Sundance ’23 Review Round-Up

I’m yet to get over the locational whiplash of covering Sundance, a festival equally as associated with the evolution of “indie” as a filmmaking catch-all as with blustering cold*, from the comfort of my home**. Thanks, COVID? I think? I wish you hadn’t killed all those people and broken Americans’ brains, though; then I could enjoy the privilege of watching movies curated by one of the world’s most renowned film festivals without the nagging guilt***.

But hey: I’m here, so I might as well have fun while we’re having fun, which I did, 15 times in total and 6 times in writing. I hope to write about at least a few of those 9 other times. We’ll get there eventually. In the meantime: The reviews.

  • For The Playlist: Laura Moss’ birth/rebirth got me off to a strong 2023 start, what one might call an “elevated” horror movie, because today, anytime a movie isn’t balls-to-the-wall with dead bodies and monsters, it must be poo-pooed with that most meaningless and grievous appellation. “Vibes,” like “elevated,” is a word that has long overstayed its welcome in film criticism’s vocabulary, and birth/rebirth‘s vibe-heavy structure is a good reminder why: It is most certainly a vibes movie, but I don’t want to say so because I might throw up. 
  • In My Mother’s Skin: Noted in my review is the constant reference to Pan’s Labyrinth made in my peers’ reviews, which, while fair and mostly in alignment with Kenneth Dagatan’s work, is too obvious. The emphasis on grotesque imagery and shocking gore puts this film in another area outside of the del Toro influence sphere, but all that said, they’d still make a nice double feature.
  • For Inverse: No movie I saw all fest long feels quite like Animalia*, both profoundly sad and devoutly elliptical. That’s exciting to me! Also, you win a lot of goodwill from me by starting off your movie with The Isley Brothers.
  • A recent rewatch of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World helped me further arrive at my fondness for Polite Society: Watching people who don’t meet the standard visual definition of “action star” do action star things is fun, and Polite Society does that thing very well while also being as charming as the dickens.
  • Talk to Me is Mostly Good, which still means it’s Sorta Bad, but I can’t help but admire that the RackaRacka guys reined in the violence of, say, Power Rangers vs Cookie Monster, merging “sadistic” with “cartoonish” with “batshit,” just so they could make a movie where the message is that TikTok challenges are fucking dumb.
  • Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls has a bunch of things in it that I get a kick out of – practical monster work, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers furry fantasies, Barbara Crampton, Olivia Taylor-Dudley slowly cementing herself as millennial Barbara Crampton – plus a bunch that I don’t. Mixed bag. I’d like to see Andrew Bowser make another monster movie, though.

*And, by consequence of that, actual colds
**Or, in some cases, my rental at the ski resort.
***Screw you, COVID. Fuck you.
****Divinity comes close, but mostly as they’re both elliptical genre movies.


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