We descended into Park City for our 3rd day of coverage with a thick air of uncertainty hanging heavily over our heads. The 9am screening at Eccles has been the bane of festival critics and early birds for almost as long as they’ve been doing them. Nothing puts you to sleep faster than a two hour melodrama after a four hour nights sleep, and our previous mornings encounter hadn’t left us with much hope or certainty.

ironbarkThankfully, the 9am screening of the new Benedict Cumberbatch film Ironbark did not disappoint. Arguably one of the best spy thrillers to come out of this festival, it left the theater buzzing with all sorts of Oscar buzz and once again, our faith in our beloved festival programmers has been restored.

Later, as the the sun set low and critics began dividing themselves over their love or spite for films like Worth and Shirley, we chose to instead go and bask in the sweet melodic musings of ones Sharon Von Etten and Rufus Wainwright. Though the crowd for the event was rather on the talkative side, those of us fortunate enough to fight forward through the fray of L.A. busybodies were treated to an amazing performance by both artists.

nowhere innThe night was capped off by a two hour bad acid trip on celluloid staring Annie Clark (St. Vincent) and Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney/Portlandia) in The Nowhere Inn. The experience was a disorienting piece of cinematic sadism that left us happy that it was over, yet curiously thirsting for more as we willingly embraced our Stockholm syndrome.

Ty’s Pick of the Day

Assuming you didn’t skip the intro and go straight to our wonderfully organized subheadings, you probably already know that my favorite film of the day was Ironbark. Not only is it one of the most enthralling spy thrillers to ever grace the Eccles screen, it is also a master class in the power of editing. There was not an excess piece of fat on this entire film, and it was one of the few screenings where you couldn’t see the lights of cellphones ablaze as people checked how much time was remaining. If you want to get a head start on next year’s list of awards considerations, then this film should be firmly placed at the top of your list.

Nathan’s Best Thing He Saw Today:
2020 marks the 10th Sundance I have been lucky enough to attend. In those 10 years I’ve seen some incredible movies and performances. But never have I seen a movie as polished and ready for an Oscar run like Ironbark.
The Cold War Espionage thriller is led by an incredible performance by Benedict Cumberbatch who puts down the cape and got back to his Imitation Game acting chops.
The pacing, acting, writing, and intensity brought so much life to a story that could have been cliche, but instead turned out to be a movie that is primed to be a big time hit.

Ty’s Moment of the Day

Today’s moment of the day came around the time when it became apparent that the Rufus Wainwright set was going to be at least three times longer than anticipated. His message of love and understanding paired with an urgent need for systemic change is something much needed in times like these.

Nathan’s Sundance Moment of the Day:
Sundance isn’t all movies! It’s free food like the amazing cannolis and cheesecake balls and macaroons that seemed to always be within arms reach today.
And certain days it can mean incredible music. And tonight provided a moment I’ve dreamed of and way surpassed the highest of my expectations. Rufus Wainwright played The Celebration of Music and Film event and his soaring, pristine vocals took over Park City as he ran through his many film contributions to movies like Moulin Rouge, Brokeback Mountain, and I Am Sam and some of his best songs of his own.
It was such a joy to experience and even further evidence how Sundance can be so rewarding in so many ways.


Ty’s Lasting Thought

Today really affirmed my growing belief that the true stars of this festival are the amazing composers that have lended their talents and scores to many of the films showing this year. Abel Korzeniowski (Ironbark) and Tamar-kali (Shirley) are two great examples. The former shows the ability of a composer to add subtle flourishes to an already stunning narrative, while the latter shows the reflexive and authoritative power of a composer as they work to salvage a scene before it sputters out. Both of these films featured compositions that were nuanced when nuance was called for, and utterly chaotic and imposing when necessary.

boy's stateNathan’s Lasting Thought of the Day:

The documentary Boy’s State was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had at a documentary at Sundance. The film which follows 5 high school kids as they participate in their own mock government competition worked on every single level.
It brought to the surface many issues and conflicts effecting the country that these kids are growing up in but it also served up a massive serving of hope for the future of the United States. There is definitely a lot to come with this documentary and the subjects.