Sunday, January 30, 2000

Best of fest at Sundance


Stars include Quinn, Hawke, Woodard

BY MARGARET A. McGURK
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        PARK CITY, Utah — Here's a sampling of some of the most interesting films on exhibit at Sundance Film Festival 2000.

        Girlfight — This gritty story about a Brooklyn girl who finds love and self-respect in the boxing ring earned raves with its fierce, low-tech, high-intensity attitude. Independent icon John Sayles and his longtime partner Maggie Renzi lent their producing clout to writer-director Karyn Kusama. Michelle Rodriguez makes an eye-catching debut in the lead role.

        Love and Basketball — First-time director Gina Prince-Bythewood scored high marks with another story built around matching male-female athletic prowess, produced by hoops fanatic Spike Lee. Omar Epps stars with Sanaa Lathan.

        You Can Count on Me — Laura Linney and a Brandoesque Mark Ruffalo play orphaned siblings who don't quite speak the same language in writer-director Kenneth Lonergan's unpredictable dramatic comedy. Matthew Broderick contributes a sharp supporting performance.

        American Psycho — Mary Harron, the well-respected director of I Shot Andy Warhol provoked a lot of head-shaking with her sleek but perplexing adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' violent novel. Hyper-buffed Christian Bale is chilling in the title role.

        Dark Days — Marc Singer moved in among homeless people who have built a literal underground community below the sidewalks of New York to make this harrowing documentary. His subjects helped him operate the camera, among other contributions to the production.

        What's Cooking — British director Gurinder Chadha made a lot of new fans with her quirky look at a variety of Thanksgiving dinners. The story offers showcase roles to the women in the cast, including Alfre Woodard, Joan Chen and Lainie Kazan.

        Groove — Young fest-goers laid siege to ticket offices to see Greg Harrison's inside story about the rave scene. The film also boasted the festival's coolest promotional gimmick — a bus that cruised around town stopping randomly to discharge a mob of dancers for sudden street-corner shows.

        But I'm a Cheerleader — This satire of schemes to “cure” homosexuality, from Cleveland-area native Jamie Babbit, proved equally popular with the midnight crowd — and boosted the comedy quotient among female directors.

        Songcatcher — Janet McTeer is listed high atop the credits, but authentic Appalachian music as it was discovered early in the 20th century is the real star of Maggie Greenwald's period piece. Aidan Quinn co-stars; Iris Dement contributes a musical cameo.

        The Tao of Steve — Along with Lisa Krueger's Committed and Valerie Breiman's Love and Sex, this free-spirited adventure from Jenniphr Goodman came from the quirky-comedy subcategory on the slate of films by women.

        Hamlet — Opinions were split — as they always are when Americans tackle Shakespeare. Ethan Hawke as the Danish prince and Bill Murray as Polonius sparked the most arguments. Kyle MacLachlan and Liev Schreiber on the other hand were almost unanimous favorites.

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