I was just in the
bar at the Yarrow Hotel (the venue where most of the press screenings
take place) with a couple of wonderful colleagues*. I was talking about
Where in the World is Osama bin Laden? with Peter from Slashfilm and
Eric from eFilmCritic; they both liked the film, but I was saying that
while I found it entertaining I thought it was overly simple, and that
Morgan Spurlock presents a thesis only a grade schooler could find
fresh or interesting. In the middle of saying this, the door opens and
Morgan Spurlock saunters into the bar.
This is what happens at
Sundance. When you walk out of a screening, the person listening in to
your conversation about the movie you just saw could well be the
director. Scott Weinberg of Cinematical was having a smoke outside the Yarrow when he
was approached by Jonathan Levine, the director of The Wackness, a
movie Scott had not liked (to Levine’s eternal credit, he thanked Scott
for being honest and having reasoning behind his dislike of the film).
Park City Utah becomes a weird movie bubble for ten days; in a lot of
ways this town is what Middle America imagines LA to be – I sat in a
restaurant for two hours on Monday and saw more celebrities on the
street than black people walk by the window.
This is my first Sundance, and I’ve
already learned a lot about how to do the festival better next year
(note to self: actually RSVP for the cool parties and gifting suites to
which you’re invited), but I’ve also had an incredible amount of fun.
Sundance feels like film nerd summer camp, where we all attend movies
by day and get fucked up at night. I’ve been going on less sleep in the
last six days than in perhaps any time in the previous decade, but I
still feel excited and motivated. If you have the opportunity to ever
make it to Sundance, I recommend you jump on it; you’ll get to see cool
movies early but perhaps most importantly you’ll spend time in an
atmosphere that is friendly and open and all about movies. I have
struck up a dozen conversations on the Sundance shuttle bus about
movies at the festival, and I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t usually so
much as make eye contact on public transportation. I understand that
some Sundance volunteers get put up for free and they get to see
whatever movies they want; volunteering seems like it could be hard
work, but the perks appear to be worth it.
I’ve not seen as many
movies at Sundance as I would have liked to have seen, and hopefully
next year I’ll have this all figured out better and will be able to
catch more films. The festival only does one press screening of most of
the movies, and with three press theaters running at once, you can
imagine it’s hard to see everything, even when we’re allowed one ticket
to a public screening per day. Thankfully some of the more popular
films will be getting replayed for the press starting tomorrow, and
I’ll be able to fill some of the holes in my wish list. In the
meantime, here’s a list of all the movies I have seen so far, and links
to the reviews I have written about them (for the ones I’ve written.
I’m behind). I’ll keep adding to this list and links as I see more
movies or write more reviews. Consider this your
The films are listed according to how much I liked them, from most to least. Updated at 4pm Mountain time 1/24!
Man on Wire
Up the Yangtze
Death in Love
The Great Buck Howard
Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?
What Just Happened?
(special note: This was the first and, to date, only film I have walked
out on at Sundance. Since I won’t be reviewing the movie, let me
explain my rationale: the film, a Russian movie that feels a little too
Amelie, wasn’t terrible but also wasn’t very good. If the movie was
horrible and seemed likely to get some attention, I would have stayed.
If I had thought the movie deserved me championing it to the readers, I
would have stayed. But since it was pretty lame and nobody will ever
hear about it again, I figured my time was better spent writing a Rambo
Ryan Rotten from Shock Til You Drop, who was so pumped to see The
Bravery at the Quentin Tarantino party on Sunday. While I stood by the
bar and hung on to my heterosexuality in the face of the band’s barrage
of 2002-sounding synth-pop, Ryan waded to the front to get his groove
on or something. This factoid will appear in more of my Sundance
coverage in the days to come.