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15 observations on the Sundance line-up.

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12042008_manure.jpgThe U.S. and world competition line-ups are here; the premieres and sidebars are here.

Documentary Competition:

1. Sundance often leans toward the documentary-as-journalism/vehicle for activism, and, from the descriptions, there’s again plenty of that this year: Joe Berlinger (going solo!) has “Crude” is “the inside story of the ‘Amazon Chernobyl’ case in the rainforest of Ecuador”; “Dirt! The Movie” is about “how humans are rapidly destroying the last natural resource on earth”; “The Cove” follows “a group of activists led by Ric O’Barry, the man behind Flipper” as they look into environmental horrors in a small cove in Japan.

2. Tom DiCillo, of “Johnny Suede” and “Living in Oblivion,” has made a Doors documentary?!

Dramatic Competition:

3. John Krasinski’s “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” has the burden/advantage of the recent and terrible death of David Foster Wallace going for it. The description: “When her boyfriend leaves with little explanation, a doctoral candidate in anthropology tries to remedy her heartache by interviewing men about their behavior.” I don’t doubt that Krasinski’s smart, but shaping DFW’s narrative-free monologuey short stories into a highly Sundancey framing story doesn’t sound promising. Incidentally, “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh” was one of last year’s two high-profile lit adaptations (the other being “Choke”), but it was such a dog that no one’s touched it.

4. I thoroughly enjoyed Lynn Shelton’s bromance-gone-bad comedy “My Effortless Brilliance,” and am looking forward to “Humpday” more than anything else in this line-up.

5. I blame the copy, but “Peter and Vandy” sounds like a sillier version of “5×2.”

6. Cary Joji Fukunaga, of “Sin Nombre,” had one of the better shorts to screen at the New York Film Festival a few years ago, 2004’s “Victoria Para Chino.” That short has one of the better IMDb comments attached to it:

It might have been interesting to see the film without subtitles, so that the Mexicans really have their own identity and you have to really pay attention to them. This can be easily accomplished by the viewer, however, by making your hand flat like the horizon, and then putting your horizon hand over the subtitles. This starts to hurt after a while because even though this film is short, you must keep your hand there for the whole time as the whole thing is basically in Spanish.

World Cinema Documentary Competition:

7. In general sounds a bit more interesting than the main doc competish. Take “Afghan Star,” about how “after 30 years of war and Taliban rule, Pop Idol has come to television in Afghanistan”; or “Big River Man,” about how “an overweight, wine-swilling Slovenian world-record-holding endurance swimmer resolves to brave the mighty Amazon”; or “Nollywood Babylon,” about Nigeria’s video-based movie industry.

World Cinema Dramatic Competition:

8. Tom Hardy playing a notoriously violent criminal in the new film from the “Pusher” trilogy’s Nicolas Winding Refn? Look righteously nutty — here’s the UK site. “The Clone Returns,” a Japanese feature about an “astronaut who dies during a mission is subsequently resurrected as a clone and returns to his childhood home,” and a “An Education,” a Nick Hornby-scripted drama directed by “Italian for Beginners”‘ Lone Scherfig seem promising.


9. “500 Days of Summer” wins the prize for most Sundance movie summation: “When an unlucky greeting card copywriter is dumped by his girlfriend, the hopeless romantic shifts back and forth through various periods of their 500 days ‘together’ in hopes of figuring out where things went wrong.”

10. Antoine Fuqua?

12. The fact that “I Love You Philip Morris” is written/directed by the screenwriters of “Bad Santa” makes me think it might actually be as good as I’d like it to be. Meanwhile, is “Manure” a return to form for the Polish brothers? The stills look marvelously “Northfork”esque.

13. Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal play brothers in “Rudo and Cursi,” the feature debut of Alfonso Cuarón;s brother Carlos, who co-wrote the screenplay for “Y tu mamá también.” So they’re probably not going to make out this time.


14. Bobcat Goldthwait, yay!


15. There’s something a little off about putting Lil’ Wayne doc “The Carter” in this line-up alongside a Nazi-zombie movie (“Dead Snow”) and a vampire baby one (“Grace”), no?

Early themespotting:

“Big River Man” + “Against the Current” = Distance swimming.

“Boy Interrupted” + “El General” + “Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech” + “William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe” = Docs about someone in the filmmaker’s family.

“Moon” + “The Clone Returns” = Sad astronauts.

“Shrink” + “Helen” + “Once More with Feeling” = Sad psychiatrists.

“211:Anna” + “Reporter” + “Burma VJ” = Heroic journalists.

“The Reckoning” + “Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech” + “William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe” + “The Anarchist’s Wife” = Heroic lawyers.

[Photo: “Manure,” Prohibition Pictures, 2009]


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Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

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Wedding Planners

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Disaster Hut

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Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

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Lane 33: Twins

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Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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