26 Jan 2011 @ 6:00 AM 

Wednesday Minute
No. 209 | January 26, 2011

Sundance by Decade

Our theme this week
Indie films of the Sundance Film Festival

Featured this week
(See Monday post for theme introduction)
Monday         —   Sundance in the 1980s

Sundance in the 1990s


straight out of brooklyn

Straight Out of Brooklyn (1991)
1991 Sundance Festival (Special Jury Recognition)
Matty Rich, writer-director
John Rosnell, cinematographer
George T. Odom, Ann D. Sanders, Larry Gilliard Jr., Barbara Sanon

Life in the projects never looked so bleak as it does in Matty Rich’s hard, bitter urban drama.  Dennis is a black teen who wants out, but there’s no escape.  Abuse, crime, and racism conspire against him.  Matty Rich was just nineteen when he made this debut, and his career prospects seemed bright at the time.  But his follow-up, the poorly received The Inkwell, in 1994, has been his only other film to date.

reservoir dogs

Reservoir Dogs (1992)
1992 Sundance Festival
Quentin Tarantino, writer-director
Andrej Sekuła, cinematographer
Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, Chris Penn, Michael Madsen, Lawrence Tierney, Quentin Tarantino

A heist film with no heist.  That was different.  Meet Quentin Tarantino.  He didn’t win the Grand Jury Prize, and with under $3 million at the box office, Reservoir Dogs didn’t win a big audience in theaters.  Yet the film and its director won a bigger prize—icon status in pop culture unlike anything else ever to come out of Sundance, or anything else in indie film.

el mariachi

El Mariachi (1992)
1993 Sundance Festival (Audience Award:  Dramatic)
Robert Rodriguez, writer-director-cinematographer-editor
Carlos Gallardo, Consuelo Gómez, Peter Marquardt, Reinol Martínez

Nothing is safe for the mariachi here, not even falling in love.  Set in violent, crooked town run by thugs—the Mexican tourist board would not approve—El Mariachi is a Spanish-language film made on a micro-budget, seven grand and change.  That’s not the usual calling card for filmmakers hoping to impress Hollywood, but when the virtual one-man film crew named Robert Rodriguez made his film, everyone took notice.  Rodriguez had unmistakable talent, an eye for action, and energy to burn.  He got money for an English-language remake, and later added a third segment to his “Mariachi Trilogy,” yet his bare-bones, take-no-prisoners debut remains the most watchable.

welcome to the dollhouse

Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)
1996 Sundance Festival (Grand Jury Prize:  Dramatic)
Todd Solonz, writer-director
Randy Drummond, cinematographer
Heather Matarazzo, Matthew Faber, Daria Kalinina, Brendon Sexton Jr., Eric Mabius

Movies often have characters faced with terrible ordeals.  Few have to endure what Dawn Wiener (young Heather Matarazzo, in a fine performance) must go through to survive seventh grade—neglect, teasing, abuse, a boy who wants to rape her.  Todd Solonz’s film showed a knack for twists that no one else dared to consider, and a keen sense for the dilemmas and pains endured by victims in society.

run lola run_2

Run Lola Run (1999)
1999 Sundance Festival (World Cinema Audience Award)
Tom Tykwer, writer-director
Frank Griebe, cinematographer
Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu

Lola has twenty minutes to get 100,000 marks to save her boyfriend.  She has to run.  We get the story three times, with different encouters and different outcomes—an unusual twist, but very effective.  Tom Tykwer showed he knows how to put the thrill in a thriller, and Franka Potente will get your heart pumped like you’ve run a marathon.


To Sleep with Anger (Charles Burnett, writer-director, 1990)
Poison (Todd Haynes, writer-director; Grand Jury Prize:  Dramatic, 1991)
Slacker (Richard Linklater, writer-director, 1991)
Gas Food Lodging (Allison Anders, writer-director, 1992)
Swoon (Tom Kalin, cowriter-director; Excellence in Cinematography Award, Ellen Kuras, 1992)
Public Access (Bryan Singer, cowriter-director;  Grand Jury Prize:  Dramatic, 1993)
Clerks (Kevin Smith, writer-director; Filmmakers Trophy:  Dramatic, 1994)
Spanking the Monkey (David O. Russell, writer-director; Audience Award:  Dramatic, 1994)
What Happened Was… (Tom Noonan, writer-director; Grand Jury Prize:  Dramatic, 1994)
The Brothers McMullen (Edward Burns, writer-director; Grand Jury Prize:  Dramatic, 1995)
Living in Oblivion (Tom DeCillo, writer-director; Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, 1995)
The Usual Suspects (Bryan Singer, director, 1995)
I Shot Andy Warhol (Mary Harron, cowriter-director; Special Jury Prize for Acting, Lili Taylor, 1996)
Big Night (Campbell Scott, Stanley Tucci, directors; Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, Joseph Tropiano, Stanley Tucci, 1996)
Citizen Ruth (Alexander Payne, cowriter-director, 1996)
The Full Monty (Peter Cattaneo, director, 1997)
Ulee’s Gold (Victor Nunez, writer-director, 1997)
In the Company of Men (Neil LaBute, writer-director, 1997)
π (Pi) (Darren Aronofsky, writer-director; Directing Award:  Dramatic, 1998)
Smoke Signals (Chris Eyre, director; Sherman Alexie, writer; Filmmakers Trophy:  Dramatic, Audience Award:  Dramatic, 1998)
Buffalo ’66 (Vincent Gallo, cowriter-director, 1998)
Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez, writer-directors, 1999)


American Dream (Barbara Kopple, director; Audience Award, Filmmakers Trophy, Grand Jury Prize, 1991)
A Brief History of Time (Errol Morris, director; Grand Jury Prize, 1992)
Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (Nick Broomfield, director, 1993)
Hoop Dreams (Steve James, director; Audience Award, 1994)
Crumb (Terry Zwigoff, director; Grand Jury Prize, 1995)
When We Were Kings (Leon Gast, director; Special Jury Recognition, 1996)
American Movie (Chris Smith, director; Grand Jury Prize, 1999)

Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, Chris Penn, Michael Madsen, Lawrence Tierney, Eddie Bunker, Quentin Tarantino
Opening Scene

Run Lola Run (1999)
Franke Potente

Quote of note
“Bite your teeth into the ass of life.”
—Pascal (Ian Holm), Big Night (1996)



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