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American Heroes and Zeroes at Sundance ’08

Morgan Spurlock makes us look bad, plus (separate!) films on baseball and steroids shine.

Two of the best films at Sundance 2008 expressed subtle nostalgia for literally and figuratively extinct stretches of lower Manhattan. Shot almost entirely in the Chambers Street loft of his father, the legendary avant-garde filmmaker Ken Jacobs, Azazel Jacob's delightful Momma's Man consecrates a bohemian lower Manhattan giving way to gentrification as it tells the story of a thirty-something businessman who can't bring himself to leave his childhood home after paying a visit to his aging parents (touchingly played by the elder Jacobs and his wife, Flo). Meanwhile, Wisconsin Death Trip director James Marsh's Man on Wire revisits the peculiar case of French provocateur Philippe Petit and his 1974 tightrope walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center and makes of it a magnificently eccentric film about imagination, risk-taking and the unabated creative spirit. Petit had actually conceived of his stunt years earlier, when he first read about the WTC's impending construction. In 2008, he ascended the Sundance stage with Marsh to collect the second of Man on Wire's two prizes (the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award of the international documentary competition) and spoke these parting words for the next generation of artists and daydreamers: "Keep growing wings."

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