Sundance Screening Room returns with “Infinitely Polar Bear,” “Phoenix” and “Uncle John”


After the usual summer break to make room for all those superheroes, Sundance Cinemas will launch its next Screening Room Calendar next week.

The series, for the uninitiated, sets aside Cinema 2 at the theater for a scheduled list of independent, foreign and documentary films. One of the nice things about the calendar is that it locks in some of these smaller films that have less publicity behind them, so you can see them coming and plan accordingly. And, unlike other Sundance offerings, the Screening Room movies are exempt from Sundance’s amenities fees.

Here’s a rundown of what’s coming, starting next week. I’m looking forward to doing post-show chats with a couple of these films — I’ll get back to you soon when I know which one, and when.

Aug. 14 — “Infinitely Polar Bear” — Writer-director Maya Forbes’ warm and personal film is based on her own experiences growing up in a biracial family in 1970s Boston with a bipolar father (wonderfully played here by Mark Ruffalo). Here’s my review from the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

Aug. 21 — “Lambert and Stamp” and “Saint Laurent” — A real-life two-fer, one a documentary and the other a biopic. Rockists will enjoy learning how aspiring filmmakers Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert ended up managing The Who, while fashionistas will want to see how the famous designer Yves St. Laurent transformed style in the 1960s and 1970s. In addition, Sundance says they’ll be showing the Jennifer Connelly drama “Aloft” during the week, and have down on their online calendar that James Ponsoldt’s David Foster Wallace biopic “The End of the Tour” also opens this week. Busy!

August .2013  Dreharbeiten zum CHRISTIAN PETOLD Film PHÖNIX mit Nina Hoss , Ronald Zehrfeld und Nina Kunzendorf Verwendung der Fotos nur in Zusammenhang mit dem Film PHÖNIX von Christian Petzold ( Model release No ) © Christian Schulz Mobil 01723917694

August .2013
mit Nina Hoss , Ronald Zehrfeld und Nina Kunzendorf
Verwendung der Fotos nur in Zusammenhang mit dem Film PHÖNIX von Christian Petzold
( Model release No ) © Christian Schulz
Mobil 01723917694

Aug. 28 — “Phoenix” — Director Christian Petzold reteams with “Barbara” star Nina Hoss in this tense World War II drama about a Jewish-German nightclub singer who tries to uncover whether her husband betrayed her to the Nazis.

Sept. 4 — “Steve Jobs: Man in the Machine” — Michael Fassbender is nowhere to be found in documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney’s look at the world of Apple’s Steve Jobs.

Sept. 11 — “Queen of Earth” — Writer-director Alex Ross Perry reteams with Elisabeth Moss from “Listen Up Philip” in this tale of a grieving woman who falls into delusion and madness.

Sept. 18 — “Uncle John” — I’m really excited that this Wisconsin-made film, about a farmer (Josh Ashton) trying to cover up a deadly crime, is getting a theatrical run in Madison. Here’s an interview with the filmmakers from this year’s Wisconsin Film Festival.

Sept. 25 — “Listen to Me Marlon” — A documentary about Marlon Brando would be interesting enough, but this film draws from a wealth of private audio and video recordings Brando made that have never been shown before.

Oct. 2 — “Testament of Youth” — Alicia Vikander (“Ex Machina”) and Kit Harington (Jon Snow on “Game of Thrones”) star in this luminous World War I drama.


Sundance Film Festival: Three’s a crowd in the post-apocalyptic “Z for Zachariah”


What if you were the last man on earth?

Okay, now what if you were the second-to-last man on earth?

Craig Zobel’s “Z for Zachariah” is a fascinating film that I guess should be called science fiction, although there’s nothing futuristic, or even scientific, really, about it. Maybe the better term is “speculative fiction,” because it invites the viewer to speculate how they would react in a similar, extreme circumstance. What would I do? Who would I be?

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Sundance Film Festival: Education documentary “Most Likely To Succeed” doesn’t show its work


As a documentary about life in an alternative charter school in San Diego called High Tech High, Greg Whiteley’s documentary “Most Likely To Succeed” is fun and engaging. As a documentary about how America needs to talk about reinventing its education system to meet the demands of the 21st-century economy, it raises interesting points.

But when it suggests that state and federal governments shouldn’t be setting education standards? Show your work, movie.

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Sundance Film Festival: In “Digging For Fire,” some things in a marriage should stay buried


Why isn’t Joe Swanberg doing a TV show? I say this without intending the slightest dis whatsoever. Swanberg’s improv-heavy, character-driven stories, done quickly, seem to be perfect for the new Golden Age of television. I would so watch “Drinking Buddies” every Sunday night on Showtime.

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Sundance Film Festival: When Irish eyes are crying in poignant “Brooklyn”


“Brooklyn” is not what one would term a “Sundance movie” by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a good-looking historical drama based on a well-regarded novel by Colm Toibin, adapted by Nick Hornby, and featuring a terrific cast and strong production values. There isn’t a speck of millennial angst in the film.

But it is a wonderful film, and if it expands the definition of a Sundance movie, so be. So moving and keenly perceptive about life, faithful to its time in details but contemporary in its feelings, “Brooklyn” is a movie that should make a big splash once it leaves Park City. I was describing it later in the day to someone who hadn’t seen it. And I gave HER chills.

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Sundance Film Festival: “Tig” shows that God doesn’t give us any more stand-up material than we can handle

Planned Parenthood Federation Of America's 2014 Gala Awards Dinner

I expected the documentary “Tig” to be a well-deserved victory lap for comedian Tig Notaro. Notaro famously took a barrage of personal tragedy (a debilitating digestive illness, the death of her mother, and breast cancer) and turned it into a historic live comedy show at Los Angeles’ Largo nightclub.

But “Tig” is much more honest and revealing than that. A 25-minute stand-up set did not solve all her problems, and though she is in complete remission thanks to a double mastectomy, there’s still a life to be lived for Notaro, in all its ups and downs.

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Sundance Film Festival: Fall down the rabbit hole of Guy Maddin’s “The Forbidden Room”


Can’t get into too many movies at this year’s Sundance Film Festival? Make time for Guy Maddin’s latest film, the wonderfully dense and strange “The Forbidden Room.” It’s like 20 movies in one, all put one inside the other like a series of Russian nesting dolls — dolls that have been binge-watching Turner Classic Movies all winter.

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Sundance Film Festival: Ewan McGregor is Jesus (and the Devil) in beautiful “Last Days in the Desert”

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A movie starring Ewan McGregor as both Jesus and the Devil sounds like a the sort of high-concept bad movie idea you would see in a Hollywood satire, like Ricky Gervais’ “Extras.”And yet “Last Days in the Desert” exists, and is really good.
Rodrigo Garcia’s lovely and humane film avoids Sunday School preaching to present a Jesus who’s kind, questioning, and yet unmistakably the Son of God. He also may be the first cinematic Savior we might like to have a beer with – he may be holy, but he’s not above giggling at a good fart joke.

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