Sundance Film Festival Roundup 2010!!

Event Date January 21 - 31, 2010
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SUNDANCE 2010 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 weren’t able to make it there, or those who are at least mildly interested in my opinions and ramblings.  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.  🙂

 

Ahhhh, another year, another fun filled Sundance trip, and another post-Sundace Roundup (followed by the required month or so of Sundance recovery and catching back up with everything that got put on hold during the entire month of January for the annual ritual of getting ready for Sundance for several weeks, followed by another two weeks up in Park City for the festival itself (and, of course the requisite several days of skiing pre- and post-festival!)  Yes, Sundance is indeed more than just showing up for a few days and seeing movies and going to parties – there are weeks of preparation that start with getting a big condo and going through the somewhat time intensive and laborious process of filling it up with all my friends, after sorting through everyone’s schedule to see who can fit where and when – only to be followed by getting all the party lists, contacting all the publicists, and going through the process of getting not only myself on all the lists, but as many of my friends, condo-mates, and business associates into the parties as well.  And then the tediist’s dream (which is a word I just made up to describe one who loves tediousness – couldn’t use tedium, ’cause that’s already a word, and the other option would have been tedian, but then I thought that would be better suited for “one who IS tedious” – and I know a few of those also – but, back to the point of this sentence…) of going through the schedule of parties and events, setting up a schedule, and then figuring out which movies I can see when that don’t interfere with the all important party-schedule, and then putting everything into one document that allows me to have a mild semblance of sanity during the actual festival.

 

Speaking of schedule, however – before I get into what a wonderful time I had, all the truly great people I met, all the interesting films I saw, etc., I’m going to take a moment to whine about how Sundance has become so “front-loaded” as to be ridiculous.  I can remember the good old days not too many years ago when there was a big party EVERY single night of the festival – and Sundance itself even added to the mix by also throwing something every single night of the festival, so that even if there wasn’t much going on otherwise, you knew there would be a big bash where you could get together with everyone and enjoy.  Then Sundance stopped with the nightly parties, and hosted only an opening and closing night party, with a (worthless) street party in the middle of the festival.  Then they tossed the centerpiece party, leaving only the opening and closing parties.  And all during this process began the transformation where everyone else had somehow decided that the first half of the festival was the only time worth throwing a party, so that everything got squished into the first 5 days – therefore causing overlaps where you simply couldn’t make it to everything, unless you also happened to be a cloning expert.  And now, over the last year or two, it seems that even that wasn’t enough, as now they’re trying to squish just about everything into the first weekend – sheesh!  Come on folks, it’s a 10 day festival, for Pete’s sake!  There are films throughout the entire ten days, and some films don’t even have their first screening until the 2nd half!  All you’ve accomplished by trying to make it so all the “cool people” can come to your party is make it so that they (dare I say we?) can’t go at all – because there are three other things going on at the same time, and – flash from the physics department – we can’t be everywhere at once.  So, hoping that somewhere, somehow, a reader of this article will take note, and dare to be brave, be bold, think outside the box, and put your party at least somewhere in the middle of the festival. And a quick but heartfelt thank you to Kodak, Mac Africa and Tifanie Joudeh who have so far braved the as recent untread waters and kept their parties beyond that “first weekend” mark – you are truly appreciated!  Sundance Channel and USC get bonus points for also having their parties on Tuesday (although they were afternoon mixers, and not one of the big evening parties).

 

Even with all my front-loading gripes, I had a truly wonderful time – met some fun, interesting people, and got some great business done – and was sure to get in my usual few days of skiing!  Isn’t great that we work in an industry where we can go to movies and parties for ten days straight, and get to call it “work”?  Although before all that hard work at the festival, I arrived a day early and did my usual trek up to Alta at the next canyon over for a day of fine skiing – as it has a higher altitude and therefore the snow is usually better, and it has better runs as well.  On a side note (there will be a lot of those in this article!), I’ve been skiing with the old school “straight edge” skis since the beginning of time – I’ve been skiing my whole life, and ski pretty well, so I just didn’t see the need to go spending tons of money to get the new (not new anymore…) “shape” skis.  I had actually rented a pair a few years back, just to try ’em, and didn’t see much difference, so I just left it at that.  Well, after getting a number of raised eyebrows and comments like “Wow, haven’t seen those kind of skis in awhile!” comments just on the way to the ticket window, I thought I’d try and rent another pair of shape skis – just to try ’em again.  Not sure what was with the skis I tried the last time, but boy there was a difference with these!  You just think about turning, and your skis do it for you, and you expend one zillionth the energy accomplishing the same thing (yes, that was a technical measurement).  So, during the week I went and bought a pair of “new” shape skis, and on the Monday following the festival, I made use of my free ticket from the Sundance Press Office (yes!) and brought my new purchase for a great day of skiing. It had been snowing all week, so the snow was fantastic (not so great when you’re standing out in the cold while waiting in line for a festival party, but worth it once you’re on the slopes!)  I had the good fortune of running into friends Mac Africa and Jenna Lynn, as well as new friend and musician Chris Hawley for a great day of skiing to top off an already great ten days at the festival.

 

While the economy may be on it’s road back to recovery, there was still evidence of its wrath on the only semi-crowded streets of Park City, which were sometimes almost ghost-town empty, even during the usually packed-to-the-brim opening weekend.  While I’m sure the local economy of Park City took a hit as a result, as with last year, the smaller crowd made many of the festival’s events a more pleasing experience with less craziness when getting into events. Past years were sometimes so crowded that, even when you were on the list for an event, you couldn’t even make your way through the crowd to the door to let the doorman know you were on the list!

 

After a few years of going back and forth and complaining how the lure of free stuff at the gifting suites takes me away from the “true purpose” of the festival (it’s about the films, right?), and then vowing them off and not attending them so much, this year I think I found a good happy medium and did enough “Gifting” to quench my stuff-lust and still not doing so at the expense of missing the films I wanted to see, or other events.  For more details on the free stuff, read on to the “Gifting Lounge” section below (you know you want to hear about it!)

 

But yes, on to the focus of the festival – the films.  As disheartening as the lack of pickups by distributors at last year’s festival was (although entirely expected due to the economy), the increased activity from distributors this year was a much needed shot in the arm (although, frankly, at least from the films I personally saw, last year’s selection was on the whole quite a bit better), and hopefully some evidence that our economy is on the upswing as companies are more willing to spend money and make an investment.

 

Well, the good part about all the front loading of parties and events is that it leaves me more time to actually see more films, the true heart of the festival.  Unfortunately, this year I didn’t get to see any films that truly grabbed me – you know, the kind where when you’re telling a friend about it you grab them by the shirt, shake them, yelling, “You just HAVE to see this film!!”  All my friend’s shirts were indeed safe from grab-wrinkles and possible tearing as, alas, none of this year’s films so inspired me.  There were many that were “good, but not great…” And when you’re talking about independent film, there’s also the chance of seeing some “downright horrible” films as well (which, coincidentally enough seem to be the films most likely to do well with the Sundance Jury, go figure), but at least this year I was able to avoid most of those (well, except for a few) – So, on to the meat – here’s my take on this year’s films, as well as the events, lounges, etc!

 

THE FILMS:

 

PREMIERES:

 

THE RUNAWAYS

 

From first-time director Floria Sigismondi, A fun but sometimes dark rock and roll romp that will leave you entertained, and transport you back in time (if you’re old enough to remember…)  While it gives a bit more attention to the “sex and drugs and rock-and-roll” themes over characters, emotional depth, and insight, the writing is well done, although the story isn’t quite as focused as it could be.  While the characters are true to life and realistic, they are not quite as multi-layered as the story would accommodate, but still provide an engaging cinematic experience.  Kristen Stewart’s portrayal of Joan Jett was spot-on, and Dakota Fanning’s portrayal of Cherie Currie was also top-notch, both actresses giving the proper respect and reverence to the icons they were portraying.  The storyline seemed to give surprisingly little screen time to Lita Ford, who went on to great success in her own right (great performance by Scout Taylor-Compton), although maybe not-so-surprisingly, since the story also made it clear that she and Currie did not leave on the best of terms (and the film’s story was based on Currie’s book Neon Angel: The Cherie Currie Story).  Kim Fowley gave a great performance as Michael Shannon, the sleazy music industry guy who found the girls and created the band.

 

 

COMPANY MEN

 

While the film was watchable, it’s basically a story of “guy loses job, and then does everything you’d expect afterwards.”  No real moral dilemmas or tough choices to make, no real character arcs, and no interesting twists.  Tommy Lee Jones gave his as-always solid performance, as did Chris Cooper, and Kevin Costner.  The film’s star Ben Affleck gave his usual stuff also (which to me, translates as “rather un-interesting but somewhat adequate).  While the subject matter was timely indeed, the execution was rather disappointing – perhaps it’s the writer/director John Wells who should have been laid off?

 

 

DRAMATIC COMPETITION:

 

 

OBSELIDIA

 

With a story initially inspired by a local library giving away free encyclopedias, first time writer/director Diane Bell brings her vibrantly whimsical yet substantial characters to life in this offbeat, quirky story with obsolescence as it’s central theme.  While the obsessively nostalgic George (endearingly played by Michael Piccirilli) is on his constant quest to create the complete “Obselidia” which documents the obsolescence and disappearance of all sorts of ephemera, the budding relationship between him and Sophie (delightful performance by Gaynor Howe) seems to ask the question whether relationships need to be forever, or can they too become obsolete, fulfilling their purpose for only the required amount of time.  Excellent writing, wonderful performances full of depth and nuance, and excellent directing to bring it all together make this one of the unique standouts of the festival, winning both the Alfred P. Sloan Award, as well as the Dramatic Excellence in Cinematography award.  Kudos also to a well-done music score that did a great job of incorporating interesting sound design elements into its fabric.  While only time will tell if this film deserves an early entry in the Obselidia, Bell’s obvious talent is sure to keep her around for a long time to come.

 

 

SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS

 

Delicious is a talented DJ, who also happens to be crippled and homeless (Truly brilliant performance by the film’s screenwriter Christopher Thornton, who is himself confined to a wheelchair, which is no doubt what gives him such insight into his character’s many foibles and strengths). Delicious finds that he has the power to heal with his touch – everything from blindness to disability – in everyone but himself.  At the urging of a greedy priest (Mark Ruffalo), he begins charging money to heal people, and the resultant fame and fortune leave him otherwise empty inside. Further exploited by a rising narcissistic rock star (a bit over the top and clichéd but otherwise entertaining performance by Orlando Bloom), he begins living what he thinks to be his dream of DJing in a band. Otherwise living a life with no direction and apparent uselessness, it is indeed having a calling which becomes Delicious’ healing – and it’s only once he begins to heal people because he cares, rather than for money, that good things begin to happen for him. It’s not a movie about religion, but it has religious people in it – it’s about faith in people. While possibly too many religious themes for the secular crowd, and too much debauchery for the religious crowd, this is an inspired film will make you think, and feel.  Although it won’t make you feel sympathy, since no sympathy is required for first time director and co-star Ruffalo, who delivers an artful, thoughtful, and well done film.

 

 

3 BACKYARDS

 

Without a doubt the worst film of the festival, and quite possibly the worst film I’ve ever seen.  Displaying an uncalled for and unrelenting obsession with close-ups of plant life and glares from the sun, the film’s premise (as described in the Sundance catalog) was simple enough – the different lives of 3 different people, with their backyards as the tie-in.  The only problem was that the backyards had no tie-in whatsoever to the characters’ stories, with the exception of the unexplainable yet continuously recurring plant life and sun glare shots mentioned above.  Nor did the characters stories intertwine, collide, or even interact in any meaningful way, quite defeating the entire premise of the film.  Unsurprisingly, a cast of otherwise talented actors (Elias Koteas, Edie Falco, Embeth Davitz, Danai Gurira) gave entirely lackluster performances, partially due to the overly numerous and overly pretentious scenes of “long, drawn out, silent moments with no dialogue, and nothing interesting” which seemed to try to bang you over the head that they were important moments, simply because they were “long, drawn out, silent moments, with no dialogue, and nothing interesting.”  As if the story and other elements weren’t bad enough, the amateurish music score featured numerous long, drawn-out notes that were piercingly high in pitch, shrieking to the point where the audience had to put their fingers in their ears to avoid actual, physical pain (and this is not an exaggeration or otherwise poetically enhanced description).  This film seemed to beg the question, “How far can you push an audience before they walk out?”  And apparently it got its answer, as the theater was only half full by the time I made it to the desperately desired end.  So it’s no surprise that the Sundance jury (with whom I almost always completely disagree) gave this the award for Best Directing.  Please excuse me while I poke my eyes out, rip off my ears, and then set myself on fire.  So, hat’s off to writer/director Eric Mendelsohn for pulling off the fakeout of a lifetime.

 

 

DOUCHEBAG

 

At times entertaining, at times annoying, Douchebag is at best a mixed bag.  And at worst another kind of bag which might un-coincidentally refer to the film’s title.  Directed by Drake Doremus, this film with mumblecore leanings tells the story of two brothers, Sam (quite douchily portrayed by the film’s screenwriter, Andrew Dickler, at his douchiest – in a good way), and sensitive brother Tom (Ben York), who go on a road trip to find Sam’s long lost love.  I won’t say whether or not they find her, but they certainly don’t find much else – themselves, a character arc, etc.  Even the reason for the change of heart at the end of the story comes off as unrealistic – there’s nothing that leads up to it or inspires it other than a mild getting yelled at (which has surely happened many, many times before). Unfortunately, this film fails to put the “do” in douche.

 

 

HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE

 

Directed by Josh Radnor (How I met Your Mother), the title of this film is quite possibly more interesting the movie itself.  It was surprising to me that this film won the Dramatic Audience Award (which I usually agree with, or at least agree that it’s a good film), as for my tastes it was not bad, but definitely not good either – maybe a sign of the overall lack of top-notch films this year.  Almost-there performances from Radnor, and co-stars Malin Akerman, Tony Hale, Zoe Kazan, and Kate Mara.  The writing, while sometimes letting the charm of the characters shine through, ultimately gave them little or no motivations for many of their actions, making it difficult to get too emotionally engaged in their stories.  While it might be a bit to harsh to quote one of the film’s characters and say the film was “unburdened with talent,” this film was not exactly the standout of the festival either.

 

 

WINTER’S BONE

 

Co-writer/director Debra Granik trimmed the fat and got right down to the bone in this well-written, well-acted film that won not only the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, but also the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize.  A truly upside-down year at Sundance for me this year, being that I usually can’t stand the jury-winning films, and usually love the audience award films. Jennifer Lawrence give a layered performance a step beyond what we might expect, given the 17 year old character she plays, Ree Dolly.  Her performance catches all the nuances of a girl who is still young in years, but commands herself as one who is forced into the role of looking after her family.  In a moonshine community where Rule #1 is “don’t talk to the police” – Ree is forced to confront family and friends as she must work with the police to find her father, or her family will lose their home.  As such, the coldness the winter is matched only by the coldness of her family, which Ree must endure to keep it all together. Set in the rural Ozarks, typical hillbilly characters are ever-present, but Granik’s skill as a writer and director goes beyond the cliché and adds a depth and humanity (and inhumanity) and realism to the characters that inhabit this community in a way seldom seen in your typical Hollywood (or even independent) film.   Also worth mentioning are outstanding performances from a stellar supporting cast, including Lauren Sweetser.  Everthing about Winter’s Bone rings true – the story resonates with a stark unforgiveness, and the realness of the characters keep you fully engaged.

 

 

DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION:

 

 

GASLAND

Gas may burn clean, but the problem is with how it is removed from the earth.  In this film which won the Documentary Special Jury Prize, director Josh Fox exposes the hazards of “Fracking” – the method by which hundreds of toxic chemicals are pumped at high pressure into the ground to release the natural gas, which of course pollute the ground and the drinking water, among other things.  This smart expose brings light to the numerous corporate and government corruptions, highlighting Dick Cheney as a major culprit, which are responsible for entire communities developing severe health problems. My only complaint about the film was the poor hand-held cinematography, which made me feel as dizzy as the natural gas might have made me.  A not to be missed film, whether you’re green and environmental, corporate and capitalist, or just don’t want to die from toxic chemicals.

 

 

RESTREPO

Winner of the Documentary Grand Jury Prize, this film gives a hard hitting yet poignant look into a year in the lives of a platoon of soldiers besieged in Afghanistan at their base dubbed Outpost Restrepo – in honor of one of their fallen comrades, Juan Restrepo. Filmmakers Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington literally put their lives on the line to give civilians a glimpse into what life is really like for our military on the front lines, where firefights are a common occurrence.

 

 

WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION:

 

 

ANIMAL KINGDOM

 

Winner of the Dramatic World Cinema Jury Prize, Director David Michod presides nobly over the animals in his kingdom, getting just the right combination of dark, moodiness, squalor, and tension from actors Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, and Guy Pearce in this Australian crime drama about a mom (ruthlessly played by Jackie Weaver, in a standout performance) who raises her sons to be the criminal kind. What stands out about this film is that it purposely avoids the big car chases and explosions typically associated with the genre, and gives you time to get inside the characters.  I think there must be a misalignment of the planets or something, since I actually agree with the Sundance jury on this one! I’m sure this will be picked up and out in the theaters in no time.

 

 

FOUR LIONS

 

How do you describe a film that takes a subject matter as serious as terrorism and make it into a farcical romp? Director Chris Morris seems to have figured it out exactly in this completely original and hysterical tale about four jihadists which shows that (so eloquently put by the Sundance Guide) “while terrorism is about ideology – it can also be about idiots.” If you believe that Jews invented spark plugs to control the global transportation industry, then you’ll find yourself in good company with the characters in this film.  With clever dialogue, the script goes from the insane to the absurd (in a good way!) in one inane plot hatched after another from our band of unlikely terrorists.  With truly comedic performances from Riz Ahmed, Adeel Akhtar, Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak, and Arsher Ali who all play wonderfully off each other, you’ll get a belly full of laughs during this movie. While some of heavy moments in the film seemed a bit unbalanced with respect to the rest of the film, they also gave the film some of the weight it needed to truly endear you to the characters and keep the lunacy from going too far over the top.  Only one sheep was blown up in the making of this film.

 

 

CONTRACORRIENTE (UNDERTOW)

 

A sort of Peruvian fishing village version of Brokeback Mountain, this winner of the Dramatic Audience Award was a bit of a toss-up for me.  Filmmaker Javier Fuentes-Leon tells a story wrought with sexuality and sensuality, replete with stunning cinematography by Mauricio Vidal in an otherwise unimpressively rehashed story of gay oppression.  Endearing performances by Cristian Mercado and Manolo Cardona coupled with the high quality visuals made for a truly cinematic experience, although the shortcomings in the writing left me somewhat unfulfilled by the end of this tale of forbidden love.

 

 

WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION:

 

LAST TRAIN HOME

 

In what is known to be the world’s largest human migration, the annual epic spectacle in which China’s migrant workers all return home for the Chinese New Year is the backdrop for the story of the Zhang family.  Sixteen year old Qin has spent most of her formative years without her parents, as they had to make the hard decision to leave her with her grandparents while they became migrant workers and headed to the city to find work, so they could make enough to create a better life for their children.  The inherent irony is that it only serves to alienate Changhua and Sugin from their daughter, who feels abandoned and unloved by her parents who are never home, and don’t know anything about her life.   The film puts a personal face on a much bigger social issue that is at the core of the very existence of a truly vast number of Chinese families – filmmaker Lixin Fan dexterously bridges the gap between the intimate issues of a single family and the grand scope of this epic annual event.

 

 

OTHER FILMS – OUT OF COMPETITION:

 

 

THE TAQWACORES

 

Part of the NEXT program presented by YouTube, which gives a platform to micro-budget film, this film from first time director Eyad Zahra highlights the struggle between religion and freedom of expression for Muslim youths, set against the backdrop of Taqwacore, Muslim hardcore punk rock. Straightlaced Pakistani Yusef (great performance from newcomer Bobby Naderi) moves in with a collection of misfits and rebels, with standout performances from Dominic Raines, Nav Mann, and Noureen DeWulf.  And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Denise George in her supporting role as Dee Dee.  Based on a novel of the same name by Michael Muhammad Knight, the dark tones expertly captured by cinematographer JP Perry set the tone for this story of hope (and lack of it), and the struggle to find and define ourselves.

 

 

BURIED

 

Part of the Park City at Midnight category, the perfect example of how to make a micro-budget film, with pretty much just a wood box, one actor, and a camera (slight exaggeration, but only slightly). A guy wakes up in wooden box, buried underground, with nothing but a cell phone and a lighter, and spends the entire movie trying to figure out how to get out – it takes a seriously talented actor to pull this off (coupled with clever writing from screenwriter Chris Sparling), and star Ryan Reynolds delivers with room to spare (and given the size of the box, room is definitely at a premium!).  Audiences who need big budget effects to feel wowed might not want to spend their twelve bucks to see this, but anyone who appreciates a well told story, expertly delivered, with a masterful balance of tension and emotional pull, is sure to love this movie – there’s even an “action scene” within the confines of the box!  I guess you could say filmmaker Rodrigo Cortes really knows how to “think inside the box!”

 

 

HIGH SCHOOL

 

College bound honor student and otherwise well-behaved kid Henry (Mat Bush) decides to take his first toke of a joint – the day before his high school announces mandatory drug tests.  Not about to let his friend be ousted from school and miss his college opportunity, good friend and stoner Breaux (Sean Marquette) conjures up the sort of plan that only a full-on stoner could come up with:  Get the entire school stoned so they’ll have to throw out the test.   With an adequate performance from Michael Chiklis as the uppity school principal, and a slightly over the top Adrien Brody as “Psycho Ed,” the standout performances come from the young newcomers Bush and Marquette.  If you’re too young to remember classics such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Risky Business, or Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but love Pineapple Express, you’ll probably at least be mildly entertained by this high school romp with a slacker bent, whose message seems to be, “don’t shoot high, just get high.”  Nothing new here, but an adequate rendition of familiar themes – while I don’t think Director John Stallberg, Jr. gave this film the stuff to achieve the classic status of the above-mentioned films, it’s just fun and commercial enough to be a likely pick-up.

 

 

SHORTS:

 

 

Gotta say, I was truly disappointed with the selection of short films I saw this year – not a single one caught my attention as outstanding, and very few were above “maybe even sorta close to kinda good.”  As I tend to say every year in the shorts section of my review – just because it’s a short, doesn’t mean it’s not a film.  And a film needs to either have a storyline with a beginning, middle, and end, or it needs to make some kind of point.  Having a quirky character that rambles on the screen for 15 minutes about nothing, other than to show how quirky he is, is not a film.  One disgusting scene after another with nothing that ties them together is not a film.  Ten minutes of bland dialogue whose whole point is to lead up to one so-so joke at the end is a film, but a bad one. That said, a few of the standouts were…

 

PUMZI

A sci-fi story from Kenyan writer/director Wanuri Kahui, with feature-quality production values, an intelligent story, and great performances, especially from the the exotically stunning Kudzani Moswela in the lead role. Would love to see this get made into a feature.

 

CAN WE TALK

Hilarious – proof that anything said with a British accent is funny… directed by British director Jim Owen.

 

WISDOM TEETH

Hilariously funny, and the perfect example of what a short film with no point should be.  An animated film directed by Don Herzfeldt.

 

FAMILY JEWELS

Written and directed by Martin Stitt, this short about the mother of two young children, who also happens to be a solider and is about to be deployed overseas.  Truly endearing performances and a touching subject matter make this a standout.

 

 

THE PARTIES & EVENTS:

 

While last year I complained that the festival was getting more and more front-loaded by everyone throwing their parties within the first five days (leaving very little during the entire last half of the festival), this year shrunk that window even more, with most things going on only within the first weekend.  Whining and moaning aside, here’s the roundup for this year’s events that I attended:

 

 

HOWL PREMIERE PARTY

I believe this is the first time in eleven Sundance festivals in a row where I wasn’t able to get a ticket for the opening night film and party!  The stars must have been out of alignment (or should I say moon, given the title of the opening film was “Howl”?), as even outright begging and asking everyone who walked by if they had an extra ticket failed to produce a result.  It did, however, produce a somewhat amusing experience, as one of the people I asked if they had an extra ticket was none other than Michael Moore, who I didn’t recognize until at least mid-sentence.  He graciously said, “No, but good luck in finding one,” and continued on his way into the theater, and left me there with a “OMG – that was Michael Moore I just tried to mooch a ticket from!” look on my face. So, even though I didn’t finagle my way into the screening, I was back in top form and managed to get into the Howl Premiere party immediately following along with condo-mates Chris Dellorco, Paula Labaredas, Frieda Luk, and Chris Charalambous, and even took pictures of my friends with the film’s star James Franco, as well as Catherine Keener and Mad Men star John Hamm.

 

 

FRIDAY NIGHT MASHUP

It seemed like we spent Friday skipping from one event to another, starting with the Columbia University Reception at the cool and funky Coda Gallery, followed by the Carnegie Mellon University Reception on Main Street, then venturing off to the Gen Art 7 Fresh Faces party, where we were able to get most of us in right away, but I felt bad for the few friends who had to wait out in the snow for awhile – but then we were off to the IndieVest party, which is always a nice time.  We capped the night off at the Bing Lounge afterparty, where we got to see Kelis perform her smash hit Milkshake.  We were joined throughout the evening by friends Holly Fields (Shrek), May Wang, Nadia & Diana Antii, Mike Yuen, Adam Berns, Chris Dellorco, Christo Dimasis, and rapper Etc., among others.  After most of my friends went home, I then head out with Etc. and went to the after-after party at the Luxury Lounge…

 

 

CHEFDANCE

A gourmet feast prepared by Chef Beau MacMillan of Sanctuary, we dined on Seared Scallops with Creamed Anson Mill Gritts as the appetizer, a first course of Chilled Lump Crab Salad with Hijiki Aioli, Passion Fruit and Avocado, and braised short ribs with salisfy fondue, and garlic cherry glaze as the main course – although since I don’t really eat fish, the first two courses were pretty much “right out,” although I quite enjoyed the short ribs.  The dessert was a salted caramel panna cotta with caramel corn and chocolate peanuts, and was truly scrumptious!  Celebs in attendance included Adrian Grenier.

 

 

JOAN JETT CONCERT

After ChefDance, we simply headed upstairs to Harry O’s for the Joan Jett concert.  Joan is in better shape than she was when she was a teenager (arm muscles rippling, and glistening with sweat!) – truly an awesome experience to be part of the entire place pumping their arms and singing along to, “I Love Rock And Roll!!”  And of course she did just as energetic renditions of “Cherry Bomb,” and “Bad Reputation,” and the more melancholy “Crimson and Clover.”  Two words to describe this concert:  Awe – some!

 

 

GREEN DOOR MANSION PARTY

This was your typical “too-many-people-smashed-into-a-condo-with-music-so-loud-you-couln’t-say-hi-to-anyone” party…  Stayed for a bit, then called it a night.  After the Joan Jett concert, this was a bit anti-climactic…

 

 

SAG ACTOR BUNCH

@ Café Terrigo

You know those times when you’re talking with someone for like five minutes, and you don’t realize they’re famous, and then make a few statements that make it really obvious you don’t know who they are, and then they all of a sudden get rude and decide they don’t want to talk to you anymore?  Well, now I do, too.  And so does one of the party’s co-hosts Adrien Brody.  Also at the event was Lauren Sweetser from Winter’s Bone, who couldn’t have been more lovely, as well as Michael Piccirilli and Diane Bell from Obselidia, with whom we had fun, entertaining banter.  Oh, and Adrien Brody then almost had one of my friends (who shall remain nameless) kicked out of the event for taking a picture of him.  But, bagging on Brody aside, the SAG Brunch is always one of the cooler events at the festival, refreshingly low key and intimate.

 

 

ASIAN FILMMAKER PARTY

Visual Communications always does a great job with their annual event at the China Panda Restaurant, which always has great food, and a great crowd of talented filmmakers.

 

 

VARIETY’S TOP TEN DIRECTORS TO WATCH PARTY

Unfortunately, after many years of holding one of Sundance’s best parties at the Stein Erikson Lodge, which included not only great food, great guests, and a the perfect atmosphere for networking, talking, and meeting people (the whole point, no?), they moved venues again this year – while last year’s foray over to The Shop was a number of steps down, this year the moved to the Sky Lodge, which although a nice venue in general, the party was relegated to a semi-atmosphere-less tent outside, so it not only lacked the charm of the Stein Erikson, but the food this year was still not comparable to the truly delicious culinary delights from years past. Even with my gripes above, all in all still one of the top parties at the festival.  Among esteemed filmmakers and numerous other VIPs, we also bumped into DGA Executive Director Jon Larson, and Appolonia, who was a true delight!

 

 

FOTOKEM/FUJI PARTY

Great venue at the Snow Park Lodge, and still one of the centerpieces of the Sundance Party scene.  There’s always massage tables and other amenities, plus tons of good food and (unfortunately, now limited) drinks.  Denise George from The Taqwacores was in attendance, as were numerous other Sundance luminaries.

 

 

SAG FILMMAKER BRUNCH

Had a great time at this SAG event also, and met Fairuza Balk, as well as the one of the filmmakers involved with the well-done short, PUMZI.

 

 

SYNCHORONIZE CONDO PARTY

Had a great time here – great people, and plenty of food and drinks to keep me occupied…  Bumped into old friends Richard Walters, and made some new ones, including Joel Eisenberg of Emo Films and All Cities Media.

 

 

SKATELAND PREMIERE PARTY

Some very strange happenings at this party, including one with an over-zealous drunk midget body guard who seemed to be claiming ownership of some of the girls in our group.  No words to accurately describe this one, really…  It will, however, be a memory that is always with me, to entertain whenever I might feel otherwise bored. I’m not sure if it’s despite the incident above, or because of it, but this was a great party at a fun location, with a great crowd.

 

 

SUNDANCE CHANNEL PARTY

Packed to the brim with interesting filmmakers and festival attendees of all sorts, but once you found a spot with enough room to breathe, you wanted to stay there.  A number of celebs here, including Jim Kelly of the Buffalo Bills.

 

 

CHEFDANCE

Our second ChefDance outing during the festival, featuring Chef John Murcko of Talisker Club.  Our gourmet dining consisted of black caviar deviled egg for the appetizer, first course of Oxtail Shepard Pie (delicious!), Second Course of Sashimi Charlotte with apple, fennel, truffle ponzu, and persimmons, and a main course of straw roasted rack of lamb with rutabaga and salsify succotash and caraway jus.  Good friend Chris Dellorco, and our dinner mates Jianna Maarten and Renee Foresman were excellent company.

 

 

KODAK PARTY

@ Riverhorse Café

Jianna and Renee joined us and we danced our keesters off.  There’s always plenty of great food and drinks here, and one of the staples of the Sundance party scene.  And of course our usual annual bumping into Chris Barrett as well!

 

 

BMI SNOWBALL

Featuring music from DJ Thomas Golubic. Since they don’t have the live music performances like they used to, the energy and vibe is more low key than in previous years.  In attendance was Stephen Nemeth (producer of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas)

 

 

TEXAS FILMMAKER PARTY

At a nice, private condo at the top of the mountain, the Texas Film Commission provided a wonderful environment for talking and schmoozing, eating Texas BBQ, and drinking Lone Star Beer.  I got to meet some lovely Texans, including Maggie Lea.  Cinetic’s John Sloss and Richard Linklater were in attendance, as well as filmmaker Bryan Poyser, who is at the festival with this year’s Lovers of Hate.

 

 

JONATHAN GRAY CONDO AFTER-PARTIES

Anyone who has spent any time at Sundance eventually hears about Jonathan’s legendary after-parties, which frequently go until the wee hours.  Thanks Jonathan for always giving us late-nite die-hards somewhere to go!

 

 

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.  Condomate Lydia Muijen makes any party more fun, and this was no exception during the closing night festivities.  It’s always nice when someone appreciates your sense of humor so much they literally roll on the ground laughing!  Thanks Lydia for the ego-boost!

 

 

THE LOUNGES/GIFTING SUITES:

 

VILLAGE AT THE YARD

The Anderson Lumberyard is once again home to Village at the Yard, presented by PMK-BNC and Relevent Group, and hosts numerous high profile lifestyle brands such as T-Mobile, who put on the T-Mobile Café (a great place to interview filmmakers, or simply relax and enjoy the great food!), Stella Artois, and Aveeno, who provided their hand lotion, body wash, and other products. Honda sponsored a screening of Living with Robots, followed by a demonstration of their remarkable ASIMO robot.  Sephora was giving out numerous female-friendly products, and the Nintendo Wii Fit Plus Fitneess Club was the place to be seen.  The Pleasure Chest was giving away some truly naughty gifts, including wooden spanking paddles that also got you 15% off your purchase at any of their stores.  Fruit2Day provided some truly delicious drinkable fruit snacks, and AriZona Beverages kept everyone’s thirst at bay.

 

 

FRED SEGAL FUN LOUNGE

Located at the Village at the Yard, the Fred Segal Fun Lounge (www.FredSegalFun.com) is one of the kick-ass gifting suites of the festival, and Jaclyn Brander was once again the consummate host, running the show meticulously, with the prerequisite velvet glove around the iron fist necessary to keep everything (and everyone) on track, as celebrities abounded, and great products were everywhere.  Even with top celebrities such as Jessica Alba, Marisa Tomei, Joan Rivers, Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, America Ferrera, and Adrian Grenier getting their share of swag, there was still enough left to take care of simple folk like me.  Parish Nation gave me an awesome top of the line fashion sweatshirt that became my favorite shirt – you know, the kind that you end up wearing waaaayyy too much, but you don’t care, because not only is it comfy, but looks great.  You can see me in it in a significantly high percentage of my photos on Facebook. 🙂   Remetee Trademark also had some truly eye catching shirts in their City of Angels line, as did Affliction, who provided me with a cool casual blazer which I got numerous comments on, and Desigual, whose vivid colors seemed to pop right off the shirt they gave me.  GoodLife American Clothing had some sexy little numbers that will make a fine gift for one of the ladies in my life, and Dillon Rogers was on hand with their leather bracelets with positive sayings of harmony and peace.  Marisa Tomei, Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, and America Ferrera were spotted getting their share of swanky gifts.

 

 

LIA SOPHIA GIFT LOUNGE AT THE LIFT

James Franco, Edie Falco, and reality star Jon Sosselin were seen at the lounges hosted by Lia Sophia, which displayed products from Diesel, Organicare skincare, Under Armour, Pop Chips, and Muscle Milk Light – and of course some of their own jewelry, which was stylish and fun.  Patron provided the libations, and Miss Universe Mayra Matos was seen at the Lash Allure MD booth, also sporting Lia Sophia jewelry.

 

 

SKY SUITE

While listening to the sounds of DJs Steve Aoki and Danny Masterson, guests could drink Heineken, and get bags full of gifts from AXE men’s products, Anastasia brow shaping.  Talent Resources did a great job of putting the suite together, and the lovely ladies which they assigned to us to walk us through the menagerie of cool stuff were friendly and sweet, and made the whole experience a rather pleasant one.  Jenny B Clothing had some T-shirts with attitude on hand, and BlanketAmerica was a worthwhile charity which had some cozy blankets available.  Perky Jerky, flavored and energized with guarana, helped keep me awake during some of the snoozier films at the festival, and EOS had some great shave cream and body lotion they provided me with.  Celebrities such as Tom Arnold, Appolonia, Malin Akerman, John Goessling, and Khloe Kardashian were seen in attendance.

 

 

MAIN EVENT RED CARPET LOUNGE

This large gifting suite was home to many lifestyle companies, including Life Therapy, who had some of the best smelling candles I’ve every encountered – you’ve got to smell it to believe it!  Badcock Apparel had some nice shirts on hand, and Mountain Body Spa had some delicious smelling soap they were giving out.  Debbie Durkin did a wonderful job putting this suite together, and is also sponsorship director at the Salty Horror Film Festival.

 

 

VOTRE VU

I was provided with a sizeable assortment of Votre Vu skincare products, and can only say they were fantastic!  Also seen basking in Votre Vu were Marisa Tomei, James Franco, Melissa Leo, Dancing with the Stars’ Cheryl Burke, and Jennifer Lawrence of Winter’s Bone.

 

 

HOUSE OF HYPE

Coats from Sean John and sportswear from Onitsuka Tiger were gifted to celebrities such as Gerard Butler, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Conolly, and upstairs attendees could re-charge their iPhones at the AT&T Café, and partake in gifting from Junk Food Clothing who provided retro 80’s style tees, and comfy but sexy apparel from Bobi.

 

 

IN CLOSING:

 

So, another Sundance comes to a close, and I have partied, skied, and filmed myself to exhaustion (in a good way!). I’ve met and mingled, watched and whined (and wined), and gifted ’til my spirits lifted.  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, getting work, and talking business, done all the while having ridiculous amounts of fun at the plethora of parties, events, panels, lounges, and yes, even the gifting suites.  It is a place where new dreams are born, and old dreams are realized (yes, the last two sentences were lifted straight out of my last year’s roundup, but I liked them, so I’m including them again…)  🙂

 

So, that’s it for my coverage of the 2010 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 2011!

 

-Jeff

 

Jeffrey R. Gund

INFOLIST.com

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