What is it about annoying, disgusting or downright disturbing men that we tend to love? In the real world -- day to day activities such as going to work, feeding our children, loving our husbands/wives -- we wouldn’t like the characters that Hollywood has us so in love with. By tacking on a couple funny lines and few private moments, these men have successfully pulled on our heart strings for more then just a couple seasons.
Michael Scott on The Office
This man would and sometimes should be sued for sexual harassment. Sure, his character is loveable at times but if we had a boss who said ‘That’s what she said,’ and made jokes about weight, we would be in an uproar. It's not just that he's so offensive, sometimes he's just too annoying to overlook!
Kenny Powers on East Bound and Down
He’s racist, xenophobic, and he left his girlfriend at a gas station! Yet he has made it to his 4th season and if they hadn't already announced the series was ending soon, it could conceivably keep going even longer.
Dexter on Dexter
Sure, he kills bad guys. But he doesn’t just kill them. He dismembers them to appease his own homicidal appetite. If Dexter was put in a real life court, there wouldn’t be a single sympathetic member in the jury.
Walter White on Breaking Bad
He makes and sells meth. All other reasons aside, he makes and sells meth.
Don Draper on Mad Men
Aside from being the best ad man in NYC, he cheats on his wife with almost every female that comes into his office. He lies to the people closest to him, he only looks out for himself. Still, his seasons keep coming.
Everyone at Sundance is always looking for the next Little Miss Sunshine or Beasts of the Southern Wild, that breakout hit that will make millions of dollars and maybe win an Oscar or two. This year that hit seems to be Fruitvale. What they're missing is that beyond quality buzz, there are crazy trends that run from movie to movie. I'm not talking about "sex" or "coming of age stories" or "non-linear narratives that will bore you to tears." Those are at Sundance every year. I'm talking about the things that are a little bit more specific and totally odd.
Below is a list of things that I saw in at least three movies (OK, some only have two movies, but they are so specific they need to be mentioned.) Let's hope it doesn't say too much about us as a country that porn, shootings, and snake bites are all on the list:
Porn: Sex tends to be on everyone's minds in Park City, but this year there was a specific focus on the porn industry specifically. The official selections include Lovelace, the biopic about Deep Throat star Linda Lovelace; The Look of Love about British porn magnate Paul Raymond; and Kink, a documentary about porn site Kink.com (I'm not including a link for your work computer's protection). None of these really disparage the porn industry, but rather look at it as a whole and what effect it has on us. Even Lovelace which shows its star reluctantly having sex on screen doesn't denegrate the material so much as her abusive relationship. Speaking of the effects of porn, we can't fail to mention Joseph Gordon Levitt's directorial debut Don Jon's Addiction where he stars as a guy addicted to porn. It's played for laughs, naturally.
Magical Realism: Long used in literature this is when the world in a story seems normal but is actually infused with supernatural elements. Stoker uses this to great effect, creating a lead character with super powers who lives in a place where logic doesn't really apply. It will give you nightmares. Escape from Tomorrow shows a man going crazy in Disney World until you realize that he's not the one insane, it's the malevolence of the park and its magic forces that are trying to do him in. One of the many unnecessary elements of The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman is when the ghost of his mother tells him to go to Bucharest. That starts off the whole movie so without it we wouldn't have the story. Oh, if only we could have kept this whole thing from happening.
Female Directors: There were more female directors in the U.S. Narrative competition this year than ever before and half of the directors were ladies. And a big congrats to Jill Soloway for taking home the director's prize for Afternoon Delight.
Ecstasy: Like many modern movies, there was tons of drinking and pot smoking (and in Kill Your Darlings there was speed and heroin and all sorts of other things) but ecstasy really made it into the mainstream this year. An anxious woman and her uptight brother solve many of their problems with the drug in Touchy Feely and the problems start for the title character when he goes on an E binge in The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman. Three crazy drug fiends in Crystal Fairy are on the search for an intense psychedelic. For the first time ever, there were more drugs in the movie at Sundance than at the parties.
Women Having Inappropriate Relationships: This was the year of intergenerational, completely inappropriate, sexual relationships for the ladies. The two mothers in Two Mothers are best friends who have sex with each others' sons. The teacher in A Teacher has sex with one of her students. The lifeguard in The Lifeguard has sex with an underage kid. Strangely these are all females transgressing against the norms so that the movie can look at their psychology. If a man was doing this, it would be seen as predatory and the only exploration would be when he goes on trial.
Beat Poets Behaving Badly: Much has been made about Daniel Radcliffe's gay sex scene in Kill Your Darlings but many fail to realize that this is just one of two movies about the beat poets this year at Sundance. Darlings follows Allen Ginsburg and Jack Kerouac when they were young. Big Sur follows Kerouac and a host of other writers when they're middle aged. Two seems to be a lot, but the beats are having a resurgence. It was just two years about that James Franco (another Sundance trend) played him in Howl.
Housewives as Hookers: We saw two movies where bored housewives turn to prostitution to liven up their lives. In comedy Afternoon Delight Katheryn Hahn tries to help herself by "rescuing" a prostitute. She finally has a breakdown after going along with her to turn a trick. In the drama Concussion, Robin Weigert plays a lesbian housewife who turns to turning tricks to spice up her boring suburban life. Both of them use this transgressive act to find out more about themselves but in Concussion it seems that prostitution saves the main character where in Afternoon it ends up almost ruining her life and marriage.
Jane Lynch as a Pscyhiatrist: There were a lot of people in two movies at Sundance, but there was only one person who was in two movies playing members of the same profession. Glee Emmy winner Jane Lynch was a caustically honest shrink in Afternoon Delight and a scatter-brained earth mother psychiatric researcher in A.C.O.D.. Lynch could have just phoned it in on both of them, but she manages to make both of them distinct characters. The only trait they share is that both characters get all the best laughs.
Screwing on Kitchen Counters: We see it in both Lovelace and A.C.O.D.. Only one couple gets caught.
Juno Temple and James Franco: The official "Sundance Darlings" of the year. Temple was in three movies: Afternoon Delight, Lovelace, and Magic Magic. Franco was also in two, Lovelace and Interior.Leather Bar. and produced a third, Kink. Parker Posey will be presenting them with a trophy.
Snakebites: Perhaps the strangest trend of the year. Two movies feature characters being bitten by a snake: Mud and Toy's House, complete with slow motion shots in both of the victim being rushed into the emergency room. It was like the same scene in two vastly different movies. There were also warnings about snakes in both Prince Avalanche and Big Sur. Was this year's theme all about Eve or something?
Reluctant Smokers: Trying cigarettes as a way to express a characters road to transgression was seen in three movies, Afternoon Delight, Two Mothers, and Kill Your Darlings. This does not please our Mormon hosts in Utah.
Bad Haircuts: Everywhere you turned there was someone in follicular distress. Ellen Page had the worst, mousiest hair I've ever seen on camera in Touchy Feely. Evan Rachel Wood's red dye job and blunt cut were the worst thing in Eastern Europe since the Iron Curtain in Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman. Robin Wright cut the Penn off her name but never should have cut her hair like she did in Two Mothers. Amanda Seyfried fried her hair with a perm in Lovelace. No one knows why these awful things happened.
Shootings: It's odd that in the wake of all the school shootings lately three of the movies here (that were made far in advance) are about famous shootings. Blue Caprice takes a fictional look at what drove the Washington D.C. snipers to crime. Valentine Road takes the documentary approach to the shooting of gay teen Larry King by a school bully. Fruitvale, the festival's critic's darling, shows the last day of Oscar Grant, a San Francisco man shot in cold blood by police in San Francisco in 2009.
Chile: The South American country is having a moment. Michael Cera filmed two movies there: Magic Magic and Crystal Fairy. Oscar-nominated NO stars Gael García Bernal as a man who devised the advertising strategy that rid the country of their dictator in the '80s. We have a feeling that the jingle he composed for the ads will be covered by Lady Gaga in no time.
Dramatic Recreations: Three documentaries used creative solutions to how to create footage about the subjects of a film after they died. The Summit used both actors and the real climbers to recreate the deadliest exhibition to K2. Director Sarah Polley hired actors and make fake home videos for The Stories We Tell the heart-wrenching story of her mother's death of cancer and the effect her secrets had on her family. And Gael García Bernal (almost a trend himself) created the path of a Honduran immigrant to the United States in Who is Diyani Crystal. The effect in Summit and Stories was much more successful, by blending new footage and old movies to create something that the viewer can't tell wasn't shot when the events were unfolding.
Excellent Songs at the End of Movies: Does anyone who what the songs are that played as the credits rolled in both Touchy Feely and Stoker? I would like to download them both right now.
Unnecessary Punctuation: A.C.O.D., C.O.G., and The Way, Way Back are giving copy editors the world over agita.
Check out all of our coverage from this year's festival at Hollywood.com's Sundance 2013 hub.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: Millenium Films; Wenn; Benaroya Pictures; Ascot Elite]
Hollywood.com's Complete Sundance Coverage
'Fruitvale' Lives Up to Award Hype Thanks to Michael B. Jordan's Stunning Performance
Sundance Awards: 'Fruitvale' Is 2013's First Oscar Contender
You Might Also Like:
J. J. Abrams and ‘Star Wars’: Has the Lightsaber Been Passed to the Right Director?
100 Hottest Women of the Century: PICS
It's sort of ironic that the documentaries are the stars of the Sundance Film Festival but, because there are no real stars in them, they usually go ignored by the public at large. Here is a round up of some of the best that we saw during this year's festival. They probably won't be coming to a theater near you, but all of them are worth hunting down. Here are our picks for the ones you have to watch out for:
Twenty Feet from Stardom: Back Up Singers Finally Get the Spotlight
We all know the oohs and aahs that accompany our favorite songs, but most of us don't give a second thought to the background vocalists who provided them. Finally legends like Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, and Lisa Fischer get their due for adding all the flavor on every song from "Gimme Shelter" to "The Monster Mash," and naturally interviews with stars like Mick Jagger and Sting abound. But really this is a brooding take on talent, fame, and the desire to use one to get to the other. Each of their stories is one of struggle, but when they finally get to sing, everything else just falls away. This is a heart-rending crowd pleaser that every music fan should see. – Brian Moylan
After Tiller: Taking the Abortion Debate to a Whole New Level
In 2009, Dr. George Tiller was shot twice in the chest while attending church. Tiller was the leading advocate for third-trimester abortions, a highly protested practice that only a few people in the country — all of whom studied under the late doctor — dare to practice. After Tiller follows these men and women, who struggle with deciding which patients to bring on all while knowing they could be murdered just like their mentor. The documentary thoroughly examines the moral complexity of third-trimester abortions and paints subjects as possessing a unique type of bravery. At screenings, Sundance added extra security after receiving threats from protests groups. This is not an issue that lives only on the movie screen. - Matt Patches
The Summit: A Horrifying Climbing Documentary Comes Out on Top
It's not very often that a documentary makes you so unsettled that you feel like you're not going to be able to make it through to the end, but hat is just what happens in this Irish documentary about the most deadly expedition to climb K2, the world's second tallest mountain. Told with original footage and recreation, the scenes of people falling off the mountain and surviving avalanches is enough to give you vertigo, and the stories of human loss and survival will take an even bigger toll. – Moylan
Valentine Road: A School Slaying Guaranteed to Break Your Heart
Many people know the story of Larry King, the eighth grader who was shot by a classmate for being gay and wearing women's clothing to school. This documentary looks at Larry's life and the life of his killer, Brandon McInerney, as well as their teachers, classmates, lawyers, families, and friends to get a complete picture of what caused the murder and the toll it took on everyone involved. It's the sort of story that will make you cry from start to finish and question everything you thought you knew about justice. – Moylan
Dirty Wars: What Is Our Military Really Up To?
When President Obama announced that we had taken out Osama bin Laden, the Joint Special Operations Command became a well known military entity, praised for their contribution to the War on Terror. Before that, JSOC carried out covert assassinations and drone strikes against world citizens deemed "potentially dangerous." Dirty Wars puts investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill on a high pedestal as he traverses the world, uncovering JSOC's shrouded operations, but only because the facts he finds are so shocking. The documentary doesn't hesitate to point fingers at Obama and military figureheads in its damning examination our loose, post-9/11 rules of doing business in the Middle East. - Patches
The World According to Dick Cheney: Feeling a Little Bad for George H.W. Bush
After his eight-year run as Vice President of the United States alongside Bush Jr., even Dick Cheney's supporters were distancing themselves from the legendary politco. Through a biting one-on-one interview with the former VP, Director R.J. Cutler (The September Issue) constructs a comprehensive talking heads biography that reveals the ups and downs of Cheney's career. From alcoholism to beting booted from Yale to his amazing recruitment into the offices of Nixon and Gerald Ford, Cutler's The World According to Dick Cheney reveals the ambitious, cunning side of Cheney that helped him rise to the top and become the most influential ear-whisperer of the 21st century. Wherever you stand on the two-terms of Bush/Cheney, your opinions will be complicated by Cutler's informative doc. - Patches
Sound City: Dave Grohl's Rock Doc Makes Lots of Noise
Anyone who is anyone with a guitar and a drum kit recorded at Sound City, a famous recording studio on the outskirts of LA. Everyone from Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks to Nirvana and Rick Springfield. This is the story of the studio's rise and eventual closing which is a fascinating slice of rock history. The last act slows down considerably as direct Dave Grohl (of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, you idiot) talks about saving the recording equipment from the studio and getting together Trent Reznor, Paul McCartney, Nicks, and others to record new songs on the old technology. – Moylan
Stories We Tell: A Heartbreaking Family Saga Like Nothing You've Ever Seen
There isn't really a category for director Sarah Polley's story of her family. Five years in the making, she interviewed her siblings and father about her mother's death from cancer when she was only 10 years old. It seems like it would be some awful narcissistic exploration, but thanks to the secrets her mother left behind, which are deftly revealed to the audience, it's a nail biter about the lies we tell to each other and the stories we tell that shape who we are.
Life According to Sam: A Real Life 'Jack' Won't Let Disease Keep Him Down
Out of the entire world population, approximately 250 people have Progeria. The disease accelerates aging, turning normal 14-year-old kids into 74-year-olds. There is no cure or even a treatment. When Leslie and Scott Berns discovered their son Sam had Progeria, they turned to doctors for help. The medical world came back empty handed. Instead of waiting for their child to die, the two sprung into action, starting the first research and testing initiative to find answers for Progeria. HBO's Life According to Sam manages to inspire in two distinct ways: Leslie's on-going quest to save both her son and the Progeria patients around the world through FDA approved drugs, and Sam's own existence, a battle to ignore his disease and live a normal middle schooler life. Both story lines will bring tears (of joy) to your eyes. - Patches
Who Is Dayani Crystal?: Humanizing America's Immigration Problem
The answer to the question of the title is revealed pretty quickly as co-director Gael García Bernal reenacts the journey that a Hondouran immigrant made through the Arizona desert to try to make it to the U.S. This is spliced together with the American authorities trying to determine the indentity of his body after it is found under a tree in the desert and his family remembering his life and his desire to get to America to make money from his family. Scattered and slow and not quite sure what it wants to be, the documentary sets out to put a face to the immigrants that come to this country and it achieves that goal spectacularly. – Moylan
99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film: They're Not So Aimless After All
We went in depth to the riveting, crowdsourced documentary earlier this week, but the film's shocking imagery and call-to-arms message continues to haunt our memories. Interviewing everyone from OWS members to political analysts to struggling citizens of the United States completely removed from the protest movement, 99% digs to deep to find the true message of Occupy and put naysayers to rest. - Patches
Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer: Russia's Most Famous Band Goes on Trial
Anyone who followed the story of Pussy Riot, the Russian feminist activist punk band that was imprisoned for performing in a Moscow church, will know just about everything already in this film. While it delves into the case and the fascinating politics that spurned it more deeply than the average news article, it doesn't offer any synthesis or observation beyond the factual. It's a good story but this documentary doesn't quite achieve greatness. – MoylanKink: A Walk on Porn's Wild Side
If you don't know what it is, don't go searching Kink.com right now. Wait until you're alone or at a computer where no one will mind that you're looking at porn. This look inside the world's leading purveyor of dominant/submissive and sadio/masochistic porn is sexually graphic, but is at its best when it's showing you that it is an average work place just like any other, but with a bunch of absurd problems that no one else would experience at their jobs. It's about 30 minutes too long (and only a 90 minute film) but if it were trimmed down for HBO (after midnight, of course) it would be a thrilling and titillating slice of life that many are curious about but few get to see. – Moylan
[Photo Credit: Cutler Productions]
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
'jOBS' Is Like an Adaptation of Apple's Wiki Page, But Kutcher Sells It
Amy Poehler and Adam Scott Reteam in Excellent Divorce Comedy 'A.C.O.D.'
Sundance's 'Charlie Victor Romeo': A 3D Disaster Movie Unlike Anything You've Seen Before
You Might Also Like:
Manti Te’O Comes Clean About Girlfriend Hoax
100 Hottest Women of the Century
Sometimes a director has a favorite actor that they jibe with whom they cast in a whole whack of movies in a row. Think Scorsese and DiCaprio Wes Anderson and Bill Murray or Sofia Coppola and Kirsten Dunst. It's a sort of professional infatuation that can serve a project well but it can also lull them into self-indulgence. Although this is only the second time that Killing Them Softly's writer/director Andrew Dominik has worked with Brad Pitt it feels like they have a certain camaraderie. The symbiosis previously worked in their favor in 2007's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. This time around they never quite find the same rhythm.
Of course Killing Them Softly has an entirely difference cadence than that golden-hued meditative Western; it's stylishly violent and blackly hilarious. After all the catalyst for this whole affair is a half-cocked scheme cooked up by a wanna-be gangster nicknamed Squirrel (Vincent Curatola) and carried out by a desperate ex-con (Scoot McNairy) and a scummy Australian junkie (Ben Mendelsohn) who steals and sells purebred dogs for cash. Their plan to knock over a mobbed-up card game is air tight (or so it seems): the game runner Markie (Ray Liotta) has confessed to setting up a heist of his own game in the past. The knuckleheads think the card-players will blame him again.
Unfortunately for them Jackie Cogan (Pitt) is called in to investigate the matter. His record is impeccable his glasses mirror-slick and his hands steady. His technique is of course to kill his victims "softly " from a distance. "It's so embarrassing " he comments to a middleman played by Richard Jenkins to watch his targets plead and cry and lose control of their bodily functions. It's just as embarrassing to see his colleagues lose their mettle like Mickey (James Gandolfini) a gangster he called in to help out. Mickey is a dogged drunk and a womanizer who's given to rapturous platitudes about a prostitute he knew in Florida. "There's no ass in the whole world like a young Jewish girl who's hooking " he tells an increasingly frustrated Jackie. Grossly funny scenes like this the scatological problems one encounters while driving dog-napped pups across country and an explosion gone awry are outweighed by a weirdly bloated narrative that makes pits stops so characters can loll in junkie nods to the tunes of the Velvet Underground.
The changing political climate of the era is used as a clumsy foil for this underground economy. At first it's interesting and makes you feel a bit clever to notice the TV in the background playing an old clip of George W. Bush droning on about the economy or a huge political ad on a billboard looming over a desolate area. As time goes on Bush is replaced by Obama (first as senator later as president) on TV but nothing really changes for these people or their situations. Midway through it's obvious and by the end overbearing especially as Jackie lectures Jenkins's lawyer (and us) about why the system is as screwed as the characters. "America's not a country it's a business. Now f**king pay me " he tells Jenkins's Driver in an echo of the classic Goodfellas line uttered by Liotta.
Dominik has only made three films but he's a formidable writer and director with a keen eye for assembling ensemble casts. It's possible that time and multiple viewings will treat Killing Them Softly as well as it has The Assassination of Jesse James or Chopper but for now it works better as a character study or perhaps a showpiece for its talented performers than an overall experience.