I’ve been to about six different film festivals in my life so far, and the documentary-driven True/False Film Fest—held the last weekend in February in Columbia, Missouri—is far and away my absolute favorite. (Sorry, Sundance; it’s me, not you.) Even though the fest has my nostalgia (it’s held on the campus of my alma mater) and loyalty (my day-job employer sponsors the fest) working in its favor, plentyof other peopleagree that it’s pretty fantastic. And I find it hard to imagine any other future festival-going experience will ever take its place. Why?
Anybody else feeling less and less interested in the annual (movie) race to gold? I’m finding it difficult to get too excited about the Oscars this year. My film brain has moved on, having seen a whole new crop of fascinating flicks at Sundance in January. And the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has the kind of hard-core-homogenous membership (93% while, 76% male) that leads to yawn-inducing predictability. So when the Oscars air next Sunday, I’ll be wrapping up my coverage of the thought-provoking, always-surprising True/False Film Festival instead. In the meantime, I’ll be using the following Best Picture “conversation changers” to keep from nodding off during Oscar discussions. (I’ll add in Philomena and Captain Phillips after I see them.) Try ‘em, and let me know your results!
What I thought:
A thoroughly entertaining period caper flick with incredible performances from Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and the sure-to-shake-up-next-Sunday’s-show Jennifer Lawrence. One of my favorites of the year.
Shane Carruth and Amy Seimetz in Carruth's Upstream Color
One of the few things I don’t hate about winter: snow days. I love it when the white stuff forces me into exile because it gives me a chance to catch up on my ever-growing streaming online must-watch list. I said this to my sister this week and she said, “I love that you have a watch list.” “Wait,” I said. “You don’t have a watch list?” “Um, no,” said she. We’re twins, people.
So, in case you are one of those lucky people who aren’t walking around with a mental list of everything you must see before you die, said list weighing heavy on your soul, allow me to suggest the following watch-list adds for your next snow day. They all feature my perfect snow-day trifecta: An element of mystery engrossing enough to ward off cabin fever, a decided bleakness to mirror my seasonally depressed soul, and a dose of finality (crime avenged, mystery revealed, etc.) as an antidote to the feeling that this winter is never, ever, ever going to end.*
Day four began with the holy grail for our 2014 Sundance experience: Actual tickets. You see, our first-timer press passes get us into all Press & Industry screenings…after the veteran outlets go in. Sometimes there aren’t enough spaces left in the screenings we want to see, so we have to stay flexible…and shamelessly ask for stuff. Sarah’s ticket to Young Ones came through the Sundance press office (they allot press tickets to combined press and public screenings at bigger theaters). Her ticket to Land Ho came from the film’s publicist. One of the co-directors happens to be excited about food blogs; that interview is coming tomorrow. And Ali and Sarah’s tickets to I Origins came through a friend-of-a-friend who works at Sundance and knew about a private screening. (Thanks, Jared!) We’re already dreaming about next year, when we’ll hopefully graduate to Big Girl press passes. But for now, we’re having fun rising to the challenge of getting into as many films as possible, given our limitations. It’s a game, and we totally won today. Like the Broncos. Which I am only mentioning because my twin sis is a fan.
Chicago-based marching band Mucca Pazza entertains before a screening at the 2013 True/False Film Fest.
If I have an excuse for taking so long to post about the True/False Film Fest (February 28 – March 3 in Columbia, MO), it’s this: I just didn’t want it to be over. In its ten years of bringing the best documentaries (and kinda documentaries) to the heartland, True/False has created an army of fanatics who talk about the fest with fervor usually reserved for barbecue and college teams ’round these parts.
I attended last year and was converted to the event’s infectious spirit immediately. The fest is designed to break down the walls between filmmakers and film-goers. Each screening has a filmmaker Q&A, parties mix fans and documentarians, and the compact festival traffic patterns ensure you’ll run into the person responsible for that fantastic film you just saw in line for coffee or a slice of Shakespeare’s pizza. The fest also seems calibrated for filmgoers’ maximum happiness. “Buskers” serenade you while you wait for films to start, hundreds of friendly volunteers keep things running smoothly, and an ingenius “Q” system helps latecomers get into sold-out films.
Shelves courtesy of a friend's basement. Yellow floor pillows from West Elm. Quilt from Grandma.
Shelves courtesy of a friend’s basement. Yellow floor pillows from West Elm. Quilt from Grandma.
Just a quick post to say my DVD shelves are up! My movie-watching blankets are folded! Most of this moving-and-unpacking craziness is past! I’ll be back next week to blog about the Oscar madness. Can’t wait!
Being a writer, the Oscar screenwriting categories are always a highlight of Oscar season for me. I love the opportunity it gives me to go back and discover other films the writers have worked on, and the extra minutes of fame it gives the original brains behind the stories we’ve been dissecting and comparing obsessively.
In the adapted screenplay category, Argo‘s Chris Terrio, Beasts of the Southern Wild‘s Lucy Alibar and director Benh Zeitlin, Life of Pi‘s David Magee, Lincoln‘s Tony Kushner, and Silver Linings Playbook director David O. Russell will compete for 2012 bragging rights. My personal favorite in this category is Alibar and Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild. The first-timers adapted Alibar’s original play and created an entirely unique and believable world in their tightly themed screenplay. I think David Magee might have an edge in this category, though, because so many people called Life of Pi (by Yann Martel) an un-adaptable book…he may get Herculean-effort points. And Kushner managed to make legislative bargaining with a foregone conclusion suspenseful and visually compelling…so I’m split on which way to bet. Thoughts?
Spielberg is the reigning Oscar king of this bunch. He’s won two Best Director statues: Schindler’s List in 1994 and Saving Private Ryan in 1999. (Schindler’s List took home the Best Picture title, too.) He’s been nominated as Best Director four other times for Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1978, Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1982, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in 1983, and Munich in 2006. Lee also has a directing Oscar under his belt for Brokeback Mountain in 2006. He was nominated for Best Director for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2001 as well. To round out the veterans in this category, David O. Russellearned a Best Director nomination for The Fighter in 2010.