Billy Soistmann

Sundance Review: Bass Ackwards

In 2010, Character-Driven, Distribution, Independent, Linas Phillips, Reviews, Sundance on January 23, 2010 at 10:23 AM

Watching a Film On YouTube

Wow. Technology is awesome: I just finished watching, on YouTube, Bass Ackwards, a film premiering tonight at the Sundance Film Festival. As a part of the festival’s current theme of “rebirth” and their campaign to get away from what Sundance has become in 21st century (As Ebert puts it, “a sort of yuppie tech-head geek consumerist trade show and party animal convention”), five Sundance films, three from 2010, two from last year, are available to rent at

Say what you will about how Google has handled YouTube, but this really appealed to me. I wish I could be at Sundance right now, but I just didn’t have the time or money to get there this year. With this streaming deal, I can at least watch a few films from the festival from the comfort of my own home.

So how did it work out? After putting my credit card into Google Checkout, I went to the page for the movie. It looks just like a normal video, except you are prompted that it costs $3.99 to rent the movie. I clicked “Rent” and I was off. Overall, it went well. The quality was very good (720p), but there were some issues with buffering. Several times, the image would stutter and, sometimes, even pause completely. Streaming a film off of the internet is not the ideal format, but enough about how I watched it. How was the film itself?

In Bass Ackwards, Linas (played by Director/Writer Linas Phillips) drives a ’76 Volkswagon bus cross-country and meets some interesting people along the way. This movie was nothing like my expectations. Rather than a quirky, hip indie flick, Bass Ackwards is an honest portrait of how a cross-country journey affects one lonely man.

This is precisely why this film works: Instead of relying on a recycled road movie plot, like the trailer pretends it is, Ass Backwards simply creates a character that we care about and follows him. Other movies that share this quality are Chop Shop and Munyurangabo. These types of films are rare, but utterly refreshing.

The film is also shot beautifully. The transitional scenery along Linas’ travels are impressive considering the film’s low budget. Also, there is a certain magic to the 1976 VW bus. By the end of the movie, it becomes a character of its own.

Where the movie fails slightly is the comedy. There are many funny moments and Alex Karpovsky is hilarious as a gas station manager, but overall the film falls somewhere in this gray area between drama and comedy, which many movies fall into, but the mixture just isn’t quite right.

In spite of this flaw, Bass Ackwards is a very good film with some great vignettes and a solid emotional core.

  1. […] 1/22 – Bass Ackwards (): This film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival yesterday, but, unfortunately I was stuck watching it on YouTube. It went better than I expected though, and I enjoyed the movie. See my full review. […]

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