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Sundance 06 | Day 5

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Wristcutters: A Love Story is really unfunny and slow and boring, and pretty much everything you don’t want in a film you’re watching at 9 a.m. after having slept a total of 15 hours in four days.

Right after I finished writing yesterday’s entry, I found out that they were going to screen the Kirby Dick documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated today at 11:30 a.m. I was thoroughly excited, as this is the single film I was most looking forward to seeing coming into this festival. I just came from that screening, and am anxious to talk about it—but first, I’ll give a quick rundown of the other films I’ve seen since yesterday’s entry.

I had kind of wanted to see a doc called So Much So Fast yesterday but, due to a late-starting screening, was unable to, so the next film up was Haskell Wexler’s Who Needs Sleep?, a documentary about how people who work on films work too many hours in a day and are dangerous behind the wheel. While the subject is interesting (especially to the Sundance crowd), the movie was very poorly put together, and was really just a feeble mess. Even if Wexler had made a good movie, this film’s appeal would have been limited, but he made a bad movie, so there really isn’t any hope.

After that was small town gay bar, a documentary Kevin Smith produced about a gay bar called Rumors in rural Northeastern Mississippi. Although slight, overlong, and having ten or so false endings (a personal pet peeve), it still was relatively entertaining to see how the community took to the presence of a gay bar in a small town in the Deep South.

The last film I saw yesterday was Stephanie Daley, which stars Tilda Swinton and Amber Tamblyn, and which I had heard was not very good. Swinton plays a psychiatrist or something (my brain’s kind of fried from seeing so many movies and eating and sleeping so little, so please forgive me if there are inaccuracies in these entries) who is profiling Tamblyn, who gave birth to a baby and, um, disposed of it, and is being tried for doing so. Swinton’s character is also pregnant, and a year before she had suffered a stillborn. I was amazed at how good an actress Tamblyn is—what is she, 14 years old?—and her story was interesting and worked, but too much time was devoted to Swinton’s, which was far less interesting.

This morning I saw Wristcutters: A Love Story, which has direct-to-video written all over it. It has a good cast, including Shannyn Sossamon and Will Arnett (who got laughs and applause for doing absolutely nothing, I swear; that’s how much people love him), but is really unfunny and slow and boring, and pretty much everything you don’t want in a film you’re watching at 9 a.m. after having slept a total of 15 hours in four days.

And finally, that brings us to This Film Is Not Yet Rated. More in-depth discussion of this film will be afforded when I’m not on such a tight schedule (watch for it in my upcoming Sundance wrap-up in “Celluloid Atrocities,” and also when the film comes out), as it certainly warrants it. If you aren’t already familiar with it yet, TFINYR is known for being a documentary about how the MPAA—the board that gives movies their ratings—is not at all objective, and is ultimately hurting the film industry and thinking America. When the film was submitted for a rating, it got the most severe one: NC-17. Also, it was made by Kirby Dick, one of the three or so best living documentarians, and the man behind last year’s Oscar nominee Twist of Faith and my single favorite documentary of all time Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist. I was a little put off by TFINYR at first—whereas Dick usually makes more Maysles brothers–type docs, it veers towards the new type of Dogtown and Z-Boys, Inside Deep Thraot, Super Size Me, Michael Moore–type of documentary that has been getting really popular in the past few years. Still, the film is exceedingly interesting and makes a number of very strong points, and is easily the best film I’ve seen thus far at the festival. One of the most immediately noteworthy things is how daring it is—it was produced by IFC and Netflix, and features interviews with some Hollywood luminaries (Matt Stone, Kevin Smith, John Waters, Darren Aronofsky), but it also goes for the throat with the MPAA, so these people are very potentially jeopardizing their career by participating in the film. For example, Dick goes so far as to hire a private investigator to find out who the private members of the ratings board are (the MPAA is one of a very small number of organizations in the U.S. that operates in complete secrecy), and then outs them. The process of getting TFINYR getting rated itself is also covered, wherein even more (arguable) conspirators are outed, many of whom (studio executives and the like) are actually in attendance here at Sundance. One has to wonder, though: If the cut I saw got an NC-17, it would have had to have been resubmitted after the addition of the footage of the appeal, and then how did that appeal go? ad infinitum. This kind of bravery in moviemaking is exceptionally rare these days, and everyone in this project deserves much applause and respect. My only question at this point is to what degree non-industry types will be interested in this film, because that’s what is really needed to affect change to the whole dated, bogus ratings system. My instinct says that they won’t be interested in it, but then, in an era when unrated versions of DVDs outsell the rated versions eight to one, I could be wrong. Coupled with the fact that IFC will likely run the film on their channel out the ass, being an in-house production and all, and all of the press it has been getting for getting an NC-17 rating and that it is getting here, who knows? It might just catch on. Oh, and for the record, I’ve seen R rated films that are much, much more offensive than This Film Is Not Yet Rated, but that’s probably a given at this point.

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From the Archive


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