Sundance Report: Short Cuts

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On Tuesday, I took a moment to make fun of Robert Redford. Specifically, I called him a “leathery midget.” I fear this epithet may have been taken the wrong way. I only meant that his skin is textured like that classiest of classy materials, leather, and also that he is a midget. Seriously, he’s like 4 feet tall.

I have a great, non-sexual love for Robert Redford. I think he’s a fine actor and a decent director, and of course he deserves movie sainthood for founding the Sundance Film Festival, now entering its third decade and growing stronger each year, especially if strength is determined by counting the number of movies about lesbians, which it is.

All week long, I’ve kidded the festival, and made fun of the movies that are low in quality and/or moral standards. And while Sundance has its share of bad movies, and filthy movies, and movies that don’t make any sense, and movies with more style than substance, and movies that make me wish death upon the people responsible for them, it also has more than its share of GOOD movies. Some of the best films I’ve ever seen have been at Sundance.

It is vigorous work, all this movie-watching. Sometimes I see five movies in one day. By the time I get home, they have all run together in my mind, and I feel like I’ve watched one 10-hour movie (specifically, “Titanic”).

But then something will come along that makes me glad to be in Park City in January (which, in terms of weather, is like being in hell in August). Some movie will remind me why I ever loved movies in the first place, and restore my faith in the art of film. Movies can be powerful, inspiring tools that can make us better people and benefit our society.

But enough of that, because I want to complain about short films. Here’s my opinion on short films: I don’t like them. Either make a movie, or don’t. I guess if your story isn’t detailed enough to justify feature length, I don’t mind you keeping it short. Better to be too short than to be too long, in terms of movies, anyway. But some shorts don’t HAVE stories. They’re just random images of colors or objects or whatever. This is where a director said, “Well, I don’t have any ideas for stories, and I don’t have any actors, but I do have a camera and Adobe Photoshop. Maybe I can just film some random stuff.” Which might be fine for, you know, 30 seconds. But then they make seven-minute shorts in which NOTHING OCCURS. I used to think I could handle anything, no matter how dull, if it was only for a couple minutes. Then I tried to take a statistics class in college and learned otherwise. The shorts thing only confirms it.

The redeeming value of the weird shorts is that the directors are always at the public screenings to introduce them. If you think movie people in general are strange, you should see the ones who make the short films. They’re very enthusiastic and animated, and they seem unaware that the audience is watching their films and saying, “This is bizarre and stupid.” Whoever’s encouraging these filmmakers, knock it off.

Whoever’s encouraging those other filmmakers — you know, the ones who can actually tell stories and entertain people — keep it up. You make Park City a great place to be. In January, anyway. The only way I’d ever go there in February is if the Olympics were coming.

Writing these five columns in five days was fun, and it was a precursor to the daily "diaires" I would write during later Sundance festivals. And did you notice how each of columns had titles that were also movie titles? Hooray for me!

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