Terry Zwigoff’s Art School Confidential, from a Daniel Clowes screenplay, is a satisfyingly bilious satire with two not entirely unserious points to make: (a) most art sucks and (b) this is the case because the controlling institutions are eminently corruptible. The film was disliked across the board. A pity, since the career advice Jim Broadbent’s washed-up painter gives to Max Minghella’s ambitious student—”Are you a ‘great artist’ when it comes to fellatio?”—would have easily topped last year’s accidental catchphrase: “It’s hard out here for a pimp,” from Hustle & Flow, which Art School improves on as a meditation on art and fame.
The Science of Sleep sees a Charlie Kaufman–less Michel Gondry working with a self-penned screenplay for the first time. The hyperactive juvenile whimsy and the stoner dream theories are out of control—and fascinatingly close to pathology. Fittingly, this weird, mournful fantasy promotes a sort of punchy delirium in the viewer. Offering no way out of its nested hallucinations, it’s a regressive horndog’s Céline and Julie Go Boating.
The most concentrated hit of Sundance pain since Pieces of April, Little Miss Sunshine was a curdled apotheosis of the festival’s favorite genre: the dysfunctional family road trip. This particular clan consists of a motivational-speaker dad (Greg Kinnear), a harried mom (Toni Collette), a tubby seven-year-old would-be beauty queen (Abigail Breslin), a Nietzsche-reading teenage son (Paul Dano), a heroin-snorting, foul-mouthed granddad (Alan Arkin), and a suicidal Proust-scholar uncle (Steve Carell). The destination is a pageant that will demonstrate, in grotesque, stomach-churning detail, that beauty is skin-deep and that you don’t have to win to be a winner.