Sundance Film Festival Roundup 2007!!

Event Date January 18th - 28th, 2007
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SUNDANCE 2007 FILM FESTIVAL ROUNDUP!

 

Hi everyone,

 

Here’s the annual Sundance Film Festival Roundup, complete with my views and reviews on the films, the parties and events, the lounges, and the festival in general, for those who are interested, or weren’t able to make it there. I try to keep it real here, so you’ll not only hear about the great, happy moments (of which there were many!), but also my gripes, complaints, and sometimes outright whining. 🙂

 

As with every year, I had a truly wonderful time – met some really fascinating people, and got some great business done – and even got some skiing in to boot! Kudos to Sundance and Park City in general for being able to deal with the huge, instantaneous influx of what I’m told is something like 80,000 people that all converge on the little few-block area known as Main Street. So, even with my occasional whining and belly-aching on a few issues, just know that overall it’s always a great experience!

 

While on the surface, and even at its heart, Sundance is about the films; but for those who know where to look, there’s an entire sea (or should I say mountain?) of opportunities to meet, mingle, and network with old friends and new acquaintances, both getting work done and and having fun at the plethora of parties, events, panels, lounges, and gifting suites. It is a place where new dreams are born, and old dreams are realized.

 

So, here’s the inside scoop on the films, the parties, and more:

 

THE FILMS:

 

PREMIERES:

 

CHICAGO TEN

Bret Morgen‘s Chicago 10 is an engaging and timely film that does a great job of combining historical footage and newly created rotoscoped animation into a seamless documentary/narrative that not only recounts an important event in American history, but reflects the emotionally charged atmosphere of the time. It looks at the events building up to the highly publicized protest of the 1968 Democratic Convention, and the following trial in which activists Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Black Panther Bobby Seale, and 5 others were tried for inciting to riot. At the time, the nation was divided against the backdrop of the Vietnam war – and hippies and activists such as Hoffman organized public protests of the war itself, of capitalism, and for a change in the country’s direction. Hoffman’s offshoot of the hippie movement, known as the “Yippies,” came to the media forefront with their protest at the Democratic Convention – the film gives a bit of history on the formation of the movement, and, more importantly, has a distinct point of view – it doesn’t try to be a newscast or impartial documentary, and that’s what I liked about it. Too many films today lack a clear direction and viewpoint, so kudos to Morgen for taking a stance. The film’s timeliness is exemplified by Lyndon Johnson’s announcing the troop escalation in Vietnam, and a number of other events which harken ever so close to the situation in Iraq today. While I would have liked to have seen this point driven home a bit more, the film stands on it’s own, and was indeed one of the standouts of the festival.

 

SON OF RAMBOW

A truly delightful film written and directed by Garth Jennings (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Son of Rambow takes us on a nostalgic journey to the 80’s as seen through the eyes Will, a young boy, constrained and sheltered by his strict Christian upbringing, who finds an unlikely friend with the school troublemaker Carter. Inspired by a copy of the film Rambo: First Blood – they each push their boundaries and tap into their creativity to go where only their dreams can lead them. Inspired, uplifting, and heartwarming, this film takes us back to the sense of joy, dreams, and unlimited possibility of youth, and at the same time reminds that all our dreams are possible if we simply reach for them. A tribute to Jennings’ direction are the incredible performances delivered by the two young lead actors, Will Poulter and Bill Milner. Among the high proliferation of dark, edgy, and otherwise disturbing films that are usual festival fare, this film’s joie de vivre was refreshing and wonderful, and a must see for anyone who likes to feel good.

 

DRAMATIC COMPETITION:

 

GRACE IS GONE

Written and directed by Sundance veteran James C. Strouse, Grace is Gone is a poignant and touching film about a man’s inability to deal with the death of his wife – or more accurately, his inability to tell his two daughters that their mother is gone, which results in a road trip to an amusement park with numerous stops at chain restaurants, malls, and any other detour that will forestall the inevitable. While it is pointed out that she lost her life on the battlefield in Iraq, this film is much less an anti-war statement than a character piece – and the characters are brought to life with John Cusack‘s moving portayal of Stanley, the father, whose great performance is even outshined by newcomer child actors Gracie Bednarczyk and Shelan O’Keefe who play the daughters Dawn and Heidi, respectively. Not only is this some of the most realistic writing of child roles I’ve seen in awhile, but the touching performances bring an even higher level of believability and sensitivity to the film. Not to be left out is Alessandro Nivola‘s standout performance as Stanley’s loafing anti-war brother, who brilliantly offsets the drama of the film with his upbeat yet multi-dimensional performance. Strouse chose not to open the film with the typical and formulaic “happy family” setup – and I applaud his decision to think out of the box and create a more realistic and deeply dramatic scenario. From a writing standpoint, I would have liked to see a bit more or an arc for Stanley’s character – some back and forth on whether to tell the girls, and a few obstacles and difficulties to propel him through his arc. Completely annoying was the way-too-obvious product placement with a close-up of every store sign they happened to drive past. Also to be noted (no pun intended) is the touching, articulate, and dramatically appropriate music score by composer Max Richter. It’s no big surprise that this film won the Dramatic Audience Award and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award.

 

SNOW ANGELS

Writer/director David Gordon Green brings this small town drama to life with impeccably crafted dialogue and top notch performances that convey the warmth and cruelty, levity and pathos, and the fairness and injustices that pervade everyday life. The multi-faceted plot and characters ring true and are at once simple in their purpose but complex in their unfolding, as an origami. There are several stories here which are brilliantly connected. Sam Rockwell‘s superb and multi-dimensional performance as Glen, disconnected and separated from his wife Annie, who tries to find some semblance of meaning through their daughter Tara, and an interesting mix of religion and alcohol, gives an honest portrayal of his good intentions which are executed with poor judgement. His almost-happy-but-slightly awkward relationship with his daughter is exceptionally written, and is reflective of the many other complex but realistic relationships in the film. Kate Beckinsale gives a great performance as Annie, caring but overwhelmed with her life – and although I think she may have been slightly miscast in this role (just too beautiful to be completely believable as the wife of goofball Glen in this small town setting) – she brings a high level of depth to her character. The story of Glen and Annie is intertwined with Annie’s affair with Nate (dynamic performance by Nicky Katt), the slightly simple-minded husband of one of Annie’s co-workers (heartfelt performance by Amy Sedaris). Subplots emerge with angst-ridden teen Arthur (Michael Angarano), who fantasizes about Annie, who is flattered by the attention and slightly flirts with the idea of a fling with him; but the decision to leave this completely unresolved was brilliant – just as in real life there are so many possibilities (romantically and otherwise) that don’t end some tragic definitive fate, but hang as possibilities that just haven’t happened yet, and were simply never followed up on. Realism to the nth degree. The young-love subplot between Arthur and awkward-but-cute schoolmate Lila (wonderfully played by the adorable Olivia Thirlby), while a bit underdeveloped, still has you rooting for them, and gives you that much wanted warm fuzzy feeling. Further subplots between the parents of several of the characters add the little touches that give the characters depth and humanity. It’s truly refreshing to see writing where all the subplots and stories actually tie in and relate on a deep level, and it’s this very quality that gives this film the high level of emotional impact that makes it one of the true standouts of the Sundance festival.

 

JOSHUA

Directed and co-written by George Ratliff, Joshua is a film that gets outside of the box and transcends genres. It is the story of an upwardly mobile New York family, their newborn daughter, and their son, Joshua. Joshua is a child prodigy who happens to be jealous of the newborn daughter, and of course decides to use his intelligence for evil, doing bad things to his little sister and purposely sending his mother into a maniacal post-partem depression, and doing everything in his power to break up their happy little family. Hauntingly played by Jacob Kogan, Joshua is a hybrid of Damian from the Omen and the Bad Seed – a blazer and tie wearing, maladjusted, emotionally stiff child…with a cold, calculating demeanor, and a complete disregard for, uhm, human life. The script’s brilliance lies in its ability to continuously cross the thriller/dark comedy line – you’re laughing out loud one moment, and feeling shivers up your spine the next. This is no easy feat to accomplish, and the exceptional dialogue in this film has a lot to do with it. Sam Rockwell gives his usual great performance as the loving but suspicious father, and Vera Farmiga unfortunately give a very one-dimensional, overwrought performance, and while the script didn’t give her much else to work with, that seems to be her only mode in her other film at Sundance (Never Forever) as well. The choice to keep the scenes mostly during daylight bring home the fact that terror doesn’t have to exist only in the darkness of night, which makes it all the more frightening, and this was a superb decision on Ratliff’s part. The weak points of the film were that Sam Rockwell‘s character seemed to change motivation on a dime, suddenly going from caring father to openly hostile without any real basis, and also Vera Farmiga‘s completely underdeveloped character and one-dimensional performance. The twist at the end could have been set up and emphasized a bit better as well. Luckily, the film’s fresh outlook, incredible dialogue, and genre-bending viewpoint made this an extremely enjoyable watch – a must see for fans of psychological thrillers, horror, dark comedy, or anyone with an extreme dislike of little baby sisters.

 

NEVER FOREVER

Written and Directed by Gina Kim, this film had an interesting plot line that was rich with possibility: Sophie’s ideal life being the perfect wife for her successful Korean husband is in jeopardy when he is unable to get her pregnant – so she secretly initiates a series of encounters with an illegal immigrant that has all the physical features of her husband – so she can get pregnant and have her husband believe it is his, and therefore save their marriage. All goes along as planned, until the arrangement begins to unravel and threatens to destroy the very relationship she was trying to save. While this scenario is rich with possibility, the execution was so one dimensional and lacking in any sort of emotional engagement that I could barely make it through the film. Sophie was played by Vera Farmiga, who had one tone throughout the entire film – tortured. Okay, in all fairness, she actually had three tones – from tortured, to morose, and back to tortured again, with a slight stop at sullen. The film seemed to be one long scene of Sophie looking tortured and angst-ridden after another. There was no emotional connection to her character whatsoever, or any of the other characters, for that matter. Her character was disconnected from both her husband and her immigrant lover, who were also both disconnected. While we are repeatedly told on a very surface level that Sophie and her husband Andrew (played by David McInnis) have the “perfect life,” we’re not only never shown this, but we’re shown the exact opposite on a continual basis – that they’re completely disconnected and unhappy, so it’s impossible to believe this wonderful scenario that we keep being told is the case. McInnis does a good job with his extremely limited role, and the standout of the film is Ha Jung-Woo, who plays Jihah, the illegal immigrant. With regard to the costume design, the bizarre choice to put Sophie in antiquated ruffled and ribboned outfits made her look more like a 19th century schoolteacher than any sort of “perfect wife” – at least not a perfect wife from this century. I think the reason I liked the love scenes in this movie was not so much that you get to see naked beautiful bodies doing a beautiful thing, but more because it was a break from having to look at Farminga’s ridiculous costuming. But come to think of it, the sex scenes all had a tortured, disconnected, and dispassionate vibe to them, making them unenjoyable to watch as well. As to the music score, composer Michael Nyman‘s usually brilliant work in films like “The Piano” make me really wonder if he actually wrote the frequently off-the-mark, dramatically inappropriate music for this film. It actually hurts me to give this negative of a review, but there truly was very little I actually liked about this film. In the film’s defense, however, I heard there were a number of people who actually did like it – so if you like emotionally disconnected one-toned films with a bad score and worse costume design, then you should rush out and see this one right away.

 

ROCKET SCIENCE

Written and directed by Jeffrey Blitz, this was also one of the gems of the festival, and garnered the Sundance Dramatic Directing Award. While on the surface, this is one of the typical “maladjusted teen with limited social skills come of age” type of films, its clever dialogue, great casting, and large amounts of heart make it a very enjoyable watch. Reece Thompson plays the shy, stuttering Hal Hefner, is likeable and believable, and has good screen chemistry with his unlikely love interest Ginny Ryerson (adorably played by Anna Kendrick), who recruits him to be her partner on the debate team, even though he has a major stuttering problem. There are lots of great little moments, including the parents whose couples’ therapy consists of playing a hilarious version of a Violent Femmes song on a cello and piano. Definitely worth the watch, Rocket Science is scheduled be released by Picturehouse on August 10th.

 

PADRE NUESTRO

Directed by Christopher Zalla, Padre Nuestro was the winner of the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize. As usual, my tastes seem to run quite a bit different than the Jury members at Sundance – while the film had some good performances, and an interesting scenario, and was well directed – the script fell quite a bit flat for me. Not a character arc to be found, no “set up and payoffs” – none of the details that make for tight writing, or a truly emotionally engaging script. The story centers around Pedro (Jorge Adrian Espindola), who illegally crosses the border from Mexico to find his father Diego in New York – only to have his belongings, and identity, stolen by his new “friend” Juan (Armando Hernandez). While Pedro is lost and wandering the streets of New York, Juan then searches out Diego and poses as Pedro to attempt to steal supposed riches. In Spanish and English, this film had one of the worst subtitling jobs I have seen, leaving out huge gaps of dialogue. While all three leads were completely believable in their roles (with the standout being Jesus Ochoa as Diego the father), this film could have been a true standout if as much attention had been paid to the character development as other aspects of the directing, art direction, and cinematography. Kudos also to Paola Mendoza in her role as Magda. Ultimately, this could be a worthwhile watch, but I’d wait for Netflix…

 

ADRIFT IN MANHATTAN

Directed and co-written by Alfredo de Villa, Adrift in Manhattan interweaves three stories about adapting to loss, kinship, and reliance on others, with a well-shot New York City as the backdrop. The stories center around Rose (Heather Graham, in a type of role we haven’t seen her in before), an optometrist dealing with the pain of losing a child and her inability to relate to her estranged husband; and Simon (Victor Rasuk), a withdrawn teenager with a more than slightly unnerving relationship with his obsessive mother that borders on incest, whose creative outlet seems to be stalking Rose and surreptitiously photographing her; and Tommaso (wonderfully played by Dominic Chianese), an aging artist who is going blind, but hopefully can win the affections of his somewhat younger co-worker Isabel (heartfelt performance by Elizabeth Pena). For my tastes, the Tommaso/Isabel storyline had the most engaging characters, but unfortunately the least amount of screen time. As with any “multiple storyline” films such as Adrift, I like to see a level of interactivity between the stories – where the actions in one story have ramifications and effect in the other(s), which makes for truly tight, cohesive writing. While de Villa did a nice job of setting that scenario up, I would have liked to see it kicked up one more notch. That aside, if you’re into the dark/angst/tormented fare that is typical of most film festivals, this could be the film for you.

 

TEETH

Directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein, Teeth is about a teenage girl who just happens to have teeth in her private parts (aka the “Vagina Dentata” myth). Not sure what to say after that, other than the film relies on the obvious shock value to make its point with overly lengthy shots that show the outcome of her vengeful actions that would leave even the heartiest of males cringing. And while I’ll admit there is more intelligence to the writing here than the Troma-esque film that I was expecting, without the aforementioned “obvious shock value” this would be a mediocre film at best. Whether the “OSV” takes it down the drain, or makes it the hilarious and empowering social statement of the decade, I’ll leave up to you. Audiences were highly polarized on this film, as might be expected. The main character (wonderfully played by Jess Wexler, who received the Jury Prize for Acting) goes through a somewhat predictable arc – starting as a prim, proper, and pure high school girl that is one of the leaders of her “chastity group” that has pledged to remain virgins until marriage, and then changing from the sexual victim to the sexual avenger, as she learns and soon becomes accustomed to the fact that she now needs a dentist where the rest of don’t. I guess this brings a whole new use for the “floss bikini”…

 

DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION:

 

EVERYTHING’S COOL

Directed by Daniel B. Gold and Judith Helfand, Everything’s Cool could be described as a kind of Michael Moore meets Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Upbeat and whimsical at times, but with a dead serious message – we’re all in deep doodoo if we don’t address the issue of Global Warming soon. While an Inconvenient Truth uses hard hitting facts to make it’s point, Everything’s Cool attempts to connect with the people who couldn’t relate to the earnestness of Al Gore’s approach by the use of humor, colorful animation, and zany characters. It makes it point well, and indeed serves it’s purpose – while the folks who are a fan of AIT might not take this film seriously, that’s okay, because they’ve got Al Gore’s earnestness to win them over. This film serves its purpose precisely because it will relate to all the people that Al can’t reach. And if you’re still not even slightly concerned about Global Warming after watching both of these films, well then I guess you think everything’s cool.

 

PROTAGONIST

Written and directed by Jessica Wu, Protagonist started off as a documentary on Euripides and classic dramatic structure, but ultimately became the chronicling of the sagas four real life contemporary men, and the parallels of their journeys to Euripedes’ principles and ideas. Entertaining and visually fascinating, Progatonist makes use of puppetry to re-enact scenes from Euripides plays – that also reflects the lives of her subjects – a bold approach that is both timeless and refreshing. Making reference to all the ways in which we are surrounded by story, Wu makes use of everything from home movies, drawings, flip-book animations, and the passages from the Bible that not only bring the classic traditions of the past into the present, but show the timelessness of the plights and ultimate redemption of the four modern day men. I had no idea what to expect when walking into this movie, but by the time I walked out, I was thoroughly entertained, engaged, and even learned a thing or two about classic story structure, not to mention being a new fan of up and coming filmmaker Jessica Wu.

 

MANDA BALA (SEND A BULLET)

Directed by Jason Kohn, Manda Bala explores the less glamorous side of Brazil – not the beaches, Carnivale, or samba dancers, but political corruption, kidnapping, and the side industries which they spawn – which have literally changed the face of the nation in recent years. Opening with a frog farm used as a front for money laundering, the film starts at the bizarre and paints an offbeat, but never trivialized, picture of the state of affairs in Brazil. One of the central figures in the film is Jader Barbalho, a corrupt tycoon who has used his political positions to evade prosecution for embezzlement and money laundering. Kohn also interviews both kidnappers and kidnapees in examination of the thriving kidnapping trade, which seems to have spawned a number of side industries including a plastic surgeon whose specialty is reconstructing ears that have been sliced off, bullet-proof automobiles, and private helicopters which seem to have become standard issue for wealthy Brazilians. The prevailing system seems to be that of the rich stealing from the poor and then the poor steal back from the rich, in a continuous cycle. A big kudos to the filmmakers, who literally put their lives on the line to make this film, and received death threats if the identities of some of their interviewees are revealed.

 

OTHER FILMS – OUT OF COMPETITION:

 

YEAR OF THE FISH

Writer/director David Kaplan has put together a fresh take on an old Chinese folktale (more commonly known as “Cinderella” to western audiences), set against the backdrop of a massage parlor in New York’s Chinatown. Ye Xian, the “Cinderella” of this story (a heartfelt performance by newcomer An Nguyen, who already has several more films in the works), is sent by her father to America to work in a massage parlor run by the cruel Ms. Su, the “wicked stepmother” character (brilliant performance from Asian star Tsai Chin of Memoirs of a Geisha, The Joy Luck Club, etc.). Being strong of spirit and unwilling to resort to prostitution to pay off her debts, she is forced to perform all the cleaning, cooking, and other menial labor. Corrine Wu‘s performance as the “not-so-evil stepsister” is noteworthy as well, adeptly traversing the range from evil to compassionate, as she ultimately comes to the aid of Ye Xian. I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more of Wu’s work in the near future. Hettienne Park plays the evil stepsister to the hilt – you love to hate her. Randall Duk Kim (Memoirs of a Geisha) plays several roles in the film, including the mysterious Auntie Yaga, who introduces Ye Xian to her Fairy Godmother, in the form of a goldfish, and Ken Leung provides a handsome and likeable “Prince Charming” character in this tale.

 

Kaplan has made very tasteful use of rotoscoped animation (animating over live action film) – using a new technology has not only allowed him to complete the film in a fraction of the time (and at a fraction of the cost), but more importantly gave him more creative control over the final effect. Sometimes rotoscoping can be highly stylized, but Kaplan made a great choice to use a more subtle effect, which allowed more details of the actors’ actual performances to come through – I believe ultimately this made for a more emotionally engaging film.

 

Kudos also to a wonderful music score from composer Paul Cantelon – I was humming the themes in my head throughout the rest of the festival.

 

From a writing standpoint, the well-defined characters and tightly knit structure kept you engaged from start to finish. While the Ye Xian character was strong in that she preserved her spirit by not allowing herself to be subjugated into prostitution, I would have liked to see her take a more active role in freeing herself, rather than passively awaiting her Prince Charming. Also, once Johnny (the Prince Charming character) finds Ye Xian, I would liked to have seen a bit more dramatic tension, and push and pull, such as “I’ve found her, but now I can’t have her,” etc. Kaplan had actually set this up beautifully, when Johnny found Ye Xian, only to learn (mistakenly) that she was a prostitute. Instead of simply loving her anyway and riding off into the sunset, much more drama could have been added by him going away based on thinking she was a prostitute, and Ye Xian’s character could then have become active, rather than passive, in finding him again and making things right. As it was, it all resolved a bit too quickly and easily for my tastes.

 

Even with my nit-picking, this was a well done film that is sure to win your heart, as will the talented cast.

 

SMILEY FACE

Written by Dylan Haggerty and directed by Gregg Araki, Smiley Face is one of those films that you just can’t help but like. Anna Faris turns in an absolutely hysterical performance as the loveable, if not misguided, Jane – who also happens to be quite the pothead. One thing leads to another, and what should have been a relatively simple day of going to an audition spins wildly out of control, with a series of madcap adventures that get her from point A, stoned at 9:17am, to point Z, sitting on a ferris wheel having a conversation with a disembodied voice about corn chips and orange juice, while about to be arrested for stealing a highly valuable and rare historical document. While on one level this film could have been a brainless sort of a one-joke-wonder: “I’m a pothead and therefore I’m slightly clueless and say and do one stupid thing after another” – Faris’ uncanny ability to add novelty to each variation makes this film ultimately a wonderful, fun, zany ride in the day of your not-so-average pothead. The writing is adequate, but it’s truly Faris’ top notch performance that saves this film from being a campy collection of repetitive stoner jokes relegated to B level obscurity, as she makes every scene a treat to watch. As mentioned in the Sundance guide, “Araki deftly pokes fun at pot culture while affectionately embracing it” – and one thing is for sure, that pot smokers and non-smokers alike will laugh their funnybone off during this film.

 

WAITRESS

It is a tragedy and true loss to the filmmaking community that writer/director/actress Adrienne Shelly was not here to witness the praise and success of her film Waitress – she was tragically murdered last November, even before hearing that the film was accepted to Sundance, or that it has since been picked up by Fox Searchlight. The film’s broad appeal is due to the smart, tight writing of the script, which makes you laugh as well as feel for all the characters in the story, as well as heartwarming and believable performances from a top-notch cast. The beautiful Keri Russell stars as Jenna, a waitress who can’t stand her jerk-of-a-husband Earl, doesn’t want his baby (that she just happens to be pregnant with), and simply wants to make pies at the diner where she works. She happens to have a great talent for making pies, and an even greater talent for coming up with interesting names for them, such as “I Hate My Husband Pie,” “I Don’t Want Earl’s Baby Pie,” and a number of other names that, while they give you no clue as to the ingredients, certainly clue you in to the frame of mind of the baker. Jenna’s regular pre-natal doctor is replaced by the handsome but insecure – and also married – Dr. Pommater (Nathan Fillion), whose charm, intelligence, kindness, and success is a welcomed change from Earl’s stupidity, selfishness and overall jerkhood. Without giving away too much of the plot, let’s just say that the jerk becomes an even bigger jerk, gets dumped, and something wonderful happens regarding the pies. The supporting roles were all wonderfully cast with great and endearing performances from Jeremy Sisto, who plays a delightfully idiotic Earl, Andy Griffith as the old, wise, kind, and sex-crazed owner of the diner, Cheryl Hines as the sexy co-worker, Eddie Jamieson as Ogie, the awkward suitor of Dawn’s affections, and last but certainly not least Adrienne Shelly, as lovable as ever in her role as Dawn.

 

This film is fun, funny, and quirky, yet touching and endearing, and has all the qualities necessary for a breakout film and big success at the box office. How wonderful it would have been for Adrienne Shelly if this had been her launching pad instead of her legacy, although a fine legacy it is.

 

BUGMASTER

Adapted from Yuki Urushibara’s well known graphic novel (or “manga”) Bugmaster (aka Mushishi), this film is poetic and beautifully shot (in Japanese with English subtitles), and tells the story of Ginko (Jo Odagiri), the healer who expertly manipulates bugs (mushi), small creatures which effect, both negatively and positively, life and its essence – they are “the phantom soul of nature breathing inside every living thing…and the dead.” Ginko meanders the Japanese countryside (as does the plotline), and encounters various people with ailments that he is able to diagnose and cure with the appropriate use of various bugs – it would have been great to tie these various stories together, or tie them into the ultimate resolution between Ginko and Tokoyami, but instead they are unconnected and many subplots seem to be left hanging. While the overall feel of the picture is a wonderful combination of magical and mystical, and dark and menacing – the film is hampered by the fact that the over-complicated and frequently rambling plot is difficult to follow, and further exaggerated by having to read the subtitles – in other words, you really have to pay attention to understand what the heck is going on. The CGI, however, is top notch – the effects are subtle and tasteful, rather than over the top – i.e., they support the story, rather than vying to be the center of attention. The music score is interesting and compelling, and makes featured use of the didgeridoo – musical purists may wonder what an aboriginal Australian instrument is doing in a turn of the century Japanese story, but for me, the haunting sound it creates was apropos to the dramatic feel nonetheless – I’m more of an absolutist: if it works, it works. Even with the film’s shortcomings, if you’re a fan of manga, fantasy, or beautiful filmmaking, this film is definitely worth a watch.

 

SLIPSTREAM

Written and directed by the revered Anthony Hopkins, Slipstream is, well, one whackjob of a movie – and I mean that in the best possible sense. By his own confession, Hopkins’ intent was to “break every rule of conventional filmmaking.” Using top-notch production and post production personnel, as well as some of the most talented actors in the biz, what Hopkins has created is an experimental film of the highest order; however, without the extra bit of “oomph” from said top talent, this could have easily become no more than something akin to what a film student might have created as an experimental class project, and a bad one at that. But having a cast full of actors such as John Turturro, Michael Clarke Duncan, Christian Slater, Camryn Manheim, Jeffrey Tambor, Kevin McCarthy, and of course Anthony Hopkins, not to mention technical talent such as cinematographer Dante Spinotti (X-Men 3, L.A. Confidential, etc.) certainly has its advantages. Using (or over-using) numerous editing and other devices such as frequent jump cuts, quick reverse/forward transitions, small repeated snippets, etc., Hopkins’ intent was to portray a dream state – to see a story in the non-linear timeframe of a dream, complete with non-sensical transitions, non-sequiturs and just plain random events. In that sense, he succeeded tremendously. The film is at once the story of a screenwriter who is losing his mind, and at the same time a movie about the making of the movie where the reality and the meta-reality co-exist and collide all at the same time. While I don’t see much in the way of a theatrical run, this film may indeed develop a significant cult following on DVD, judging from the hugely positive audience response (especially if they include some significant additional content, and the much needed director’s commentary). Run of the mill? Definitely not. Self indulgent? Maybe. Breaks all the rules? Definitely yes. I’m still not sure, but I think I actually liked this movie, but I couldn’t begin to tell you why.

 

MISS NAVAJO

Directed by Billy Luther, whose own mother was crowned Miss Navajo Nation in 1966, this film gives insight into the Navajo culture, and the high level of prestige and responsibility associated with being crowned Miss Navajo, but even more so the hard work, determination, and perseverance required to even be in the running. The pageant’s focus is on honoring and strengthening the Navajo culture and internal beauty, rather than focusing on more superficial qualities such as swimsuit competitions or even talent. As the winner will become an ambassador for the entire Navajo nation as well as a role model for other young Navajos, the young women are required to have a degree of fluency in the Navajo language (in danger of dying out), as well as significant and detailed knowledge of Navajo history, culture, and religion, and even practical knowledge such as being able to single handedly butcher and prepare an entire sheep – definitely something you won’t see in the Miss USA pageant! While a bit slow in pace, the sincere and heartfelt delivery makes this an enjoyable watch for anyone interested in learning about the Navajo culture.

 

DARK MATTER

As the winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Award, I had tickets to see this film on the final day of the festival, and was quite dismayed that Sundance had cancelled the screening simply because it was also part of a regular public screening at the tiny little theater at the Sundance Resort, close to an hour’s drive away from the main festival in Park City. I can’t for the life of me see the purpose of shortchanging all the people who worked so hard on this film for such a completely non-relevant reason. Having heard absolutely rave reviews from numerous people, I was quite looking forward to seeing it – so even though I’m not able to write a review, I thought I’d help make up for the lack of respect Sundance showed this film, and let you all know that, judging from the overwhelming response I heard, it’s definitely worth a watch.

 

SHORTS:

 

THE FIGHTING CHOLITAS

This short, directed by Mariam Jobrani, was given an Honorable Mention by the Sundance Shorts Jury and tells the tale of a group of Bolivian women who push the limits of their culture by performing acrobatic wresting stunts in full cultural dress for sold out audiences every week. Well told story, nicely shot and edited. I’ll also add that I had the pleasure of eating dinner at La Casitas at the table next to the filmmakers one evening, who were some of the most fun, friendly, and lively people I’ve met – I lost count of how many tequila shots passed from their table to ours, and to the rest of the restaurant… 🙂

 

ANIMATION SPOTLIGHT

This collection of animated shorts ran the gamut in terms of both animation styles, and storytelling ability:

One Rat Short – top notch professional level 3D animation, and a well told, tender but surreal love story between two rats. Directed by Alex Weil.

Duct Tape and Cover – I believe this used the original (but craftily edited) audio from the US government’s ludicrous safety campaign from the fifties “Duck and Cover” (in the event of a nuclear attack, simply hide under your desk!) in a satire about what Homeland Security would have us do in a current state of emergency. Funny idea, but very run of the mill animation and illustration – I suppose they were going for a retro look. Directed by Yong-Jin Park.

Phantom Canyon – A young woman randomly wanders around and encounters strange creatures – not much here in the way of interesting storyline, but some interesting animation. Directed by Stacey Steers.

Destiny Manifesto – Apparently this was an exploration of the visual and psychological parallels between the American western frontier and the conflict in the Middle East, but I don’t think I would have figured that out without having read it in the program – using a “Monty Python” style of animated oil paintings and several other animation techniques, director Martha Colburn created a unique look for this film. I found the music score to be inappropriate and almost annoying.

Paulina Hollers – Very unique and interesting animation style, going back and forth from animated wood carvings to hand drawn animation. Directed by Brent Green.

Dreams and Desires-Family Ties – About a woman who becomes overly obsessed with her new digital video camera, but not much of an interesting story. Animation was purposely sloppy, but nicely stylized. Directed by Joanna Quinn.

Everything Will Be OK – Light in tone, with fun, sarcastic, goofy humor, the voice-over is the star of this film – for a short in the animation spotlight, however, the animation was crude, minimalistic, and completely uninteresting at best. Close your eyes, and just listen, and you’ll be entertained by this piece. Directed by Don Hertzfeldt.

 

SHORTS PROGRAM 2

Overall, I was sorely disappointed with the quality of filmmaking in this collection of shorts. As I mentioned in last year’s roundup: “For my tastes, there are no excuses just because a film is a short film – it still needs a beginning, middle, and end – the characters still need to go through some type of arc, or at least there needs to be a point. Pretty much all the films in this collection failed on that end (as do sooooo many other short films in general), which is too bad, because some of them did a very good job at either creating a unique and interesting palette of characters or an interesting world. A great start – now do something with it! Just my thoughts.

Dad – if you like the visual of long, extended shots of gratuitously naked geriatrics dancing, this one will knock your socks off. There was almost a character arc for the son, but it was rather forced with no real impetus driving him to his resolution. Thumbs down. Directed by Daniel Mulloy.

Magnetic Poles – Supposedly this is the story of a girl in a bad relationship who finally has had enough. The relationship is implausible, as the boyfriend has no redeeming qualities whatsoever to qualify that any girl would even be with him to begin with, and rather than a character arc or story, we just see one example after another of the boyfriend continuing to be the same jerk, and her continuing to put up with it, until the end, when she finally leaves. The opening scene where a cockroach crawls up her nose was certainly a unique device, but I didn’t really see its relevance to the story. There were, however, gratuitous naked scenes for your viewing enjoyment. Thumbs down. Directed by Maria Rosenbum.

Doorman – This short explores the line between perpetrator and victim in a story dealing with a homosexual affair between a doorman and tenant in a NY apartment building. This one comes closer to hitting the mark, and has some powerfully emotional moments, but no real resolution or arcs make it slip a few notches. Again, plenty of gratuitous nakedness, which still does not make up for holes in the writing. Notably good performance from the lead actor, however.

Death to the Tinman – This short truly stood out among this collection, and actually won an Honorable Mention from the Sundance Short Jury. Director Ray Tintori took the original story of “The Tin Woodsman of Oz” and completely tweaked it, making it entirely funny, yet still tragic. Goofy fun, with a good music score.

Graceland – About an Elvis impersonator who travels the countryside from Bangkok with an impersonator of another type – this film seemed to have no point whatsoever. Directed by Anocha Suwichakornpong.

Happiness – with an underlying sadness, this film explores the line between what we think will make us happy, and what will actually make us happy, and what we’re willing to do to achieve it. This film makes a nice point at the end, but if it weren’t for a few nice moments in the middle, this film could almost be one of those “ten-minute-setup for-a-single-punchline” type of shorts, which also fall short (no pun intended), in my opinion. Directed by Sophie Barthes.

 

SHORTS PROGRAM 5

This collection of shorts was far and away better than Shorts Program 2, but still apparent (but to a significantly lesser degree) was the recurring theme of incomplete writing, underdeveloped ideas, or lack or character development. There is a distinct difference between shooting a “scene” as something to put on your demo reel, and creating an actual “Short Film” – a scene or demo doesn’t require character development, arcs, or resolutions, but once you call something a “film,” you really should consider having something at least resembling a completely developed idea.

 

Family Reunion – A New York Lesbian has trouble coming out to her family – no real arcs or resolution here, and no obstacles or revelations that add anything new to this overly re-hashed theme, which stopped being edgy for it’s own sake a long time ago. Good performances from the actors made this bearable to watch. Directed by Isold Uggadottir.

Der Ostwind – A German World War I flying ace accepts a challenge from a mysterious American pilot, possibly at the cost of his life – and learns something about himself, and the true meaning of honor. Top notch writing – at last! A unique and interesting story, complete with character arcs and a resolution – yes it can be done, even in only 11 minutes. Add to this incredible and top notch effects and animation, and solid performances. This is everything a short film should be, and then some. Kudos to director Kohl Glass.

Conversion – This film explores (on a very surface level) the effect that Missions have on Navajo tribe life, when a little Navajo girl finds a picture of Jesus. Great production value, but rather lacking in story and development. Directed by Nanobah Becker.

The Oates’ Valor – A piece about personal pride and forgiveness between a father and son. A fair directing job by Tim Cahill makes this quite watchable, but not quite outstanding.

Zarin – Wonderfully shot – if the writing were nearly as stunningly beautiful as the cinematography in this short, this would be an incredible film. About an Iranian prostitute seeking to escape her life, the plot, character development, and resolution are virtually non-existent. Lots of overly long, drawn out scenes – this film could have accomplished in two minutes what it did in twenty. Directed by Shirin Neshat.

Salt Kiss – this Brazilian film (in Portuguese with English subtitles) is an engaging, funny, dramatic, and at times subtle film with a heart. The storyline centers around the carefree Rogerio, who attempts to bring his recently engage best friend back to the single life. Based on real people, the person who played Rogerio was not an actor, but the actual person – no wonder his performance was so believable (and entertaining!). The ending fell a little short, but a worthwhile watch nonetheless. Directed by Fellipe Gamarano Barbosa.

 

Songbird – aptly screened before the feature Teeth, this film is a different sort of short, about an overbearing husband, wifely revenge (Janet Chiarabaglio as the wife), and very strange eating habits. Very original and stylized production values, and a unique story make this worth a watch – maybe not during mealtime, however.

 

 

THE PARTIES & EVENTS:

 

I think the general rule for this year was that if I was absolutely confirmed in advance as being on the list, I would show up and of course not be on the list, or would be on the list and still couldn’t get in. The more VIP I was told I was, the less likely I was to get in. Of course, all the parties for which I was not on the list in any way, shape or form, I was able to get myself and an entourage of 12 people into – go figure. Ultimately, we still finagled our way into whatever we needed to get into, and had tons of fun – wherever we ended up!

 

SUNDANCE OPENING NIGHT PARTY

@ Legacy Lodge

A lot of the high level execs weren’t in town yet, but a good mix of filmmakers and other industry folks were present. The chicken skewers and won tons were quite tasty, but I think I made the dessert my main course with several extremely tasty ice cream cones, and a dessert tray of brownies, cookies, and a fruit/yogurt dish that was amazingly delicious. Tearing one of my drink tickets from my wristband, I meandered (okay, ran) towards the bar to get one of the sponsored drinks of the evening known as the “D’anjou,” a very tasty drink made with Absolut Pear and Absolut Vanilla. It wasn’t long before the 2nd drink ticket was removed from my wristband, and shortly after that I was letting (or should I say begging?) other people to buy me drinks – yes, the D’anjou was quite tasty indeed. Hewlett-Packard was kind enough to sponsor a photo wall where everyone could take pictures. The weak point was the live band Motherload, which was was so-so at best, and was even making me a bit sleepy at times. More D’anjou, please!

 

CHICAGO TEN PARTY

@ Spur Bar Grill

We weren’t technically on the list, but the event planner was exceedingly cool and got us in. A great crowd, even though we got there just in time for last call…

 

TAO AT HARRY O’S

@ Harry O’s

I RSVPd as instructed, and was informed to pick up the two wristbands I was promised between 2pm and 4pm. I showed up on time, but was told that they had already given out all the wristbands, and that my “on-the-list-full-ness didn’t matter. The Security guy was cool and was able to get me one of the two wristbands promised, however. Not necessarily up for going alone, and since most of the events at Harry O’s are over-crowded, and too noisy to talk with anyone anyway, I didn’t really lose too much sleep over missing this event, and instead had a great time at the Gen Art party (below).

 

GEN ART KICK OFF PARTY – QUINTESSENTIALLY & CARBON

@ GenArt Sky Lodge 449 Main

While Gen Art has a long standing reputation of throwing the biggest and coolest parties at Sundance, this year they decided to scale things down considerably, and did their kick off party at a much smaller venue, the Sky Lodge on Main. No Beastie Boys concert like last year, but, as to be expected, I still had a great time – free Stella Artois beer was plentiful, and the crowd was fun. Celebrity hob-nobbing was plentifully available with attendees such as Cuba Gooding, Jr., Ian Ziering, Bobby Cannavale, Aidan Quinn, and Paul Rudd. As always, hats off to GenArt for providing a fun time! I am, however, hoping that they decide to ramp things back up again next year…

 

SAG ACTORS BRUNCH

@ Cafe Terigo

Hosted by Regina King, Nick Cannon, and SAG president Alan Rosenberg, I had a great time here – saw a bunch of old friends including Angel Rivera, the head of Diversity for SAG, and made some new friends as well, including beautiful and talented actress Corrine Wu from Year of the Fish. Also in attendance were actors Kevin Bacon and Ron Gilbert, and publicist Jeff Dowd.

 

VISUAL COMMUNICATIONS ASIAN FILMMAKER PARTY

@ China Panda Restaurant

As always, VC packs the house with some of the most talented Asian filmmakers, provides really great food, and a fun time. The giftbags weren’t quite as cool as last year’s beach towels, etc., but I appreciated the nice little bag they put together. This party is always a highlight for me.

 

FOTOKEM/FUJI/IRON MOUNTAIN/HOLLYWOOD REPORTER PARTY

@ Snow Park Lodge

In the past, this has always been one of the best parties at Sundance, with personal masseuses, tarot card readings, great food, and ample drinks, again supplied by Stella Artois, who had a strong presence at the festival. StriVectin sponsored the hand massage room, and also had a suite down on Main Street where they were happy to put a couple drops of their expensive but wonderful cream on your hand. Sadly missing from the sponsorship roster this year was attorney and producer’s rep Harris Tulchin, who elected not to participate – no tarot cards, the food wasn’t as good – definitely hope to see Harris back next year! Since they moved the date to earlier in the festival this year, the party didn’t get rocking until a bit later on, due to so many other conflicting parties which now all squeeze into the first few days of the festival. Ultimately, the crowd filled in and the party got rockin’, and a great time was had by all. The beautiful Nia Peeples was in attendance, and did her share to keep the dance floor moving! One of the long-standing highlights of the festival, this party is always not-to-be-missed!

 

MOVING PICTURES MAGAZINE VIP PARTY

@ 305 Main Street

Even though the owner of the venue where the party was held was having a bit of a nervous breakdown and doing her best to mess up the good flow being monitored by the more than capable doormen, most of my entourage was able to make it in, and we had a great time. Good food, good music, and a nice little gift bag at the end of the night.

 

METHOD FEST PARTY

@ Cicero’s

I got there pretty much just as it was shutting down, but heard it was a great time!

 

NBC UNIVERSAL PARTY

@ Fiore

This was a low key party, but with a very high key bang at the end, where Universal gave away $20,000 in production services…which just happened to get won by my friend and condo-mate Felicia Kamriani – wooo-hoooo! I guess it pays to stay in my condo! ☺ We didn’t make it over to the Picturehouse party because we were waiting to find out who won the raffle – looks like it was definitely worth staying! Thanks to Universal for a way cool party!

 

NETFLIX/RED ENVELOPE PARTY

@ Riverhorse

Had a great time at this party – the food was quite good; however, there are parties at Riverhorse continuously throughout the festival – it would have been nice if they didn’t serve exactly the same food at every single one of them! No less thought of the Netflix party, however – this was a well-done event, and they had some great people there. Wish I could have stayed longer, but we were off to the…

 

DAILY VARIETY 10 DIRECTORS TO WATCH PARTY

@ Stein Erickson Lodge

The Variety party is always one of the best at the festival – it’s still about the filmmakers, instead of all the hype, A-list bands, etc.; and every year I look forward to their “gourmet macaroni and cheese” and all the other great food they serve. If you were lucky enough to be on this year’s greatly reduced guest list, you would have been able to meet attendees such as the directors they honored, as well as celebs such as Heather Graham, William Baldwin, John Cusack, Sarah Polley, and Efren Ramirez (Napoleon Dynamite). Always a good, high level crowd, great networking, and an all around nice time. Kudos, Variety!

 

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY PARTY

Plenty of star sightings here included Tara Reid, Crispin Glover, Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Chris Klein, Ginnifer Goodwin, Cheryl Hines, Daphne Zuniga, Nick Cannon, and Scott Speedman, to name a few.

 

ICM PARTY

@ Village at the Lift

I got here quite late, but there was still an adequate crowd, and great drinks!

 

ZONE BAR

Opening Concert with Lindsay Buckingham, Joan Osborne, and Sean Lennon

@ Harry O’s Complex

Second row, ten feet from Lindsay, Joan, and Sean – three incredible performers and top musicians. Lindsay Buckingham‘s intensity is absolutely awe-inspiring, as is his musicianship. Joan Osborne was great as well, and had an incredible backup band (the drummer totally rocked). Sean Lennon was a bit more low key, but his heartfelt performance made for the perfect intro to Osborne and Buckingham. The event was hosted by Zone Bar, who so generously provided me with several cases of the delicious and nutritious snack food, and CDs of all the artists – a night I’ll not soon forget! In addition to the artists, I also got to meet the evening’s host Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, and and Sean Lennon’s current girlfriend Bijou Philips, who was sitting right in front of us, that night. The following evenings Zone Bar concerts (which I wasn’t able to make it to, unfortunately, but my condo-mates who got my tickets didn’t seem to mind too much… ) included talents such as Joss Stone, Shelby Lynne, Shawn Colvin, and Keb’ Mo’. The entire four night event was filmed, and will be airing on the WE network later this year. Hats off to Zone Bar for one of the highlights of the festival!

 

FILM INDEPENDENT PARTY

@ Turning Leaf Lounge

A cozy evening at the Turning Leaf Lounge with Sundance filmmaker Alfredo de Villa and producer Scott Foster, whose film Adrift in Manhattan garnered a spot in the dramatic competition at Sundance. FIND is a great organization, and this was a great party, with plenty of filmmakers in attendance, and free wine, graciously provided by Turning Leaf Vineyards. The beautiful Nia Peeples was seen engaged in quiet conversation, cozy on one of the plentiful couches there.

 

ADRIFT IN MANHATTAN PREMIERE PARTY

Again, a great time hanging with writer/director Alfredo de Villa and producer Scott Foster – an eclectic crowd, well stocked bars, and a great dance floor. Woo-hooooo!

 

KODAK PARTY

@ Riverhorse Café

Glad we got there early, as the line for this always-popular party was down the street in no time. As always, great food from the Riverhorse (although the exact same dishes I’d been eating there at parties all week!), a good crowd, and ample bars…and the usual lackluster band – when will Kodak bring the music up the otherwise high standard of the rest of the party?! While the gift bags are not as lavish as they used to be, I did get a really nice and comfortable pullover from Port Authority on the way out. Thanks again Kodak for a great time!

 

GEN ART FLY-IN MOVIES CLOSING PARTY

@ the Gen Art Lounge

While it took a bit of waiting to get into this party, it was ultimately worth it, as we all had a great time – and while I almost got into a fist fight with the bozo who didn’t seem to be able to stop pushing into everyone in line, who then almost got into a fight with several other people in my group and others as well, everything eventually settled down, and he went behind us in line where he belonged. The rest of the party was fun, with good food, plenty to drink, and I met some great people! Again, Kudos to Gen Art!

 

NY FILM COMMISION PARTY

@ Mike McCormick’s Ridiculously Huge But Oh So Fun Condo

Always an incredible party to found at the Mike McCormick mansion-of-a-condo with an indoor racquetball/basketball court, indoor pool and Jacuzzi with waterfall, etc. The food this year seemed to be a bit more scarce than usual, and I didn’t get to eat anything, but heard the little bit that was there was good. The problem was that there were one or two people making these little crepe things, that took them ten minutes to make ten little bites, which then disappeared in about ten seconds. Not exactly the most efficient method of food preparation and dissemination. Nonetheless, still a great time spent with many a New York film person, including lovely and talented east coasters Corrine Wu and An Nguyen from Year of the Fish. Actually, just taking people on tours of the place was a fun time in itself (“What! You haven’t seen the racquetball court yet?!!”) A big thanks to Jerry Stoeffhaas and Pat Kaufman with the NY Film Commission for always putting together a great bash!

 

JONATHAN GRAY CONDO AFTER-PARTIES

In Deer Valley

The after hours parties were always cool and fun at Jonathan Gray‘s, where there was usually almost enough booze, and many interesting people and conversations to be found. You could get cozy around the fireplace, dance in the living room, or hang in the kitchen and talk and drink to your heart’s content.

 

AWARDS CEREMONY

@ Racquet Club

After 8 years of attending Sundance, this is actually the first awards ceremony I’ve attended! While in the past I’ve always found out the winners by reading the press releases, this year (with my very own press pass – yes!) it was nice to actually see the ceremony. It was actually quite well done – very tasteful, not too long and drawn out, but enough time to give the winners time to say something meaningful. No need to list the winners here, as that information is in numerous places on the internet already. From the awards ceremony, we went directly to the…

 

SUNDANCE CLOSING NIGHT PARTY

@ Racquet Club

The closing night party is always the last hurrah, the last chance to see everyone (who hasn’t already left yet), and say goodbyes, discuss all the films you’ve seen or missed, and get some photos. You get a few drink tickets with your wristband, and the food was pretty good – and especially tasty was the gourmet ice cream that was also present at the opening night party. The music was good, and not to loud to talk, and they kept the lighting at a reasonable level – last year they made it so dark you couldn’t find anyone…Sundance is starting to get back on track – it used to host some of the best parties at the festival, and went down to some of the worst – now they’re back at a steady mid-range and climbing…

 

THE LOUNGES:

 

T-MOBILE CAFÉ AT VILLAGE AT THE LIFT

If you’re looking for a great place to interview a celeb, this is the place to be. The food was quite good, the press was everywhere (myself included), and there were so many celebs going through this place it would be futile to try to list them; however, just a few that were spotted at the tables next to mine were Willem Dafoe, Steve Buscemi, Ian Ziering, Vera Farmiga from the Departed (and two Sundance movies Joshua and Never Forever), Jamie-Lynn DiScala from the Sopranos, and Jeanne Chinn (numerous appearances on shows like Charmed, Weeds, Dharma and Greg, etc.). Great place, great food, great vibe. Great, great, great!!

 

PHILIPS AT VILLAGE AT THE LIFT

Not much here in the way of gifts or free stuff, but I did get a great cup of Tassimo coffee, a pack of energy saving lightbulbs, and some pretty cool (or should I say warm) earmuffs – the kind that don’t muss your hair, ingenious! A nice place to hang for a bit, though, and Tracy Edmonds just happened to be coming through while I was there.

 

AERIE AT VILLAGE AT THE LIFT

This store featuring cool women’s casual fashions from underwear to t-shirts and sweatshirts, and bags was quite nice to the entourage of attractive actresses I brought to make their stuff look good (and be seen), and hooked them all up with a great bag-full-o-stuff. And I got my share for being the nice press guy to bring everyone in! Thanks, Aerie!

 

INTERMIX GIFTING LOUNGE

This place rocked. The staff was incredibly nice and friendly, and were wonderfully generous to the girls in our group, as well as to myself and friend and fellow press member Chris Dellorco. Some truly nice clothing, jackets, handbags, candles and body lotion by Tocca, LaRok, Dooney & Burke, and others including boots from Michael Kors. This place was fun! This is the way to Sundance! Tom Arnold happened to be here, relaxing comfortably on a couch, and was friendly and talkative.

 

LUXESTAR GIFTING LOUNGE

The newly launched Luxestar.com is hopefully the direction of the future for swag, and there seems to be every indication that it will be. Their idea is simply that instead of getting a bag of pre-picked out swag that may or may not be what you actually want, you are given credits to pick only the items you actually want or need from their online store, which are then sent to your home instead of having to carry them around all day and spend the additional airline fees for the extra suitcase needed to bring everything home. Jamie Kennedy seemed to be a believer in the idea, as he was seen eyeing a number of the goodies. They’re also able to accurately track which celebrities browse each item in the online lounge, and which items they actually order, thereby giving them the ability to pass that highly sought information on to the sponsoring companies, which of course encourages them to give even more away – yes! Even though the online store provides opportunities for high end fashion and other items from companies such as Monarchy (apparel), Lolly Lu (fine gifts), IC! Berlin (sunglasses), Sid Dickens (art), Chef Yossi (kitchen essentials), Snow Queen Vodka, and Sterling Caviar, there were many items from the sponsors physically on hand at the lounge as well, including items from Mary Louise Butters Brownies (amazingly unique and tasty!), and Jaegar-LeCoultre (none of their high-end watches, but a nice bag to hold all your other swag in!).

 

MARQUEE LOUNGE

@ Harry O’s Complex

Many of the top celebs in town including Kevin Bacon, Terri Hatcher with her new beau, Heather Graham, and the ubiquitous Tara Reid (who seemed to have hit every gift lounge in town), walked out with some of the hottest products at Sundance, including electronics, digital cameras, and other fine gifts from companies such as Polaroid, LaCaoste, Dermalogica, Restylane®, AG Jeans, Yfly, Godiva, and more. Rumor has it that Kevin Bacon put all his swag on eBay, donating all the proceeds to charity – how cool is that?! Great for the charities, and even more free press for the companies that donated the swag – everyone wins!

 

HD HOUSE

@ 545 Main

A nice cozy place to hang for a bit, and see some of the latest gear using HD technology. And, I was even interviewed by Corey Boutilier of IndependentFilm.com.

 

ICE LOUNGE

@ St. Regis

the Ice Lounge provided for a very nice trip up the mountain to their hideaway, sending a chauffered limousine that was well stocked with a variety of Godiva chocolates to pick us up – a very nice touch indeed. And, a nice frosty Amstel lite was awaiting the moment we got there. While the stunning “ice doorway,” “room of ice” and the other ice sculptures were certainly cool to look at (no pun intended…well, okay, pun intended!), there wasn’t much in the way of giveaways at the Ice Lounge – however, if you bought something for close to retail value, they would then donate the money to worthy environmental charities such as The Conservation Fund‘s Go Zero, and Ski Green. Great for celebs like Timothy Hutton and John Cusack who I noticed perusing the quality items on display, but I didn’t see myself dropping $400 for a North Face jacket I didn’t really need. Lexus, one of the sponsoring companies, had a very cool and hi-tech auto racing video game set up, and Scott Foster (with the film Adrift in Manhattan) played and won $1000 off his next purchase of a Lexus – go Scott! While I’m not in the market for a Lexus or a North Face jacket, I was, however, able to stuff my face with the very ample supply of truly delicious chocolates that were on hand from co-sponsor Godiva. Dang, Godiva makes some good stuff. And, by some miracle, I didn’t even break out in a single pimple after all that chocolate infused consumption – could Godiva be the new heath food craze? 🙂 On a side note, with the Ice Lounge situated on the future site of the soon to be opened St. Regis Hotel, one cannot overlook the irony of placing a lounge supposedly dedicated to a variety of environmental causes and charities on the future site of one of the largest commercial developments in the Park City area. All in all, I had a nice time here (after all, it’s not just about the swag!), as apparently did other celebs such as Justin Timerlake, Tom Arnold, Heather Graham, Joe Pantoliano, and Sienna Miller.

 

AIRBORNE LOUNGE

@ Harry O’s Complex

A nice place to hang for a few and have a nice warm cup of Airborne, the miracle stuff that truly keeps you from getting sick! While I almost always get a raging cold at Sundance due to the lack of sleep, being in the snow and cold, and shaking hands with a zillion other sick people, last year I took daily doses of Airborne, and it was the first year I returned home healthy – and this year was the same! Thank you, Airborne, thank you!

 

 

So, that’s it for my coverage of the 2007 Sundance Film Festival – the films, the people, the vibe, my gripes and my praises.  If you have an event, film, or lounge you want covered next year, be sure to let me know about it in advance – my schedule gets jam packed up there (as you can probably tell from this Roundup!).  See you at Sundance 2008!

 

-Jeff

 

Jeffrey R. Gund

INFOLIST.com

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