SUNDANCE PURSUES DIVERSITY - Home
SUNDANCE PURSUES DIVERSITY
Robert Redford holds court at the Sundance Film Festival.
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE: Hollywood is struggling with diversity as evidenced by the many female movie directors and filmmakers of color who are calling out the recent Oscar nominations as being too white and too male. But this is nothing new. The Sundance Film Festival article below is 28 years old but co-founder and benefactor Robert Redford was noting even then that the event was intended as an antidote to Hollywood’s lack of diversity, and that mandate remains. The 2020 Sundance Fest gets underway this weekend. This Deseret News story was published on Jan. 20, 1992.
PARK CITY – Robert Redford said Sunday that when his Sundance Institute took over the financially troubled U.S. Film Festival seven years ago, “the hope was to keep alive the most important feature of independent film – diversity.”
Now called the Sundance Film Festival, this annual showcase for independent filmmaking has certainly achieved that. Set against the backdrop of Park City’s snow-covered mountains each year, when as many skiers as moviegoers are in town, the festival is thriving — and the movies are as diverse as movies get.
During a press conference in the Yarrow Hotel, flanked by festival staff members, Redford answered questions from a room full of reporters about the festival’s history, it’s current status and where it may be headed..
Redford said films this year range “from avant-garde to extremely accessible,” citing three as examples of “pushing the boundaries of film” — “The Cabinet of Dr. Ramirez,” a “silent” movie by stage director Peter Sellars; “Fool’s Fire,” a unique adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe story by puppetmeister Julie Taymor; and British artist/filmmaker Derek Jarman’s “Edward II.”
He’s also pleased with the new Piper-Heidsieck Tribute honoring actor John Turturro on Thursday. “Actors have long been an unsung part of the process,” Redford said. “We’re giving credit to actors in a world that gives credit only to directors and writers.”
The festival has been financially successful for two years in a row, Redford said. “We’d like to think we have a pretty exciting festival this year.”
Yet, seven years ago, when he was first approached about getting involved he was reluctant. There were too many film festivals, Redford explained, and something had to set this one apart. “I was only interested in a festival that would produce action on the back end,” a showcase to help launch independent films into the marketplace. “It was born out of an idea to create a workplace for filmmakers of independent vision.”
Redford said last year that he intended to lower his profile a bit with respect to the festival, to encourage the operation to run on its own steam. And apparently that has happened. He’s been working on several film projects – directing “The River Runs Through It,” which opens in the fall; executive producing “The Dark Wind,” scheduled to open next month; narrating and executive producing “Incident at Oglala,” which is in the festival and in search of a distributor; and acting with Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd and River Phoenix in “Sneakers,” currently shooting in Los Angeles.”
“I’m working this year, so I’ve been gone, and it’s doing great. (But) I’ll always be here as a part of the festival. It’s close to my heart.”
As to the future, Redford addressed the problem of growth, though he admitted there’s no real solution yet. Especially toward the end of the festival’s 10 days, moviegoers mob Park City but often can’t get into movies.
“Yes, we’re going to buy Park City,” he joked. The festival has approached Park City about the issue of upgrading theaters and expanding, though Redford disdains minitheater complexes. At one point, the festival threatened to pull out and go elsewhere. “This has been a problem coming for the past three years. And after every festival that’s the first issue addressed.
“Maybe next year’s festival will answer your question.”
CALL OF THE BOX OFFICE
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020
A major studio release adapting a popular novel for the umpteenth time leads this week’s new movies, which includes a couple of horror films and an offbeat romantic comedy.
“The Call of the Wild” (PG). In this adaptation of Jack London’s 1903 novel, Harrison Ford takes on the role of John Thornton, an anti-social loner in the Yukon during the 1890s gold rush who takes up with a dog that’s been mistreated. The pooch is primarily a CGI scan of a dog owned by Chris Sanders, the film’s director (making his live-action debut after helming “Lilo & Stitch” and “How to Train Your Dragon”). With Dan Stevens, Omar Sy, Karen Gillan and Bradley Whitford.
“Brahms: The Boy II” (PG-13). A young family moves into the Heelshire Mansion in a remote English village, unaware of the house’s horror history. But when the young son of the family finds an eerie doll it becomes apparent that it’s possessed by something evil. This one’s a sequel to the 2016 film “The Boy.” Katie Holmes stars as the boy’s mother.
“The Lodge” (R). In this horror yarn, an independent effort that made a splash at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, a young woman who is soon to be married finds herself snowed in at a remote holiday village with her new stepchildren-to-be and her past begins to catch up with her. With Riley Keough and Alicia Silverstone.
“Olympic Dreams” (PG-13). Long-distance runner Alexi Pappas (who represented Greece in the 10,000 meters at the 2016 Olympics) stars in this romantic comedy as a cross-country skier who bonds with a volunteer dentist (Nick Kroll). Filmed on location at the Olympic Village of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)
“The Assistant” (Not Rated). A young woman (Julia Garner) lands her dream job as an assistant at a major New York movie studio but soon learns that her boss is a manipulative, bullying womanizer (apparently patterned after Harvey Weinstein). With Matthew Macfadyen. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)
“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (R, in French with English subtitles). In 1760 a young artist is commissioned to paint a wedding portrait, but the subject is reluctant, so the artist surreptitiously observes her during the day and secretly paints the portrait at night, until they begin a lesbian affair. (Exclusively at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.)
“Las Pildoras de Mi Novio (My Boyfriend’s Meds)/” (R, in Spanish with English subtitles). When a mattress salesman (Jaime Camil) strikes up a romance with an upscale tequila rep (Sandra Echeverria) she invites him to her work retreat on a remote island resort in this broad Mexican comedy. But he hasn’t told her about his variety of medical issues that cause him to demonstrate bizarre symptoms and he forgets to bring his meds.
“Emerald Run” (PG-13). An unemployed family man accepts a job from his mobster father-in-law to smuggle emeralds across the Southern Border but, of course, it goes haywire. Soon he and his devout Catholic guide are in the company of a crazed preacher, or possibly a hallucination. The biggest name in this low-budget faith/crime picture is John Schneider, best known for the 1980s TV show "Dukes of Hazzard."
A SUNDAY IN THE COUNTRY
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE: One of my favorite French filmmakers is Bertrand Tavernier and one of his loveliest films, ‘A Sunday in the Country,’ has just earned a Blu-ray upgrade from Kino Lorber. My review was published on April 26, 1985.
The French director whose previous films “Death Watch,” “Coup de Torchon” and “A Week’s Vacation” are marvelous exercises in thought-provoking entertainment, made with restraint and taste yet filled with passion, has come up with another celebration of life in “A Sunday in the Country.”
As the title suggests, the film takes place during one Sunday at a country estate.
The central figure is an elderly artist, a painter, and the film opens as he rises from his bed early one Sunday morning, anticipating the arrival of his son’s family, including three grandchildren.
As the day progresses, a narrator fills us in on some of his thoughts and background, and from time to time the serene figure of his late wife appears, a presence that is ever with him.
The painter’s son is a rather stiff and stodgy sort, his wife likewise very prim and proper, while their children are quite different. Their two boys are hellions, constantly into mischief, and their younger daughter is a sensitive, artistic youngster, more interested in nature and drawing.
Louis Ducreux, Sabine Azema, 'A Sunday in the Country' (1985)
Later in the day, the painter’s daughter unexpectedly arrives, as well. She explains that a luncheon appointment in the city was cancelled so she thought she’d make one of her rare visits.
A gorgeous woman, dressed to the nines, and driving one of those new-fangled automobiles, she is obviously quite successful in her business and exhibits a real zest for life. It becomes apparent after a time, however, that her zeal is designed to hide an inner unhappiness that is never fully explained.
But this movie is not about details in the lives of the people it presents. It is about relationships — with the people who make up our families and with life itself.
“A Sunday in the Country” is a light little dramatic comedy, if you will, a slice of life that includes bits and pieces of character and lifestyles that will be recognizable in one form or another to just about everyone. And there is quite a bit of humor in the mini-dramas that are presented in these rather ordinary lives.
Loaded with various vignettes, but never losing sight of its narrative thrust, the film is about generalities rather than specifics in these familiar characters.
The performances are all excellent, including the children, but Sabine Azema stands out, partially because hers is the most vibrant character. But also because Azema herself is so strikingly beautiful and full of life. Her performance is wonderful, and she tells us a lot about the character by nuance, and shading.
The film also offers some wonderful visual images that compare youth with old age, and may prove to be rather encouraging for those of us who are aging reluctantly.
“A Sunday in the Country” is Tavernier doing what he does best, distinctively examining people and relationships.
I don’t want to make this picture seem like more than it is, because of its simplicity and slender framework it is not meant to come on with power. But it is most effective in achieving its humble goals.
It is in French with English subtitles and is rated G.
Hi. I'm Chris Hicks.
But if you're looking for Chris Hicks the Australian rugby player or the American recording-industry executive or the Major League Baseball player or the author of "Think" or the singer-songwriter or the former basketball player, you're in the wrong place.
I'm Chris Hicks the movie guy from Salt Lake City. If that's who you're looking for, welcome to my website as I enter the 21st century … a little late (May 2013).
This site is all about movies, well mostly, and it's also about me, I guess, but I'll try to keep my ego in check.
My goal, my hope, is that you will be able to browse the pages here and be alerted to or reminded of some great movie you've never heard of or forgotten about. In other words, something that might enhance your movie-watching experience, whether it's by Alfred Hitchcock or Joss Whedon, or stars Audrey Hepburn or Jennifer Lawrence or someone you never heard of. And I've also tried to make it fun.
The bulk of stories and reviews here are gleaned (with permission) from my 40 years of writing about film for the Deseret News, a daily newspaper in Salt Lake City, with side trips here and there to other entertainment forms.
I'm no longer writing for the D-News so this is mostly archival stuff, primarily from the Deseret News but also from my 13 years with KSL Television and Radio, as well as other sundry freelance things I occasionaly come across in my deteriorating hard-copy files.
Hope you enjoy my little site. If you do, tell your friends. If you don't, just say you couldn't find it.
THE COLOR PURPLE
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’ve never seen Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Color Purple’ in a movie theater … or if you’ve never seen ‘The Color Purple’ … now’s your chance, as Fathom Events brings it to local Cinemark and Megaplex theaters for one day only, Sunday, Feb. 23, at 1 and 5 p.m. My review was published in the Deseret News on Dec. 20, 1985.
Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Color Purple” hardly seems like the kind of story that Steven Spielberg, of all moviemakers, could faithfully turn into a film.
But never underestimate the talent of a popular filmmaker. There was a time when Hitchcock suffered from being too popular with the public, as many critics felt movies that appealed to the masses could not possibly be artistic. And I suspect there will be those who also tear down Spielberg’s “Purple,” complaining that it is too slick and looks very Spielbergian, if you will, and therefore cannot be taken seriously.
And after watching the film, I must admit that his stamp is obvious, that there are somewhat self-conscious artful strains in certain scenes, and there may indeed be a surrealistic edge to it all, especially the end. But none of that bothered me.
Whatever else he is, Spielberg is a master storyteller, and if he’s made “The Color Purple” more accessible to a wide audience by making it his own, well, what’s wrong with that?
The raw material here is powerful to begin with, but add to that superb performances from an incredible ensemble cast, gorgeous photography, a fabulous score by co-producer Quincy Jones and Spielberg’s own storytelling expertise, and you have the makings of a great film.
Whether Spielberg has actually achieved that greatness may be debatable — but if he’s missed, it isn’t by much.
Steven Spielberg gives direction to Whoopi Goldberg on the set of 'The Color Purple' (1985).
Alice Walker’s story, set shortly after the turn of the century, has to do with two sisters: Celie goes from an incestuous relationship with her father (during which she bore two children that he sold) to an abusive, repressive marriage — at age 14 — and Nettie goes to Africa with a missionary family, writing letters of encouragement to her sister, only to have them hidden for years by Celie’s husband.
Though the book offers a fairly equal split, telling the stories in full of both sisters, Spielberg has chosen to focus on Celie, a rather brave choice since that means he must take on the story that offers the most cinematic pitfalls, that of a young girl who becomes a miserable, repressed woman and eventually blossoms into an independent, free-spirited individual.
Had this film been made by another filmmaker, perhaps any other filmmaker, it could easily have been an R-rated foray into all kinds of graphic exploitation. But Spielberg is more discreet than that. And true to his word to the ratings board some years ago when “Poltergeist” was under dispute, at which time he said, “Steven Spielberg doesn’t make R-rated movies,” Spielberg has given us all the information we need to know about the tragedy in Celie’s life — that her father takes advantage of her, that her husband’s sexual advances are extremely brutal, that he beats her, that she eventually has a lesbian encounter that proves to be the first time she realizes love can be tender instead of violent. Yet Spielberg shows none of this explicitly on the screen.
It is perhaps a choice that will be complained about by critics who feel it is too old-fashioned an approach. But I suspect movie audiences will appreciate this over the usual — and easier — more literal approach so many other directors take.
There may also be complaints that the story is female chauvinistic, putting all the men in the film in an extremely unfavorable light. But with all the anti-women cinematic tracts these days, it’s probably about time.
The performances here are incredible. In her film debut, Whoopi Goldberg proves herself an enormous talent, and her Celie is one of the most endearing screen heroines to come along in some time. Oprah Winfrey, a Chicago talk-show host in real life, is also a real scene-stealer as Sofia, a woman who knows how to enjoy life but whose spirit is eventually broken in a racial encounter. And Danny Glover, who has already shown what he can do in a variety of roles — the itinerant sharecropper in “Places in the Heart,” the killer cop in “Witness” and the outraged cowboy in “Silverado” — is excellent as Mister, Celie’s husband.
An interesting sidelight here is how all the characters age so believably. There have been recent films (“Back to the Future,” “Once Upon a Time in America”) where makeup and manner have kept young people from projecting age believably but here everyone is utterly convincing.
Despite the makings of fully tragic soap opera stuff, “The Color Purple” ends on an upbeat note, and as with Celie, we are given a feeling of hope about the future. There’s a lot of tearful material here but overall this is a story of courage and stamina, and the need for self-respect.
And as far as this critic is concerned, Spielberg has made a very special film that deserves a wide audience. And thanks to his name, it just may get it.
“The Color Purple” is rated PG-13 for violence, sex, nudity, profanity.
EDITOR’S ENDNOTE: In the review above I made an observation about Spielberg vowing to never make an R-rated movie; he would, of course, break that vow in 1993 with ‘Schindler’s List.’ And on a trivia note, the film received 11 Academy Award nominations but, surprisingly, Spielberg as director was not among them, and the film won no Oscars, which gave it the dubious distinction of tying 1977’s ‘The Turning Point’ as the most nominated films to win zero awards.)
WHO’S HARRY CRUMB?
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE: John Candy was a talented and charming comic actor who achieved movie stardom in the 1980s and died in 1994 of a heart attack at age 43. He starred in some very good films (‘Planes, Trains & Automobiles,’ ‘Cool Runnings,’ ‘Only the Lonely’) but he was also in an awful lot of flops, like this one (something that seemed to plague most late 20th Century movie comics). Still, the folks at Mill Creek Entertainment seem to think there are enough fans-in-waiting to make ‘Who’s Harry Crumb?’ worthy of a Blu-ray upgrade (as part of Mill Creek's repackaging in retro faux-VHS sleeves). My review was published in the Deseret News on Feb. 5, 1989.
In my review of “Her Alibi,” I compared Tom Selleck’s character to Inspector Clouseau of “The Pink Panther” films. But I had not yet seen “Who’s Harry Crumb?”
So please forgive the analogy again so soon but if ever there was a movie character trying to rip-off Clouseau, it’s Crumb.
John Candy, the comedy star who can’t find a good movie (with the notable exception of “Planes, Trains & Automobiles”) is the star of “Who’s Harry Crumb?” and the film ends with a setup that is an obvious plea for a film series, a la the “Panther” films, or perhaps “Fletch,” another movie detective who relishes offbeat disguises.
John Candy, 'Who's Harry Crumb?' (1989)
The question is, can “Harry Crumb” possibly be successful enough to warrant sequels? Well, the “Police Academy” films manage a yearly outing; anything can happen.
But “Harry Crumb” is consistent with Candy’s tendency to appear in one clunker after another.
Aside from outrageous disguises, how blatant a rip-off is this attempt to create a modern American Clouseau? Well, Crumb is pompous; he thinks he knows karate better than he actually does; he fancies himself a womanizer, though nothing could be further from the truth; and he stumbles, trips and causes accidents — and attempts at physical comedy — everywhere he goes.
The plot doesn’t really matter but for the record it has Crumb looking for a kidnapped young woman who has actually been taken by Crumb’s own boss (Jeffrey Jones). Meanwhile, the wicked stepmother is trying to kill the kidnap victim’s father.
But those are merely hooks on which the filmmakers hang a series of elaborate sight gags, some of which are quite inventive, such as the opener when Crumb is spying on an adulterous couple, he thinks, and the scene where he finds himself on a huge overhead fan in a restaurant and later when … well, you get the idea.
John Candy, left, Shawnee Smith, Barry Corbin, 'Who's Harry Crumb?' (1989)
Unfortunately, however, many more are just cheap jokes that fall flat, some actually becoming embarrassing.
The one thing this picture proves is that Candy, however talented a comic he may be, is no Peter Sellers.
Several questions occurred to me while watching “Harry Crumb.” First, why does Candy comment afterward on so many sight gags? They would work better if he had enough confidence to let them stand alone. And why does a movie that so obviously gears its juvenile humor toward youth audiences include so many vulgar jokes? (I don’t want my kids exposed to some of the gags this film includes.) And how is it that Jim Belushi is persuaded to do a cameo in this picture when he’s given absolutely nothing to do?
Oh, yes. And one more question: How many more chances does John Candy get before audiences start staying away just because he’s in a picture?
“Who’s Harry Crumb?” is rated PG-13, for a single utterance of “the Eddie Murphy Word,” along with other profanities, comic violence and some rather vulgar sexual gags.