Sundance. The place to be at the tail-end of January. And not just in Utah, but anywhere in world if you’re a film buff. We here at the Furgalglug are films buffs. So much so that we actually try producing these so-called films ourselves.
Now, if we could only tear ourselves away from a bottle or two long enough to put together something…what do they call it? Feature length? It sound long. But, bring a few cases on set with you, it should all be okay.
When up at Sundance, they say you can either eat or drink – to do both is to say you’ve taken out a loan to do so. Well, by the looks of it, everyone else in attendance had some sort of cash flow above just-sinking, unlike myself. Surely I was not alone. I had to set an example up in that extreme altitude. I may have not brought the bottles with me on the streets of Park City, but they sure as hell soothed my ego and bed sores from all that theater sitting and bus traversing a the end of the day. I would have uncorked a bottle whilst waiting in line for some Park City transportation bus to haul me up to Main or Eccles, but I feared the worse. From the look in the others eyes, a opened bottle of wine in public would have sent them scrambling on top of me. They might have killed for a mere drop. Another Sundance axiom: there’s a plethora of booze, some of it free, and you can’t help but feel somehow entitled to it. To all of it.
It’s not secret I saw only a handful of films to be seen at the festival, none of which were exactly talk of the town, either. This depressing fact had to be made up for somehow. Thus, there were far more wines drunk than films viewed personally.
2009 Kermit Lynch Selections Côtes du Rhône – $15
– Smells of wet stone and a farm land perfume. In the mouth it’s dark, wide, bright and dry.
Tastes of schist stone, if one were to actually lay himself down to like one. It’s delicate and very old-school earthy. The only downside is an active and slightly bitter linger. Otherwise, terrific for the price. Worthy.
Who is Dayani Cristal?
is a film that’s juxtaposed between it’s two priorities: documentary and bio-fiction. It’s what you could call a fusion documentary. What the film first portrays is the dire results of desperate Mexican immigrants trekking through the desert for life in the United States, only to find themselves overwhelmed by the searing heat of day, the bitter cold of an indifferent desert night. Hundreds die a year in the desert undertaking this treacherous diaspora – and that is only thought to be a fraction of the actual deaths that occur, so states the film, for no one seeks out the remains, rather they’re simply stumbled upon. Many that are found remain nameless.
This documentary opens with the finding of one man without any form of i.d. and only a few dollars on his person. His body is bloated, pruned and stiff, having been dead for quite sometime. He does, however, have a very prominent tattoo inked across his chest: “Dayani Cristal.” Although we are given a name to the man with the tattoo, as well as the heart-breaking story behind his eventual demise, we are more or less left to conjecture about his travels before his death – his destination a mere twenty minute drive from his last breath. Although the story pulls many heartstrings in the right way, the filmmakers lose focus of what should be recounted and emphasized.
The audience is left with a split film of sorts. Instead of mediating on the unraveling interviews, the evidence, methods and hunt, we are given a series of interjected reenactments of the unknown immigrant’s travels. As such, we are given many quasi interviews between the actor (Gael Garcia Bernal) and real world, veteran border jumpers. The filmmakers are also sure to include many halting moments of sentimental images that emphasis the immigrants loneliness and faith. Discomforting, seeing as how we are left to ponder his journey to greater effect by the interviews of his family, friends and a single companion that was with him moments before his death. The film’s intercuts between documentary and narrative film are jarring as a result. The narrative reenactments often feel artificial when pitted against the very real, and very shameful reality of the political and ethnic crisis that immigrants face in today’s national climate. It quickly becomes clear that one method of telling the immigrant’s story should have been utilized over the other.
When credits rolled, there were many swelling eyes and rolling tears. Even my eye had the slightest sign of a twitch, which can only be interpreted as a rising emotion that all these others were apparently feeling. The images of death and decay are raw and unapologetic, the family interviews endearingly sentimental, making you want to hug the one you love extra tight when you see them next. This is where the film shines, of which many moments simply break you. We’re left feeling a void of cohesion without a clear resolution or hope. Instead, we’re given a time-stamp, another heartbreaking story of a life lost to inequitable circumstance, and too, the conjectures of such a journey.
2007 Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Reserva – $17
– A wine that smelled a forest floor and hay, with a toss of plum an cherry. Deep.
With the first sip, it’s deceptively sweet. Let it open up, come back and take another swig. You’ll then fing a full, bright and tight wine. It’s rustic, wise and black. It’s as interesting as pepper – which is to say, people who are in to pepper will love it, while others will simply notice it. When the bottles done, however, it’s got a molasses kick going on, like it’s trying to fight you so it can be remembered. Chewy and viscous. Worthy.
is exactly the film you associate with the early Sundance of yore. Indie to the core; in look, in execution, substance, writing, progression, weirdness, cojones and mediation on experimentation. And like all other Sundance films that, too, fit that bill: it’s a bit of a mess. As a person who has seen plenty of messes illuminated on the screens of Sundance premieres, it’s easy to say that there are the A) pleasant messes, B) fun messes and C) grind your face-flesh off messes.
Computer Chess is a meta period piece at its heart, a film more fascinated by it’s time and place than anything else. There is a story, but it comes at you – as director Andrew Bujalski stated during a Q and A – like a “fever dream.” As I could have told you during my last stomach ailment last August, fever dreams are seldom fun, little lone very cohesive. Yet, fevers can induce psychosomatic bouts of hilarity, too.
As I’m writing this, the live-stream of the awards ceremony is playing in the background. Computer Chess just won the Alfred P. Sloan foundation’s $20,000 grant. Which is more than a terrific segue into my next string of thoughts. For every odd and unnecessary direction the film takes, it makes up for in laughs and lovable characters. Well, not lovable, per se, but interesting and benign – to themselves and their impact (or lack there of) in the world outside of the tiny hotel conference room the group of computer nerds inhabit for the weekend’s computer showdown.
When the gags are fresh, and ripe due to the long stretches between them, they inspire the kind of belly laughs you’d associate with a night of marathon drinking. It’s the ordinary, more than the zany, that inspire its enduring humor. Unfortunately it’s the ordinary that keeps the film slogging along with its feet dragging behind it. This is hard to say for a film that is unorthodox in every aspect. Suffice it to say, all of it’s experimentation hits or misses, like a script that was only thrown together and filmed, never to be put through a vigorous judgement on what should stay or what should go.
NV Rex Goliath Shiraz – $6
– A jam fest, not unlike a Dave Matthews concert than, say, a Grateful Dead festival. It takes a good day of aeration for the sweet to march away in shame to let the wine’s backbone to come blinking out of hiding. Far too long to wait for such a wine. Have a decanter close and open it a good deal before whatever it is you have planned for it. Skip it.
comes to us from first time director Stacci Passon. What she constructs is a prurient marvel. “A concussion,” she stated at her Q and A, “is a a medical term for a non-diagnosis…it’s used as a term for a ‘jarring.'” What the film represents is the fallout, a reawakening and realization of one’s most immediate needs.
Abby (Robin Weigert) is a mother of two, married to her wife, Kate (a soured and worn Julie Fain Lawrence). They’re the well regarded, staple couple of the neighborhood; active members the community that participate in everything from school activities to hosting a formal dinner now and then. They’re the unshakable couple. But a emergency room trip after a baseball to the head is destined to bring it all into perspective. Yet, whether this is the story’s McGuffin or not is left to some hefty contention. We quickly see that Abby hasn’t been satisfied for quite sometime – perhaps life was too busy to notice. Abby’s wife is stuck going through the motions of the nine-to-five lifestyle, and seems non to worried about that. As a result, she’s got no drive for much else, which includes sex. And the catalyst of Concussion? Abby still does.
Abby’s desire for one of a human’s basic needs strikes her quicker than she can process as she resorts to companionship with a “dirty” prostitute. It doesn’t fare well, and it leaves her yearning all the more. She turns to the carpenter she had hired as a means to vent, only to find out he is embedded in the culture by way of his girlfriend, a twenty-something, pampered college student that happens to be in the lesbian pimping business – whether it’s boredom or a lost need is uncertain. Abby seizes the opportunity; she is a woman, not trapped, but fragmentally forgotten.
Abby finds an exciting world is still out there. And it can be mastered. She turns the tables and becomes a prostitute for hire, walking an array of frightened, inexperienced and closeted woman through episodes of desire and pleasure. It’s all very exciting and sexy and will surely end up on a plethora of avant garde bookshelves and beneath the bed spreads of many young men alike because of it.
There’s a sleuth of independent sexploitation films out there, with the technical qualities you’d surely expect. Concussion however claws through the mold that so many sexually frenzied Indie films have made de reguer. The film concludes like it’s a The Kids Are Alright for the few of us who wanted a more ambiguous ending. That, or a hint of realism. Concussion delivers in spades. If you would like a debate after about the characters future, or a discussion on the state of what a relationship truly represents with or without sex as an important factor to it, this film will (yes, I’m using it) titillate you.
The central mantra of the film oozes from a terrific scene, where, in subtext, Abby asks her wife for permission to explore herself with other woman; “It’s just sex. Grow up,” she critiques back about a well known couple getting a divorce over an “silly” affair. The audience is left to do the same as the film reaches its mature uncertainty: That relationships are often left as treaties rather than clear victories or defeats.
2009 Château Recougne – $11
– Some lavender and flat notes of cane sugar on the nose. The wine itself is flabby and insipid, while, once allowed to really open up to the air around it, shows off some favorable splashes of dark currants and wisps of cherry. Skip It.
is a film much more concerned with how many jokes it has to play with rather than making a plot that’s worth a damned moment of your time.
Joe Toy (Nick Robinson) has many problems that many young children face, and just as many as every other teenage angstie in film has seen before it. He likes this girl, see, but she’s taken, then suddenly she’s not, she’s available, but then – Ah! Damned it all! – his best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) kinda-sorta falls in love with her. Sad, sad. Joe in the meantime can’t quite stand being at home with a dry humored and miserable father (who delivers the best bouts of comedic timing by any other performer in the film, Nick Offerman). It’s summer and Joe still has a world to explore and escape from. He stumbles upon a secluded garrigue in the forest and quickly racks up a scheme to build his own home there, away from his father and – yes, the analogy escapes no one – possibly himself.
Yes, everything concludes just as you’d suspect it to. It’s based on a paint by the numbers script that luckily has enough colors in its sleeve to make it worth your while.
Jordan Vogt-Roberts directs the film just as Chris Galletta’s script says to go about it: show something happen, as long as it leads to one of the jokes left from the comedic pantry. The biggest laughs come from Biaggio (Moises Arias) who may be one of cinema’s most socially awkward and erratic screen presences to date, a boy who “doesn’t identify with any one gender” and is quite proficient with a machete. Forrest greenery beware. I won’t be the first to liken him to McLovin from Super Bad, only cranked up to eleven. Most of the film works because your trained very early on that Biaggio has another personal idiosyncrasy left to be uprooted every five minutes or so. And laugh you will.
2008 Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Sangiovese – $24
– Pretty, perfumed nose that entices rather than giving way to any particular redolence. Pepper, lime and tabaco fill the wide structure. Filling with a cherry spice and a elegant linger. Light on tannins, but present nonetheless. A sturdy wine that was interesting, but not something I’d sing praises to. There are better values, but it’s good, but some lacking things, yet pretty, but, oh, I, oh… Skip it.