Dispatches from Sundance

I covered (virtually) the 2023 Sundance Film Festival for AwardsWatch.com.

Even though I only officially reviewed three films, I saw a total of nineteen in seven days.

Here’s a brief wrap-up, sorted in order of my preference:

Directed by Nida Manzoor
Starring Ritu Arya and Priya Kansara

Hands-down the most colorful and energetic film of the festival, Polite Society is an off-the-wall, hugely entertaining film that is what you get when you mix Booksmart, Bend It Like Beckham and any Quentin Tarantino movie with Crazy Rich Asians and Get Out. It is a wicked, broad comedy, a martial arts movie, a fantasy and a teen buddy movie all rolled into one and it is so much fun. Ritu Arya plays a Pakistani-British teen who dreams of being a stuntwoman and becomes so desperate to stop the arranged marriage of her sister that she enlists the help of her friends to pull off a wedding sabotage worthy of Danny Ocean. But it’s not the plot that makes Polite Society the experience that it is (especially when it gets way too silly at the end), it’s the style, as director Nida Manzoor imbues every second of this film with infectious charm. You literally won’t stop smiling from start to finish.

Will be released April 28 in theaters

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TV REVIEW: Poker Face

This new era of prestige television that we are lucky enough to enjoy has seen the balance of power shift from the networks to streaming services, as the most awarded, critically acclaimed, and popular shows are now found on any of the multitudes of streaming platforms, each one with their own slate of lauded original programming. Every major streamer has joined the party, even Roku hitting the critical jackpot with their highly-praised original film, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, which premiered in November. It seems as if the only major streaming service that hasn’t jumped on the prestige TV bandwagon is Peacock, seemingly happy to bask in its vast catalog of popular shows from NBC’s archives, in addition to churning out under-the-radar original programming marked by reality series, competition shows, and formulaic sitcoms.

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Oscar Nominations Reactions

The nominations for the 95th annual Academy Awards were announced this morning. To see the full list of nominees, click here.


Critics and studios have much less power than they (we) think
Andrea Riseborough nabbed a shocking Best Actress nomination for the film To Leslie, the recipient of a guerrilla campaign mounted by her fellow actors. She was in a movie that has only grossed $27,000 since it debuted at SXSW Film Festival last March. As a critic whose vote is courted by studios and publicists for the two critics groups I’m a member of, I can tell you I got screeners for every film nominated except To Leslie. To Leslie, subsequently, received no major critical support or awards–no Golden Globes, no SAG, no BAFTA, nothing. BUT…Riseborough had big supporters within her branch of actors, and a few notable actors, mostly women, mounted a last-minute push to their fellow Academy members to get her a nomination. Big names such as Charlize Theron, Gwyneth Paltrow, Courtney Cox, Edward Norton, Jennifer Aniston and Minnie Driver all hosted screenings for Academy members. Then many more came out in very public support of a nomination for Riseborough, including Kate Winslet, Sarah Paulson, Jane Fonda, and Laura Dern. This groundswell, which happened just as nomination ballots were being filled in, worked, as Riseborough got the coveted nomination, without any support from the studio, box office OR critics, which is truly astounding. Out of the 27 experts who predicted the nominees on GoldDerby.com, only 2 predicted Riseborough to get a nomination. But it’s also worth noting that those same two also predicted a nomination for Danielle Deadwyler, who was snubbed. So, in the end, it’s always important to remember, no matter how much we critics think we know or think we have an influence, we really don’t.

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