Sundance Report: Almost Famous

The 2002 Sundance Film Festival is four days old now, and the list of celebrities of I’ve seen is very small, unless you count seeing them in a movie, in which case I’ve seen dozens.

In person, though, I’ve only seen people who LOOK like celebrities. I saw a woman who looked like a dumpier version of Jennifer Aniston, for example, as well as a man who looked like Lisa Kudrow, and a guy who was a dead ringer for Ben Affleck (who, despite the film “Bounce,” is still a celebrity). The Affleck guy turned out to be a smarmy Miramax executive named Andrew. “Andrew’s in New York” is what his gal pal said to someone by way of introduction, despite the fact that Andrew was obviously in Park City. What she meant was that he WORKS in New York, as opposed to L.A., those being the only two places that exist to movie people. So now I go around telling people, “I’m in Provo.” This impresses no one.

I have a friend who saw the real Jennifer Aniston, not her dumpy Doppelganger, but she wasn’t with hubby Brad Pitt. (New rumor alert, straight from my imagination: I hear they’re splitting up. Also: Brad Pitt is dead.)

My theory on all the lookalikes is that they’re decoys, designed to keep lower life forms like myself away from the important people. It’s apparently working, because so far Sundance has been a bust in terms of celebrity sightings. But that’s not why I come here. I come here to get out of that infernal, soul-crushing newspaper office for a week. Also, I come here for the movies, which are in abundant supply, it now being easier to make a film than to obtain a driver’s license. This is unfortunate, really, because it means a lot of people make movies, and a lot of those movies suck.

Take, for instance, one of this year’s Sundance entries, a little thing called “Rain.” It’s basically a trashy prime-time soap opera, except you have to pay to watch it. It takes place in a little town where everyone knows each other (and I mean that in the biblical sense), and a woman is having an affair with a high school student, and then it turns out he’s her long-lost son. Hooray! This movie includes a scene of someone literally crying over spilled milk, and another one of someone literally covering her tracks. It is a triumph in the field of Filmed Metaphors. I only wish the filmmakers could have made the movie emit an odor, so we could say it literally stinks.

“Rain” doesn’t have any famous people in it; it actually doesn’t even have much rain in it, which always bothers me about movie titles. (How to tell a good movie from a bad movie: “Fight Club” is actually about a fight club; “Steel Magnolias” is utterly devoid of steel or magnolias.) A movie that’s full of famous people is “The Laramie Project,” which posits that the 1998 murder of Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard was a terrible thing, which I really wasn’t aware we needed convincing of. Apparently we did, though, because the movie spends 90 minutes arguing the point. I kept saying, “OK, I agree! I never disagreed! Stop with the celebrity cameos!” But the movie kept going, and the celebrities kept coming. Some of them, I’m told, are really nice in person.

Someone thought it was a great idea to have me write a column from Sundance every day for five days straight. I don't remember who that person was; possibly I suggested it as a selling point for letting me cover the festival, thinking they wouldn't actually take me up on it. It's also possible it was seen as a precursor to the Olympics, when I'd be writing a column every day during the Games (17 days).

At any rate, this was the first of the five Sundance columns, which ran Jan. 14-18. Not particularly brilliant columns, I'm sure, but passable. Each was written more or less the day before it ran, though I did have some ideas floating around beforehand. (This one, for example, was mostly written Saturday, despite not appearing until Monday.)

Notice how I made up the rumor about Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston splitting up -- and then they DID, a mere three years later! I am a prophet.