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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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