By Dan Skip Allen
Disney made a name for itself when they bought Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm over the past 20 years. However, before that, they pioneered animation and created classic film after classic animated film. While all this was going on, they continued making inspiring sports films. Miracle is on another level though — It's the true story of the historic miracle on ice from Feb 22nd, 1980 at the Winter Olympics. This is arguably one of the best sports stories ever put to film.
Kurt Russell portrays Herb Brooks, three-time coach of the National Champion Minnesota Golden Gophers. He is tasked with defeating the Soviet Union team at the 1980 Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York. Before that, he has to form a team that can compete with the best in the world. "I'm not looking for the best players. I'm looking for the right ones," is the Herb Brooks mantra. Russell really captures the toughness of Brooks in his portrayal. This is one of the best performances of his career.
He chooses a team of collegiate stars, not yet seasoned, most of which are from Minnesota and Boston. They are rivals of each other in college, some still holding grudges against others. They have a long way to go to become great. Each of these players has their own reason for playing on this team and representing their country.
The Soviet Union is considered the best team in the world. A lot of practice, film study and putting aside everything else in life is what Herb Brooks and his team have to do to even come close to competing with the Soviet team. The Soviets are bigger and tougher, so the Americans need to be quicker and faster at every phase of the game. This is not an easy task. Brooks and his team are trying to undertake.
Gavin O'Connor has made a name for himself with films such as Warrior and The Accountant. In early March, he reteams with Ben Affleck for The Way Back, another sports film. He seems to like these underdog type stories. With Miracle, he directed the ultimate underdog story. At the heart of the cold war, facing and beating the Soviet Union was the ultimate slap in the face to Gorbachev. "The name on the front is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back," says Herb Brooks after a lackluster game.
"Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" shouts Al Michaels, the world-renowned broadcast journalist for ABC and NBC. After a blowout defeat three days before the Olympic Games in Madison Square Garden, the American team at first glance seemed like they didn't have a chance. The Soviet Union Team is considered the best team in the world. They have been playing together for years while the American team had only played together for months. This seems like an obvious defeat for the Soviets. The thing is they underestimated the intestinal fortitude of the Americans. What this means for the country is on all of the player's minds. This just isn't about them, it's about the world and their country and has weighed on Herb Brooks as well. I think is everybody believed in miracles and one came true on that cold day in 1980 at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. This film captured that fact perfectly to a tee. It gave everybody watching a chance to believe in miracles once again.
By Sean Boelman
The hustle and bustle in Park City is finally coming to a close as the two concurrent film festivals, Slamdance and Sundance, have wrapped up their 2020 editions. Both festivals were home to plenty of great films, some of which came out of the fest with distribution deals and many of which are still looking for homes to bring them out into the public.
Although there were also some great films to have shown at Slamdance and Sundance that had already debuted elsewhere (Pablo Larraín’s Ema is arguably the single best film to have shown in Park City), those films don’t appear on this list. Instead, this is the top four films that held their premieres at the Slamdance Film Festival or Sundance Film Festival.
4. Summer White
A Mexican coming-of-age tale written and directed by Rodrigo Ruiz Patterson, Summer White is a slow burn, but it is an effective one at that. Drawing the viewer into the world of the protagonist, Patterson is able to create a thoroughly immersive environment that allows the film to be absolutely shocking at times. Although the story is a tad predictable, the themes which Patterson explores are interesting enough to make the film stand out.
3. Acasa, My Home
A verite-style documentary following a Romanian family as they are displaced from their longtime home, Acasa, My Home may not be the most urgent documentary to play at this year’s festivals, but it is certainly one of the most affecting. Thanks to the film’s largely human-oriented approach, the film is packed with emotion. Even though some of the things that happen may not seem like they would be particularly cinematic on paper, they make for a fascinating documentary nevertheless.
Although it was met with mixed reviews by many, Jumbo earns a spot high on this list thanks to its charm and wit. While it is true that the film follows the beats of the genre to the tee, writer-director Zoé Wittock brings a unique visual style to the film that is undeniably impressive. Containing some absolutely gorgeous cinematography, and a performance from Noémie Merlant that is not to be missed, this is the type of quirky indie film that these festivals are meant to discover.
1. Jasper Mall
However surprising it may be, a documentary about a dying mall of all things was one of the best films to play at either festival, and ultimately the best film to make its premiere in Park City. Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb’s fly-on-the-wall Jasper Mall may have a simple set-up, but it uses it in an extremely interesting way to deliver commentary on the American economy. This thought-provoking documentary absolutely demands to be seen, and immediately.
The Slamdance Film Festival ran January 23-30 in Park City, UT and the Sundance Film Festival ran January 24 through February 2 in Park City, UT.
By Sean Boelman
On February 5, the SXSW Film Festival announced the remainder of the programming that will be screening at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival, which runs March 13-21 in Austin, TX. Among the films announced are those that will be screening as "Midnighters", "Festival Favorites", and "Special Events", in addition to other late-addition features and the shorts, title design, and virtual reality cinema competitions.
The "Midnighters" section is home to those films best seen after dark (and with a little bit of liquid fun, if you're lucky enough to be attending a screening at the Alamo Drafthouse), from horror features to bizarre and surreal comedies. This section always contains some of the lineup's most intriguing films, if only because they are usually the weirdest, and this year is no exception. Highlights include the social-media-inspired thriller Dembanger and the Blumhouse thriller Run Sweetheart Run.
In the "Festival Favorites" section, attendees will be able to see great films that have been gaining steady buzz on the festival circuit, including some from this year's Sundance Film Festival, which just ended. Arguably one of the most exciting films in the section is Charm City KIngs, a new coming-of-age tale with story by Moonlight writer-director Barry Jenkins. Festival-goers also won't want to miss deadpan buddy comedy The Climb, which has been nominated for Indie Spirit Awards.
The "Special Events" section features special screenings of films in a unique environment that only a festival like SXSW can provide. Festival-goers will be treated to screenings of films with new restorations or live score performances. Although these don't fall within the realm of traditional film screenings, attendees should definitely check these events out if they get the chance, because they certainly provide a unique experience.
As anyone who has been to SXSW will tell you, the announcement of the program is just the beginning. Now, attendees must get to work scheduling their stay at SXSW. Whether you are staying for the whole festival or only coming for part, it is nearly impossible to squeeze in everything because of the wealth of great films that will be showing. And of course, you have to leave room for some buzz screenings! Still, with plenty to choose from, this year's festival is sure to be a fun and cinema-packed week!
The 2020 SXSW Film Festival runs from March 12-21 in Austin, TX.
The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.