Saturday, January 20, 2007

Dramatic Competition films get rolling

The word "buzz" must die. Not as it applies to insects, or alarm clocks, in which case it's perfectly fine. But Sundance's first couple of days are always about what has "the buzz", which really means "which movies have the most hyper-aggressive publicists, or the most recognizable star, or involve someone having sex with someone/something inappropriate."

But now we can actually see some of these films. Some don't necessarily have "buzz" but deserve it; for others, the only "buzz" will be the sound of snoring during the screenings.

Adam Bhala Lough's Weapons, in the U.S. Dramatic Competition, certainly isn't boring. It begins with a literal bang, in a way that may put you off chain burgers more readily than Super Size Me and Fast Food Nation combined. But it then proceeds to go nowhere particularly interesting fast, relying on odd motifs -- everyone seems to drink red Kool-Aid and listen to really sloooooooow hip-hop -- rather than a propulsive narrative. It's alarmist verite a la Thirteen and Kids: Kids, don't do sex, drugs and/or guns.

Jeffrey Blitz has a somewhat different view of adolescents in his smart, charming fiction debut Rocket Science (he directed the documentary hit Spellbound). Reece Daniel Thompson plays Hal, a withdrawn, stutter-afflicted high-school student who is improbably recruited by the school's debate-team star (Anna Kendrick, channeling Election's Tracey Flick). The details may occasionally threaten to throw the Quirk-o-Meter into the red -- parents doing a cello/piano duet of Violent Femmes tunes as sexual therapy -- but it's so consistently funny, and has so much fun subverting expectations, that it ain't worth it to quibble. (Scott Renshaw)


  1. Is there much viewing of high-school debate in ROCKET SCIENCE? Will this movie surpass LISTEN TO ME in the pantheon of that vast vast universe of high-school-debate geeks turned film geeks? And thanks for the comparison to Tracy Flick ... she WAS high-school debate personified (even if she ... technically ... wasn't in ELECTION).

    More seriously, thanks in advance for everything in the next couple of weeks, Scott ... you and the other brave Sundancers who set the table for the rest of us for the rest of the year.

  2. Victor, I believe the first words we hear in Rocket Science are "Inherency. Solvency. Topicality." We hear actual spreading, complete with sharp intakes of breath between cards. We hear talk about cards. We see someone do my favorite move in 1NC, i.e. grant all harms and introduce a counterplan, thereby putting the affirmative on the defensive for the rest of the debate. We see inserts of flow charts. It's too goofy a movie to take policy debate seriously, but it comes close to the real thing than does any other movie I've seen.

  3. Oh ... bestill my beating heart ...


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