty good year with The Driver is Red and The Burden being standouts but there was nothing that strong this year.

The best of the group were Untravel and Obon. My least favorite of the group was Acid Rain which went on forever and was unpleasant in every way.

3.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

farewell

The Farewell

Last of the night is the family drama The Farewell which stars Awkwafina as a young woman who goes to China to be with her dying Grandma. The only problem is her Grandma doesn’t know she is dying. The whole family is visiting under a farce that her cousin is getting married (did he actually get married though? It was a little unclear).

Anyone who is part of a big family will be able to relate to this story. Both in the lies we tell each other to get through family gatherings but also how every family has that person who is a treasure to everyone in the family- usually a grandparent. If the ending doesn’t make you tear up than I don’t know what to say!

There are some pacing problems but all the acting is good and overall I really enjoyed The Farewell. Watch it with your Grandma.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Sundance Log: Day 1 (Maiden and After the Wedding)

The 2019 Sundance Film Festival is here, and I am very excited to see a wide variety of films. Each day I am going to try and log my thoughts, experiences and mini-reviews of the films I see on this blog. If I miss a day I will make it up with a double post.

For day 1 I saw 2 films, both at The Grand Theater at Salt Lake Community College. sundance day 1-2Despite having my SLC Locals pass I arrived about an hour early and it was a good thing because there was a long line just for us but luckily the Grand Theaters is large and so everyone got a seat that was interested in seeing the film. They also have nice snacks at the Grand which is plus.

maiden

Maiden

My first movie is called Maiden and it is a wonderful and inspiring documentary that first screened at the Toronto Film Festival. It tells the story of Tracy Edwards and her quest to be lead the first ever all-female crew to compete in the Whitbread Round the World Race. I love inspiring sports documentaries (see 2017’s STEP!) and this is no exception. Director Alex Holmes does a great job mixing current interviews with archival footage to draw you into each step of the journey. He even got the journalists who had said chauvinistic things about the girls to return and talk about those views, which was very funny.

Maiden is actually a more nuanced look at feminism than it might appear on surface. The women do face huge resistance and odds but they don’t see themselves as feminists and are not satisfied to just be in the race. I particularly liked a sequence where they arrive at one of the stops in their swimsuits so that people will not talk about their poor finish time. This mixture of femininity along with the brute strength required for the racing made the women sailors feel like real people not just feminist archetypes.

Keep an eye out for Maiden. It’s a real winner!

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

After The Wedding - Still 1

After the Wedding

Next up is a remake of a 2006 Danish film After the Wedding. I was really excited for this movie especially with a cast including Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams. I haven’t seen the original, but unfortunately this remake was not for me. I found every character to be insufferable, irritating and selfish and all their problems to be first world and difficult to have any empathy for.

The performances are all fine but Michelle Williams character is an unlikable ‘do-gooder jerk) and Julianne Moore is an unlikable rich person jerk (things happen that are supposed to be sad but the way she manipulates people make it hard to care about her). Billy Crudup as Moore’s husband is handsome but bland. (I guess in the original Mads Mikkelsen has the Michelle Willams role). I didn’t even like their daughter who I thought was selfish and miserable.

I can’t give much else away without spoilers but none of the convoluted plot elements or big reveals did anything to draw out emotion for me (except perhaps immensely disliking the entire experience). Yuck!

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Sundance 2018 Wrap-Up

Hey guys! It is early Sunday morning and I have officially finished my 2018 Sundance experience. It’s interesting because I enjoyed the over-all experience much more than last year but I did not have a film that excited me the way STEP did this year. That movie made me want to be a better person and I can’t say that about any of the 18 films I viewed this year. However, it was still a great year, full of highs and lows.

It also didn’t play out exactly like I predicted with me switching up a couple of days films but hopefully I will get to see those films in my preview eventually that I missed.

I will do them in my ranking order worst to best

18. Lu Over the Wall-

I was really excited for this film because it was the first anime to be featured at Sundance but I really didn’t care for it.  The animation felt like an sporadic assault on the screen and the story made absolutely no sense. What little did make sense felt like a copy of Ponyo. It was a big disappointment and honestly made me kind of nauseated after watching it.

D-

17. White Fang

While this new version of the Jack London novel had some nice moments I was very turned off by the violent content. The dog fight scenes in particular were long, brutal and exploitative. The animation was inconsistent and overall it had a gloomy tone I couldn’t see past

D-

16. Ophelia

This turned out to be the most deliciously bad of the festival. A supposed feminist take of Hamlet has Queen Gertrude having a secret evil Witch sister who lives in the forest and has been damaged by the King. Hamlet is an eyeliner wearing emo kid and Ophelia saves the day and triumphs over all the end. I died laughing

D=

15. Nancy

While all the performances in Nancy are good I felt the pacing and characters were off. I didn’t care about any of them and they didn’t seem to grow and certainly weren’t likable. It was flat and dull.

C-

14. Monster

A classic example of a director that couldn’t get out of the way of his movie. Good performances by the entire cast are hurt by distracting choices like making the lead character a filmmaker and showing tons of his films with him pontificating about them or having long flashbacks with speeches. It just didn’t work.

C-

13. Crime and Punishment

This is a documentary about the quota system that persists in the NYPD despite it being illegal. There was lots of good information here but it wasn’t packaged in an appealing way. It was long and slow and I struggled to stay awake. I would rather just read an article on this issue personally.

C

12. Kusama: Infinity-

It was amazing to learn more about Kusama and see how she created her art. I also enjoyed hearing from the filmmakers and their 17 year odyssey to create this film. It is a perfectly serviceable bio-pick style documentary but it didn’t blow me away or move me.

B-

11. Genesis 2.0

This documentary was very strange. Half the movie is about ivory hunters looking for wholly mammoth tusks in Siberia and the other half is about China’s goal to clone the wholly mammoth. Honestly I found the cloning part to be super terrifying. These clinics they showed where the Chinese are already cloning dogs by the dozens gave me the chills! Haven’t these people learned anything from Jurassic Park?

B-

10. On Her Shoulders-

This is a good documentary about Nadia Murad who is an activist and human trafficking survivor from the Yazidi, a small minority group in Iraq. The frustrating part was how completely useless the UN is to do anything to actually help Nadia or most anything else. The movie kept building up these speeches she would give as huge moments but they are all for naught so it is frustrating.

B

9. Science Fair-

This film profiles students from all over the world that are entering the ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair). One teacher in particular was amazing and got 9 of her students admitted into the fair. The only problem was it felt a little too long. They should have cut 2 of the students to make it tighter but still good film.

B

8. The Price of Everything

This is an interesting expose into the world of art and art collecting and how obscene it can all get. My only complaint is I wish the director had pushed the collectors harder about their collections and how they don’t benefit wide masses like a museum and cost exorbitant amounts that could be used to help people. I wish he had dug a little deeper into these issues.

B

7. Chef Flynn

This was a cool documentary about child prodigy chef Flynn McGarry but it was really about his family and their free range education techniques. Flynn’s Mother is very supportive of him starting a pop-up restaurant in their house when he is 10 and she supports him as his career grows. I love the free range movement and thought this was a tremendous example of it.

B+

6. Search

A movie that is nothing but screens as John Cho looks for his missing teenage daughter. It’s a definite gimmick but I thought it was a ton of fun. It had humor, tension and surprised me on more than one occasion. It might have been partly due to seeing 17 heady movies it was fun to see something sillier but I really enjoyed it.

B+

5. Minding the Gap

Young filmmaker Bing Liu started filming his friends when they were very young and doing interviews with them and the documentary follows 3 of them into adulthood. It also has a lot of great skateboarding and talks about how domestic violence interrupts all 3 lives. It was a fly on the wall type of documentary rather than a message movie and I really enjoyed it.

B+

4. Butterflies

This black comedy is about 3 Turkish siblings that unite to take care of the funeral of their estranged father. It was very funny with exploding chickens and clergy that have crisis’ of faith in the middle of a funeral service, but it also has a lot of heart. I liked all 3 of the siblings and they felt believable as family

A-

3. Won’t You Be My Neighbor-

I grew up on Mr Roger’s Neighborhood so this documentary was such a treat to me. So many people lately are exposed as hypocrites or having scandalous sides but not Fred Rogers. He really does seem like a special man and this documentary explores the value he had in telling children they are loved and of value. It made me cry. It’s similar to the Big Bird documentary I Am Big Bird from a couple of years ago

A-

2. Eighth Grade

Evidently writer/director Bo Burnham is a celebrity of sorts. I had never heard of him but he did a great job with this movie. I am usually mixed on coming of age movies. Often they leave me feeling depressed. Even recent films like Edge of 17 and Lady Bird I didn’t love because the characters were so harsh and mean to each other. I can relate to the gloomy teenager but not to the harshness that is shown in those 2 films. Eighth Grade is finally a coming of age film I connected with (along with Sing Street). It’s sweet, funny, endearing and everything else. I loved it.

A

1 Leave No Trace

I have seen a number of ‘off the grid’ movies over the last few years and I’ve hated all of them. They always glorify the parents for their unconventional choices instead of asking more questions. Here director Debra Granik does an amazing job making Ben Foster’s father figure a complex character. On one hand he is damaged but on another he is very selfish. Thomasin McKenzie is so great as the daughter and there’s a point towards the end where I wanted to cheer. I don’t know when I’ve been more proud of a character.

A+

So there you have it! Let me know what you think about these films and which one’s sound interesting to you.

I did live recaps on my youtube channel if you want to learn more about these films

My Sundance 2018 Preview

The Sundance Film Festival is fast approaching! To be more precise it begins tomorrow! Last year I attended the festival for the first time purchasing a ticket package and seeing 10 films. One that I saw, STEP, proved to be my 2nd favorite movie of 2017, so I am excited to see what 2018 holds in store for me. This year I bought the SLC Pass which allows me to see any film screening in Salt Lake City as opposed to Park City. It limits things a little bit but there are still plenty of movies to see. Right now I have 19 films on the schedule and the only thing that could mess things up is if my cold gets worse so fingers crossed it will improve!

I thought I would give you a little preview of the 19 films I am aiming to see and then I can do a recap at the end of next week. I will try and post daily recaps on my youtube channel but it depends on if I have much of a voice (right now I can’t talk much because of my cold).

Won’t You Be My Neighbor-

This is a documentary about Fred Rogers who was the host and creator of Mr Rogers Neighborhood.  I like these kind of biopic documentaries and always enjoyed MRN as a kid so this should be very interesting.

Loveling-

This is a Brazilian film about a couple that must emancipate their teenage son so he can go and play professional hand ball in Germany. The trailer looked sweet and enjoyable so I figured it was worth a shot

Lu Over the Wall-

This is probably my most anticipated film of the festival. It has some Ponyo vibes about a little girl that meets a mermaid named Lu. I know GKIDS has already picked it up so I have high hopes that it will be great

Science Fair-

This is a documentary about 9 students competing in the ISEF or International Science and Engineering Fair. As STEP shows, I love inspirational documentaries so this should be right up my ally

Eighth Grade-

I don’t know a ton about this movie but that it is about a 13 year old girl at the end of middle school and particularly her life on social media. I know it is an A24 film and they usually do intriguing stuff like A Ghost Story so I will give it a shot.

White Fang-

This is another animated film at the festival and it has some good early buzz. It is based on the classic Jack London novel and features Rashida Jones and Nick Offerman as voice actors.

Inventing Tomorrow-

This is another documentary about the kids preparing for the ISEF like Science Fair. The blurb says “Watch these passionate innovators find the courage to face the planet’s environmental threats while navigating adolescence. It will be interesting to compare the two documentaries.

The Price of Everything-

This is a documentary about how the price of artwork is determined. The blurb makes it sound pretty exciting- like “holding a funhouse mirror up to our values and our times where everything can be bought and sold”. We will see if it lives up to such a build-up!

Nancy-

This is a psychological thriller about a woman who becomes increasingly convinced she was abducted as a child. This is a little bit out of my comfort zone but it sounded intriguing. Evidently it focuses on fake news and people who lie to get what they want. Here is an interview with the director.

Ophelia-

This is a ‘re-imagining of Hamlet, told from Ophelia’s perspective.’ I love Hamlet and am really excited to see Daisy Ridley in this role. The rest of the cast is solid with Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Tom Felton and more.

Chef Flynn-

This is a documentary about a young culinary prodigy named Flynn McGarry. He begins running a supper club in his home and then turns into a celebrity as the ‘Teen Chef’. Some embrace him and then others resent his quick success. I’m a big foodie so this looked interesting.

Butterflies-

This is a Turkish film about 3 strangers who find out they all have the same father when they must go and bury him. Through this experience they learn about him, themselves and each other.

Minding the Gap-

This is a documentary about 3 young men who leave their families and enter the big city. It looks like a sweet heart-warming documentary, so I figured it was worth a shot.

A Polar Year-

This is another documentary about a man named Anders who moves up to a small town in Greenland to teach for a year. They struggle with preconceptions of each other but it looked like a cute movie.

The Oslo Diaries-

It seems 2018 is my year for documentaries at Sundance. This one is about the “secret negotiations leading up to the 1993 Oslo peace agreement. I figured it would be quite interesting!

Search-

This stars John Cho and Debra Messing and is about a man who breaks into his daughter’s laptop after she goes missing only to find she’s been leading an entirely different life online. Early buzz is pretty good on this one so I decided to watch it.

Kusama: Infinity

This is a documentary about a famous artist named Yayoi Kusama and how she became who she is. Evidently it includes interviews with Kusama who lives in a mental hospital and continues to create art. It sounds interesting to me so why not?

Animation Shorts Spotlight-

I actually thought the animated shorts were kind of lame last year at Sundance but they can’t always be that way? As an animation girl I knew I needed to watch these shorts and hopefully they will be more original and better than last year.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind-

I am not sure if I am going to see this documentary because of church commitments but it has gotten great early buzz and I do love Robin Williams.

So there you have it! That is my current schedule for Sundance 2018. What do you think? What looks interesting to you? Let me know in the comments section and I will keep you up to date as the festival continues. Thanks!

 

My Life as a Zucchini (or Courgette) Review

my life as a zucchini posterI think I could have subtitled this review- Grown Ups Suck! In fairness there are some lovely adults in My Life as a Zucchini but boy the one’s that suck, REALLY SUCK! This is such a hard review to write but I just wanted to state that out-front and get it out of the way.

So let’s talk about the Oscar hopeful My Life as a Zucchini.  This is a stop motion animated film out of Switzerland that could receive 2 nominations come Tuesday (it is up for best foreign and animated film). On the whole I’d say those nominations will be deserved if they come.  This is a challenging, but rewarding film with amazing animation that draws you into the experience.

It’s very hard to talk about this film without giving out spoilers but I will do my best. Basically it is about a little boy nicknamed Zucchini who’s Mother dies in a shocking way to start out the movie. He then goes to live in a group home for troubled orphans. There he meets a mostly friendly group including a girl named Camille and a rebellious boy named Simon.

zucchini-main-imageThe plot is fairly simple from there. It’s about these kids and how they become a family and help each other overcome their traumatic upbringings.

Just as an example, one of the girls has a hideous aunt who wants to remove her so she can get the foster care money for caring for her. The kids must then figure out a way to protect their friend when the adults fail.

In a way, My Life as a Zucchini is kind of like Annie but there’s not just one Miss Hannigan. Each child seems to have their own Miss Hannigan nightmare, which is probably fairly accurate for the type of child in a group home like this.

That may sound like a real downer and it can be but the film also interjects comedic segments into the story that really work. It can be a quite joyous film and in a way the brutal sequences make the joy more sweet and precious for the kids.

There is also a nice chemistry between the kids.  They feel real and genuine with a terrific English dub cast. These are not the typecast kids you might get in a film like Hook where there is the rebel, fat kid, sweet kid etc. These children are unique and are all pretty well portrayed. The script takes time for small moments of character development  like when one orphan finds a pair of ski goggles on holiday. The owner accuses him of stealing them but he is so happy with them that her daughter gives them to the orphan in a lovely gesture. This isn’t even our lead character and yet it is such a touching moment of human empathy. courgette02When I got out of the theater I tweeted that My Life as a Zucchini was an unusual mixture of the brutal and adorable and that’s really true. It’s like  if Sesame Street had a ‘life kind of sucks’ episode. One of the ladies outside of the theater compared it to Bambi but I don’t agree with that. Bambi has a sad event take place where My Life as a Zucchini is more about pushing through when all of life seems to be out to get you. It’s about finding family, hope and joy in the midst of everyday struggles.

One character in particular, Simon, is particularly well written. Again, he could easily be the rebel kid we’ve seen in a million of these stories but he’s not. There’s a point where he is very envious of Zucchini and Camille but he still gives a loving response. He still tells them that they have to do what is best for them despite him wishing he could be so lucky. It was a beautifully written scene. zucchini-statueIt was really cool after the screening they showed us one of the puppets of Zucchini and told us about the making of the film. Stop motion always blows me away and this is no exception. They did a tremendous job making the characters come alive. The eyes were particularly expressive. It is a tremendous accomplishment and they deserve all the praise they are getting in the animation department.

courgette31There were some children in attendance at my screening but I have to say if I was a parent I would be a little reticent about showing them My Life as a Zucchini. Not that I think children should be sheltered but it’s a lot of bad behavior for a kid to absorb in just one movie. We would certainly have to do some major talking after about addiction, selfishness, wrong choices, poor parenting and the reality of evil. We would also have to talk about the power of friendship, family and love that does pull through in the end for the characters.

It’s a movie of contrasts I suppose, but in my opinion it’s not really a movie for small children, which is fine but perhaps the animation style would lead you to believe otherwise.

I feel like this review is a bit all over the place and that is because I kind of feel that way about this film. It’s shocking, sweet, beautiful, funny, upsetting and adorable all at the same time. A side of me wonders if on rewatch this could become one of my favorite animated films of the year. The writing and animation is strong enough but it’s just so different I’m not there yet.

I certainly recommend seeing it and participating in this unique experience on film. In a way it is kind of like the 400 Blows in animated form! It’s not every day you can use that in a review! If you do see it let me know what you think. I will definitely do a spoiler review in the future and dive into the plot in more detail than I can here, so keep an eye out for that.

For now I give My Life as a Zucchini…

Overall Grade- B+

My Sundance 2017 Preview

It might seem crazy but this year is my first time attending in mass the Sundance Film Festival! Last year I went as a guest of rotoscopers.com to review the film Snowtime and interview the creators but I didn’t really attend the festival. This will be my first time really attending every day and I’m very excited!

The reason I have been reticent to attend in the past is the lack of ratings for the films. Sundance films are more artistic in nature and so I worried I would be wasting my money on films I wouldn’t want to see content-wise. Well, this year I figured I’d give it a shot and if a film is super bad I can always leave. Nothing ventured, nothing gained right? 🙂

Make sure you follow me on snapcat @smilingldsgirl and on other social media because I will update throughout the days on how my experience is going and what I think about the films I see. But I thought it would be fun to give you a preview of what I am seeing.

My Life as a Zucchini-

The first and probably most highly anticipated is the animated film My Life as a Zucchini. This is a stop motion animated Swiss film about a little boy who deals with his grief while becoming a part of a new group home.

Lady Macbeth-

I’m a little nervous about this one because it looks pretty steamy but I love Macbeth so much and I thought it looked like a good film. The tagline is “Alfred Hitchcock meets Wuthering Heights” caught my interest. I would share the trailer but it is very spoilery and so I’d rather you not see it. The movie is about a shut in in 1865 who is basically kept inside by her husband. She meets and falls in love with a servant and the story goes from there.

lady-macbethSTEP-

This is a documentary about a group of high school seniors from Baltimore who are part of a step dance team and their struggles to get into college and compete.

stepRISE-

Billed as a docuseries, RISE is 3 episodes about the struggle of Native Americans and indigenous citizens.  There is a Q and A after so I hope it is good! I see both RISE and Step on my birthday so another reason to hope they are good.

riseAnimation Spotlight-

Of course I had to see this. It is 10 shorts in a variety of styles and subject matter. I think they will be pretty great!

animation-spotlight

The Good Postman-

A documentary about a Bulgarian man who helps the Syrian refugees who are coming into his town.

Band Aid-

This has an engaging cast and it looks like it could be a fun dramedy. It is described as about “a couple who can’t stop fighting embark on a last-ditch effort to save their marriage: turning their fights into songs and starting a band”. I hope it will be good! Could it be 2017’s Sing Street?

Band Aid - Still 1The Hero-

This film is about an aging western movie star played by Sam Eliot who gets a cancer diagnosis and has to face his life. It looks like it could be very sweet.

heroThe Yellow Birds-

This Iraq war story was mostly sold to me on the people behind it. It is written by David Lowery who did Pete’s Dragon, which I loved and stars Alden Ehrenreich and Tye Sheridan who I also love. Jennifer Aniston plays Sheridan’s Mom which I can’t really imagine but I’m looking forward to it.

yellow-birdsRebel in the Rye-

I don’t know much about this one but it stars Nicholas Holt and is about JD Salinger before he wrote Catcher in the Rye.

rebel-in-the-rye-movieI had a ticket for Wilson staring Woody Harrelson but after seeing the trailer it really doesn’t look like my thing, so I think I will try and exchange it.

So there you have it! Do any of my selections intrigue you? I wanted to see A Ghost Story which is directed by David Lowery but it is at the same time as Yellow Birds so I picked the latter.

I’m definitely the most excited for My Life as a Zucchini and the animation spotlight! I hope they are great!

Cheers to Indy filmmakers!