Sundance 2012 Daily Blog: Day 2

Murder trials, Britpop stars and indie lovin’

Films galore!

Day two of Sundance 2012, and we’re up at the buttcrack of dawn to watch Peter Jackson-powered documentary West Of Memphis.

Having trudged to our bus stop in the pitch black and hitched a ride to the wrong part of town (our fault, though the bus driver was very apologetic), we finally settled into a packed cinema for the hard-hitting doc.

A pseudo follow-up to 1996 doc Paradise Lost, Memphis sets out the case of the Memphis Three, a trio of teenagers jailed in the ‘90s for the murder of three eight-year-old boys.

Packing in A-list appearances (among them producer Peter Jackson and Eddie Vedder), director Amy Berg’s film is upsetting and gripping, bringing us bang up to date on the case while unravelling the central miscarriage of justice in fascinating forensic detail. 

At 150 minutes, the running time is scarily close to Jackson’s LOTR films, but something tells us this’ll be the one to beat in the documentary category at the closing night awards.

Next up was California Solo, a meandering but moving portrait of a washed-up Britpop star (Robert Carlyle) who, facing deportation from his new home in the US, is forced to confront his hidden demons.

An unexpected gem, it features a stunning central performance from Carlyle – perhaps his best since Trainspotting’s Begbie – and don’t be surprised if this turns up during the 2013 awards season (think Crazy Heart with a Scottish Madchester veteran).



With the snow still falling, we huddled into our next screening – Russian drama Elena, which focussed on the titular character (Nadezhda Markina, think a doughier Frances McDormand) and her family troubles.

It’s impeccably shot, with Philip Glass adding a typically surging score that means while Elena is often ponderous and slow-moving, it’s a beauty to behold.

We barely had a chance for a wee break and a packet of crisps before it was back into the cinema for indie love story Hello I Must Be Going. Laugh-out-loud funny, Melanie Lynskey’s on fine form as a recent divorcee struggling to get her life back on track.

Featuring some hysterical zingers from Blythe Danner, Hello I Must Be Going manages to balance genuine tenderness with massive guffaws (not to mention some of the steamiest automobile action since Titanic). Flawed, but easily one of our favourites so far.

Capping things off, we (somehow) squeezed into doc Queen Of Versailles. An extremely funny yet cautionary tale of the dangers of excess, the film follows the fortunes of billionaire couple Jackie and David Siegel.

Halfway through construction on a $100 milion, 90,000 sq ft family home inspired by the court of Louis XIV, the couple are suddenly hit hard by the economic crisis. It’s hardly a riches-to-rags tale, but the pair make for fascinating and likeable subjects who aren’t afraid to show off their flaws.

While we were standing in the queue, news started flowing that the film has already been picked up for distribution in the US, so expect to see it doing the rounds soon.

Now we’re off to catch Emily Blunt in My Sister’s Sister, before joining her for what’s bound to be a happenin’ after party. Wonder if they’ll serve cups of tea…

Films seen so far: 7

Quote of the day: "Shit must taste good, a million flies can't be wrong" - Elena

Momentous mishap: Snow on head incident - chilly.