We’re gonna go ahead and assume that you won’t be heading to Park City, Utah next week to attend the infamous annual Sundance Film Festival. Not because you’re uncultured, simply because it’s a week and a half long, it’s sort of in the middle of nowhere, and the majority of you are not in the film industry. Fortunate for you, we sort of have the inside scoop.
Every year, from biopics to documentaries to films created by musicians, there is a thriving musical presence at Sundance Film Festival. Last year was dominated by Animal Collective and a pretty lackluster biopic about the teenage life of John Lennon. This year’s schedule is all over the map. From a video-game themed short by an up and coming hip-hop crew, to a full-fledged tribute to the singer-songwriters of the early 1970’s, there is much to be seen (and heard) at this year’s festival.
On top of the musically-compliant films debuting at this year’s installment, there will also be the annual ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) Music Café, which plays host to a number of musical guests as the week progresses. Among the highlights slated to play this year are Josh Ritter, Machester Orchestra, K’naan, The Low Anthem, Guster, and St. Vincent.
Staff Writer Winston Robbins is based in Salt Lake City, and will be attending portions of the festival that you’ll be most interested in (that is to say, the musically-inclined portions). Furthermore, we’ve put together a play by play list of what’s going to be big (musically) at this year’s festival. What was last year’s ODDSAC, this year might very well belong to a Beastie Boys spoof/re-imagination.
Whatever the case, rest assured CoS will be there. The festival kicked off yesterday – Thursday, the 20th, that is – and runs through the 29th of this month. Tickets are available here.
Feature photo courtesy of NYCDA Blog.
Fight For Your Right Revisited
First up, Beastie Boys. Certainly among the more interesting concepts at the festival, Adam Yauch (MCA) is listed as the director for a 30 minute short film entitled Fight For Your Right Revisited. The film is supposedly an accompaniment to the forthcoming Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2 track “Make Some Noise”, and the only concrete plot detail about the film is found on Sundance’s official page for the film which reads: “After the boys leave the party…”
Assuming they’re leaving the party from the iconic “Fight For Your Right (To Party)” music video, things are bound going to get wild. Multiply this ambiguous plot summary by an overwhelming roster of bona fide A-listers, and you’ve got yourself something worth seeing. And apparently, three actors aren’t enough to play Beastie Boys. There will be two separate groups portraying the B Boys, first with Elijah Wood as Ad-Rock, Danny McBride as MCA, and Seth Rogen as Mike D, second with Will Ferrell as Ad-Rock, John C. Reilly as MCA, and Jack Black as Mike D. Which acting crew will capture their youthful angst better? We’ll see at next year’s Academy Awards, I’m sure.
Among the other actors appearing in the film(via IMDB): Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Rashida Jones, Will Arnett, Adam Scott, Ted Danson, Rainn Wilson, Steve Buscemi, Amy Poehler, Alicia Silverstone, Laura Dern, Jason Schwartzman, Kirsten Dunst, Maya Rudolph, David Cross, Orlando Bloom, and Martin Star. Also, expect to see The Beastie Boys themselves playing the roles of cop #1, cop #2, and cop #3. Color me impressed.
Adapted from the 2008 novel and directed by Richard Ayoade (The Mighty Boosh, Community), Submarine tells the coming of age tale of a semi-delusional 15 year old Welsh boy, who believes himself to be a literary genius, when in fact, he is a socially awkward outcast. Based on misinformation leading him to believe his mother is having an affair and his father is clinically depressed, he begins a misguided (albeit well-meaning) journey to get his family back together, whilst simultaneously attempting to lose his virginity before he turns sixteen. Submarine is one of the heavy hitters this year at Sundance, and is expected to fare well with fans and critics alike.
Why does any of that last paragraph matter to you? Two (or possibly four) words: Arctic Monkeys (or The Last Shadow Puppets, depending). Frontman Alex Turner has composed five original songs to appear alongside the score composed by Andrew Hewitt. What’s more, the five tracks have been mixed by Simian Mobile Disco’s James Ford. Ooh-Rah!
Das Racist’s “Who’s That? Brooown!”
One of rap’s hippest, least understood outfits has decided to try their hand at film, and at what better time and place than at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Das Racist has contributed a five minute short to Sundance that is described as “An epic quest through the streets of New York City in the style of video games from the 1980s.” Intriguing, no? Especially coming from this motley crew.
The comical yet talented trio has confused as many as they’ve entertained with their eclectic hip-hop, and surely this will be the case with their film debut.
Beats, Rhymes, and Life
Arguably one of the most hyped documentaries at this year’s festival, Beats, Rhymes, and Life, tells the story of hip-hop legends A Tribe Called Quest. Rather than sum it up in my own ill-equipped words, I’ll let you hear the synopsis straight from the horse’s mouth:
“Having forged a 20-year run as one of the most innovative and influential hip-hop bands of all time, A Tribe Called Quest has kept a generation hungry for more of its groundbreaking music since the groups much-publicized breakup in 1998. The band shaped a unique sound by wedding jazz-infused musicscapes to Afrocentric rhymes espousing unity and community. Its music became the anthem for cool and broke down barriers for people who had never before connected with hip-hop. In spite of unparalleled artistic success, however, the group encountered pitfalls that eventually caused its tumultuous breakup.
Beats, Rhymes & Life, the feature directorial debut of acclaimed actor Michael Rapaport, documents the inner workings and behind-the-scenes drama that follow the band even today and explores what’s next for a group many claim are the pioneers of alternative rap. Rapaports passion for his subjects allows them to open up to the camera, resulting in a remarkably honest, emotional portrait that does justice to this seminal band.”
To make things more interesting, this is the one that Q-Tip doesn’t think is ready to be seen by the public. Yet, it’s listed to screen, and it’s enormously anticipated within the U.S. Documentary Competition genre.
While not as controversially released (you don’t see James Taylor losing his cool on his Twitter) or as highly anticipated as Beats, Rhymes, and Life, this documentary is equally worthwhile for its rich musical history. Troubadors tells the story of the evolution of the singer-songwriter movement in L.A. in the early ’70s.
Focusing mainly on the careers of James Taylor, Carole King, and the place where it all happened, Doug Weston’s Hollywood club The Troubador, the film chronicles the transition from the often politically-charged lyricism of the late ’60s to the introspective, personal lyrics of the artists of this time. While the film is framed by the aforementioned artists, there is an emphasis on the scene as a whole, and includes information/performances on and by Kris Kristofferson, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, David Crosby, and more.
Troubadors is generating a fair amount of buzz around the festival, and rightly so. It’s a celebration of an era of music that deserves celebrating.
A very hyped debut at this year’s festival will be Thomas McCarthy (the man who wrote both Up and The Visitor)’s first return to directing since 2007’s Win Win. Starring Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, and Jeffrey Tambor, Win Win is the story of disheartened attorney Mike Flaherty (Giamatti), who moonlights as a high school wrestling coach, stumbles across a star athlete through some questionable business dealings while trying to support his family. Just as it looks like he will get a double payday, the boys mother shows up fresh from rehab and flat broke, threatening to derail everything.
Intriguing as just a film, right? It certainly has all the makings of a Sundance winner, but once again we’re faced with the question, “But how is this musically relevant?” Easy. The omni-present tour-de-force that is The National has written what is to be used as the theme song for Win Win. And the annunciation is basically all the news there is about this alleged song. There has been no leak, no NPR stream, not even a vague 10-second sample. But with the film set to screen for the first time this Friday, the 21st of January, we expect this to change. Can’t screen a film without its theme song, right? We certainly hope not, anyway.