21 January 2006

Sundance: Day Two

  • 13 (Gela Babluani, France): 35

    This movie's stupid. Gritty b&w 'Scope cinematography and nonstop portent got me excited for a couple of reels; alas, the payoff, when it arrives, is little more than Intacto as conceived by somebody with no imagination. Human life is cheap, fate is cruelly ironic, ho-hum. Nice to see Aurélien Recoing as a full-tilt badass, though.

  • Open Window (Mia Goldman, USA): W/O

    Oh, look, it's the best day of Robin Tunney's whole entire life. She's just gotten engaged; her mojo in the darkroom has returned; every scene is an occasion for yet another radiant smile. Is her fiancé about to be hit by a car, or will she soon be brutally raped? (A: She will soon be brutally raped.) Oh, look, traumatized Robin just opened the mirrored door of the medicine cabinet in her bathroom. When she closes it again, will her assailant, now visible in the mirror, actually be in the room, or will she merely have imagined that her assailant, now visible in the mirror, is in the room? (A: He's now visible in the mirror, but not actually in the room.) Oh, look, here comes the tiny dot in the upper-right-hand corner of the screen signifying the splice between reel two and reel three. Will your faithful correspondent sit through the remainder of this wan exercise in gender studies, or will he bail, grab some quick Chinese and get a couple blurbs out of the way? (A: Hi.)

  • Wordplay (Patrick Creadon, USA): 65

    Amiable portrait of New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz, clearly riding the coattails of recent little-doc-that-could Spellbound -- same emphasis on language, same gaggle of endearingly nerdy eccentrics, same nationally competitive climax. (Few things are less cinematic than puzzle-solving; fortunately, the 2005 championship hinged on a catastrophic error. Truly heartbreaking.) Hard to imagine a doc on this subject that I wouldn't warm to, though Creadon does his damndest to make the film trivially "accessible," wasting copious screen time on various crossword-loving celebs: Jon Stewart, Bill Clinton, Mike Mussina, even the freakin' Indigo Girls. I'd much rather hang with ace puzzle constructor Merl Reagle, the kind of guy who, driving by a Dunkin’ Donuts, points out that moving the first ‘d’ to word’s end results in Unkind Donuts. "I've had a few of those in my time."

  • Somebodies (Hadjii, USA): 39

    Two episodes of a mediocre sketch-comedy show ineptly pasted together. Scattered bits work, particularly the fire-and-brimstone minister and his hilariously stoic sidekick; most of it's painfully unfunny, though, and Hadjii himself evinces little talent either in front of or behind the camera. Occasional cutaways to a guitar-playing street performer only made me wish "Chappelle's Show" were still around.
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