Sundance 2021 Film Festival Diary: Day 2 | Film Streams
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Kenneth Sundance Diary2

Sundance 2021 Film Festival Diary: Day 2

Dear Diary,

The day of features is upon us!

The first movie of the day was RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT directed by Mariem PĂ©rez Riera. It would be really easy to say that this documentary was exactly what you get on the tin: a look at Rita Moreno's incredible life as told by herself, her peers, and contemporaries. And for the most part the film does indeed meet that expectation and is very entertaining. Rita Moreno, 87 when this film was being made, is a lively and iconic figure with a truly legendary influence and a life full of stories to tell. However, an element of this film I was not really expecting was the attention it gives to sexual violence and the trauma surrounding it. There's a very timely connection between Moreno's experiences and the infamous Brett Kavanaugh case that was happening at the time of filming which definitely adds continuity to the violent misogyny that has remained ever present in places of patriarchal power. The film also broaches subjects of reproductive rights and racial discrimination that tie into Moreno's political activism through the years but it's coverage feels surface level in comparison. But then again Rita Moreno has had a long life with a lot of ground to cover and this film keeps up the pace until the very end.

    As soon as CRYPTOZOO started I no longer wanted to watch CRYPTOZOO. Dan Shaw's art style and heady opening scenes made the film very difficult to get into, but as it continued it became much more approachable in terms of plot and clear characters. Were the characters still ugly? Yes but I got used to them and respected just how ugly they were. The art direction for this movie is a huge swing and whether it's something you enjoy or night will definitely be personal but even though the figures were off putting there were some really incredible visuals that I think could only have come from such a weird, weird vision.

    A film that was so aggressively up my lane was Deryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones' HOW IT ENDS. Every year there is a movie set in Southern California that is a weird comedy that features a lot of Los Angeles comedians that I love and this year it was HOW IT ENDS and it was a really nice time. It's primarily composed of just a lot of nice tidbits all tied to Zoe Lister-Jones' character and a metaphysical embodiment of her younger self making amends before the end of the world. It's funny and as the description on the site brings a lot of "optimistic nihilism" which I think will resonate with a lot of people right now. I fully believe it will be the quirky white woman comedy of the year, but you know what? We like a good quirky white woman comedy every now and again!

    The last movie of the night was ON THE COUNT OF THREE which is likely to be a divisive film when seen by a broad audience. Jerrod Carmichael stars and makes his directorial debut in this film, which in a decided turn against his family friendly persona on his popular sitcom, is a dark comedy with the premise of two friends last day before enacting a pact to take each other's lives. Based on this premise alone it is definitely going to be triggering for people. The film walks a tonal line and the mileage for this film will vary based on their personal experience but I personally felt that Carmichael's ambitious debut hits more than it misses and has thoughtful direction, and compelling dramatic performances from a cast largely known for comedy and a particular standout was Girls alum Christopher Abbot.

    If I were to lock all of these movies in a room to fight (for my love) I think it would HOW IT ENDS would be the winner out of this bunch. It's not the most ambitious or technically challenging of the bunch but it is earnest, funny, and a good fill between CRYPTOZOO and ON THE COUNT OF THREE. But ON THE COUNT OF THREE would be a close second in the fight.

    On account of that movie having guns. Objectively very dangerous in a locked room brawl.