Sundance Film Festival Art Highlights: Dog Orbits Earth, Abramovic “The Artist is Present” Doc Debuts

by Reid Singer on January 6, 2012 Film

The greatest actor of his generation, wearing a wig and funny make-up, via Flicks and Bits

Cold weather, Robert Redford, and an excuse to turn off our phones for at least six hours a day. These are just a few of the attractions awaiting visitors to the Sundance Film Festival, which kicks off in Park City, Utah in two weeks. From the looks of the 2012 program, we should expect an array of precocious documentaries, trippy animated films, and bourgeois coming-of-age maneuvers (for some reason, they’ve decided to re-screen “Reality Bites”). It is, in short, an uneven mix of pyrite and gold.

This being an art blog, there are a few films on the list that concern us directly and are probably worth a look. Among them are Matthew Akers’ documentary about Marina Abramović “The Artist is Present,” based on the artist’s 2010 exhibition at MoMA, and Alison Klayman’s film, “Never Sorry,” which follows Ai Weiwei’s career beginning with the work he made in the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

And who doesn’t like surrealist animation? To being with, there’s Ho Tzu Nyen's high-brow work “The Cloud of Unknowing,” a film about personified cloud of mist who visits eight strangers in a housing project in Singapore. Crowds will also be pleased by the giggly, disturbing short “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared” by the art collective “This is It,” in which a talking note pad teaches some happy friends about creativity through song and dance (“Green is not a creative color,” she warns cheerfully). The must-see of the group is Brent Green’s hybrid of live action and sculptural and flat-image animation “To Many Men Strange Fates are Given,” a political allegory about the woman who made the spacesuit for Laika, the Soviet space dog that became the first animal to orbit the Earth.

Lastly, there are features that look incredible but have nothing to do with art. When it comes to New York, I intend to make multiple visits to see “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie,” the progeny of the “Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job.” In “This Must Be The Place,” Sean Penn plays an aging goth rocker on a quest to find the Nazi who tormented his father in a concentration camp. What? That’s not enough? Frances McDormand and Harry Dean Stanton have supporting roles. Man, you’re really getting spoiled.

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