Day 3 (Saturday, Jan. 21):
For some reason, I had it in my head that I would get up in time to catch an 8:30 a.m. screening today. Part of me knew this was sheer folly, but it wasn’t until my alarm went off at 7:30 that the rest of me was convinced too. If it had been a film I was particularly eager to see, I’d have managed it, but it was only a press screening of “Friends with Money,” which was the opening night film and which, according to custom, is probably only so-so.
I forgot to tell you about something that happened yesterday during the “World According to Sesame Street” screening. I was sitting in the back row of the theater, and next to me were three a-holes. They were men in their early 30s who are in the film industry somehow and who were so important that they couldn’t be expected to just sit and watch the movie. No, these a-holes were so important they had to fiddle with their BlackBerrys during the film, and talk to each other during the film, and just generally behave like the a-holes they were.
The light that emanates from a BlackBerry or other personal electronic device is very distracting in a darkened theater, as I’m sure you know. In fact, I’m sure everyone knows that — everyone except for a-holes, of course. They’re too important to know things like that. They have interns and assistants to know that sort of thing for them.
One of the a-holes left 30 minutes into the film, but only after much consulting with his BlackBerry and important chatting with his companions. This left the two remaining a-holes to ignore the movie and behave boorishly.
When the film ended, the a-hole immediately to my left stood up and, in the process, dropped his BlackBerry. It clattered on the floor and fell into the recess beneath the seats in front of us, whence nothing can return without a struggle. So be aware that the laws of karma are strictly enforced in Park City.
Anyway, back to today. It was a cold, snowy day, not good festival weather at all. But though the weather outside was frightful, the films were so delightful, like a shot of hot chocolate delivered directly into a moviegoer’s veins.
First up, at 11 a.m., was “Eve & the Fire Horse.” This is the kind of movie that reinvigorates a festival attendee, especially after the mediocrity of yesterday. I saw it not because the description looked interesting (it didn’t), but because the other films playing at the same time were distinctly UN-appealing. And what a swell surprise it was! Set in Vancouver in the 1970s, it’s about three generations of a Chinese family, the older ones born in China, the younger ones in Canada, all of them mixing their Eastern superstitions and traditions with Western ones as they search for happiness. The story is told with humor and grace, with enough characters to provide fodder for several inter-related subplots and tangents. So hooray for Eve and her fire horse!
While waiting in the Yarrow Hotel lobby afterward, I overheard two industry types discussing the festival. One of them said Sundance was like “Groundhog Day,” in that you wake up each day and do more or less what you did the day before. The other one said, “I love ‘Groundhog Day.’ Harold is a good friend of mine.” She meant Harold Ramis, of course, the film’s director. This led to a discussion of Harold’s other films, including 1996′s “Multiplicity,” which one of them felt was an overlooked gem but which neither of them could remember the name of. (I was going to interject and tell them, but I didn’t want them to know I was eavesdropping. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices like that.)
Thereafter, I met up with my pals from HollywoodB****slap.com — Erik “The Movieman” Childress, Scott “The Angry Jew” Weinberg, and Collin “No Nickname” Souter — for a press screening of a Beastie Boys concert film. The Boys handed out video cameras to 50 audience members, and those frat boys and stoners provide most of the movie’s footage — hence the film’s title: “Awesome; I F*****’ Shot That!” I braced myself. When there’s a curse word right there in the title, you know the movie itself is bound to be effing full of it.
But the Beastie Boys put on a pretty lively show. Their beats are funky, their rhymes are fresh, their style is fly. What more do you want? Intelligible lyrics? Professional cinematography? That’s whack, yo.
It was snowing persistently after the film ended, which made it all the more pleasant when Scott and Erik spent the next 1,000,000,000,000 minutes arguing over whether the movie sucked or not. (Erik: sucked. Scott: did not suck.)
I left Siskel and Jewbert and wedged myself into an overcrowded shuttle bus bound for Main Street. I had my butt in some woman’s face, and my face was two inches from another man’s neck. So it was a typical Saturday, I guess. KA-ZING!
It turned out the narrow avenues of the Main Street district were as crowded as the bus was. If you had poured out a bucket of water inside the bus and then opened the doors, the water wouldn’t have spilled out, because the pressure outside was greater than the pressure inside. Since I am not water, however, I went against the path of least resistance, exited the bus, and inched my way down Main Street. This concludes the physics portion of today’s lecture.
There were no celebrities about, but there were hundreds of people milling around looking for them. The thing about Main Street is that the sidewalks are narrow, so walking arm-in-arm with your sweetheart, while cute, is also selfish and stupid, because it means no one can get past you. Let go of her for two minutes, for crying out loud! She’s not going to escape!
At the Sundance House, I saw famed marijuana addict and former actor Dennis Hopper. He was flanked by handlers and assistants, and they were escorting him somewhere important. This marks the second time in six months that I have been next to Dennis Hopper, the other time being at the CineVegas Film Festival last June. Who besides his Narcotics Anonymous sponsor can say that?
I eventually made my way back to the Yarrow, where the 5:30 p.m. screening of “Wordplay” was being delayed. It seems a panel discussion on film technology had run long, allegedly because it had started 20 minutes late, allegedly because they couldn’t find a phone book for Robert Redford to stand on so he could see over the podium. (Because he’s short, you see. Ahem. Is this thing on?)
Anyway, we eventually got in and watched “Wordplay,” a funny and upbeat documentary about the New York Times crossword puzzle’s legendary status among casual solvers and professional puzzlers alike. Like “Spellbound” (spelling bees) and “Word Wars” (Scrabble) before it, “Wordplay” culminates in a tournament, where victory and heartbreak for the crossword solvers are doled out in equal measure. What’s a 20-letter word for “nerds”? Thepeopleinthismovie.
Sitting next to me in this screening was Edge Publications’ Jason Salzenstein, who was wearing a designer yarmulke with a little Izod alligator on it. I note on Edge’s Web site that Jason is the style and travel editor, so if he’s wearing a designer yarmulke, it’s apparently OK, at least from a fashion standpoint.
After a short break, many of the same people were back in the screening room again, this time for “Somebodies.” Every year there is one film in the Dramatic Competition category that is so bad, you wonder if the festival programmers even watched it. “Somebodies” is that film for 2006. (At least, I hope it’s that film. I shudder to think there’s one that’s worse.) It actually starts out well, with a lot of laughs as we follow a slacker African-American college student through his days of drunkenness and womanizing. But 20 minutes in, the film loses steam and becomes an endless series of pointless, unfunny scenes and subplots. Rarely have I seen a film turn from good to evil so rapidly.
As a side note, I caught these two names in the credits: IronE Singleton and Nard Holston. IronE? Nard? Come on, people. If you’re going to be in a movie, you need to have a name. (I’m looking at you, too, The Rock.)
And that was it for the day: four movies today, eight total, about 40 to go. I caught a shuttle back to my car and, as I opened the door, broke the handle off in my hand. Apparently I don’t know my own strength! I felt like Ben Grimm in “Fantastic Four,” only without the shame of knowing I was in a terrible movie that had conned millions of people out of their hard-earned money. Of course, it’s possible the car’s age (10 years) and Park City’s temperature (well below freezing) had something to do with it, but I’m not going to question my superpowers.
[Portions of this diary also appeared in the Jan. 22 special edition of Salt Lake City Weekly.]