Pixel Vision

Sundance, part six: superlatives

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More Sundance right here on Pixel Vision.

My biggest excitement of Sundance 2014 was the random email I received asking if I would be able to attend a "super-secret screening of a highly anticipated film by a major filmmaker." (Answer: DUH.) The packed house at Park City's defining Main Street theater, the Egyptian, had no clue what film was to be screened, though many thought it might be Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel.

In fact, turned out to be the premiere of Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac: Part One (Denmark/Germany/France) which is rated NC-17 (look for its theatrical release on March 21, or catch it On Demand starting March 6). Nymphomaniac: Part Two will follow shortly afterward, with a VOD debut on April 3 and a theatrical release on April 18.

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Sundance, part five: Swanberg + Ross Perry

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Missed a previous Sundance post? Check out Pixel Vision for more.

Director and sometimes actor Joe Swanberg is a household name among South by Southwest fest-goers (and mumblecore fans everywhere), with such gems as Nights and Weekends (2009), Marriage Material (2012), All the Light in the Sky (2012), and his segment in V/H/S (2012) entitled "The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger." 

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Sundance, part four: indie heroes and genre flicks

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Missed yesterday's Sundance installment? Right this way!

In Ira Sachs' Love Is Strange (US), Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) — together for 39 years — are finally married, and suddenly find themselves having to deal with the fallout from an ill-considered world. Both actors are pitch-perfect at portraying longtime lovers, and Marisa Tomei has an intelligent supporting role as a relative of the couple. 

Sundance favorite Sachs (2012's Keep the Lights On), who debuted with the shockingly memorable The Delta in 1996, treats the material with finesse, and the end result is genuinely earned heartache (and, likely, will yield serious crossover potential). It's a cliche, but true: at the screening I attended, there was not a dry eye in the house. 

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Sundance, part three: diamonds in the rough

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Missed out on last week's Sundance glee? Part one here; part two here

Malik Vittal's Imperial Dreams (US) won the Audience Award in the NEXT category, created for films that stretch limited resources to create impactful art. John Boyega (from 2011's Attack the Block) delivers another complicated and hypnotic performance as a young father trying to make good in the 'hood. In this spot-on throwback to powerful, low-budget urban films — think the Hughes Brothers' Menace II Society (1991) and Spike Lee's Clockers (1995), and even back to Ulu Grosbard's Straight Time (1978) — director Vittal coaxes some spectacular acting moments, not just from Boyega but also his forlorn friends, played by De'aundre Bonds and R&B singer Rotimi. You don't want to miss this little treasure.

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Sundance, part two: Linklater love

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My second year of attending the Sundance Film Festival was at the age of 15; it was 1991 and I took a chance on a film called Slacker by Richard Linklater. 

This is the ticket stub that started my film journals. It's still taped into a spiral ring notebook that cradles my coming of age, and I have treasured every film of Linklater's since: his mainstream breakthrough, cult classic Dazed and Confused (1993); his hilarious remake of The Bad News Bears (2005); his underrated adaptation of Fast Food Nation (2006); his overlooked staging of Tape (2001); his pioneering, existentialist, rotoscoped duet Waking Life (2001) and A Scanner Darkly (2006). And, of course, his soul-searching Before trilogy.

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RIP Colonel Meow

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Alas, minions! Our fearless, fuzzy leader Colonel Meow has passed away. We will always remember him for championing the Cat Pack and sharing his wise words with us. The culling of beloved Internet kitties has begun too soon.

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Sundance, part one: crowd-pleasers and dino heists

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Check out Jesse's intro to his Sundance Film Festival series here.

This year, there were few films that stood out as across-the-board crowd pleasers. Gareth Evans' violent, 148-minute The Raid 2: Berandal (UK/Indonesia) — a sequel to his 2011 cult hit — is an absolute must-see, as is the latest from Wet Hot American Summer (2001) director David Wain, They Came Together (US); it's a comedy spoof that pitches Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler into a slew of rom-com tropes and clichés (delivering some huge laughs in the process).

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Tee time: a peek inside Urban Putt, the Mission's indoor mini-golf course

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On the back wall of the main room of the old Victorian building at 1096 S. Van Ness is a sculpture of two creepy angels. One holds the other in its arms, their wings keeping them up. These angels are part of the original construction of the building, back when it functioned as a mortuary. Perhaps due to the haunting angels, perhaps due to the thought of a dead body storage center, the building has sat empty on the corner of South Van Ness and 22nd Streets for 15 years.

Today, the angels are still there and the building’s new owner has no intention of taking them down. “We will preserve as much as we can from this old look,” says Steve Fox, the man behind San Francisco’s first indoor mini-golf course, Urban Putt, set to open in April. The “high-concept” course will feature a restaurant with “eclectic California comfort cuisine” upstairs and two bars with a “creative bar program,” according to Urban Putt’s most recent press release. 

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I Was a Teenage Sundancer

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I grew up at the Sundance Film Festival — beginning in 1990, when my father took my 14-year-old self to an archival screening of Melvin Van Peebles' X-rated Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971), and my best friend Grayson Jenson's parents introduced us to Richard Lester's A Hard Day's Night (1963). 

These two films have polar-opposite subject matter, but they do share some odd similarities; they both make aggressive statements about counterculture, and both are cut together with hyperkinetic, French New Wave-esque editing. But back then, all I knew was that my life was maniacally changed ... forever. 

This transformative experience was enhanced by accidentally sitting next to only movie critic I had ever heard of: Mr. Roger Ebert. As it happens, a documentary about the late writer's career, Steve James' Life Itself, was one of the 2014 festival's biggest hits. Friendly and engaging, Ebert explained to me (at 14) that he personally enjoyed watching the Beatles' "best film" on 16mm as opposed to 35mm. The conversation we shared ("What are your favorite films?" Me: "Hellraiser II, Aliens, Evil Dead 2, and Phantasm II") left a long and deep impression on me.

That was my first memorable Sundance moment. But this year's Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals — celebrating their 30th and 20th anniversaries, respectively — were (on the occasion of my own 24th Sundance anniversary) maybe the best I've ever experienced, overall.

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'The Bachelor' (episode 4, what better time to start?) recap: APOLOGY PLZ

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Forgive the late (mid-season) arrival, some copy got lost in translation. And if you buy that, Juan Pablo's public image has a shot.

So last week, amid all the real news (Chris Christie things, GOP things, Obama-NSA things, Sochi things) and amid all the Bieber news (eggs, DUI's, Jeremy Bieber's existence, shiny shorts, smiling mugshots) there was a bad piece of Bachelor news. 

Juan Pablo, the current Bachelor, decided to share his feelings on a matter he was totally unqualified to address, he did so in a socially tone-deaf manner and is now dealing with that fallout. 

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