It’s that time of year again, and while many of you won’t be sloshing through the Park City snow, y’all are lucky. Why not instead stay warm under a blanket on the couch and instead revisit Sundance and Slamdance festivals of years past with this list of personal favorites from several members of the HTN team.
Netflix Hidden Gems: Park City Special
High Art (1998) —1998 was probably my favorite year for American indies. There were so many solid, small films. Movies like I Shot Andy Warhol, Buffalo ’66, Safe Men. Probably my favorite was Whatever by Susan Skoog. Liza Weil gave one of the great growing up performances ever in that movie. Alas, that one ain’t on Netflix. So I’ll go to maybe my second favorite Sundancer from that year: High Art. Lisa Cholodenko was still a little too neat for me as a director—but not so anal retentive and cartoony as The Kids Are All Right. High Art captured a very specific world—whether you liked the world or not. And it was a world I’d never seen on film. And it was Patricia Clarkson as a German heroin addict lesbian former model. And it was the classy Susan A. Stover producing. And it was Ally Sheedy in the shadows. (Noah Buschel)
13 Tzameti (2005) — Georgian filmmaker Géla Babluani’s noir thriller/shocker won the Jury Prize in the 2005 Sundance World Cinema Dramatic Competition. Sébastien, played by the director’s brother Georges in a fabulous performance, embarks on a nightmarish journey into a violent underworld where men’s lives are like so many poker chips laid out on a green felt table. The young man leads a simple, quiet life, but when he comes upon a set of mysterious instructions intended for someone else, he goes along for the ride. Beautifully shot, riveting, heart-stopping, brave. (Note of caution: There is an American remake of this film from 2008 called 13—why, why, why, why, why???—starring Mickey Rourke and Jason Statham. And 50 Cent, for goodness’ sakes. Please do not see this version.) (Pamela Cohn)
Chameleon Street (1989) — Wendell B. Harris’ Chameleon Street, a diabolically funny, ripped from the headlines, nearly forgotten Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner, reveals a black consciousness as messy, hysterical, and laden with the unspoken burdens of otherness as those that belong to most of the black folks I know. Which is also to say that Harris gave us, in the form of William Douglas Street, the con man who impersonated a Time Magazine reporter, Ivy League student, appellate lawyer and gynecological surgeon, one of the most unforgettable characters to grace American movie screens in the past quarter century. Charming and unrepentant, Street gets lost in his various masks, but even when he’s caught, he never fully lets on to the low simmer resentment than swims just underneath the surface of this formally audacious, wholeheartedly entertaining yarn. He’s just too debonair to be a victim, too singular to be an archetype, too righteous to be Flint, Michigan’s black answer to Tom Ripley. (Brandon Harris)
No End In Sight (2007) — Charles Ferguson’s 2007 documentary about the calamitous mismanagement of the Iraq war walloped audiences in Park City, where it won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance. At the time, this felt like the quintessential film about US presence in Iraq under the Bush Administration, and four years and countless war documentaries later, No End In Sight remains among the most essential. (Holly Herrick) ***STREAM IT NOW***
Moon (2009) — An elegant and psychological sci-fi film about loneliness, Moon features Sam Rockwell as a dutiful space-age employee of a lunar station used for mining helium that is converted into clean energy back on earth. He keeps sane through the company of GERTY, a cutely primitive but empathetic A.I. robot, and frequent calls back to his family on earth. The film takes a sharp and creepy twist when he discovers clones of himself on the moon and has to confront the veracity of his own existence. Director Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie) wrote the lead role for Rockwell, who does an incredible job acting against multiples of himself. (Susanna Locascio) ***STREAM IT NOW***
Daughter from Danang (2002) — A mother and daughter reunite after 30 years of separation. Their attempt to reconcile the demands of cultural, familial, and individual differences meet head-on inside conflicted cultures. Tension is ripe, and the outcome is implosive in the most honest way possible. Kudos is given to the filmmakers for knowing when to keep recording, and when to turn off the camera. Profound ambivalence contrasts with firm commitment at the ending of the story. Resolution ain’t easy. Winner of Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. (David Redmon) ***STREAM IT NOW***
The Daytrippers (1996) — Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 1996 Slamdance Film Festival, Greg Mottola’s feature-length debut remains one of my very favorite indie films from that, or any other, era. Mottola expertly threads the line between comedy and drama, and he gets consistently excellent performances from his accomplished cast (Hope Davis, Stanley Tucci, Parker Posey, Anne Meara, Pat McNamara). The Daytrippers is as messy and alive as real life. (Michael Tully) ***STREAM IT NOW***
What are your favorite Sundance/Slamdance entries that are for the taking on Netflix? Add to the comments section below if you please!