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Exploring how and why we watch. by Dan Schoenbrun

  • Whose Streets 20 Honest Observations from the Sundance Film Festival

    Twenty — It’s the first Friday of the Sundance Film Festival and I’m sitting in the lobby of the Park City Marriott. I’m making small talk with some friends about the festival and the election and the films we’re excited to see. There’s a TV mounted on the wall behind me live broadcasting Trump’s inaugural address. Someone makes a joke about how he’s doing everything he can to avoid looking up at the screen. I do the same, pivoting my body and adjusting my eyeline so as to avoid catching a glimpse of our new President’s grinning face. By being here,…  Read more

    On Feb 3, 2017
    By on Feb 3, 2017Columns
  • Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell in Mudbound by Dee Rees (photo by Steve Dietl). Sundance: The Narrative Radicalism of Dee Rees’ Mudbound

    I implore you to go into Dee Rees’ wonderful Mudbound with an open mind. Here’s a warning to help you do so: this film is more narratively radical than you might imagine. It starts quietly. It’s patient, a true slow burn. It’s well-aware of this fact, even proud of it. At times you might perceive the film to be unfocused or fractured. You might be put off by some of the narrative techniques on display — for instance, the film’s heavy reliance on expositional voice-over. Or its overabundance of subplots (many of which remain unrelated to the central story). Or the fact that…  Read more

    On Jan 26, 2017
    By on Jan 26, 2017Filmmaking
  • (Photo: Andrew Droz Palermo.) Sundance: David Lowery’s A Ghost Story is a Major Achievement and A Curious NEXT Entry

    It’s a rare privilege to see a contemporary American film as ambitious, emotionally honest, and just-plain-breathtaking as David Lowery’s Sundance entry A Ghost Story. Even from his microbudget beginnings, Lowery’s work has displayed a consistent fascination with American folklore and mythmaking. His films, whether big-budget Disney blockbusters like last year’s Pete’s Dragon, 2013’s love story Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, or his masterful 2011 short Pioneer, concern themselves with the notion of storytelling, its allure and its limitations. With A Ghost Story, Lowery continues to explore this fascination, now through the lens of the haunting genre, a tradition that stretches from…  Read more

    On Jan 24, 2017
  • Sundance: Exploring the Implications of Amazon’s New Distribution Play

    Earlier this week, Amazon Video Direct (AVD, a department within Amazon focused on self-publishing distribution tools for filmmakers) announced an intriguing new opportunity available to Sundance 2017 feature filmmakers. Dubbed the “Film Festival Stars” program, AVD is offering, in exchange for a two-year worldwide SVOD (subscription VOD) contract (with one-year exclusive) an up-front “cash bonus” to Sundance titles on a sliding scale based on section ($100,000 for US Narrative Competition titles, $75,000 for US Documentary Competition Titles, and $25,000 for titles in the NEXT, Midnight, Kids, World, New Frontiers, and Spotlight sections). The deal also offers a preferential rate on…  Read more

    On Jan 20, 2017
    By on Jan 20, 2017Distribution
  • An Inconvenient Sequel Sundance: Are Trump Think Pieces Helpful?

    I write this a few hours before I’ll be hopping on a plane and heading to quaint and quiet Park City, Utah, where I’ll be covering the 2017 Sundance Film Festival for Filmmaker Magazine and surviving on a diet of tuna sandwiches I buy from 7/11 in-between screenings while, it goes without saying, hating myself. I’m lucky to not have a specific beat or set of overt marching orders for what to cover during the festivals. Sweet freedom. I don’t plan to just review films, nor do I plan to spend too much energy covering the “business of the festival”…  Read more

    On Jan 20, 2017
    By on Jan 20, 2017Columns
  • Kuso The 50 Most Anticipated American Films of 2017

    The 2017 Sundance Film Festival is just a few days away, and with it begins a new cycle of stressing out about all of the movies that I haven’t been able to see yet. Hollywood operates on a very fixed theatrical schedule — leftovers dumped wholesale at the beginning of the year (I’m looking at you, Bye Bye Man), CGI franchises dominating the summer calendar, and Oscar bait rolling out from October on. Meanwhile, the landscape for smaller-budget but more adventurous films here in the States has developed its own windowing: the majority of American art films will premiere at…  Read more

    On Jan 16, 2017
    By on Jan 16, 2017Columns
  • Horace and Pete 2016’s Ten Best Shows Prove “Peak TV” is a Euphemism for Artistic Freedom

    The Ten Best TV Shows of 2016 10. Channel Zero: Candle Cove (Syfy) 9. Search Party (TBS) 8. Bojack Horseman (Netfiix) 7. O.J.: Made in America (ESPN) 6. Rectify (Sundance Channel) 5. The Americans (FX) 4. The Girlfriend Experience (Starz) 3. Steven Universe (Cartoon Network) 2. Atlanta (FX) 1. Horace and Pete (Independent) I’ve opted to buck established Top Ten List trends and include my picks for the best TV of 2016 right there at the top. I do this for two reasons: one, to spare you the exercise of having to scroll quickly through a collection of capsule-blurbs that…  Read more

    On Dec 21, 2016
    By on Dec 21, 2016Columns
  • Moonlight The 20 Best American Films of 2016

    Let’s start with a disclaimer about bias. I’m drawn to a certain type of film, which is why this list is going to look pretty different from the one you’ll find in, say, Entertainment Weekly. I don’t really look to the movies I consume for entertainment or diversion. I’m more drawn to emotional honesty. To work that comes straight from the heart and from the gut. I’m interested in movies that force me to challenge myself. That feel urgent and personal. That show me something new or shocking or unexpectedly truthful, that are enriching for the same reason they might…  Read more

    On Dec 19, 2016
    By on Dec 19, 2016Columns
  • Jeffrey Dean Morgan in The Walking Dead Entertaining Violence (Or, The Walking Dead and the Future of America)

    Warning: This post contains major spoilers for The Walking Dead and the future of America In case you’re behind on your DVR, allow me to catch you up on the much-talked about cliffhanger ending from last season’s Walking Dead finale. After a ton of build-up, the show finally introduced Negan, a well-known villain from the comic source material infamous for bludgeoning his victims to death with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire. His weapon of choice. In the final moments of the finale, Negan overpowered the show’s main characters, lined them up in a circle, and wielded his iconic…  Read more

    On Dec 5, 2016
    By on Dec 5, 2016Columns
  • Blow Out All Movies are Political Movies. We Need to Do Better

    If this is showing up on your newsfeed there’s a pretty good chance that you’re an American filmmaker, a member of the American film industry, or just someone who loves art and film. No matter who you are, today is a day for therapy. For outrage. For disgust and shock and personal reflection. But for those of us in the film world, today should also be a day where we reacknowledge and recommit ourselves to an important truth: That every film is a political film. Moonlight is a political film. Manchester by the Sea is a political film. The Birth of…  Read more

    On Nov 9, 2016
    By on Nov 9, 2016Columns
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