Film

Sundance 2013: championing Campion

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For more Sundance 2013 reports, go here, here, here, and here.

Easily the greatest screening event at this year's Sundance Film Festival was Jane Campion's multi-part miniseries Top of the Lake, a co-production of the Sundance Channel, BBC Two, and UKTV in Australia and New Zealand.

Though it was made for TV, this 353-minute, Twin Peaks (1990) meets Silence of the Lambs (1991) extravaganza was shown on the big screen, which gave it even more impact. Not that it needed much help: when intermission came at the end of the third episode, audience members filed out for lunch with similar (stunned, shocked, obliterated) expressions on their faces.

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Sundance 2013: what's NEXT?

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Earlier fest reports here, here, and here.

At Sundance 2013, no other category could compete with the NEXT programming. NEXT was initiated in 2010; its aim is to highlight "pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling. Digital technology paired with unfettered creativity proves the films selected in this section will inform a 'greater' next wave in American cinema."

Matthew Porterfield's I Used to Be Darker showcases Ned Oldham (brother of indie fave Will Oldham) as a father-husband-musician whose teenage daughter starts to drift away as his marriage dissolves. Wonderfully awkward and trying moments arise from every suburban-hipster angle, making Darker not only a disturbing blueprint of divorce among the indie-rock generation, but — with three fully performed songs — a reminder of why so much music from this time period remains utterly relatable. (Clearly, not everyone agrees; I overheard a group of SLC locals calling Darker their "least favorite movie of all time.")

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SF IndieFest, and a whole lot more: new movies!

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First things first: the San Francisco Independent Film Festival kicked off last night and runs through Feb. 21 at various venues (mostly the Roxie). Check out my interviews with local shorts directors here, and some top picks throughout the festival here.

Also this week: cult director Don Coscarelli's John Dies at the End (my chat with Mr. Bubba Ho-Tep here), Amy Berg's West Memphis Three doc, West of Memphis (check out Nicole Gluckstern's review here), and the Vortex Room's love-ly new series (Dennis Harvey's take here).

What's more, 1986 action classic Top Gun gets the 3D IMAX re-release treatment (because any list of things that are better when they're bigger, louder, and more in-yo-face include Soviet MiGs, Tom Cruise's teeth, and Kenny Loggins jams). Reviews of comedies Identity Thief and Shanghai Calling, plus Steven Soderbergh's maybe-swan song Side Effects, below the jump.

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Sundance 2013: the way of the gun

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Festival veteran Jesse Hawthorne Ficks files his third report from the 2013 Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals. Read his first two reports here and here.

British filmmaker Sean Ellis' Philippines-set Metro Manila took home the Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic at Sundance. It's a gritty, neo-realist journey into Manila's Catch 22'd slums that's every bit as shocking as it is hypnotic. When I saw it, the entire audience (myself included) was left gasping for air while wiping their tears — it's ruthlessly realistic, insanely inspired, and a taut thriller to boot.

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Sundance (and Slamdance) 2013: 'Dirties' talk

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Festival veteran Jesse Hawthorne Ficks files his second report from the 2013 Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals. Check out his first report here.

The most controversial and inspired film amid this year's Utah fests actually screened at the Slamdance Film Festival, where it won the Grand Jury Sparky Award for a Narrative Feature. The Dirties, by 28-year-old Canadian writer-director-star Matthew Johnson, is an utterly brilliant, unstoppably hilarious found footage entry that follows two high school cinephiles as they try and make a documentary about "bullying," while they themselves continue to get uncomfortably bullied at their own school.

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My campy Valentine

Fall in love with vampires, acid, severed hands, and interplanetary war at the Vortex Room

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FILM Love is the drug, or so sang somebody once. Yet violent conflict has always been a more predominatingly addicting factor in movies — which is why it seems both natural and despairing that the Vortex Room's "For Your Vortex Only" celebration of "Love...Vortex Style" (please guys, only one title per series), every Thursday in February, features eight vintage movies in which "love" is less a matter of romantic fulfillment than a titular selling point.Read more »

Weird tales

Filmmaker Don Coscarelli on Elvis, Bigfoot, and 'John Dies at the End'

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cheryl@sfbg.com

FILM It was a particular thrill to talk to Don Coscarelli on Jan. 8 — Elvis' birthday. He is, after all, the guy who made 2002's Bubba Ho-Tep, which imagined an elderly version of the King fighting the evil mummy that's menacing his nursing home. Coscarelli's other credits include 1979's Phantasm (and its 1988, '94, and '98 sequels), 1982's The Beastmaster, and his latest: supernatural noir buddy comedy John Dies at the End, based on David Wong's comedy-horror novel.Read more »

West Memphis blues

'West of Memphis' asks some long-overdue questions of a notorious case

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM At this point, it's hard to imagine a present-day murder trial more painstakingly documented than that of the so-called West Memphis Three. The subject of four documentaries, with a feature film in the works (starring Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon, no less), and inspiring at least as many books, websites, and countless articles, the story of the three teenagers convicted of the brutal killings of three small boys has never quite dropped from public attention.Read more »

Sundance 2013: Viva Silva!

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Festival veteran Jesse Hawthorne Ficks files his first report from the 2013 Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals.

This year's Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals were both outstanding, so I did my best to pack my schedule as full as humanly possible (sacrificing sleep in the process). With close to 50 programs achieved, I can assure you it's gonna be one helluva year for cinema. Make sure to mark some of these titles down for 2013.

Filmmaker Sebastián Silva brought two new entries to Sundance, and they both happened to be two of my most cherished experiences. Crystal Fairy and Magic Magic were filmed in Chile at the same time, and showcase the almighty Michael Cera — who learned Spanish just for these projects. If you are able to avoid the countless spoiler-heavy reviews (this isn't one of them) and enter these films at your own risk, you will be treated to Silva's masterful, even transcendental, slow burn.

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Stallone, Walken, zombies, Oscar shorts, and more: new movies!

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Yes you can find time to see a movie this otherwise football-y weekend. The ongoing Noir City and Sketchfest still have a lot of great upcoming programming, Sly Stallone is back in evocatively-titled action flick Bullet to the Head, a zombie finds love in Warm Bodies (review below), and all the Academy Award-nominated shorts are now available for big-screen viewing, for anyone who takes winning the office Oscar pool as seriously as ... the Superbowl.

And speaking of the big game, the Roxie will be hosting its annual "Men in Tights" viewing party, a benefit for the theater and the upcoming SF IndieFest. So you can have your pigskin, and eat your popcorn too. GO NINERS!

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