Sundance Film Festival Roundup 2012!!

Event Date Jan 19th - 29th, 2012
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SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL ROUNDUP 2012!

 

 

Hi everyone,

 

Yes, another Sundance has come and gone, and with it another ten days of movies, parties, gift lounges, and skiing – which left little time for actually sleeping during my stay in Park City…

 

Sundance 2012 was, as always, tons of fun, provided a mountain of networking and business opportunities (pun intended), and wonderful opportunities to make new, heartfelt friendships that I’m sure will last a lifetime.  This year, however, took on a significantly different tone – a much more relaxed and enjoyable one.  I normally spend several weeks before the festival intensively working on getting the party and event lists, RSVPing, confirming, reading film descriptions, planning my schedule, etc., and upon attending the festival, I will usually end up getting into 80% – 90% of the scheduled events (yes, you sometimes don’t get into events that you’ve actually been confirmed for – go figure!).  This time, however, I was a bit too busy in the weeks leading up to the festival, and planned just about nothing – I think at the start of the festival, I was confirmed on a total of about two lists.  I didn’t even have my usual press pass, which I’ve grown accustomed to relying on to help get into things.  But being confident in my ability to “just wing it,” I decided to not stress it at all, and just enjoy whatever bits I managed to get in to.  As fate, luck, or whatever powers may be would have it – this is the first year out of 13 consecutive Sundance Film Festivals that I’m actually able to boast a 100% batting average – I got into literally every event I went to.  So the moral of the story – and this year’s theme at Sundance – is simply to be completely unprepared, don’t do any planning, and somehow things will work out – maybe not the best business advice I could give, but this year’s bit of guerilla style festival-going seemed to work fine with the independent spirit at the heart of Sundance.  🙂

 

And of course – the films.  The very core around which all the parties, gift lounges, and other distractions are built.  This year’s crop seemed to include a lot of films in the “good, but not great” category.  While there wasn’t a single film that truly wowed me this year, there were still a lot films that were thoroughly enjoyable, definitely worth the watch, and a few that even made you think.  I try and avoid the temptation of picking what films to watch just based on the cast and/or description in the film guide, which can be very deceiving.  I’ve found the best way is to simply wait until you’re at the festival, and decide based on feedback and buzz from filmgoers.  Independent film covers a lot of “tastes,” and selecting films to watch based purely on catalog descriptions can lead to some truly horrid experiences – as was the case this year, being that the worst film I saw (possibly in my entire life) was chosen from an appealingly-written catalog description.  You should have no trouble guessing which film that was from my reviews, to follow…

 

 

THE WINNERS:

 

 

THE SURROGATE

Winner of the Dramatic Audience Award, The Surrogate is a splendidly charming, quirky film that features an adept performance by Helen Hunt as the frequently-naked sex therapist, and a truly standout performance by John Hawkes as the witty, self-deprecating 38 year old man who decides to lose his virginity – despite the fact that he’s confined to an iron lung, and is mostly paralyzed, having to perform most of his daily actions (dialing a phone, writing, eating, etc.) with only his head and mouth.  Based on the true story of Marc O’Brien who was diagnosed with polio as a youth, the film chronicles his struggle to achieve a sexual relationship, which proves to deter his ability to attain a real relationship – but ultimately facilitates it.  Poignantly directed by Ben Lewin, who is himself a polio survivor, this is one of the more unique stories and entertaining films of the festival, and there appears to be a high possibility of commercial success, as backed up by a reported selling price of $6 million (the highest sales figure of the festival) to Fox Searchlight.  Also noteworthy is William H. Macy, who delivers an entertainingly offbeat performance as the slightly unconventional priest who provides Marc with spiritual guidance and helps him to “see God” – in the more primal sense…

 

 

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

Why is it that non-actors seem to give some of the best performances in films at Sundance?  Maybe it’s related to my prevailing theme at Sundance this year of “just show up and everything works out” – or whatever the reason, first time actors Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry give some of the standout performances of the festival in this powerful story of a young girl in a backwoods Louisiana Delta community struggling to grow up, find her mother, and find herself in somewhat less than ideal conditions of poverty, and an ill, if not abusive father who won’t be around to look after her for too much longer.  Artfully directed by Behn Zeitlin and winner of the Grand Jury Dramatic Prize, the somewhat lacking story was made up for by wonderfully detailed characters, top notch cinematography (winner of the Cinematography Award as well), and incredible performances.  A first feature for the director which started as a Sundance Institute project, the film has been picked up by Fox Searchlight and will soon be in a theater near you.

 

 

VALLEY OF THE SAINTS

Winner of both the World Cinema Audience Dramatic Award and the Alfred P. Sloane Award, Musa Syeed‘s feature debut Valley of the Saints lyrically tells the story of romance between a research scientist and a water taxi driver on the shores of Dal Lake in the remote country of Kashmir.  Starring mostly non-professional actors who give surprisingly subtle and nuanced performances for their first effort, the naturalistic acting style lends to the realism of the film; and in fact, the main character, Gulzar (Gulzar Bhat), is an actual water taxi driver and this is his first film performance.  Set against both the political turmoil of Kashmir and expounding on a sub-plot of the slow destruction of Dal Lake by pollution, the film attempts to rise above a simple romance between two lovers from different classes.  Although there are numerous lost opportunities for much needed heightened conflict in the storyline, the film is shot with both understated subtlety and a harsh documentary style, the film gives an excellent contrast between the natural beauty of the lake, the growing romance between pretty young scientist, Asifa, and Gulzar against the pollution and political repression of the government.

 

 

SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED

Three magazine employees set out to investigate a somewhat bizarre classified ad placed by someone looking for a partner for time travel – in which the author also makes the disclaimer, “safety not guaranteed.”  One of my favorite films of the festival, and a truly delightful film from first time feature director Colin Trevorrow, the film was also winner of Sundance’s Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for a great script by Derek Connolly, and was picked up for distribution by FilmDistrict.  The film features a great performance from star Aubrey Plaza, who plays the cynical but spunky young magazine employee sent out to get a story on the writer of the zany ad.  The true standout of the film is, however, Mark Duplass, who gives a wonderfully layered performance as the ad’s author – he’s at once likeable and friendly, and at the same time always on edge, if not paranoid, and it’s that play between both sides that keeps his character completely engaging – as well as keeping the audience wondering if there just might be something to his outlandish claim after all.  The screenplay was in fact inspired by a real life classified ad which sparked it’s own investigation.  It took the filmmakers some effort to actually track down the original author of the ad, which was placed as a “space filler” for the classified section, but also as a bit of a marketing ploy for the author’s story for a screenplay.  While one of the film’s themes deals with the ability to go back and help someone not make the same mistakes we ourselves did – given the current level of our time-travel technology in real life, I guess we’ll have to be content with simply giving some good old fashioned advice to those younger and less experienced than ourselves…

 

Preceded by the short film

THE BEAR

Directed by Nash Edgerton, just what a comedic short film should be – not too short, not too long, with humour and story all the way through, and a surprise funny ending.  Brilliantly done.

 

 

DRAMATIC COMPETITION:

 

 

THE FIRST TIME

Contrary to the film’s name, this is the second feature for director Jonathan Kasdan (yes, son of Lawrence), who did a brilliant job of bringing to life the insecurity, nervousness, and angst of what it’s like to be a teenager falling in love for the first time.  An entry in the Dramatic Competition, the film doesn’t break any new ground in this genre.  While the screenplay’s smart, snarky humor sometimes gets in the way of it’s realism, its characters, story, and heartfelt delivery ultimately ring true and bring us back to our own first love.  Dylan O’Brien brings a high level of sensitivity and warmth to the role of Dave, a high school senior who is caught between chasing after the unobtainable girl of his dreams Jane (Victoria Justice), and realizing that true love is right in front of him, in the form of Aubrey, delightfully played by Britt Robertson in a breakout performance (if not somewhat reminiscent of Ellen Page in Juno).  And a special mention is due for a noteworthy performance by James Frencheville, who plays the supremely douchey boyfriend of Aubrey.  While cinematography isn’t typically a focal point in films of this genre, the saturated color palette and top-notch lensing should definitely be taken note of.  In one of the story points, Aubrey gives Dave a music education – and the film’s excellent soundtrack gave me a bit of my own.  I’m sure The First Time definitely won’t be the last for this very talented filmmaker and outstanding cast, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing all their next endeavors.

 

 

FILLY BROWN

Gina Rodriguez shines in a breakout performance of Latina rapper Filly Brown in this slightly flawed, but entertaining tale of a young rapper’s struggle to the top.  Rodriguez brings fire, strength and believability to her character. Though the actress had never rapped before, she spent months training before filming to create a more than credible level of rapping skills. Unfortunately, the screenplay by Youssef Delara never rises above the cliché of a struggling artist coming to terms with selling out to achieve success.  Lou Diamond Phillips (as Filly’s conflicted father) and the other actors make a gallant effort to bring grit and realism to the hackneyed story, and almost succeed.  Directed by the directing team of Youssef Delara and Michael D. Olmos (son of actor Edward James Olmos, who also makes an appearance and served as Executive Produced), bring an entertaining mix of street authenticity and a beating soundtrack to the film, to keep the heavy handed story moving forward.  The sub-plot of Filly’s family struggles give the film some emotional strength. Expect to hear more from actress Gina Rodriguez, who truly dominates this film.

 

 

SAVE THE DATE

Though standard Sundance romantic comedy fare, Save the Date manages to bring witty dialogue and good performances to a genre that it doesn’t wander far from.  In this indie rom-com, an ensemble cast of thirty-somethings struggle with the pressures of intimacy in relationships, as Beth (Allison Brie from the television show Community) prepares for her wedding.  Beth’s sister, Sarah (Lizzy Caplan), a struggling cartoonist/artist feels pressure to find permanence in her own relationship with boyfriend and struggling musician Kevin (Geoffrey Arend).  Kevin pushes too hard by asking Sarah to marry him on stage at one of his shows, sending Sarah running out of the club and leaving Kevin publically humiliated.  Sarah soon rebounds to another man, Jonathan (the charming Mark Webber), a patron at the bookstore she works at, but runs into the same issues of intimacy that plagued her in the last relationship.  Artist and screenwriter Jeffrey Brown, who did all of the drawings featured in the film, creates a quirky set of characters, but all of them are weighted by stereotypical roles.  The dialogue is quick and clever and the actors bring as many layers as they can to characters that we’ve seen before.  Brie, though effective, doesn’t stray to far from her character in Community, as a sweet goody goody.  Caplan, creates strong chemistry and confusion between her two lovers.  While this film will probably not be found in theatrical release, it will provide an enjoyable date night at home DVD rental.

 

 

WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC:

 

 

L

By now, I’m an experienced enough festival filmgoer to know better than picking a film simply from what appears to be an interesting description in the catalog, without waiting to hear some buzz from other filmgoers at the festival.  I am in general a fan of off-the-wall, quirky, offbeat films that take chances;  “L” however, is an experiment in filmmaking gone horribly wrong, and I can only assume the experiment was for director Babis Makridis to see just how much nonsensical tedium the audience could sit through.  The film began with an ode to being a bear, and ended with an ode to the sea – although it seemed the film’s purpose was to see how much odiousness the audience could bear.  On the surface, the story is about a professional driver who lives in his car, meeting his wife and picking up his kids at random meetings in parking lots around the city.  After some existential soul searching, he decides that cars are no longer good, and gives up his “car-life” to join a motorcycle gang.  Below the surface, however, the story was as non-connected, pointless, and uninspiring as a story could be – almost half the audience had left the theater before the film ended, and the die-hards that remained until the end filled the theater with remarks like, “What the #%&@ was that, and why did I sit through it?!”  Part of the World Cinema competition, from Greece, this 87-minute film plodded along for what seemed to be hours.  In trying to find something positive to say about this film, all I can come up with is that it is quite possibly the worst film I’ve ever seen in my life – so I guess it’s best at that.

 

 

WRONG

An entry into the World Cinematic competition, Quentin Dupieux‘s “Wrong” is everything that’s right about nonsensical random filmmaking.  Indeed, lots of bizarre, random (and funny and entertaining) things keep happening to the characters; on the surface, they’re just random and bizarre, but it’s the fact that all the random events still say something about the characters and about us all on a deeper level that keeps this film on track, where other “random” films unravel and fall apart into a meaningless mess (uhm, see above).  In a spot-on performance by Jack Plotnick, Dolph is a run-of-the-mill milquetoast of a guy who shows up for work every day – the fact that he was fired months ago doesn’t seem to phase him.  And it’s always raining inside the office, in a very Being John Malkovich sort of way.  The plot (if you want to call it that) revolves around Dolph’s search for his missing dog, through which we encounter a wild, wooley, and not-to-bright pizza delivery clerk Emma (delightful performance by Alexis Dziena) with which Dolph has a soul-searching conversation about the meaning of the pizza company’s logo, which features a rabbit driving a car; his opportunist gardener Victor (hilariously played by Eric Judor) whom which Emma can’t seem to tell the difference between he and Dolph, despite their completely different physical characteristics; Master Chang (William Fichtner) who instructs Dolph on how to retrieve his pet by forming a psychic bond with it; his neighbor (Regan Burns) who decides to drive his car to the edge of space-time in search of himself; and many, many more.  Wrong is definitely not right for everyone, but if this film is wrong, then I don’t want to be right! (sorry, I really tried to resist that one, but not saying it seemed just plain wrong!).

 

 

OUT OF COMPETITION:

 

 

PRICE CHECK

As part of the Premiere program (and therefore not in competition), Price Check was an entertaining film that made you think a little, and laugh a lot.  Parker Posey maintains her position as Queen of the Independent Film in her riotous and over-the-top (in a good way) performance as Susan, a woman who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.  She is offset by Pete (adeptly played by Eric Mabius), her new employee that lives a happy, content, if not completely humdrum life.  The film goes out of its way to show how happy and content he is with his wife (Annie Parisse), which makes his resulting affair with Susan rather unmotivated and out of place.  Director/screenwriter Michael Walker very ably shot the film in only 16 days, although it appears he may have written it in just as short a timespan – judging by the number of holes in the plot and characters’ motivations for their actions which left me scratching my head.  However, Posey’s thoroughly enjoyable performance, and the numerous belly laughs still made for an overall fun film.

 

 

THE PACT

Part of the Park City at Midnight category, The Pact is based on an 11-minute short film by director Nicholas McCarthy which screened at Sundance last year, and provides all the scares and screams of a well made horror film.  What it doesn’t offer is a novel method of delivery.  While the film definitely delivers on shocks, it uses every device and trick that have been exploited by the genre for years.  Unlike past Sundance success, the Blair Witch Project, which devised an entirely new cinematic approach to horror films, The Pact adroitly uses tried and true methods to elicit a squeal from the audience – a haunted house, an unseen force, a psychopathic serial killer, long hallways, and a creepy soundtrack do the job well.  Unfortunately, the story line has more holes in it than the walls that serial killer (played with disturbing intensity by Mark Steger) peers through observing his prey.  Picked up for distribution by IFC Midnight, the film is likely to gain some moderate commercial success and it will provide an excellent stepping stone for director McCarthy to more mainstream films.

 

 

WHEN YOU FIND ME (special private screening)

I got to attend a special private screening at Sundance for a Project Imagin8ion short film produced by Ron Howard and directed by his daughter Bryce Howard.  The story for When You Find Me was inspired by 8 photos which were selected from a contest that received almost 100,000 submissions.  Movingly directed, the emotional story of two sisters separated by the death of their mother takes us on a journey of love, reconciliation, and the ability to find peace.  Beautifully shot, the scenes faithfully depict the imagery re-created from each of the photos.

 

 

MOSQUITA Y MARIE

Part of the NEXT section at Sundance, Aurora Guerrero‘s debut feature Mosquita Y Marie has been picked up by Wolfe Releasing, a large distributor of films with gay and lesbian themes.   Guerrero brings a level of uniqueness and depth to what could have been a clichéd coming of age story.  There is a true heart to this story of two girls who are different yet similar, each forced to choose between putting their family first, or staying true to each other.  Fenessa Pineda and Venecia Troncoso are impressive in their roles as Mosquita and Mari (respectively), and are surrounded by a very able supporting cast who bring depth and realism to the immigrant Mexican neighborhood in Los Angeles where the story takes place.  Looking forward to seeing more from Guerrero and her cast of talented actors.

 

 

SLAMDANCE:

 

WITH GREAT POWER… THE STAN LEE STORY

I made a quick venture over to SlamDance, because I didn’t want to miss a film about a true icon of our time.  As the creator of some of the world’s most iconic superheroes, Stan Lee is an icon that has created many more icons.  Those lucky enough to have met Stan know he is one of the most likeable, fun, and nice guys you could meet.  You feel he deserves all the success he has had, and you wish him all of it.  So upon seeing this film, and getting to know even more about him, it’s refreshing and wonderful to feel that, for a guy that couldn’t be any more likeable, you actually feel that you like him even more.  And while the film is more of a tribute and doesn’t really venture into any dark or unexpected territory, hats off to filmmakers Terry Dougas, Nikki Frakes, and Will Hess for telling a story that is not only informative, but inspiring, and uplifting.  If you’re a fan of Stan the Man, then catch this movie while you can!

 

 

SUNDANCE AWARD-WINNING SHORTS:

While I am typically in complete disagreement with Sundance’s selection of short films, I was actually quite impressed with many of this year’s winners, and their ability to tell fully fleshed out, moving stories in a limited amount of time.  64 shorts screened at Sundance this year, from a record 7,675 submissions.  These are the winners:

 

FISHING WITHOUT NETS

The Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking (Director: Cutter Hodierne) Visually stunning, the story of Somalian pirates, told from the perspective of one of the pirates themselves.  Great subject matter, but its non-linear storyline missed opportunities for conflict and a truly in-depth exploration.  Great performances kept the audience engaged.

 

THE BLACK BALLOON

The Jury Prize in Short Film, U.S. Fiction (Directors: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie)  One of the weakest of the bunch, the story (or lack thereof) of a black balloon that strays from its colorful brethren, and has random encounters with various New Yorkers.  A somewhat entertaining silly romp, but some structure or underlying message would have added a much-needed level of depth.

 

THE RETURN (Kthimi)

The Jury Prize in Short Film, International Fiction: / Kosovo (Director: Blerta Zeqiri)  Powerful and well-acted story of a soldier who returns from a Serbian prison to find that returning to his old life won’t be quite so easy.

 

THE TSUNAMI AND THE CHERRY BLOSSOM

The Jury Prize in Short Film, Non-Fiction (Director: Lucy Walker)  Also received an Oscar nomination.

Amazing footage and poignant narration make for a film that has a heavy impact, dealing with the 2011 disaster in Japan.  The comparison between the cherry blossom – the first sign of spring, and new life – and the heart and spirit of the Japanese people to rebuild their shattered lives is truly inspirational.  While nature has great power to destroy and devastate, it also has equally tremendous power to create, and bring new life.

 

A MORNING STROLL

The Jury Prize in Animated Short Film (Director: Grant Orchard)  A simply terrific film which tells the story of a man who encounters a chicken during his morning walk, playing out the scenario in different time periods over a 100 year span, with differing animation styles to match.  Great music and sound as well, and it also happened to receive an Oscar nomination.

 

THE ARM

The Special Jury Award for Comedic Storytelling (Directors and screenwriters: Brie Larson, Sarah Ramos, Jessie Ennis)  A playful look at texting teenagers, modern relationships, and keeping ourselves at arms length.  Entertaining, and a good message, but it needed a bit more to bring it above cliché.

 

ROBOTS OF BRIXTON

The Special Jury Award for Animation Direction (Director: Kibwe Tavares) 
A story of young robots living in the inner city who must deal with issues such as race, discrimination, and poverty.

 

 

THE PARTIES:

 

 

As the festival tends to get more and more front-loaded every year – and I must say, to the detriment of the events, and the festival as a whole – the first four days now seem to get devoted entirely to parties and gifting suites, since that’s pretty much the only time they happen (back in the good old days, you used to be able to attend a party or mixer every single night of the festival).  And where you used to be able to hit all the good parties, now you end up missing some of the good ones, because they all happen at the same time (I’m still trying to work out that whole cloning thing…)  The Bing Lounge was always a good destination, and I tended to make a stop there on most evenings.  Awesome Australian band WIM played there opening night. We started Friday evening off at Gen Art’s 7 Fresh Faces party, which is always a good time, and there’s always friends and familiar faces there.  And of course the 7 Fresh Faces, which included Lizzy Caplan (Save the Date), Ari Graynor (Celeste and Jesse Forever), Gina Rodriguez (Filly Brown), Zachary Booth (Keep the Lights On), Dreama Walker (Compliance), Christopher Abbott (Hello I Must Be Going), and Alexia Rasmussen (California Solo).  Also in attendance were other celebs including Anne Heche, Seth Rogen, Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Geoffrey Arend (Body of Proof), and Carrie Preston (True Blood, The Good Wife, and director of Sundance Film That’s What She Said).  Saturday evening started with quite a bang, as we went to the Neil Young Journeys mixer, and got to meet the iconic rock legend in person.  When I asked him about where to find a copy of his out of print CD “Trans” – his response was “Get a cassette – they sound better.”  Some of the best advice of the evening, except that I no longer own a cassette player…

 

Both the SAG Actor Brunch and the SAG Filmmaker Brunch are great events as well, since they’re intimate and give you a chance to really meet people.  Attendees included actors Evah Mah (I Am Not a Hipster) and Anthony Mackie (Hurt Locker, Man on a Ledge), and filmmakers Ava DuVernay (Winner of Sundance 2012 Best Director Award for her video Middle of Nowhere) and Michael Mohan (Save the Date).  While many of the parties at Sundance seem to have degraded to “a square room with no vibe and a too-loud-DJ,” Sunday evening’s IndieMogul Party is always one of the highlights, as it’s at a great ski lodge location with tons of character, has massages and an oxygen bar with bubbling, glowing, brightly colored tubes, as well as fun dance music (kept to a reasonable volume where you can still actually have a conversation!).   Although Fotokem was no longer a sponsor of the event this year (Thanks IronMountain and Fuji for continuing the tradition!), it was good to see FotoKem’s Ray Morfino in attendance, although I didn’t get a chance to chat with him this year.  I also remember the days when entertainment attorney and author Harris Tulchin co-hosted the event, and it was great to see him in attendance as well.  At the end of the evening I packed a whole bunch of friends into my rental car for the ride back down the mountain, including actor Vincent Spano (City of Hope, Rumblefish), voiceover talent Holly Fields (Shrek, Star Wars Old Republic), actress and fitness model Ieva Georges, actress Tiffany Roysden, film and music exec Richard Walters (“Drive,” “Bobby”), actress Angela Oakenfold (Emily), and new friend Biby Berenice.  The craziness of our schedule (and the fact that it was located quite a ways down the mountain) kept us from making it to the Koffeehouse Chateaux event – which was disappointing, since that’s always a great time as well, due as much to the great music as the great crowd they have in attendance.

 

The Creative Coalition Teacher’s Brunch on Monday was hosted by Tim Daly and featured guest speaker Alfre Woodard for an afternoon of great food and great networking – in support of our teachers and educational system – which is in serious need of all our support and help.  Also in attendance was manager Phil Brock of Studio Talent Group.  The IndieGogo Party on Main was a great time as well, where I got to meet some great people from Yahoo, and talk with Noah Bergman of Universal and actress Noelle Bonhomme.

 

The evening ended with an uproarious good time at the Iconoclasts party, where I got to meet music icon Paul Simon.  And it’s entirely possible I got a little tipsy drinking some of the best tasting drinks I’ve ever had, made with cherries, some other good-tasting stuff, and Grey Goose Vodka, who sponsored the evening.  Also in attendance were Edward James Olmos (Filly Brown), Kerry Norton (Filly Brown), and Jeff Rice of Beverly Hills Casting.

 

Tuesday was a packed evening that started with the USC film School Party at Riverhorse, and then off to the New York Film Party, which was stuffed full of interesting NY filmmakers and other talents including actress Jennifer Betit Yen.  Conveniently located at the same venue, but just afterwards was Mac Africa’s annual Sundance Soiree – with each year’s getting bigger and better, this was the best of them.  Attendees included actress Tiffany Hines and filmmaker Melanie Sweeney.

 

Once all the parties came to a grinding halt on Wednesday, I had a chance to catch up on my filmgoing, and do nothing but see movies for the next 5 days!

 

 

THE GIFTING SUITES:

 

 

And of course my coverage wouldn’t be complete with some mention of the wonderful, generous gifting lounges we stopped at along the way!  And you might want to take note that I’m not mentioning all the companies in attendance – so if I’m bothering to write about them, it means they had some very cool stuff!!

 

The Alive Expo / Green Pavillion was a great stop, and the ladies received some wonderful and stylish boot wraps from Huggrz, skincare products from Phytomer, and truly beautiful jewelry from ShelRae.

 

The LR Gifting Suites & Kari Feinstein Style Lounge were also one of the top gifting stops to make, and we got some luxuriously warm, lined hats from Paul Frank, custom jeans from FMK Productions, jewlry from Flying Lizard, meal replacement drinks from Smart-Meal, T-shirts from Sean John, Sensa weight loss system starter kits, and great skincare products from Prasad including Collagen Peptide Gel, and Intense Vitamin Serum.

 

Timberland really stepped up to the plate at their gifting suite, and gave me a super-warm jacket, and some great Boots which were not only warm and comfy, but had all the tread necessary to make my way through the snow-laden streets of Park City.

 

Sorel had a suite this year, and while they were out of boots by the time I made it there, they kept their promise and sent me a pair of brown leather boots that not only look great, but fit perfectly!

 

The Fender Music Lodge had some great gifting as well, including absolutely exquisite jewelry from Park Lane Jewelry which truly dazzled the eye – some very unique pieces with lots of character and individuality.  There was also some truly amazing hair revitalizer from Shaan Honq, and one of the coolest hats ever from Contraband, which got me numerous compliments everywhere I went.  Bliss skincare products had some great products as well, and fashionable helmet stylizers from Helmet Bandits were seen on many heads around the festival (they looked so great, people were wearing them even without helmets!).  It appears I’m going to have to do a LOT of walking this year, as I also received yet another pair of boots from BearPaw – and these were some pretty darn cool boots – or should I say warm – as they were lined with some super-comfy furry stuff, their soft pliable brown leather outside looked very sharp, and they had great sturdy rubber soles with lots of tread for the snow.  And we pretty much couldn’t stop eating the tons of great snacks from LaraBar and gluten-free munchables from Udi’s, including dark chocolate brownie bites and delicious cookies!

 

Oakley Learn to Ride was at Sundance again this year – and while I didn’t get a chance to stop there this year (doh!), I wanted to give them another shout-out for the super high-tech Oakley Jacket they gave me last year (it actually came with an instruction manual due to all it’s high-tech functionality, zippers, compartments, etc!), including gloves, hats, etc.  You guys are great!

 

Also present at the Sundance Soiree were Skynet Aviation Group, who gave out $1,000 gift certificates for chartered flights, Miss Jessies hair products, and Vuka intelligent energy drinks.

 

And still another Sundance comes to a close – and I can’t help but think of this one with a certain fondness.  The “don’t stress it, just show up and things will work out” attitude really, really worked well.  It actually brought me back to the days of my first couple Sundances long ago, where I didn’t know anyone, and had to sneak, finagle, or otherwise wangle or wheedle my way into all the events – which was quite an adventure in itself.  I met a ton of new interesting people, and also made some really good friends.  And now it’s back to L.A., and the real world!  See you all up there next year – and be sure to let me know in advance (just in case I decide to plan!) if you have an event or film you want covered there next year!

 

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See you at Sundance 2013!

 

-Jeff

 

Jeffrey R. Gund

INFOLIST.com

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Note: Contributing writer Chris Dellorco supplied reviews for films Valley of the Saints, Save the Date, and The Pact.

 

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