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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Two-Sentence Reviews from Sundance

Just for kicks, every year I post two-sentence reviews of the films I manage to see at Sundance. Here's this year's crop:

Against the Current. Joseph Fiennes plays a grieving financial writer who decides that the way he’ll leave his mark as a person, and pay tribute to his late wife, is by swimming the length of the Hudson River over the course of three weeks. The film raises deep questions about how much we can influence the lives of our friends, but what keeps the proceedings from getting too heavy is the needling, sarcastic repartee between the two buddies at the center of this film, played by Fiennes and Justin Kirk.

I Love You, Phillip Morris. The movie seems to have some real points to make about the power of love, but any attempt at conveying a message (or even connecting with the audience) is overshadowed by the broad hamminess of the first twenty minutes, when a car crash convinces Jim Carrey to come out of the closet and acknowledge that he’s gay, gay, gay. To pay for his fabulous new lifestyle, he’s decides to become a con man.

Five Minutes of Heaven. Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt deliver incredible performances as two adults linked by a senseless sectarian killing committed by Neeson’s character in mid-1970s Northern Ireland. But the breathless intensity of the first fifteen minutes slackens into a very slow, pensive mid-section, which leads to an ending that is apparently much more pat than what transpired in real life.

Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy. Why wouldn’t a history of black comedy be roaring good fun to watch? When you search for social import in everything, hire Angela Bassett as your narrator (why not a comedian?), and sprinkle in talking heads from Congress and the NAACP explaining over and over again the boundary-smashing, pioneering role that was played by one comic after another.

We Live in Public. Brilliantly captures the Warhol-esque milieu created by Internet entrepreneur-artist Josh Harris in late-1990s Manhattan. Then, it ties Harris’ edgy, disturbing experiments with digital connectivity and surveillance to the current Facebook moment, when our smallest thoughts and doings are shared with a global audience.

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