The Mixed Tape


Sundance 2010 Top 10 by Nolan Wilson Goff

Here’s my list. After a few weeks of thought, a few films stand far above the competition. One of the best experiences of my life. Great films, great friends, and excitement about the future all resulted from a great week of Sundance style rebellion.

-Nolan

The Top 10

  1. Blue Valentine
  2. Winter’s Bone winner of Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Dramatic
  3. Gasland winner of Special Jury Prize for U.S. Documentary
  4. Hesher
  5. Animal Kingdom winner of Grand Jury Prize for World Dramatic
  6. Douchebag
  7. The Dry Land
  8. Cane Toads 3D
  9. Sympathy for Delicious winner of Special Jury Prize for U.S. Dramatic
  10. Daddy Longlegs

*keep in mind, these are out of the 19 films I saw (over 80 screened at Sundance).



Sundance 2010 Day Five by Nolan Wilson Goff

This a few days late, and that’s because getting back to LA has been a whirlwind (including a lovely 12 hour drive). The last day of Sundance was fantastic. It started slow, but came to a wonderful finish as we got to see the Grand Jury Prize Dramatic Winner of Saturday night, just minuted after it was announced. Check out the reviews. A Best of Sundance list will be here soon.

– Nolan

Winter’s Bone review by Nolan

On Saturday night I anxiously awaited the announcement of who won Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize. I had tickets to see a screening of the winner, but had no clue who had won. When the winner was released I was so excited that it was Winter’s Bone. I had heard great things all week. Let me tell you: It did not disappoint. Winter’s Bone plays much like a gangster film, instead trading the big city landscape for the impoverished areas of the Ozarks. The performances were all astounding and incredible (the best of the week), and the story featured a strong female protagonist with her eyes set on providing for her young sister and brother. The closing moments of the film solidify this film as a fantastic independent film, and one of the best Sendance 2010 had to offer. Hopefully this film will appear in theaters late summer.

(Score: 9/10)

Lourdes review by Trevor

I was hesitant about this film, at first. Turns out I was right. This foreign film about healing was not my cup of tea. The editor held on a shots for far too long. With very little dialogue the movie drags and drags on. I can’t hate it completely because as I write this 4 days after, I am still trying to figure out what the director is saying about healing and how we deal with it.

(Score: 5/10)

Jack Goes Boating review by Trevor

The directorial debut of Philip Seymour Hoffman presents a story about a relationship, a simple seemingly boring relationship. But it thrives off supporting actors who are in a relationship that is ending, as Philip’s character and Amy Ryan’s character’s relationship is beginning. The way the scenes are set up you can tell it was based off of a play. At the end off the movie you feel disappointed but you have a smile on your face.

(Score: 7/10)

Skateland review by Nolan

I had high hopes for this flick. With a Texas director, directing a story set in 1980s Texas, what’s not to like? This was the most disappointed film of the week for me. Poor performances and poor direction were too much for this film to overcome, despite the wonderful production design. Right now, I’m writing a short film set in a 1970s roller rink (drastically different than this one). Let’s hope my film stands far above the level of Skateland.

(Score: 4/10)

Cyrus review by Trevor

Probably the biggest movie coming into Sundance. A hilarious comedy follows Jonah Hill’s character Cyrus who has a very close relationship with his mother played by Marisa Tomei. Enter John C Reilly. Thus an awkward love triangle beginsfor Marisa’s affection. The all star cast works seamlessly together thanks to the Duplass brothers’ direction, which left room for improvisation. Visually speaking, There were too many zooms, taking me out of the moment, but overall it was a great  hilarious movie.

(Score: 8/10)



Sundance 2010 Day Four by Nolan Wilson Goff

Sundance is winding down, but the last weekend has been full of cool experiences. I have yet to see a bad film, and the week remains strong. America Fererra sat two rows in front of me during Blue Valentine. Before the screening started, I looked over as Adrian Grenier (star of Entourage) walked right past. Seems like the big names are starting to come back in for awards weekend. Looking forward to my last day at the ‘dance.

– Nolan

Blue Valentine (directed by Derek Cianfrance) review by Nolan

This is the story of a couple falling out of love. Cianfrance directed this low budget film flawlessly. This is the best narrative film at Sundance, thanks to the heartbreaking story and the incredible performances of Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. The film broke my heart apart. Cianfrance used contrasts (one of my favorite storytelling devices) to show the condition of the couples’ romance (or lack of). The story is contrasted with a parallel story that tells of how they first fell in love. The contrast between past and present were photographed in film and digital, respectively, and the production design features a wonderful color pallete that compares to the two different times. The soundtrack (courtesy of indie band Grizzly Bear) is both stirring and haunting. See this movie. But here is a warning: you may walk away as heartbroken as the characters within the story.

(Score: 9/10)

Four Lions review by Trevor

A dark dark comedy about 4 jihad terrorists in London as they begin to set plans for a bombing. You are laughing throughout but then you realize how depressing it is. These four characters act like they have a reason to be doing what they do but I didn’t see any motivation. The subject is very edgy and hard to laugh at sometimes, but in the end if you take it lightheartedly you get a few laughs and a very intriguing story

(Score: 6.5/10)

Sympathy for Delicious (directed by Mark Ruffalo) review by Nolan

Mark Ruffalo’s directorial debut is a great first effort. Featuring a stellar cast of big Hollywood names (Orlando Bloom, anyone?), the film is about a paralyzed DJ who gets the power to heal everyone but himself. Ruffalo says that the story is about “a man getting what he needs, not what he wants.” What a theme, right? Well, it is definitely visible in the film, but the story falls just short of fully investigating the theme.  Writer Christopher Thornton does an adequate job with his pen, and excels in his perfomance of the lead character, Delicious. I’m looking forward to seeing this film again. Could be better after a second viewing.

(Score: 6/10)

happythankyoumoreplease (directed by Josh Radnor) review by Trevor

First time Writer/Director Josh Radnor also stars as Sam in this romantic comedy with a lot more heart that your typical crappy rom-com. With a well rounded cast Josh brings together a compelling story that centers around Sam and a foster boy who he finds on the subway. The boy played by newcomer Michael Algieri was fantastic as the catalyst for change in Sam’s life.

(Score 6.5/10)

Night Catches Us (directed by Tanya Hamilton) review by Nolan

Night Catches Us is a good movie. Great? No. I wanted alot more. The performances are all above average, but the story lacks tension. When one of their family members joins the Black Panthers in 1976, a family is forced to deal with the consequences. I wanted to witness more about the Black Panthers. Instead, we get a story about a family on the outside looking in. By the time the influence of the Black Panthers begins to take effect, the story is nearing the final act. Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) once again delivers a top-notch performance. High marks to the production design team, and cinematographer. One last note: Jimmy Fallon’s late night band The Roots provided a perfectly fitting score.

(Score: 6/10)

More reviews coming late today!

Next Up For Us:

  • Lourdes
  • Jack Goes Boating
  • Dramatic Competition Grand Jury Winner
  • Cyrus
  • Skateland


Sundance 2010 Day Three by Nolan Wilson Goff

Yesterday was the best day of films so far. Saw an incredible documentary and some great narratives. Not only did we see some great films, but we got to experience a midnight screening. If you havn’t heard of the Sundance midnight screenings, they are dedicated to fun genre films (thrillers, horror, and comedy) and feature dynamite crwod reactions and involvement. It was the single best movie going experience I’ve ever been a part of. Right now, I’m literally 10 yards from Mark Ruffalo, whose directorial debut premiered this week. I’ve heard his film, Sympathy for Delicious, is fantastic. Looking forward to another great day in Park City.

– Nolan

Hesher (directed by Stephen Susser) review by Nolan


Critics have been mixed on Susser’s directorial debut. Some don’t see much of a story. Well I did. Susser crafted an unforgettable character and Joseph Gordon Levitt gives a fantastic performance as the title character. It’s rare for a director to be able to craft a story around a child protagonist. The angst of Devin Brochu’s performance as the main character carries the film, and he plays a lifelike junior high student struggling to deal with the loss of his mother.  Natalie Portman and Rainn Wilson play supporting players, and both provide good performances. The film is an examination of grief, and how humans hide it. Grief stands as the elephant in the room in the film, and the thematic density of the film relies on the character of Hesher. Without giving anything away, the emotional core of the film is rooted in Hesher. See this film. It’s a fun ride, but in the end, it will hit you like car.

(Score: 8/10)

It’s A Wonderful Afterlife review by Trevor

A comedy in London  following an Indian mother who takes her obsession with her daughters marriage into the world of serial murder. A rather enjoyable movie, it would have been easy to forget except for a hilarious death scene that catches you off guard. It would be very hard to bring this to an american audience who doesn’t understand the culture and the humor in that culture.

(Score: 7/10)

Gasland (directed by Josh Fox) review by Nolan

This was a stirring documentary about the hazardous practices in which natural gas companies go about removing the gas from the earth. Hydraulic fracturing is contaminating the nation’s underground water sources. The effects of the chemicals used in this process and the natural gas are a serious hazard to humans, animals, and the environment. This is the best documentary I have ever seen, because of Josh Fox’s wonderful revealing story.  The narration is infused with humor, as Fox presents indisputable evidence of the fracking’s disastrous effect on America. He even holds a lighter up to a water faucet, and after several moments, flames erupted. Fox presents many more examples, and displays the bipartisan nature of the issue. This is unflinching, unrelenting, and unbiased storytelling. The best film I’ve seen at Sundance.

(Score: 10/10)

Holly Rollers review by Trevor


We follow Jesse Eisenberg as he falls away from Messianic Judaism. He is leaving his family and culture behind as he is tempted by money and ends up smuggling extasy into the country. A great and truly honest film that speaks truth to a world who values the sin our protagonist falls into. No matter what religion you follow  it is interesting to see the spiritual journey and how anybody can relate it to their own journey. Shot in 20 days. We witness the skill of new comer Director Kevin Asch in his debut film.

(Score: 7.5/10)

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil review by Trevor


Never had more fun in a theater. This took your typical horror movie and kicked it in the balls and laughed at it. Our lovable protagonists (Dale) Tyler Labine and (Tucker) Alan Tudyk are mistaken for crazy psyco killers. Their relationship is perfect and they play off each other so well. This is a must see when you are looking a fun time with friends and laugh for an hour and a half straight. (9/10)

More reviews coming later today!

Up Next For Us:

  • Blue Valentine
  • Four Lions
  • Sympathy for Delicioous
  • happythankyoumoreplease
  • Night Catches Us
  • Lucky


Sundance 2010 Day One by Nolan Wilson Goff

What an experience thus far! Seen some great films so far, and the vibe of Sundance is like nothing else. Ran into a few celebrities during our strolls around Park City (Samuel L. Jackson, Diego Luna, Jonah Hill). This city is a beautiful place where high and low culture join together around the common bonds of filmmaking. Looking forward to a great week. Even ran into director Jay Duplass (director of Cyrus, starring John C. Reilly) in line for Daddy Longlegs. Really great guy who encouraged me to skip his film, and see the films I can’t see in theaters.

-Nolan

Animal Kingdom (directed by Daniel Michod) review by Trevor

We arrived at Sundance 7 hours before our check in time with our group so we decided to try and catch a film. We wait listed and got tickets for Animal Kingdom, a superb crime drama following a family in Melbourne Australia. We follow the moral decay of “J” who moves in with his criminal relatives, following the death of his mother. He is a blank canvas and this new family abuses that innocence. They had a fantastic cast and it was shot beautifully. Through J’s journey, we discover that animals lie on both sides of the law. It is also an interesting examination of truth, and how humans develop truths for themselves, which may be right or wrong. Only complaints would be that the film was too long and one characters story line entirely disappeared.

(Score: 8/10)

Daddy Longlegs (directed by the Sadfie Brothers) review by Nolan

Mixed reactions resulted from this film (a product of this year’s Cannes Film Festival). Some loved it, others didn’t. I happened to love it. It’s a humorous and tragic tale of a divorced father who gets two weeks a year to spend with his kids. The father excels at being a fun dad, but fails to be the kind of parent his kids need. This film examines a tragic hero who fails despite good intentions. The performances were all stellar, and the story structure (or lack of) brings freshness to a story based on the directors’ own experiences with their father. The story sparks from how they remembered feeling in these moments, rather than their opinion of their father now. See this film if you get a chance. It should be on Video On Demand.

(Score: 7.5/10)

Obseledia (directed by Diane Bell) reviewed by Trevor

Obseledia was our second film of Sundance, and I was excited for the visuals because I knew it was shot on the RED One. The story was intriguing: a man writing the encyclopedia of obsolete things on his typewriter (Obsolete+Encyclopedia=Obseledia). He believes love is obsolete and you think this is the driving force, but then it is abandoned for a global warming presentation , before returning to the love plot. I had a chance to talk to the fantastic cinematographer afterwards and asked “Why shoot on the RED when you’re making a movie about obsolete things?” (since the film world is in this debate of film vs. digital). Unfortunately the budget didn’t allow for it, but it was visually compelling none the less.

(Score: 6/10)

Cane Toads 3D (directed by Mark Lewis) review by Nolan

Wow. During this documentary, you laugh all the way through, and by the end realize, “Whoa. I actually learned something.” The sequel in the making for 25 years, this addition embraces 3D technology to astounding success. Although I am not a believer in 3D, I am now, for nature docs.  Masterfully directed, Toads is structured using interviews and reenactment that reach levels far above your standard recreations of events. The director asked each person to play a character of themselves (rather than just their normal self) to further the effect of the storyline, which resulted in hilarious moments from beginning to end. I would now consider myself a semi expert on Cane Toads, as the doc proved extremely educational, and presented both sides of the argument without bias. The film turned the toads into lifelike characters with real life emotions, using established eye lines and musical cues. I highly recommend this Australian documentary.

(Score: 8/10)

Up Next For Us:

  • The Dry Land (starring America Ferrera, Ryan O’Nan)
  • Buried (starring Ryan Reynolds)
  • Douchebag (directed by Drake Doremus)

Should be a great day tomorrow!




Sundance Here We Come! by Nolan Wilson Goff

The Mixed Tape is going to the Sundance Film Festival. Sunday afternoon myself and Trevor will begin the trek to Park City, Utah to see the best in independent cinema. Stay tuned here for daily blogs on what’s good, what sucks, and any other news we can get our hands on.

Here are the ten films I am dying to see:

  • Blue Valentine (starring Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams)
  • Howl (starring James Franco)
  • Buried (starring Ryan Reynolds)
  • The Runaways (starring Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning)
  • Hesher (starring Joseph Gordon Levitt, Natalie Portman)
  • The Company Men (starring Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones)
  • Jack Goes Boating (the directorial debut of Philip Seymour Hoffman)
  • The Killer Inside Me (starring Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson)
  • The Romantics (starring Adam Brody, Katie Holmes)
  • Teenage Paparazzo (directed by Adrian Grenier, from Entourage)


Nolan’s Favorite Films of the Decade by Nolan Wilson Goff

-by Nolan Wilson Goff-

The decade is drawing to a close, and after seeing the last few films of this decade, I am ready to put my list out there for all to see. The following is a list of my favorite films of the past decade. It is not a “best of” list, nor does it include all Academy Award winners. Trust me, you won’t find The Dark Knight on this list *ahem* (to everyone who thinks it is the best film of the decade, your wrong).

Here’s a list of five (in no particular order), and a few that barely missed the cut.

Elephant (2003) Directed by Gus Van Sant

No other film this decade contains the thematic depth of Van Sant’s Elephant.  Winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Palm d’or, Elephant is a little known indie filmed loosely based on the events of the Columbine school shooting. Using only non-actors and location shooting, Van Sant crafted a story greatly inspired by the Italian neo-realist movement of the 1940s. Featuring mesmerizing minute long shots, Van Sant’s selective framing emphasizes the importance of what is in the frame, and more importantly, what is left outside of the film frame. What lies outside of the frame is at the thematic heart of this haunting portrayal of this American high school. This film requires multiple viewings.

Atonement (2007) Directed by Joe Wright

Nominated for 7 Academy Awards, Atonement is a near replica of a classic Shakespearean tragedy. Atonement paints a beautiful, tragic picture of lost innocence and forbidden love.  Told through the lens of multiple perceptions and vantage points, Wright fashions a story told with great detail, using scale to emphasize the relationships of the characters to the world in which they live.  Atonement features three principle characters, each of which are beautifully developed to their fullest extent.  With Seamus McGarvey’s beautiful cinematography, the film highlights one of the most beautiful tracking shots in history, as James McAvoy ventures across the beach at Dunkirk. The shot lasts for nearly five minutes.  The film also has one of the best scores in history, courtesy of Dario Marianelli. The tragic performances of Knightley and McAvoy, and even Saoirse Ronan, wrench the hearts of viewers, and Wright proves that he is one of the true auteurs today. If you love the film, watch the director’s commentary. One of the best I’ve ever heard.

Mystic River (2003) Directed by Clint Eastwood

Why is Clint Eastwood so good at tackling simple stories, in such extraordinary ways? Mystic River is Eastwood’s best film. It features the astounding performances of Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins, and the Oscar winning performance of Sean Penn. In this film, Eastwood explores the fears that trigger mankind’s emotions.  How does a father react to the murder of his daughter? How does a man erase his painful past? Eastwood pursues these themes with great attention to the world of these three childhood friends. Eastwood captures this distinctively American tale in ways that few American filmmakers have.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008) Directed by Danny Boyle

Jai Ho! Every aspect of Danny Boyle’s Best Picture winning romance astounds me. The performances. The beautiful cinematography. The perfect score. The flawless screenplay. Boyle’s versatility resulted in one of the most unconventional love stories to ever grace the silverscreen. I have never walked out of a movie theater with the feeling that I had after seeing Slumdog Millionaire. Simon Beaufoy’s adapted screenplay is perhaps the most deserved adaptation Oscar ever given, as he transformed a good book into a epic, sweeping romance.

A Beautiful Mind (2001) Directed by Ron Howard

Two things I love about this film: the time-period and the characters. This is a distinctively American story, in a different category as the aforementioned Mystic River. Howard shows the world of the genius John Nash (Russell Crowe) with the kind of class that Jay Gatsby would be proud of. What mesmerizes me though, is when this class, glitz, and glamour melts away to reveal the portrait of a man who is devastatingly brilliant.  Crowe (who was snubbed for the Oscar) is accompanied by the Academy Award winning performance of Jennifer Connelly, who compassionately portrays Nash’s wife, a woman who reveals her every vulnerability to help her husband. The screenplay follows a conventional story, until master screenwriter Akiva Goldsman plunges audiences around a very different turn.

Honorable Mention:

Matchstick Men

Requiem for a Dream

The Painted Veil

Brokeback Mountain

No Country for Old Men

Moulin Rouge!

Australia

What are your favorite films of the decade?