Sundunce

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How often have you remarked, possibly out loud to strangers you passed in the street, “I wish someone would make a movie about the sexual desires of handicapped people”? If you’re like me, you remark this at least twice a day, often with expletives.

So you can imagine my joy when I attended the 2001 Sundance Film Festival and was able to view, with my own eyes and eyeglasses, an extremely French movie called “National 7,” which in fact is entirely about the sexual desires of handicapped people.

If you have never seen a movie in which a fat paraplegic man is wheeled up a ramp into a prostitute’s mobile home, then there is a fat, paraplegic void in your life. This movie fills that void. It also fills 90 minutes. It also has a lot of people speaking French, which I am opposed to in movies. (Where’s Gayle Ruzicka and her gang of frothy-mouthed lunatics with their “English Only” law NOW, when we actually need it?)

But not all the movies at Sundance were about handicapped men having sex with hookers. No, many of them were about lesbians, child molesters and Ozzy Osbourne. Mr. Osbourne was the subject of a documentary, and he was at the festival, too, helping eradicate Park City’s notorious bat problem. We media types were given the option of interviewing him, and I almost took advantage of the opportunity. Then I realized I didn’t have a single question about anything in the world that could be answered by Ozzy Osbourne. So I didn’t bother.

Ozzy wasn’t the only aging rock-star grotesquery at Sundance; Mick Jagger was there, too, as producer of a film. I thought I saw Mr. Jagger, but it turned out to be just a telephone pole with some trash stuck to it. Mr. Jagger was not granting interviews to the press, as his last four functioning brain cells were destroyed by cocaine several decades ago.

A slightly younger couple that lots of people did see was teen sensation Britney Spears and her boyfriend, N*Sync-er Justin Timberlake. I did not see them because I spent all day, every day, in the press screening room, watching movies. The only celebrity I could have seen there would have been Roger Ebert, but he apparently doesn’t attend press screenings. I don’t know how he sees the movies, then. Probably has them projected directly onto his torso.

My only opportunities for celebrity-sightings were the famous Sundance parties. I attended one, dressed quite swankily in my black leather jacket. I probably should have worn something else, too, but I was so excited that the notion of pants fled my mind. It didn’t matter, because the only people there were other losers like me, also looking in vain for celebrities as they tried to look cool while simultaneously drinking and dancing. (Note: This is impossible.) The famous people were not at the “official” (i.e., “lame”) Sundance parties. They go to the underground soirees, where it’s not enough to wear a leather jacket and leather pants; you actually have to have leather skin, too. (This is probably a tribute to Sundance founder Robert Redford, who is made entirely of catcher’s mitts.)

So it was back to the press screenings for me, where I got to watch a man dressed as a woman play a woman who used to be a man in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” You know, some taboos are there for a reason, people.

The 2001 Sundance Film Festival was actually one of the high points in my journalistic career. I saw a total of 43 films (15 of them before the festival began; the other 28 during the nine-day event), and posted reviews of all of them on the Daily Herald's Web site throughout the festival. It was exhausting, but also exhilarating. I saw some movies that revived my faith in filmmaking, movies that were so fresh and well-made they honestly invigorated me. I saw some really crappy ones, too, but fortunately those were few and far between.

The festival takes place in Park City, and not at the Sundance Ski Resort. This was a never-ending source of amusement for my non-Utahn boss. Every time I mentioned the festival to him, he would ask if they were going to start a Park City Film Festival and hold it at Sundance. He never got tired of saying that, though I sort of did.

Park City is an hour from Provo. Luckily, my pal Matt "Boomer" Biedel has a father with a spacious home in Midway, which is only 20 minutes from Park City, and he allowed me to stay in it. Between that and the endless movies and the Daily Herald expense account (within reason), it was a fun time.

This column, fittingly (considering the subject), is a lot like a gossip column, with lots of dishing on celebrities; note that five of the eight paragraphs end with a slam of some kind. Famous people are fair game, more or less, especially grotesque ones like Mick Jagger.

I saw Roger Ebert in person at the closing-night awards ceremony, but I didn't get to talk to him. He was busy hobnobbing and what-not. I like him quite a bit as a critic and a writer.

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