This past January I was fortunate enough to attend the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, along with about 30 other USD students, including The Vista’s own Ryan Sidhoo and Maggie Klos. I had always assumed that this prestigious event was for the rich and/or famous only. But, much to my surprise, I, a starving, overworked and underpaid college student, was able to purchase a festival pass online. Easy peasy! Once I received my “Guide to Cinematic Rebellion” in the mail, the excitement began to set in.

Oscar's soul travels throughout Tokyo's nightlife in Gaspar Noe's "Enter the Void," which features a score created by Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk.

I have always been a fan of weird, slightly uncomfortable yet thought-provoking films, and Sundance tends to serve as an outlet for them. My favorite film that I saw was Enter the Void, a disturbing take on the afterlife from the point of view of an American drug dealer living in Tokyo immediately after he is murdered.
What made this film so incredible was the way in which it was made. Every single scene was from behind the main character, Oscar’s, eyes, and then eventually his soul. It was an innovative way to create this film and it made the subject matter that much more affecting and disturbing. The visuals, colors and sounds (the score was created by Thomas Bangalter) were amazing. The best part of my experience watching this film? Seeing old couples walk out of the theater before the film ended because they couldn’t handle the content.

Adrien Brody harvests marijuana in "HIGH School," whose soundtrack boasts artists like Metric, The Dead Weather and MGMT.

But then there were the not so amazing films, like HIGH School, a stoner comedy starring Adrien Brody and Colin Hanks. I had high hopes for this film, which boasted a plot filled with risk: the two main characters had to get their entire high school high on marijuana in order to avoid expulsion (it makes more sense when you read the full summary in the Sundance feature in the Feb. 11 issue of The Vista). The deciding factor for me when deciding whether or not to see this movie was that Adrien Brody played a rasta’d out drug dealer/lawyer. The film’s storyline didn’t hold up so well, but the film was held together by the soundtrack, which made me realize that any bad movie becomes more bearable with each hip song that’s played in the background.

HIGH School opened up with MGMT’s “Time to Pretend,” which was very fitting for the film’s premise and target audience. Other songs in the film that got me excited include The Dead Weather’s “3 Birds,” Metric’s “Help I’m Alive” and Kid Cudi’s “The Prayer,” which samples Band of Horses’ song “Funeral.”

Robots fall in love in Spike Jonze's "I'm Here," which features the music of Girls and Animal Collective.

Another film with a great soundtrack was Spike Jonze’s short film “I’m Here,” which featured Girls’ “Hellhole Retrace” as background music for a robot party and Animal Collective’s phenomenal “Did You See The Words.” Adrian Grenier’s (of “Entourage” fame) documentary Teenage Paparazzo also succeeded in song choice by featuring my favorite song by The Kills, “U.R.A. Fever,” and Ratatat. Fortunately, these two films were actually good, so the music made the experience that much better.

Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams examine how a relationship begins and ends in "Blue Valentine," which features the music of Grizzly Bear.

As far as music goes in the films I didn’t see, I wouldn’t normally be able to tell you if it was good or not because how would I have known? But when it comes to Blue Valentine, which stars Ryan Gosling (check out his band, Dead Man’s Bones) and Michelle Williams, I heard that Grizzly Bear did the entire soundtrack for the film. Needless to say, it’s sure to be incredible.

All in all, Sundance was a great experience
for me because it was film heaven and music heaven at the same time, which is every former A&C editor’s dream come true.