After making much about going to the Sundance Film Festival, I haven’t given my recap yet. Sorry about that. It was, exactly as you imagine, a Bacchanal. Me surfing on the top of the ski gondola at 2 a.m., singing ABBA with Robert Redford and the U.S. Snowboarding Team…
Wait, maybe that was the fevered dream I had after spending 18 hours flying to Utah. Never mind.
It was a blast, and a test of endurance. That’s because I saw a dozen movies in three days, which challenged my ability to sit still and stay awake. Fortunately, I was surrounded by thousands of avid film fans and some good friends whose incredible hospitality made the whole thing possible. Sundance is about independent films, and so the festival is a mix of features, shorts, documentaries, American and international films. Anybody can attend. Tickets are about the same price as you’d pay at your local theater. Seating is first come, first served, in venues ranging from a multiplex to a classic old theater on Park City’s little main street to the local library to the main venue: the high school performing arts center. Just remember to wear winter gear and to get in line early, so you can queue in the heated tent instead of the sunny but frigid sidewalk outside.
(Photo: still from Beasts of the Southern Wild.)
The movies I saw included documentaries about Detroit, and the Egyptian revolution, and the War on Drugs, and features ranging from commercial to quirky to magical, some of which I loved, and some of which other people loved. Heated debates in the high school auditorium took place before and after each film, and that was just among the audience. People vote for their favorites, and winners are announced. Everybody was polite to the directors and producers who took the stage for Q&A after each screening.
Some of the movies I enjoyed, which will be coming to theaters soon: The Words (Dennis Quaid, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, about a novelist and his novel about a plagiarist), Celeste and Jesse Forever (Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg), and the winner of the Grand Jury Prize: US Dramatic — the fantastical Beasts of the Southern Wild.
As for movies that didn’t grab me — I could sit quietly ripping them apart in my head, figuring out why, exactly, I didn’t think they worked. And that’s invaluable for a writer. And fun for a snarky person. Win-win. Plus, even if a movie didn’t light my fire, I still felt warm and happy, telling myself: This is not Transformers. This is a million miles from G.I. Joe. There is hope.
Also: Sean Penn as a goth rock star who turns Nazi hunter. Seriously.