Now that she's had a chance to see (almost) all the 2012 releases she wanted to see, Kelly Stitzel is ready to rank her favorite films of the year. And she doesn't care that it's the end of January 2013.
By now you’ve probably heard the story of Sixto Rodgriguez. He recorded two fine albums for Sussex Records in 1969 and 1970, but neither one made any impact on the charts. Rodgriguez backed away from the music scene and went to work doing construction in Detroit. During this time he was politically active and made an unsuccessful run for the Detroit city council. His name was misspelled on the ballot.
In the meantime, no one knows exactly how, Rodriguez’ music became immensely popular in South Africa. He was completely unaware of this however, and as far as the South Africans knew, he was dead. Finally, in the late ’90s two intrepid South Africans, Stephen “Sugar” Segerman and Craig Bartholomew Strydom, decided to try to find out how he died, only to learn that Rodriguez was very much alive.
Rodriguez was invited to perform in South Africa and played sold-out venues before adoring fans. Some years later first-time filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul decided to tell the Rodriguez story and the result is the acclaimed documentary Searching For Sugar Man, which will be released on DVD on January 22. This week the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
Well, here we are again — another Sundance Film Festival that I was unable to attend has come and gone. After last year’s festival, I had high hopes that I might be able to attend in 2012, but life got in the way (doesn’t it always?), so I was left to sit on my couch, voraciously following coverage of the festival I so desperately want to some day attend. Last year, to fight that terrible annual disease I call Sundance Envy, I put together a list of films screening at the festival that I was looking forward to seeing. I managed to see about half of them, with a few still in my Netflix queue, waiting to be viewed. And of those that I saw, some managed to be among my favorite films of last year (Take Shelter, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Another Earth, Win Win).
Sundance Envy has returned in full force this year, so I figured I’d do something useful with my obsessive following of Sundance coverage and put together a list of films that screened at this year’s festival that I am looking forward to seeing. I wonder how many of these films will wind up being my favorites at the end of the year? Sadly, no films screened at this year’s festival starring my two favorite humans, Michael Shannon and Tilda Swinton.
Films I’m Anticipating the Most:
Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present — Marina Abramović is one of my favorite artists and I was terribly disappointed that I had just missed seeing her restrospective at MOMA in 2010 (it closed on May 31st and I arrived in the city for vacation in mid-June). So I was thrilled when I first learned about this HBO documentary, directed by Matthew Akers, which takes a journey deep inside Abramović’s world. The film provides insight into her background and process, as well as extensively covering the MOMA retrospective, including giving the viewer the opportunity to experience what it would’ve been like to sit across from Abramović during one of the most remarkable performance pieces of her career. Since this film is an HBO documentary, it will air on the cable giant some time this year and I cannot wait to see it. (Note: the trailer below is a little NSFW.)
The Surrogate — Word on the street is that this could be the role that finally gets John Hawkes a Best Actor nomination. He definitely deserves more attention, as his performances in both Winter’s Bone and Martha Marcy May Marlene were incredible though, unfortunately, overshadowed by the performances of the newcomer actresses he co-starred with. But, from what I’ve been reading, his turn as a writer debilitated by polio who turns to a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) to help him lose his virginity is brilliant (he got a standing ovation at the film’s Sundance premiere) and should thrust him directly into the limelight, where he belongs. The Surrogate, which was acquired by Fox Searchlight for $6 million, will be one to keep an eye on — in addition to the audience and critical acclaim it has received thus far, it won the Audience Award, U.S. Dramatic and U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting at the festival’s awards ceremony.