Arts and Entertainment
NOW THAT SUNDANCE , Slamdance, Digidance, TromaDance, Slamdunk, and Nodance have closed shop for 2002, perhaps it's time for the last dance. The official Sundance juries are in with the ITVS doc Daughter from Danang and Rebecca Miller's Personal Velocity winning big. Here's where our votes went:
Personal Velocity A deserved Grand Jury Prize winner, Rebecca Miller's long-overdue second feature draws on three of her published short stories to examine three very different female characters (played by Kyra Sedgwick, Parker Posey, and Fairuza Balk), with uniquely literary intimacy. (Dennis Harvey)
Paradox Lake A cast of nonprofessional actors autistic kids and their real-life summer camp counselors bend all the rules, from social interaction to narrative development, in Przemyslaw Shemie Reut's incredible naturalistic drama. (Susan Gerhard)
Design Writer-director-star Davidson Cole puts the recognizable humanity back into David Lynch territory with this consistently surprising drama-cum-black comedy about several bleak Chicago lives intersecting as they hit rock bottom. Design is a true oddity: an existential movie in which God surely does exist, but He/She/It is neither forgiving nor kind. (Harvey)
Blue Vinyl I won't be the only one applauding if Judith Helfand who detailed her own cancer in A Healthy Baby Girl and here moves on to the toxics in her family's vinyl siding turns this personal-is-political thing into a 50-year career. (Gerhard)
How to Draw a Bunny Director John Walter makes the life of eccentric, distant, and perversely clever pop-era artist Ray Johnson, who committed suicide in 1995, into the subject of a wacky mystery story, and he will most likely put the underrecognized artist on the general-public map. (Glen Helfand)
Manito A blast of sheer energy that doesn't stint on warmth or depth, Eric Eason's drama about 48 very eventful hours in the lives of a Washington Heights Latino clan merits a Mean Streets comparison not because it rehashes the same old dese-'n'-dose clichés, but because the lived-in urban immediacy and digital-vidmaking style feel as fresh as Scorsese's pocket operatics did a quarter century ago. (Harvey)
The Cockettes Making its official premiere after a work-in-progress screening at the San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Festival last year, Bill Weber and David Weissman's documentary about the famed early-'70s S.F. camp-theater troupe is one of those clock-windbacks that make the present look almost tragically monochrome. (Harvey)
Britney Baby One More Time! There's a surprising sweetness to this (mostly) fictional comic road movie about cross-dressing number-one Britney Spears fan Robert Stephens (playing himself) driving from Milwaukee to New Orleans with a filmmaking crew (led by American Movie subjects Mark Borchardt and Mike Schank, sorta playing themselves) to meet the Pneumatic One herself. (Harvey)
Daddy and Papa Director Johnny Symons managed to warm my heart, and that's saying a lot. (Helfand)
Personal Velocity If I had to use toothpick-thin Kyra Sedgwick to portray a battered housewife whose primary charm is supposed to be physical the way her butt fills a pair of blue jeans I would choose not to photograph that tiny pebble of a butt from every possible angle in the space of a 20-minute segment. (Gerhard)
Bark A comedy without laughs, basic filmmaking skills, or the slightest point, this Dramatic Competition film dog centers on a woman (scenarist Heather Morgan) who starts acting canine because ... well, it's a cute idea, right? For two minutes, maybe. For two hours, it's torture. (Harvey)
Rancho California Filmmaker John T. Caldwell is shocked by the makeshift cardboard dwellings and outcast status of Mexican immigrant workers living just outside wealthy SoCal suburban communities. We're shocked he didn't choke reading his grotesquely academic narration, which turns real issues and people into fodder for the worst kind of "deconstructive" blather. "Livestock aesthetics," anyone? Ethnography as theater? Just how far up one's arse can that ivory tower go? Pretty far, turns out. (Harvey)
The Dancer Upstairs John Malkovich manages to turn a timely and potentially poignant tale of terrorism into a long-winded bore, draining studly Javier Bardem of his sex appeal in the process. (Helfand)
Texas Hi, I'm Russell Crowe, and here's the home movie I made of my completely routine John Cougar Mellencamp-type bar band. Hi, I'm Harvey Weinstein, and ohmygawd, this has nothing to do with the fact that you're a movie star, but your band is sooo brilliant! Honest! Let's Dolby Surround-sound it and release it through Miramax! ... Uh, by the way, not like you owe us anything now, but there's this lead role in a project we've got coming up you might want to consider ... (Harvey)
Most perverse swag: The clear, soft latex pacifier for Daddy and Papa.
Most film-specific swag: The Blue Vinyl environmental activist Mardi Gras-influenced tchotchke, made from the toxic-when-burned siding that director Judith Helfand talked her parents into prying from their house. As seen on-screen!
Audience splitter: Gus Van Sant's Gerry. Those who liked it said it was just like an Antonioni film. Those who didn't said the same thing.
Stateliest celebrity sightings: Gena Rowlands lunching at Zoom right after James Cromwell, the farmer man in Babe, wandered out.
Best cell phone conversation snippet overheard at the Rite Aid cash register, from a woman buying tampons and deodorant: "That film should not be made for more than $15 million. But Fox Searchlight may be interested."