I just got back from my first trip to Sundance. What an amazing event. Of course, I didn’t have that much time to enjoy it—what with producers, agents, directors and the Olsen Twins stalking me about the screen rights to Anecdotal. “All in good time, my friends,” I told them, “I’m just here to soak in the atmosphere."
I hear from the film-savvy veterans who have attended Sundance for a decade or more that the festival has changed in recent years. What started out as a venue for unknown writers, nobody directors and obscure actors to pump up their artistic and commercial cred has evolved in the new millennium. Recently, the biggest names, richest moneymen and top helmers (I love that word…helmers…helmers…) package their potential megahits in the figurative brown paper wrapper to lend them an aura of indie-ness. I mean, how “indie” are Greg Kinnear, Josh Hartnett, Robert Deniro and the Ashley Olsen?
But I dug it nonetheless.
The movies I saw might even portend a further evolution of Sundance. Who knows if it will affect the festival’s credibility going forward. I really enjoyed In Bruges starring Mike Farrell and Jim J. Bullock as two hitmen who hide out in the Belgian city. Bullock’s menacing portrayal left me with chills. Rodney Allen Rippey and Latoya Jackson reprised their off-Broadway roles in an incredibly stirring version of Langston Hughes’ classic African American drama, A Raisin in the Sun. Joey Lawrence was incredibly compelling as a driven but ultimately doomed Internet entrepreneur in August, a film with a notable supporting appearance by Danny Pintauro.
But a certain sadness also permeated Sundance as news spread of the passing of Health Ledger and Suzanne Pleshette. Pleshette’s performance in Half Life was a fitting cinematic memorial. Her role as the matriarch of a family whose problems mirror the chaos in the geopolitical headlines of a dystopian near future society revealed the untold breadth of her dramatic range.
The pic to the left is from the hottest party in town: the Producer's Guild fete (I didn't think the producers needed a guild...aren't they the ones exploiting the downtrodden Hollywood laborers in all of the other guilds?). And when I say hot, I mean HOT! Literally. They had the best blast furnace in all of Utah heating up their tent in otherwise frigid Park City. But they shouldn't discount the OTHER kind of hot: next time, Producers, invite some indie ingenues to your gathering.
I’ll definitely be back for the flicks, the deal-making and the $14 spicy tuna rolls. Special thanks to my friends Dan, Natela and Jennifer for heaping on healthy doses of fun and to Ben for putting me up in his palatial pad. Until next year, sayonara Sundance!