Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sundance - Part 2

I left off a little bit of day one that's integral to the story of day two, so here goes: while I was sitting in Life 2.0, waiting for the film to start, I heard this woman behind me say "I guess I'll just go down to the shows a little early and try to sell these tickets at the door." You know me, gregarious 'n' shit, so I turned around and said "What are you selling?" She had three tickets to unload to three different programs, since she had also purchased a series package and already had all the tickets she needed to everything she wanted to see (must be nice). The first two were for screenings taking place after I'd be back at home - but the third was for Philip Seymour Hoffman's directorial debut, PREMIERING the very next night! "I'LL TAKE IT!" That's the beauty of Sundance - everything ticket is $15, and they like you to pay cash, so I handed over my money and presto, I was going to PHS's film on Saturday night. Good times!

Even though I had my industry pass on Saturday, I used tickets that one of my colleagues purchased for me to attend the documentary shorts program. I was SUPER GEEKED about the doc shorts for one reason: DRUNK HISTORY. If you're not familiar with Drunk History, click this link: this is my most favorite episode of Drunk History, for me, the one that started at all. And from a filmmaking standpoint, it takes the meaning of "documentary" and twists it a little. Oh it's a documentary, all right, but a real fucked-up one. So in the doc shorts program, there was a NEW episode of Drunk History: Tesla & Edison! With Crispin Glover as Thomas Edison and John C. Reilly as Nikola Tesla! It was hysterical, and those five minutes were probably the highlight of my trip...
Next to seeing THIS guy! Alan Tudyk played Wash on Firefly. Yes, Wash, the character for whom I named my dog. For me, seeing Alan on the street (I was on the bus, no, I didn't speak to him) was better than seeing Robert Redford.
Anyway, back to the doc shorts. There were seven films, ranging from 5 minutes to 28 minutes, and they were all pretty good. I loved Drunk History, of course, and I loved Born Sweet and Wagah, too - expecting to see them nominated for Oscars one of these days.

After the docs, it was back to the industry screening theater for Teenage Paparazzo. This film had gotten some buzz - here's a little description from the Sundance website:
"When precocious 13-year-old paparazzo Austin Visschedyk snapped a photo of celebrity Adrian Grenier (HBO's Entourage), little did he know his life was about to change. Turning the tables on the juvenile paparazzo, Grenier stepped on the other side of the lens in an attempt to mentor a teenager obsessed with the lure of the Hollywood lifestyle. Grenier develops a meaningful relationship with his camera-clicking young friend as he attempts to reconcile their mutual exploitation. Indeed, Grenier puts himself on the line here, trying to make sense of his own recently acquired fame."
By all means, if you're into celebrity culture OR documentaries, you should check this out when it comes to your local theater. It was simultaneously off-putting and compelling - I was definitely one of those people saying "I would NEVER let my kid do that."
OK, then I saw Armless, which I don't need to talk too much about because it wasn't awesome. It's a narrative film (not a documentary) about a guy who has body image dysmorphic disorder, who feels that he will be perfect if he could only cut off his arms - hence the title. Janel Moloney from The West Wing was in it, and she was great, but I didn't love this movie. And you'll probably never see it anywhere, so don't even worry about it.

AND THEN, I saw Jack Goes Boating, Philip Seymour Hoffman's directorial debut. In the audience that night: Adrien Brody and Tom Arnold! Not together (but wouldn't it be sweet if they were friends?). Here's the Sundance description for this one:
"Jack Goes Boating is a tale of love, betrayal, and friendship set against the backdrop of working-class New York City life. Jack and Connie are two single people who on their own might continue to recede into the anonymous background of the city, but in each other begin to find the courage and desire to pursue their budding relationship. In contrast, the couple who brought them together, Clyde and Lucy, are confronting the unresolved issues in their rocky marriage. The multifaceted Philip Seymour Hoffman makes his directorial debut demonstrating an assured style and grace, both behind the camera and in front of it. He leads a skilled cast, who waltz through their group scenes in perfect counterpoint, each getting what he or she needs from the other. The writing is fiercely authentic as are the performances. Lyrical and lovely, Jack Goes Boating is an offbeat love story that almost forgets to happen."
My take? PSH is an incredible actor, so I wanted him to be an incredible director and this to be an incredible film. And it was really good - but it wasn't incredible. And the whole was less than the sum of its parts. The acting was outstanding, the cinematography was superb, the story was great, the script was great, basically, everything taken individually was great. But as a whole, it was just really good. And that was the most disappointing thing about the film - it didn't meet my expectations. Maybe that's the big lesson to take away from Sundance: have no expectations. I loved the first movie that I saw, and I barely knew what it was about. JGB was good, and for all you movie fans, you should add this to your "to watch" lists.

Overall, attending the Sundance Film Festival was really cool, and certainly made even cooler by the fact that it was a work trip - can you say per diem?

Sundance day two - B+
Sundance overall - A-

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