If the films that are released by Hollywood and the larger film companies each year are the major leagues, then the films that show up at Sundance are AAA and AA prospects, looking for their slot on the roster and a shot at the majors. And Sundance is spring training.
Of the five-and-a-half films I took in (I sampled Lovesong for a half-hour while killing time between two other movies and was not sorry to walk out early), the three best ones all dealt with issues of family in emotionally complex, compelling and sometimes funny ways.
I saw three films in a row today at the Toronto International Film Festival that have generated heavy buzz in the early festival days of fall - and found that none of them actually has the makings of the awards-season juggernauts they're being touted as. In other words, don't believe the hype.
As Jason Bateman's new film, The Family Fang, shows, Bateman is a filmmaker with an edge and a vision. It was one of the better films I saw during a four-movie day Tuesday at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Peter Sollett's Freeheld was, for me, the find of the day -- an intensely emotional film based on a true story that could easily win Julianne Moore her second Oscar in a row (and, perhaps, earn a nomination for the terrific Michael Shannon).
This year's edition will be remembered for putting both Jay Roach's Trumbo and James Vanderbilt's Truth in contention for the Oscar race. I saw the two films back to back on Sunday -- and they are guaranteed to both grip you and infuriate you
A few years ago, a film historian unearthed what he claimed was the only existing copy of the first version of John Cassavetes' film, Shadows. He ultimately was told to cease and desist because he had no right to the film.
Crying at movies seems to happen more frequently of late. A side effect of aging? Perhaps that's just the way it works. I am not embarrassed by the fact that I have this tendency more often of late. Not that I don't take grief about it from my grown sons.
As I sat at B.B. King's Blues Club and Grill in New York Monday evening watching Nils Lofgren do a stunning 90-minute solo show, I was hurtled 40 years back in time, when writing about rock'n'roll was as much a passion for me as writing about movies.
When I'm in New York, the Tribeca screenings have to get in line with all the other things on my calendar -- and most of those take precedence over spending Saturday or Sunday at a multiplex in Battery Park City watching films I probably wouldn't review even if they were released.
I rarely miss either the Sundance or Toronto film festivals each year -- but my relationship with the Tribeca film fest has been spottier. Partly that's due to scheduling: For a variety of reasons, I've been out of town for large chunks of the festival each of the past couple of years.
I make a point of knowing as little as possible about the films I see at the Sundance Film Festival (or any other film festival -- or just films in general, for that matter) before I see them because I want to see them with a blank slate.
There is plenty to distract you at the Sundance Film Festival, from parties to gifting suites (which journalists are invited to report on but never to actually visit) to other film festivals going on in Park City at the same time.
I hit the ground running, arriving not-quite midway into the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in time to crank out a five-movie day on Sunday. That's less a testament to my stamina than to luck and logistics.
Here's the best thing about attending an event like the Marrakech International Film Festival: It's one of the rare opportunities that a critic has to truly walk into a screening knowing absolutely nothing about a film.
It was a three-movie day at the Marrakech International Film Festival, with all of the films set against stark, harsh vistas in which people scramble and struggle just to stay alive. The best of those was Far From Men, by director David Oelhoffen.