The scariest film to come out of Sundance arrived the Monday after Donald Trump took office, when comedian Jordan Peele (“Key and Peele,” Keanu”) unveiled a secret screening of his upcoming horror film “Get Out.”
Peele, known for satirizing America’s social landscape as one half of the sketch-comedy duo Key & Peele, makes his directorial debut with the tale of an African American man (“Black Mirror”’s Daniel Kaluuya) heading upstate to meet his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time.
It's not their interracial romance that's the problem, but how the seemingly open-minded people in her hometown react: The rich old white folks eager to compliment Chris's physicality, ponder his sexual prowess, make sure to tell him how much they admire Tiger Woods.
Rose Troche says she came out three times in her life: first as a Puerto Rican, next as an artist and finally as a gay person.
“By the time I came out as gay, it was like, ‘Oh, this old thing?’” jokes Troche, the child of immigrant parents who grew up hiding her minority identity on multiple levels in a tough Chicago neighborhood during the 1960s and ’70s.
Relaxing on a couch in a Hollywood Hills chalet, she explains how she’s in the midst of a fourth coming-out of sorts. As a writer and director on the vanguard of virtual reality, she’s trying to articulate that her latest form of art isn’t filmmaking.
It’s a common feeling, being the odd one out. Writer Mike White seems to have made a career of it, assaying oddballs and misfits and the indignation, righteous and otherwise, that can follow with them. His ongoing on-and-off collaboration with director Miguel Arteta includes the films “Chuck & Buck” and “The Good Girl,” both of which premiered at Sundance, the television show “Enlightened” and now the new movie “Beatriz at Dinner.”
In “Beatriz at Dinner,” which is playing as part of the Premieres section at the festival, White and Arteta again update their exploration of feeling out of place. Salma Hayek plays a masseuse and spiritual healer in Los Angeles who, after her car breaks down, is invited to stay at her client’s mansion for a dinner party. When one of the guests turns out to be a mega-wealthy, celebrity real estate developer (sound familiar?), two very different worldviews come into contact and conflict.
Hayek’s Beatriz is quiet and watchful while John Lithgow’s performance as the developer is powerful and brash, as both bring an undercurrent of earnestness that avoids tipping into caricature. Connie Britton, David Warshofsky, Chloë Sevigny, Amy Landecker, John Early and Jay Duplass fill out the cast.
He started playing at age 2½ and had his debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra when he was 10. So when film director Stefan Avalos says “I’ve never not known the violin,” he is not being hyperbolic.
But even Avalos had never met anyone like Danny Houck, the violin-obsessed subject of his irresistible, way-stranger-than-fiction documentary “Strad Style,” which screened this week at Sundance’s crosstown rival, Slamdance.
An eccentric loner living on next to no money in a rundown farmhouse in Laurelville, Ohio, Houck lives and breathes the violin. “His knowledge is encyclopedic, he will tell you things you never knew,” says Avalos. “He is absolutely obsessed and immersed in the thing.”
It’s become something of a film festival truism that certain movies play better at high altitudes. Exhibit A would probably be “The Blair Witch Project,” which took Sundance by storm in 1999 and generated tremendous word-of-mouth buzz, but was widely considered a disappointment by those who flocked to see it in theaters. As the conventional wisdom goes, the movie’s lost-in-the-woods premise played like gangbusters in chilly, secluded Park City, Utah, in a way that it simply couldn’t replicate closer to sea level.
Which is not to suggest that films featuring frigid forest settings have some sort of Sundance advantage. The reverse, in fact, can also be true. For viewers experiencing the frost fatigue that always sets in mid-festival, a movie set over the course of, say, a long, hot summer in Italy — where young people lie about in the sun, imbibing fresh-squeezed fruit juice and the sight of each other’s beautiful bodies — might be just the thing to take the edge off that Park City chill.
And so it was excellent meteorological counterprogramming that the festival chose one of its coldest, snowiest days so far to unveil Luca Guadagnino’s intoxicatingly al fresco new movie, “Call Me by Your Name.” Adapted from André Aciman’s novel about a teenager’s summer of love in the 1980s, the film has all the wild beauty and simmering erotic languor we’ve come to expect from the director of “I Am Love” and “A Bigger Splash,” both of which followed characters looking for love in all the wrong (but fabulously beautiful and luxurious) places.
To this day, Carl King can’t quite explain why he did it. Why he sacrificed 20 years of his life. His marriage. His financial security. All in a long shot bid to get his friend Colin Warner out of prison.
“Maybe it was that I grew up in a family, in Trinidad, where my older siblings were always involved in student activities,” King said. “Or maybe it just felt like a purpose. It’s your brother, and you’re not going to give up until you can help him.”
In 1980, Warner was 18, living in the Caribbean section of the Brooklyn, N.Y., neighborhood of Crown Heights. One day, the cops showed up and arrested him. He was charged with killing Mario Hamilton, a young Jamaican man in nearby Flatbush. Warner had never met Hamilton. He had never even heard of him.
From Amy Adams' leading actress snub to Mel Gibson's resurgence, L.A. Times film critics Kenneth Turan and Justin Chang discuss the Oscar nominations.
L.A. Times film critics Justin Chang and Kenneth Turan discuss the 2017 Oscar nominations, including Amy Adams' leading actress snub and Mel Gibson's resurgence. (Video by Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times
Actors Laura Dern and Woody Harrelson reflect on working together in the film "Wilson."
Actors Laura Dern and Woody Harrelson reflect on working together in the film "Wilson," with Harrelson saying he's "gotta get out of the quicksand" of drama. Video by Myung Chun /Interview by Steven Zeitchik