Hello fellow Trojans and Sundancers! Blake Bauman here, junior Cinema and Media Studies major at SC. This is my first time in Park City, so there is much to discuss. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Quick first impression: this place feels very much like the environment at SCA, so therefore, it feels like home. There was not a single moment where I passed a group of people on the street and film was not being discussed. These people live and breathe cinema, which not only allowed me to engage in some great conversations today, but also made the viewing experience for my first screening so incredibly enjoyable.
Movie #1: Swiss Army Man
Directed by: Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert
Ok, first off, my expectations for this film have kind of been all over the place. It started off as the film I was most excited to see at the festival because of the sheer absurdness of the plot, and the fact that it would be primarily driven by a single actor, Paul Dano, given the lack of a supporting cast, except for Daniel Radcliffe’s lifeless corpse. Then, tragedy struck: the first week of reviews began rolling out and the media’s primary headline was how Swiss Army Man is just “one big fart joke,” leading to many walkouts during early screenings of the film. This gave the film some bad buzz, so I was worried going in, but still hopeful. I can honestly say now that, yes, the film, at first glance, is a big fart joke, but at its core, is truly something very special and genuine. Swiss Army Man is a heartfelt, emotional journey that is so perfectly balanced with laughs that would make most comedies jealous.
The structure basically involves a lonely man, Hank (Paul Dano), who is stranded on an island, literally seconds from killing himself, when he discovers a washed up corpse, (Daniel Radcliffe) that cannot stop farting, on the beach. Hank begins to realize that this dead body is much more useful than he originally thought, so he drags the corpse along with him during his journey back to civilization.
Paul Dano is just fantastic in this film. Hank is a lonely, miserable complex human being, and if it wasn’t for Dano’s full dedication to this role, I would not have felt so connected to the character. There are some deep moments in this film, and require an actor that can be taken seriously throughout, despite the sometimes immature, but always hilarious, humor used here. This may be my favorite performance of his, and that is saying something considering his brilliant portrayal of Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy last year. And without going into spoilers, Daniel Radcliffe is even funnier than Dano. What he does with this role, that at first seems like just a prop, is unique, adds to the absurdness of the film, and is genuine as he lifelessly journeys with Hank.
This film tackles some very relevant themes. In the Q&A afterwards, co-director Daniel Kwan discussed how he wanted audiences to feel inspired by this story of smashing pre-conceived notions and making the world your own. He wanted viewers to be comfortable in their own skin and take chances before you regret not taking them. This is a bold film that is not afraid to take chances. I extremely recommend it.
The Treachery of Sanctuary
This exhibit was inspired by the old cave drawings based on the origins of man. Above is the artist’s exact description of what he wants guests to experience. We walked into a dark room with 3 large panels, with each section showing our silhouettes getting picked apart by birds and then reborn as a large winged bird creature. Very strange, but cool concept to experience.
Virtual Reality Projects
I spent the majority of the rest of the night checking out some VR outlets available at the VR Bar, which is basically self-explanatory: a small venue where drinks are served and VR can be tested. Fox Innovation Labs hosted the event so the main VR attraction was based on Ridley Scott’s The Martian. Guests got to relive Mark Watney’s journey from the surface of Mars back to his team waiting for him while orbiting the planet. There were still some glitches, but overall, I was impressed with how interactive the experiment allowed you to be with the environment. You could grab floating scrap metal, or reach out for the hands of Watney’s fellow astronaut. This was very cool to experience.
The next project was called Sequenced, which was an interactive, animated story about a futuristic recon named Sam who discovers a young girl, Raven, amongst a deserted city who is destined to become the Guardian of the Earth. The characters were flat, 2D animations but their environments were composed with 3D rotoscoping. Interesting story, but I only got a portion of the story so I’m looking forward to watching the rest.
The final project that I tried out was called The Unknown Photographer, which was my favorite of the night. It was basically a narrated journey through the works of an unknown World War I photo journalist, but the worlds in which these photos were shown resembled the description of the narration. Photos flew by to resemble a train when the narrator describes his hectic thoughts, and in another moment, I was transported to a cemetery with roaming giants lurking above me when he described the terror of the dead at the hands of the enemy. Very dark subject matter, but this was such a unique way to tell a story. I love that.
Alright, well, that was Day 1. Day 2 consists of my screenings of Operation Avalanche, Sleight, Outlaws and Angels, and American Epic. Thanks for reading!