Friday, December 27, 2013

Sundance 2014 - 63 Movies to See

Finally got around to reading through the Sundance 2014 lineup.  What am I missing? What can I cross off?

(AHHH I need to take 10 of these off please thanks)

Life Itself
The Foxy Merkins
The One I Love
Fed Up
Dear White People
Happy Christmas
Kumiko the Treasure Hunter
The Skeleton Twins
Song One
20,000 Days on Earth
52 Tuesdays
God Help the Girl
Happy Valley
The Babadook
The Guest
Oblivious Child
I Origins
Love is Strange
The Voices
White Bird in a Blizzard
Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory
Dinosaur 13
The Internet's Own Boy: The Study of Aaron Shwarz
No No: A Dockumentary
Camp X Ray
God's Pocket
Jamie Marks is Dead
Life After Beth
Low Down
Mr leos caraX
Web Junkie
Infinity Polar Bear
This May Be the Last Time
To Be Takei
Under the Electric Sky
The Signal
Appropriate Behavior
Drunktown's Finest
Land Ho!
Listen Up Phillip
Ping Pong Summer
War Story
Nick Offerman: American Ham
They Came Together
CAPTIVATED: The Trials of Pamela Smart
Ivory Tower
Fishing Without Nets
The Sleepwalker
Concerning Violence
My Prairie Home
The Lunchbox

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Nonfics Best Documentary Poll

I did not participate in this poll that @nonfics conducted on the Best Documentary of 2013 as it was amongst filmmakers and film critics and I am neither.

But I will happily tell you what I think.

Here are the top ten thoughts that went through my head as I was reading this list.

1. Oooh look! The film my handsome boyfriend directed is #36 on the list because 27 smart people two people highly mentioned it in their list.  Maybe I should think about tweeting about that film one day so my friends know that I recommend it.

2. Leviathan? Really? C'mon.  (Disliked. Super-naptimes)

3. On account of my laziness I have only seen 41 of the 85 docs listed which means I need to march straight to Netflix and get to watching.

4.  A whole lot of people really need to watch Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story.  #85 on that list? Two mentions? Major miss, everyone else!

5. GAHHHHH I need to see The Square already.

6. Blahfish. (Even still, eff you, SeaWorld)

7.  There were not 9 films of any genre better than 20 Feet from Stardom this year. There were maybe two. And one of ranked #1 on this film.

8.  Just as soon as I figure out how to freeze time, I need, need, need to watch 56 Up. And the other films in that series that preceded it.

9. Blood Brother. No. Why. No, no, no. Guys. No.

10. Museum Hours is a documentary? What am I missing? Am I actually crazy and everyone else is totally sane? What is going on?

Eventually I will get around to posting my top ten docs of the year.  I promise. One day.

Friday, September 6, 2013

My Tiff 2013 Schedule - For Real

Here is my real TIFF 2013 schedule.  The question marks are movies I do not have tickets for.

Thursday 9/5:

Tim’s Vermeer
Only Lovers Left Alive

Friday 9/6:

Abuse of Weakness

Saturday 9/7:

(?) 12 Years a Slave
(?) You are Here

Sunday 9/8:

(?) Manakamana or Labor Day
(?) Dallas Buyer’s Club
We Gotta Get Outta This Place

Monday 9/9:

Burt’s Buzz
(?) Night Moves
Club Sandwich

Tuesday 9/10:

The Unknown Known
Blood Ties
Jodorowsky’s Dune

Wednesday 9/11:

How I Live Now
Child’s Pose
Tom at the Farm

Thursday 9/12:

Attila Marcel
Paradise: Hope
The Face of Love (?)
When Jews were Funny

Friday 9/13:

Sarah Prefers to Run
Singing Women
The Sacrament
Why Don’t You Play in Hell

Saturday 9/14:

(?) The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her
We Are the Best!
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon
Lucky Them
Bad Words

Sunday 9/15:

(?) Life of Crime
Under the Skin
The Double
When Evening Falls On Bucharest Or Metabolism

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

15 Signs You Should Download Rewind This! on iTunes and Tell Everyone You Know to Do the Same

You have a choice when it comes to the entertainment you consume.  With ever-growing options for how to spend your precious time, wherever can you turn for straight answers about what to watch?

Never fear, y'all, I've got your back with a handy list:

15 Signs You Should Download Rewind This! on iTunes and Tell Everyone You Know to Do the Same

The badass Rewind This! poster
15. You were alive in the 1980s

Rewind This! is a critically acclaimed, award-winning documentary that chronicles the rise and fall of home video.   Remember VHS tapes?  This film will take you back through the history looking at the forces that came together to create the technology, the impact it had on our enjoyment of content for years to come, and the culture that still exists around enjoying VHS.  Children of the 80s will delight in the memories that come flooding back while watching this

14. You get a kick out of supporting first-time independent film-makers.

This is the first feature film for Josh Johnson, Carolee Mitchell and Christopher Palmer (Director, Producer, and Cinematographer/editor respectively).  They made it on a budget that makes shoestrings look massive, with the support of their friends and a growing community of film-lovers-turned-friends who found their film through their successful Kickstarter campaign.    Stick it to the man, and support a movie made (far) outside of the system!

The creative team behind
Rewind This!

13. Friendship means something to you.

The tiny team who made Rewind This! began not as collaborators but first as a group of dear friends who actually met because of their passion for movies, and decided to make something together that indicated their interest in and love of film.  (And if you listen to the critics, boy did they succeed!)

12. You once owned the two-tape Titanic.

Don't lie.  The Internet knows when you're lying.

11. You love cats.

The filmmakers are cat lovers themselves and though the film does not heavily feature felines in any deliberate fashion, astute viewers will catch a handful of moments where cats are included in a relevant and humorous way.

10. Laughter is something in which you take pleasure.

It’s so funny, guys.  Trust me on this one.  At the screening I attended last month in Montreal, the crowd was laughing so hard that I was actually concerned that they were missing jokes.  Just wait til you get to the Corey Haim part.  Or the Bubba Smith exercise video.  I actually woke up in the middle of the night last night remembering a hilarious line one of the interview subjects says about Bubba Smith.   I’m serious. Giggles.

A still from Rewind This!
9. Pop culture history is your idea of a good time.

Do you like trivia? Were you totally all about the “pink” category  when you were playing Trivial Pursuit in the 80's? For that matter, have you played Trivial Pursuit?  Well then, my friend, Rewind This! is right up your alley.  Chock full of icons from a bygone era, this film will have you gasping “oh I forgot about that!” aloud at least three times, in the first 30 minutes alone.

8. You tend to trust Canadians.

7. You tend to trust critics.

Heard of that site called Rotten Tomatoes? It's the site that will tell you what % of critics liked a movie.  Rewind This! is currently enjoying a score there of 100%.  What’s higher than 100%, folks?  I’m not too good at math but I asked around and apparently the answer is nothing. It gets no higher. 

6. You’re not too sure about critics or Canadians, but you do regularly agree with the mainstream.
Sold -out Fantasia screening
of Rewind This!

If like me you have been burned before by critics (or Canadians for that matter), chances are you can agree at least to put your faith in big data – empirical, quantitative evidence.  Then, look no further than IMDB where thefilm is currently rated above 7.0.  (I mean seriously guys!)  Or yet again, Rotten Tomatoes which tallies reactions of moviegoers as well as critics, and currently gives Rewind This! a score of 90% among audiences.

A still from Rewind This!
5. You love movies.

Do you love movies? I suspect you just might.  So yeah. The people who made Rewind This! love movies too. That’s a big reason why they made one. And they made it about movies.   Every frame of Rewind This! will be a treat for your pretty eyeballs if you are movie person too.

4. You like Austin.

Rewind This! isn’t about the Austin film community exclusively, but a number of its most infamous characters do have their say on the topic of VHS.  Also, the folks who made the movie lived in Austin while they made it.

3. You like Brooklyn.

The filmmakers of Rewind This! live in Brooklyn now. Do you like Brooklyn? Do you live in Brooklyn?  Have you been to Brooklyn? Have you heard of Brooklyn?  Check out this movie, then, made by three of Brooklyn’s finest.  (That’s a name of a movie, too. But that one is about cops. These guys aren’t cops.)

2. Nostalgia makes you feel warm and fuzzy.

That feeling you get when a song comes on the radio that was popular when you were in high school? The wistful expression, the warm feeling of being enveloped in sweet memories you thought were long gone?  Yeah - you're gonna have that when you watch Rewind This! and it's going to last for a long time after the movie ends.

Here I am with Rewind
This! director Josh Johnson
1. You care about me.

Hi, I’m Dor.  I didn’t make this movie.   But, people I love dearly did make it, and I am awfully proud of them. I can’t tell you how much it would mean to me if you’d check it out.  Watch the trailer! Visit the website! Buy the movie!

The bottom line is this...

Rewind This! is now available exclusively on i-Tunes.  Follow @RewindThisMovie on Twitter or like Rewind This! on Facebook to stay up to date on the news about seeing the film in more markets, and be the first to hear about the plans to release it on home video!

Oh and while you are at it, won't you kindly share this post with your friends?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

11-movie weekend

We are trying to see eleven movies this weekend. For no particular reason other than movies are awesome. 

Here is what is on the list:

This Is the End
Man of Steel
Silent Movie
Dirty Wars
20 Feet from Stardom
The Bling Ring
Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story
Much Ado About Nothing
Ozu double feature: Diary of a Tenement Gentleman and something else we forget

Should be good times. We packed a lunch. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

An Embarrassment of Documentary Riches for New Yorkers Is Happening Right Now

Any lover of documentary film has never been luckier than to call him or herself a New Yorker than right this instant.

On this rainy Father's day weekend, while the rest of the country lines up to see the latest DC Comic superhero blockbuster, my fellow residents of the Big Apple have access to the most stellar lineup of documentary films to grace the screen at the same time in I don't remember when.

For some reason, three of the most powerful and entertaining documentary films of 2013 are all released today in theaters in Manhattan!

Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story

I saw this outstanding portrait of an artist at TIFF 2012 and was so moved that I wrote a passionate review saying these filmmakers were doing God's work.  I loved being exposed to an artist I'd never heard of but whose work I knew by sight.  But what was particularly remarkable in this film was that as nuanced, creative and unique as Tomi Ungerer is as a man, so was the approach the filmmakers took to telling his life story.  That movie overflows with color and brilliance, in its subject and in the way it paints a picture, sometimes literally, of the fascinating life he leads.     This was my favorite film of TIFF 2012, and the poster is one of three movie posters I hung on the walls of my new apartment. 

Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story is playing at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and opens wider next weekend - here's where to find out when and if it is playing in your town.

20 Feet from Stardom

What was your dream? How close have you come to achieving it? How would you feel spending your whole life within spitting distance? Where does the line get drawn between failure and success but on a different plane? If you've ever wanted to be someone, or if you even just love music (okay so basically if you breathe air), you'll love this soaring, funny, and emotional documentary about back-up singers.  The trailer, in attempt to sell tickets, shows the wide array of interview subjects - from Bette Midler to Bruce Springsteen - paying homage to the unsung (ha, get it) life of a back-up singer.  But forget about those household names, because the real stars of this smashing documentary are the back-up singers themselves - the unstoppable Darlene Love, Merri Clayton, and Lisa Fischer, among others. 

I saw this film on the opening night of Sundance and I knew about 30 minutes in that it would be the best documentary I'd seen this year. As the credits rolled, that was upgraded to one of the best documentaries I've ever seen.  Six months later that no less of a true statement.  

And before you assume it's simply an easy crowd pleaser because of the subject matter, think again. This film was gorgeously and meticulously made.  I don't know too much about the technical aspects of making a movie, but even I started thinking to myself as I watched that I had never seen a documentary so brilliantly edited.  I must have been right, because when the editor's name came up in the credits, the already voracious applause took a noticeable surge.  This film is nearly flawless, if you ask me. 

You can watch 20 Feet from Stardom in New York (Lincoln Center and LA (Landmark) now. What are you waiting for?

Call Me Kuchu

I've never been a big fan of the concept of a hero.  I tend to believe it's a word thrown around too easily, especially in the media; used for emotional impact, overused to manipulate viewers to feel a certain way.  That said, Call Me Kuchu is a devastating film that is a rare brave introduction to a real and true hero. I am talking about David Kato, the Ugandan gay rights activist who risked his life every day to not only be who he was, but to ultimately be proud of who he was.  This film is tough at times, but it is much more than a tear jerker, and I truly hope it gets seen by a wide audience. 

Find out how you can watch Call Me Kuchu and then after you've seen it and you need answers for how such biggotry can flourish, seek out another compelling (and anger-inducing) documentary about Ugandan gay rights activism called God Loves Uganda. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Upstream Color with Director Q&A Moderated by Steven Soderbergh

As my friends were losing their goddamned minds for this movie at Sundance and SXSW, I deliberately skipped it at both events, since I knew it was part of the spring slate at my local movie house.

In a bid to maintain its status as my favorite New York City movie theater, the IFC Center invited Steven Soderbergh to moderate a Q&A with the writer, director, and star of Upstream Color, Shane Carruth.

Even though I was subjected to all manner of hype, I'm glad I waited, 'cause this was a pretty unique event - one of those things that makes me breathlessly grateful beyond words that I live in New York City.

Now, the movie?  I was actually prepared to hate it. Usually any movie that elicits any "uh that made no sense" response from the masses is something I tend not to die for.  I've been a little better with that lately - Holy Motors being one super notable example of a head-scratcher that I loved.  Well, I'll go ahead and put this one in that same category.

It tells first of all a very strange story - and it tells it in a very unconventional and definitely artsy way. Combine those factors and I guess you'll alienate some.  But, it was too gorgeous and moving to dismiss on account of its weirdness.

What did I love about it?  Well first, the inherent intimacy.  There's nothing expected about the trajectory of the core couple in the film. You don't buy or not buy them because they're at "this stage" or "that stage" of their relationship.  You do immediately sense the deep connection between them. That moved me.

I also enjoyed that I thought I was totally following the very splintered story, and was also certain it was all metaphor, start to finish.  Then during the Q&A afterwards, turns out nope - totally literal.  Well, that's fine! I will still think about my own hypothetical meanings.  I guess you can do that with art.

It was not like anything else I had seen before.  I am sort of dying to see it a second time.

The Q&A was fun.  I was a little too deep in my own head trying to parse what I'd just seen to really pay close attention, but I enjoyed the rapport that Soderbergh and Carruth had.  A few of the questions asked were purely for comedic value - such as "are you the outdoorsy type?" and "this movie has no cats in it. What's up with that?"

Good stuff. Thanks, IFC Center.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oscar Wills & Wants

Here's my post where I say which movies will win and which I want to win.

To be fair, there are two films that were nominated that I didn't get the chance to see. So, you know, take my comments with a grain of salt. 

Of course it should go without saying that the Oscars are no indication of the quality of films that are released in a given year.  And yes, it's silly to make a big deal out of them. On the other hand, this is like, the one day of the year that seemingly everyone, from my parents to co-workers to random strangers on the street actually pay some attention to that past time that consumes a large part of my time 365 days a year.  So long as this is properly contextualized, I have no problem with me, or anyone else, getting into the fun of the Oscars.

The "wants" are listed in order of preference.  And for fun (always for fun, guys), I put some comments in red.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Every Movie I Saw at Sundance 2013

Here's a quick list of every film I saw at Sundance 2013.

I've bolded some that were favorites, though this is not meant to be an indication of all of my favorites, just some.

1. May in the Summer
2. Twenty Feet from Stardom
3. Crystal Fairy
4. God Loves Uganda
5. Sound City
6. Circles
7. We Are What We Are
8. Don Jon's Addiction
9. Touchy Feely
10. I Used to Be Darker
11. Cutie and the Boxer
12. Blackfish
13. Escape from Tomorrow
14. Breathe In
15. Milkshake
16. Prince Avalanche
17. Stoker
18. Before Midnight
19. The East
20. Toy's House
21. Pit Stop
22. Google and the World Brain
23. Charlie Victor Romeo
24. Blue Caprice
25. The Way Way Back
26. The Spectacular Now
27. In a World...
28. Houston
29. Lasting
30. Magic Magic
31. Kill Your Darlings
32. Interior. Leather Bar
33. Doc Shorts 1
34. Newlyweeds
35. After Tiller
36. A.C.O.D
37. 99%
38. Soldier Jane
39. Fruitvale
40. Citizen Koch
41. Valentine Road
42. Running from Crazy
43. Computer Chess
44. This Is Martin Bonner
45. kink
46. C.O.G.
47. Concussion
48. American Promise
49. The World According to Dick Cheney
50. Metro Manila
51. Blood Brother
52. Aint Them Bodies Saints              

Post Sundance 2013 - Checking In on my Festival Goals

It was a fantastic Sundance Film Festival this year - which I am only just now getting around to saying, since I was sick for almost seven days immediately following the festival.

I saw a respectable 52 films at this year's fest, got to hang with some great people I don't get to see often enough, made a ton of new friends, and hopefully did a good job overall.

Since I made a Sundance Goals list before the festival began, I will now report how I did on those, mostly to amuse my own self when I read this at some later point.

And I've posted some people pictures. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sundance Awards Predictions

The Sundance Film Festival will give out its awards tonight.  

Since I am up to 47 films I feel uniquely qualified to predict the winners (though in fact I usually fail to correctly guess them).  So, here goes.

Here's what I think will win the big prizes (and this also, for the most part, how I'd wish it to go down, based on what I saw and liked). 

US Dramatic Grand Jury: Fruitvale
US Dramatic Audience Award: Fruitvale
US Dramatic Directing: The Spectacular Now

I selfishly hope that Aint Them Bodies Saints wins something so I get the chance to go see it tomorrow when they show the award winners.

US Documentary Grand Jury: After Tiller
US Documentary Audience Award: Twenty Feet From Stardom
US Documentary Directing: Narco Cultura (I haven't seen it) or Cutie and the Boxer

I hope that Narco Cultura, Manhunt and Blood Brothers take something so I can see them tomorrow.
I would also love to see Valentine Road recognized in some way.  

World Dramatic Grand Jury: No idea. 
World Dramatic Audience Award: Circles
World Dramatic Directing: Lasting

I have only seen five here. I hope something wins Grand Jury that I haven't seen yet. 

Best of Next: This Is Martin Bonner 

I saw all of the films in this section except for two, so I do sort of selfishly wish that one of them (A Teacher) wins so I can see it tomorrow.

I don't know what might win World Documentary because I have only seen one of them.  The ones I'd like to see still are The Moo Man and The Square. 

If I could, I'd give out some special jury awards too:

Ballsiest Production: Escape from Tomorrow
Best Editing: Twenty Feet from Stardom
Debut Performance: Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now) and Paul Eenhoorn (This Is Martin Bonner)
Best Comeback: Gaby Hoffman (Crystal Fairy) 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Running list of movies seen at Sundance thus far

1. May in the Summer
2. Twenty Feet from Stardom
3. Crystal Fairy
4. God Loves Uganda
5. Sound CIty
6. Circles
7. We Are What We Are
8. Don Jon's Addiction
9. Touchy Feely
10. I Used to Be Darker
11. Cutie and the Boxer
12. Blackfish
13. Escape from Tomorrow
14. Breathe In
15. Milkshake
16. Prince Avalanche
17. Stoker
18. Before Midnight
19. The East
20. Toy's House
21. Pit Stop
22. Google and the World Brain
23. Charlie Victor Romeo
24. Blue Caprice 
25. The Way Way Back
26. The Spectacular Now
27. In a World...
28. Houston
29. Lasting
30. Magic Magic
31. Kill Your Darlings
32. Interior. Leather Bar
33. Doc Shorts 1
34. Newlyweeds
35. After Tiller 
36. A.C.O.D

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sundance - Quick Update!

About to see my 24th film of Sundance 2013 which means I am almost halfway done.

Favorite doc so far remains Twenty Feet From Stardom.

Favorite narrative film is Breathe In, though I plan to see many of the well-reviewed titles in the second half.

I have not seen anything I disliked. So, that's pretty awesome this far in.

Deliberately not blogging about each individual film. That said, I also really likes Blackfish, Pit Stop, Prince Avalanche, Crystal Fairy, Before Midnight, The East.

Sixth film of the day beginning in three minutes.

Should Sundance do more to stop cell phone usage during festival screenings? This veteran festival attendee says yes

 Dear Sundance,

I adore you. I've come to your festival faithfully for the last thirteen years. Since I was a teenager!  You have  changed my life by providing me with an annual outlet to foster my love of film that attracts thousands of like-minded strangers, several of whom have become my good friends over the years. You're amazing, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being you.

But I need you to do just one more thing for me.

Please, for the love of god, I beg of you: do more to stop the rampant cell phone usage during movies.

It's bad.  You know that, right?

Allow me to take a short but frustrating trip down memory lane.  At the Eccles last year I saw a woman who must have thought she was so thoughtful up in the balcony, diligently cupping her palm around her smartphone to supposedly shield her neighbors from the glaring light that emanated from the web surfing she had to attend to for multiple ten-minute intervals.  Later that same day, I sat directly behind a young man who could not avoid checking the score of an ongoing sporting event every five to ten minutes.  I even had the occasion to sit next to a director who was (to be fair) mortified to learn that his attempts to use his smartphone to record audience reactions during his film were in fact creating a distraction for those around him. 

These are not isolated incidents. And 2013 is not much better.  At last week's screening of Circles at the Egyptian, I did the math. A full 1.4% of the audience had their cell phone ring during the movie. I don't like those numbers. A gentleman in front of me at the 9 AM screening of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's hotly anticipated directorial debut must not have been looking as forward to it as the rest of us, since he took his phone out a total of three extended intervals during just the first 15 minutes of the movie, until I asked him politely to stop.

Let's suppose for a moment that people are inherently good. They also, I believe, want to go with the flow. Adhere to social and cultural mores, if you will.   Can we not cultivate an atmosphere wherein this behavior is universally shunned?  In which even those less inclined to derive their manners from an inner sense of decency at least keep their phones in their fluffy jacket pockets, out of fear of being shamed by the greater community?

What accounts for depth of the problem at Sundance, then?  Let's consider some potential factors, for the sake of discussion:


Can we blame ourselves? Can we blame each other? I used to think "it's Industry. It's definitely industry." I sat behind the producer of one of my favorite movies recently and recoiled in horror and heartbreak when she pulled her Blackberry out over and over, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she was surrounded by other people, not alone in a screening room.   It's not fair, though, to place the blame on solely industry.  Not when you have veteran critics who will bust out with a polite but booming voice mid-movie asking an offender to put her phone away. Not when you have the head of a nationwide theater chain who'd no doubt name this issue instead of "world peace" if there were some kind of weird-ass beauty pageant among exhibitors and distributors and he were asked what change he'd most want to see in the world. No, it's not fair to blame just the industry.

Is it the film fans, then?  Your average Molly Movie-goer, living in our media-obsessed, narcissistic high-consumption world, unable to tear herself away from the allure of an incoming text?  Maybe it's her plus one, the fair weather film fan who can be talked into tagging along when presented with the allure of celebrities in attendance?

But even then, I struggle to convince myself that someone who flew to Utah, spent god knows how much cash on tickets and transportation, would dare not respect the experience  enough not to keep their phone off and demand their friends do the same.

So. I'm choosing to hypothesize, then, that this is a matter of semantics. Nobody is aware they're breaking the rules, they just didn't fully understand the rules. "Turn my phone off? Sure. It's on silent. It's off!" I'm starting to think that maybe (hopefully?) the average offender here had no idea the extent to which others expect a distraction-free environment in a theater, and were mostly oblivious to their contribution to the contrary. 

Which leads me focus on two other key contributors, which are....

Lack of preventative measures

The Sundance programmer introducing the film has a big job to do, balancing priorities like imparting housekeeping details, contextualizing the art we're about to consume, making the filmmaker feel at ease before he or she takes the stage for the big moment.  The "turn your cell phones off" reminder is said, second before the film begins, but arguably not spotlighted enough to be fully digested.  And it's rote enough that I wonder if audiences may just tune it out entirely.

Lack of consequences and enforcement

This is a fact: nothing bad happens to someone who uses a cell phone during a movie.  Rarely do those nearby even ask the offender to shut it off, and never do you see staff catching and correcting this behavior.  Eccles volunteers can smell from 30 feet away the cookie you smuggled in so your growling stomach won't overpower the dialogue. They will eagerly crawl through 20 people to remind you that you can't have food there, but there seems almost to be a silent agreement amongst staff and volunteers that there's no intervention necessary for patrons who can't go an hour and a half without seeing if they've got any new Twitter followers.

More than likely, the problem has reached the epic proportions we see today due a combination of factors, including some I haven't even thought of.   And maybe it's the eternal optimist in me, but I do truly believe it is solvable.   

So, dear Sundance, here are a few of my ideas that I give you here for free, in exchange one day, I hope, for consistent and uninterrupted enjoyment of your outstanding programming.

  1. Make it a rule. Put it in the terms and conditions for pass holders and ticket purchasers. Print it on the tickets, like you do the rule about arriving 15 minutes early.  Clearly explain the consequences.
  2. On that note... create some formal consequences.  It could be as simple as "patrons who refuse to refrain from using their smartphones may be asked to leave."
  3. Standardize the "no cell phones" part of the introduction, just like you do the naming of the sponsors. Infuse the appropriate level of severity.
  4.  Make it funny. Put it in the festival bumper. Normalize the shaming of people who behave badly with their phones.  People like to feel righteous, whether they admit it or not. Superior, even. Ask any vegetarian (myself included).  Cultivate the sense that it's "us versus them" with the smartphone users versus abusers. Everyone will know which side they want to be on.  Just ask Tim League - it's the culture he's created at the Drafthouse.
  5. Incorporate it into the volunteer job descriptions for venue staff, particularly those who handle crowd control.  You do a great job of staffing these positions with bubbly, outgoing individuals who act as the face of the festival.   How about if they remind incoming audiences about the aforementioned smart phone policy & consequences? 
  6. Monetize this.  Find a company who wants to sponsor funny ads about how everyone has to power down.  Banners at venues.  A flier with your registration packet.  TVs in the holding tents that play the sponsored message.  The possibilities are endless, and the potential for delivering a message that sticks is very real.  Hell, I am still humming the "not working for the man, he's independent!" jingle from the Jib Jab bumpers from like ten years ago.

Sundance - you're the best of the best.  And for good reason.  World class programming and your reputation as one of the foremost film markets afford you undisputed influence on not just the cultivation of talent but also on the delivery of truth to the film-going masses as the work you've shepherded is rolled out throughout the year.  Further evidence of your influence is how Sundance audiences are highly sought by potential festival sponsors because of how influential we tend to be as thought leaders in our respective communities.

But as Peter Parker learned in Spiderman if you'll allow me to quote from perhaps not the most independent of all films: "with great power comes great responsibility."   You are already the purveyor of culture and knowledge, the impact of which is endless.  The tens of thousands of Sundance attendees take so much back home with them after the festival.  So many films that have the power to change the world by inspiring action or engendering tolerance have made the splash they did thanks in part to you.  Just think about what could happen if you manage to apply your influence to the way people act in a movie theater.  A vocal push from Sundance to end the use of smartphones in theaters would have a ripple effect. 

In the grand scheme of things, using your influence to permeate a culture that does not accept distractions in a movie theater may not seem as significant as drawing attention to dolphin slaughter in Taiji, inspiring lawmakers to watch a film your audiences awarded for its emotional investigation of rape in the military, or reaching multiplex audiences with a drama featuring a loving lesbian family. But think about it: if we don't get people to put their phones down long enough to watch the movie, they'll be too distracted to hear the message in the first place.

In the meantime, I'll keep fighting the good fight, even if it means (or maybe in part because it means) casting my most menacing, exasperated expression in the general direction of a glowing small screen from up on my high horse.

All the best,

Dor Dotson

NOTE OF CLARIFICATION: my experience is from public screenings only (not press and industry).

Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, Dermot Mulroney , Park Chan-Wook, Mia Wasikowska at Stoker premiere

Rosemarie Dewitt, Alison Janney, Ellen Page, Ron Livingstone etc at Touchy Feely Premiere

Dave Grohl at the Sound City premiere and ensuing Sound City Players rock show

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sundance Snapshots

Matt and I posing with our 20 Feet From Stardom 7" just before we heard a teenager go "whoa look at those mini records!". Then, Matt and Gina have a late night condo catch-up. Then there I am with my tickets for the week. Ah, tickets!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sundance is today! Here are my Sundance 2013 Goals

Every year, I make a list of goals for myself to accomplish at Sundance. It's a bit silly, but I enjoy it. My track record is usually good with the movie related ones (ie.g. "see 50+ movies") and not so good with the less quantifiable ones (e.g. "don't fight with Shiri").

This year I've set a high bar for myself with a long list. I feel pretty good about most of them. I shall list them now.

* See 56 movies. This is one more than last year, which nearly killed me. If I am to accomplish this, it will involve sticking to my schedule which includes six days wherein I see six movies per day. Five of those days are consecutive. I can sustain a high level of energy for a short period of time, but everyone has their breaking point. The older I get, the less of a superhero I am on this front.

Note - I don't sleep through movies. It doesn't happen. I'm not one of those types who dozes off halfway thru the last half of my day and then pats myself on the back for a job well done. One day I will write a post about all my insider tips for staying awake at Sundance.

* Not break my new boots. I didn't bring regular shoes, just boots. My ankle brace makes the zipper unhappy. If it breaks, I'll have to go barefoot, which means I'll get frostbite and possible gangrene and then I'll die, making it much less likely I will accomplish my goal of seeing 56 movies.

* Gain 50 new followers during the fest. The trick, though, is going to be not to lose follows for being an Obnoxious Sundance Tweeter. This is where I may struggle. Tips welcome.

* Not get sick. Can't get sick. Not an option. Won't even let the thought enter into my mind. Emergen-C, multi-vitamins and an unflinchingly positive attitude will keep me the picture of health. PLEASEOHPLEASEOHPLEASE

* Be awesome at my secret mission. I have a bit of a secret mission. I must be stone cold awesome at it. As I am stone cold awesome at most things, this should be a breeze. (Convincing enough?)

* Eat well. This means, Dor, you cannot have M&Ms, nor can you have popcorn. It helps that there's no decent popcorn to be had in all of Park City. Bananas, y'all. Bananas, yogurt, carrots. That's how we do.

* Meet new people I know from Twitter. I've met so many wonderful folks at film festivals either before (or mostly after) following them on Twitter. Yet I have it on good authority that I don't yet know All the People. If you are one of the People I Don't Know, I hope we meet. If you see we are at the same movie, tap me on the shoulder and say what's up. I'll be the one in the bright red lipstick, typing furiously into my phone or iPad, focused to the point where I am unknowingly mouthing the words as I type them.

* Spend quality time with my friends. I'm sharing a room this year with the likes of Matt Page, Chase Whale and Amber Wilkinson. Though every waking moment will be spent consuming cinema, I desperately want to find a way to have also meaningful exchanges with my pals. And by meaningful I mean more than "I ran out of soy milk. Do you think OJ would taste good on my Kashi?" or "get the hell out of the shower 'cause I am late to my 8:30 AM movie!"

* Actually see Gina. One of my closest friends on earth is a traveler. She's often called away from NYC for long periods of time for work. Well lucky me, this year she's working for Sundance, so I'll get to see her face after not gazing upon it for many months.

* Not lose anything. Neither wallet, hat, camera, nor faith in myself. Seems easy enough, but these are often things that wander away from me. Particularly at Sundance. Luckily people are mostly good, and I always get them back. But let's avoid the stress this year all together.

* Find the time to see George from work and my friend Pablo. Somehow. Someday. Somewhere.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2013 Movie Goals

Last year when I started my blog, I created a list of 2012 movie goals. I did pretty well. 

I either set the bar too low, though, or over-committed to the cause, seeing as I saw not the 200 films I aimed for but rather over 350 films in theaters.

So, I'm kicking it up a notch this year. Obviously.  I'm breaking my resolutions out into four categories:

Film By Numbers

I will see 365 films in theaters this year, including first run and repertory

This must include at least:
50 films at Sundance
10 films at Rendezvous with French Cinema
35 films at SXSW
10 films at Full Frame
15 films at Tribeca
20 films at Hot Docs
40 films at TIFF
10 films at NYFF
20 films at Fantastic Fest
10 films at DOC NYC

60 older movies (not first run)
Including the above (and beyond), I wiill see at least 60 films at The IFC Center.

On Location:

I will visit the theater I failed to pay a first visit to in 2012: Maysles Institute

I will also get around to visiting these places:
Cinefamily (in Los Angeles)

Better Late than Never:

A few years ago I saw like, zero genre film.  Sci-fi, horror, action, not for me. I came 'round on that one, thanks to TIFF Midnight Madness, Fantastic Fest, etc.

I'm still embarrassingly uninformed when it comes to another genre, though.  For lack of a better way to phrase this: I need to see more Asian films.  Here are the ways I will support this resolution:

* I will re-watch In The Mood for Love. On Criterion Blu.
* I will attend the New York Asian Film Festival for the first time in 2013.
* I will watch at least ten Asian films from the 250 Top Critics Films  at Sight & Sound (suggestions welcome!) 


I will keep track not just of my theatrical experiences but also I will log my (hopefully increasing) at-home viewing

I will change the way I write about movies on my blog a bit in that I may write less about festival films and more about NYC rep and first run theatrical releases.  Or I may not write much at all.  We'll see.