SunBreak at Sundance: Take Four

by on January 28, 2010

(Audrey is at Sundance, courting exhaustion and eye strain. See Take One, Take Two, and Take Three.)

First up Wednesday morning was 3 Backyards–more like 3 Boredyards. In this film by Eric Mendelsohn, absolutely nothing happens. And the nothing happens verrrrrrry slowly.

On a typical day in suburban New York, neighbors are going about their day-to-day lives. A couple fights before the husband leaves on a business trip, a little girl wears her mother’s bracelet to school and drops it along the way, a lost dog tries to make its way back home, and a very excitable housewife is beside herself at the thought of driving the movie star next door to the ferry. Despite the presence of Edie Falco, Elias Koteas, and Embeth Davidtz, you don’t find yourself caring about these characters–and by the end of the film, nothing has changed for any of them.


After watching well-off white people dealing with their inconsequential “problems” for ninety minutes, I decided to see a film with *whisper* black people. I know, I was scared too. Night Catches Us takes place in 1976 Philadelphia. Carter is running for President, and Marcus, a former Black Panther–played by The Hurt Locker‘s Anthony Mackie, looking more than ever like a young Will Smith–returns home for his father’s funeral. There he encounters myriad people from his past, including his now-Muslim brother, his problem cousin, some more ex-Panthers, and the widow (Kerry Washington) and child of his best friend, a Panther who was killed in a police shout-out, for which Marcus has been blamed.


The story arc is predictable enough, but first-time writer-director Tanya Hamilton keeps it interesting by weaving in some archival footage, along with a little animation. Plus, there’s The Wire connection: Jamie Hector (aka Marlo Stanfield) plays a two-bit businessman with a grudge (after all, his name is his name), and Clay Davis makes an appearance too, as a cop who thinks the ends justify the means. Sheeeeeeeeeeeit.

Abel is actor Diego Luna’s first stab at the director’s chair. I’ll admit it–I fell asleep for part of this film–such is the price of non-stop filmery. But it wasn’t the movie’s fault. Abel is a cute enough film about a cute enough little boy with some psychological issues. As the film opens, his mother is picking him up from the local mental institution, which can no longer care for him. The family is going to see if they can take care of Abel themselves; if not, he’ll be sent to the children’s hospital all the way in Mexico City.

When he first comes home, he’s withdrawn, but then Abel comes out of his shell–with his new self-appointed role as man of the house. And no one is to point out that he’s not actually his father, for fear of triggering an anxiety attack. Alright, so that’s a drawn-out version of the film’s conceit, but it’s cute to see a six-year-old act like an adult (he thinks he’s people!), chastising his siblings for getting bad grades, interrogating his sister’s boyfriend, engaging adults in bullshit small talk, and so on and so forth.

Meanwhile, on a less heartwarming front, Louis C.K.: Hilarious more than lives up to its name.

In eighty-three minutes of stand-up–clad in his standard issue comedy uniform of a black t-shirt, jeans, and a lot of sweat–Louis rants about everything from “white people problems” (complaining about ATMs, cellphones, and airline travel) to the obesity and stupidity of the general American public to childrearing practices (don’t hit your children, and also don’t tell them that one day the sun will engulf the earth).

As always, he’s delightfully offensive, and if you don’t get the joke, that’s your problem. Towards the end of his act, he did an extended bit on getting into an argument with his three-year-old daughter that made me laugh until I cried. God bless you, Louis C.K.

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