Dreamdance 2002: A report from the Sundance Film Festival with movie reviews

“Dreamdance 2002″
A report from the Sundance 2002 film festival
Saturday, January 12th. To Saturday, January 20th.
By Caleb John Clark

Dateline. Park City UT. 7200 feet, light snow covering.

What does it feel like to dream too much? And what you dream too many waking dreams? And what if they are other people’s dreams?

We know not being allowed to dream will drive one crazy, but will dreaming all the time do the same? After 8 days at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival watching 12 features, 13 shorts, and 3 documentaries, I think I know the answer.

It feels like a drug that makes you introspect and feel the emotions from an endless parade of super rich images of only the most meaningful incidents in life. Dreams after all are a lot like media in that they are highly edited little movies of our most dramatic or meaning experiences, full of symbolism and emotion that cause us to introspect. Did our dream last night, the one with the shots of the snake and the cliff, mean we think our job is in jeopardy? Or our relationship is in trouble? Movies also cause us to introspect. We watch “A Beautiful Mind” and maybe wish we had a beautiful mind, or think that maybe we do and we just missed our calling? Or maybe our kids have a beautiful mind?

Is this why we like movies? Because they help us process and make sense of the waking world’s tumult of visual information? Humans do after all get 90% of all their information visually and a dark quiet theater projecting a series of huge images and clear sound is a lot like having a dream, albeit someone else’s’.

What follows is a day-by-day and report and movie-by-movie review of this reporter’s waking 2002 Sundance movie dreams and the events that surrounded them.

Day 1: Saturday January 12th.
Yes I saw a world premiere and a star or two on my first day, but more on that later.

I’ll be putting
[review]
before reviews of flicks if you want to skim these reports.

First of all I know I smelled like a rotting plant on the plane due to
mega doses of “Wellness”, a witches brew of sticks and roots. But I after a week of the cold from hell, I was in full retaliatory mode and gaining some ground on the cough, but not the sinus siege. My first confirmed Hollywood sighting was in the Salt Lake City airport. A man dressed head to toe in thin tight leather with slick soled cowboy boots. OK, not a star, but defiantly an LA story behind that fashion choice considering things one needs in Utah at 7000 feet in the middle of winder, You know, traction, layers, wind breaks.

It was a beautiful drive out of Salt Lake in a shuttle van. Rolling hills and with scattered trees and all with a light dash of Hollywood snow effect. Farms with cross country ski training courses that looked somewhat Olympic. An older woman says she’s up for Slamdance, the festival that started for people not accepted in Sundance. He son is showing his movie and she’s excited. Others in the van are here for Digidance, another film festival going on at the same time. And one rich Jersey girl that seemed to be here just to complain about things she can’t change.

Thanks to friend’s clairvoyance 9 months ago, I arrive at a 2 bedroom condo costing about $75 each a night right on upper main street. Main street is full of slick shops, eateries, clubs, and bars with a rent cost that seems to prohibit practical establishments like drug stores and markets.

Driving up to the hotel one can not help but notice that there are a lot of young beautiful women everywhere and slick looking go get’em guys in long black city coats. As well as tourists, local townies cruising for action, high school kids on star sighting searches shivering on outside benches, and the extreme crowd, form ally called ski bums when my dad did it.

Everybody’s out watching movies so I go to sleep. 5pm and a walk down Main Street to a theater loop shuttle. The shuttle fills up quick and I’m pressed up to a squad of college kids wearing Nintendo Game boys around their waists with security chains so you can play but not keep. More people get on.

Among them a young familiar looking starlet, I think at least. It’s hard to tell if you’ve seen someone in a movie, or they are just very attractive and unusual looking and thus make it seem like they should be in a movie. She postures like a starlet alone in with the unwashed masses, sort of bitchy and not wanting to engage the public and wishing she was not sardined among them. She looks like she’s planning on ranting to an assistant about cabs and private cars from now on.

Then a tall man gets on and it’s the farmer from “Babe”. I can hear his soothing voice and see the kind eyes from the movie. He’s like 6′ 6″ so even in the crush everybody can see him. He was smiling and talking to folks and seemed very friendly and relaxed.

5:30pm. The Eccles Theater is where the big premiers are. It’s a new high school’s auditorium I think. We’re dumped out amid the lines of folks waiting in 15 degree cold who don’t have tickets. They can wait and if those who do have tickets are not seated 15 minutes before show time, and get their tickets. This ends up filling up each movie to capacity. I walk right in and sit right down. Scalping seems condoned because there doesn’t seem to be any pro scalpers around, so it’s just folks who have friends not coming or extras. It’s all very insulated up here (like the coats everybody wears) from the “spices” of life, especially the ones that can’t find shelter in cold weather.

[review: title=”the good girl” rating=”|||” (Three skis out of five) category=”feature”]

My first Sundace movie is the world premier of “A Good Girl” with Jennifer Aniston and Jake Gyllenhaal.

This was a very well textured little movie that takes place in a small
Texas town, mostly in a retail store where Aniston works, her rental track house, and some exteriors. It’s a love triangle precipitated when a young and troubled writer gets a job at the store after being kicked out of college for partying too much. This world rings true with used cars, house painters getting stoned and watching TV after work in single story rented houses with popcorn ceilings and ratty couches, and they cover it brilliantly. No new cars made to look old, but actual old cars. It is a movie that makes fun of a part of America that happens not to be in the audience in great numbers. Slow, charming, and Anniston does an OK job, even changing her walk to the shuffle of someone who is not understood, or at least is depressed.

[/review]

I’m out by 8 and find my pose (Russ and Sylvia, Paul, Betty Ray) at a
Thai place on Main. The poses grown and in it is another man named Caleb, a professional from NYC. We talk. He tells me he got his name when his parents where in San Francisco on a trip around 1970-71. While in Golden Gate Park they meet a precious kid who charms them and is named Caleb, so they decide to name their son Caleb when they have him. This is interesting because I was a precocious little flower child living in the Richmond just off of the park at that time. It is possible I am his namesake. We resolve to call our mothers and let each other know.

Our table of 12 happens to be under a window to the street. During dinner we notice people are looking in as they file past, seemingly looking for stars. After dinner we get a camera out and start pointing it at the window. People stop starting and start performing. The three panes of the window and our low angle make it seem like three movie screens with an endless parade of performers streaming by. Some smile, or dance sideways, or do goofy waves. They I look up from a coffee sip and see a very nicely shaped and smooth skinned ass in the left pane. It’s bending over and wearing a white G-string. Then it’s gone. The table explodes in laughter. And then a fur wearing starlet walks by in the other direction and waves with
a smile. We linger until kicked out and go back to the suite and crash.

And so ends Day 1.

Day 2, Sunday January 13th
Russ runs into the condo at 9:55am as I’m waking up and says, “Wanna see a movie? You’ve got 2 minutes.”

We off across an icy street, down a stairwell, through a black lit basement club waiting for the dark, and into a back room to a 20ft screen and 50 fold out chairs. I have no idea what I’m about to see.

[review title=”divining mom” rating=”||||” category=”documentary” notes=”first effort and all DV]

A free showing of a documentary by a beginning director. He learned digital video while he shot over 4 years and worked freelance graphic design to support himself. Turns out to be a really top notch flick, both technically and structure wise. Covers the topic of water dowsers, those folks who look for water with forked sticks, coat hangers, pendulums, etc. Specifically it centers around the directors mother who lives in New Hampshire and is married to a gruff and successful construction man who thinks she’s crazy, but he loves her..

The director is a natural and uses interviews with his mother and father bickering as the glue that holds this gem together. But that’s just the beginning.

The director covers the country looking for dowsers and finds some real interesting people. He also interviews skeptic scientists that are just as crazy in the other direction, religious leaders, and a physicist who mediates. The contrast between the grizzled conservative old dowsers traipsing around New Hampshire and the city New Age dowsers also comes into reveal. The city ones are more into looking for other things besides water, like auras or problems with their lawn mowers (really).

As we progress we see that this movie is really about the clash between science and religion and that dowsing is a perfect subject to explore it. The director’s parents are the perfect microcosm to represent the never-ending global struggle between both camps. The practical father who made the money and taught his sons how to work an honest day. fix the car, dig a ditch, etc. And the mom who taught the boys music, how to have fun, and probably kept her husband from having a complete breakdown. In the end the mother is such a good dowser she has to get her own phone line and office to keep the crazies away from her husband. They bicker and ride their Harleys and love and balance follow them around. So we are left with the reality of the relationship between science and religion represented in this couple that lives together, keeping things separate, without needing to agree on everything.

[/review]

After a food break we wind our way back to yet another small non-Sundance venue in the iLounge a cyber health food café and couch collection.

[review title=”donald and dot clock” rating=”||” category=”feature” notes=”first effort”]

I can’t get the image of the lead woman making rat sounds and faces to of my head to this day. A first effort and 5 years in the making, although the first question from the audience after the screening was, “So how many days did it take to make that?” which gives you an idea of the production quality. It was in color and 80 minutes long with a beginning, middle and end, but it was pretty bad. A lose story about lovers, rats, and crazy people who like to dance. It made sense when the lead actor/producer said they fired the scriptwriter half way through and had other problems. But it was just wacky enough to become a cult classic…just not my cult.

[/review]

Fighting off my cold I crashed early…

Day 3 Monday January 14th.
We soon learn that Sundance is actually a collection of many film festivals. The biggest is Slamdance, started 10 years ago by folks who are rumored to have been sick of the exclusivity of Sundance. Now Slamdance is big in its own right, but still smaller and with free shows. Slamdance is based a few miles outside of Park City in the Silver Mine, an abandoned; you guessed it, silver mine. The building holds about 2000 at capacity and is a big open warehouse decked out like a mine, or the set of a mine on a movie. There is also Digidance for DV video, X Dance for extreme sports, and in our hotel, Nodance for just about anyone. Most of these other shows are free or $5. Some cafes also just have screenings all day of movies from god knows where. At any given moment there seems to be about 20 movies going on from 8am until 2am.

We arrive at Slamdance at noon for a documentary we’ve heard great things about. But it started with a short.

[review title=”lurch” rating=”|||” category=”short”]

This German short was very well done. It was about an out of work man who gets a job making sure that jars of reptilian specimens are topped off with alcohol. Left alone in this strange environment he starts tasting the animal soaked alcohol and rating it by taste like wine. Eventually he…well I won’t spoil it, but it was pretty good.

[/review]

[review title=”my father the genius” rating=”||||” category=”documentary” notes=”first time DV effort”]

A very personal story of a daughter who’s absent father puts in his living will that it is her job to record his life and work. Her father is an architect who started a school in the early 1970s with some other wild eyed architects after he left his wife, three daughters, and suburban 60’s life. He’s a sour man, driven, focused on work, and with some wild ideas about cities and living that are very interesting. He’s into sort of organic living spaces that are very utopian. Trouble is, he’s very socially abrasive and unable to play any sort of politics in his profession. By the end of this warm and honest doc he ends up in Oregon building bizarre houses.

[/review]

Forgoing a cab we catch a ride down with some folks to the Eccels Theater with minutes to spare for our next flick.

[review title=”storytelling” rating=”|||” category=”2 short feature?”]

This is a couplet of two long shorts. One called fiction and one called non-fiction. There’s big prod value here by a former Sundance winner. Fiction covers a young white woman’s affair with her black creative writing professor. The director announced before the movie that we should “keep a look out for something we can only see in a America,” and that it was, “a red square”. We are confused until a sex scene with the professor and the woman when a big red square appears to cover the people, thus keeping it from being rated X. Thus a comment on American ratings I think. The second short had John Goodman and was about a disaffected rich boy high school student and a sort of loser guy making a documentary about his life. Another piece poking fun at upper middle class suburban lives.

[/review]

We’ve got an hour break and a woman member of our party tells us the secret of getting women, and I guess she means women like her, which is cool since she is a class act. She says just be confident, sensitive and funny. Funny being most important for getting laid. We mull this over and try and remember some good jokes as we settle for the next movie.

The director, a Native American, said before this flick that he’d like us to just see this as just a movie, as entertainment, not as a Native American commentary.

[review title=”skins” rating=”||||” category=”feature”]

Graham Green stars as a Vietnam vet alcoholic living on a reservation at the site of Wounded Knee. But the audience is gushing with good feelings from a Native American getting to voice their issues, so it seems unlikely to me that they will listen, although I believe they should. The story is wonderfully told and it seems to me that it was just a movie, one that took place within the world of reservations. The production value and acting was top notch and in the end it is a movie on its own, and one that humanizes the issue of alcoholism and Native Americans with humor and some gripping drama.

[/review]

For the post Q&A with all the stars and director some great questions are asked about Native Americans and the issues. I walk away with the same feeling that I always get around this issue, mainly that it seems frustrating and intractable due to a simple problem. We had a disgusting war, but stopped at a point that left an entire people in terrible limbo.

The next flick has a lot of stars including Mick Jagger, so everyone is buzzing about if he’s going to be here or not. We sit down early close to the VIP section. Andy Garcia comes in and makes the mistake (or was it) of sitting on a row that is on a wide-open isle between the main seating and the VIP. People swarm up for pictures and he accepts until some security comes up and shields him.

Another woman comes in who seems famous from her glow. She’s with a few folks, but not a formal entourage. She’s beautiful in a sophisticated way and I can’t help but point her out to our group and keep an eye on her.

The director comes up and names his cast. The woman turns out to be Olivia Williams, the teacher in “Rushmore”. And James Coburn turns out to have snuck in and be sitting with the audience in back. This is the first, and what will turn out to be the only movie I went to where a star did not sit in the VIP section, more on that later. Mick Jagger turns out not to have turned out as does Julianna Margulies and Angelica Houston. There is a lot buzz about this movie.

[review title=”The man from elysian fields” rating=”||||” category=”feature”]

Imagine Mick Jagger playing the owner of a high-class male escort service in a big city. He’s scaled back to one client (Angelica Houston) but takes pity on a recently married (Margulies) and be-childed struggling novelist (Andy Garcia) who needs money. His first client is his idol, a famous writer who is dying (Coburn) and wants his young wife (Williams) taken care of in ways he cannot any more.

This is mainstream and big bucks and will probably make it to mall theaters. But it was good. The cinematography was stunning and the story deep and mostly believable. And it was a joy to see Mick really get a part where he stopped looking like a rock star and started making a new convincing character.

[/review]

After the movie the stars in residence hit the stage as usual. Williams turned out to be to woman we had noticed but not recognized. She answered a question about why she took the part by saying something to the effect of, “Well I go to sleep with James Coburn and Andy Garcia. So of course I took it!” But James Coburn won the audience’s heart and got the biggest ovation. His answer about why he got involved was great. He said something like “Well I got the script and liked it and asked if they had the cash. They did so I took it and it was a fucking ball man!”

The audience broke out in laughter and the entire Q&A was a Hollywood collective hallucination of adoration.

Afterwards we all mulled over why Coburn sat in the back with the unwashed masses? We came to the conclusion that he either was letting the younger stars in the heyday have all the attention, but in a way that ended up getting him more, or because he wanted to see and hear reactions. Either way it was a beautiful touch.

After four movies in one day we floated back to our beds and I didn’t dream a single frame of my own movie, that I remember anyway.

Day 4, Tuesday, 15th

We’re going skiing tomorrow and I’m very out of shape. To preempt pain and suffering I decided to take off for a lone practice day. $17/day to rent, $47/half day life ticket and I walk up to a chair lift that is IN town. I mean 100 feet off Main Street. Even stranger, few people ski during Sundance because they are watching movies. I mean no life lines, even when it’s sunny. Today it’s cold. It’s snowing, and this is a big mountain. 6 runs later and I’m wiped out. I ski back to town through the winding multi-mountain trails right to Main Street, which is sublime in its logistical elegance. Take your skies off at the rental store 30 ft. from the lift and walk up Main Street to your hotel. I hydrate and enjoy the burning of my skin and legs as we tare off to another premiere at The Library, a smaller Sundance theater where we hear things started 20 years ago.

I hydrate and enjoy the burning of my skin and legs as we tare off to another premiere at The Library, a smaller Sundance theater where we hear things started 20 years ago.

[review title=”XX-XY” rating=”|||”]

This was one of those rat pack movies about 20 something’s at a big city college and the crazy things they did, followed up by them as 30 something’s getting together again with all their new partners. Sort of “Big Chill” like but with the college days of sex, drugs, and rock & roll, which lead to late night sex with your friend’s partners. It was pretty good, great cinematography and house party scenes, beautiful women who could act, and some sexy scenes. But also it was a little insulated and choppy in it’s storytelling, with only moments of deepness below the standard yuppie in the making drama.

[/review]

All the beautiful people from the cast were there for the Q&A. And they all looked so much shorter and smaller in person. Paul and I went up and talked to the very young director and cast.

This is where I had my “I can’t believe I said that!” moment at Sundance. I was complimenting one of the supporting women actors on her performance, which was exceptional, and the other star women were within earshot. These were the babes of the movie, but I didn’t think they acted as well. However, since they heard me, I looked at them and said,

“And you guys were great too.” Which resulted in fake smiles followed by looks away for help. I figured I’d recover by saying what was on my mind, which was,

“You know, you all look so much smaller in person then on the screen.”

Fake smiles gave way to simple nods and slight smiles of recognition that I was a loser and they wanted to get away from me. Whatever, like it’s all good you might be tempted to say. But like most times, this was far from all good, a description I reserve for post frontal lobotomies or deeper then REM sleep.

The next flick was a premiere at Eccles. I should have known something very strange was about to happen when the director stepped up to the podium and started taking pictures of the audience with a point and click camera.

[review title=”human nature” rating=”decide for yourself”]

I can’t rate this, it was good and strange. It was a premiere showing from some famous music video director about a man-child of the woods captured and socialized by a scientist with a small penis and some major issues with table manners, who meets a woman who is covered with hair, a famous writer, and living in the woods as well. Tim Robbins was the scientist. I have not seen a movie like this in a while, one that spent so much money on production, and was so irreverent to its audience’s wallet. It was if some people got together and wrote a story they loved, got a ton of cash from some other folks who also loved it, and just made it; all the while never talking to a marketing person. Wow, sounds kind of nice now that I look at it like that! I’m still confused about how I feel about this movie, but it was shot wonderfully and written well. Funny at times. Bizarre at the others. Silly, fake, real, I’m just not sure.

[/review]

After the show the cast and crew and stepped up. The woman, who was naked a lot and covered in body hair even more, said she made the pubic hair in one woods shot from a set beard. People were so impressed that she could drop the perfect actress thing and play a woman who was ugly…Of course even all hairy one could not help but notice that she had a great body and was a babe.

The writer then came up and said, “Stories about feral people interest me.” And we left and ping-ponged home for the night all arguing about what in the world we just saw.

Day 5: Wednesday, 16th

It’s a five-lift mountain, we’ve got a full flask of George Dickel, half-day lift tickets, it’s sunny and we’re wearing goggles. Two lifts and 50 minutes later and I’m at the Silverloge lift. Paul and Russ meet me there via cell phones and we’re off for a full day of manly sky stuff. Ok, a half-day, but we’re all in our 30s, so it’s safer to do half days of manly ski stuff if you want everyone to make it until the end.

It was one of those days right out of a ski commercial. No lift lines, sunny, no wind. We ski together or apart, but ride every lift together. We even do one double black diamond with Russ, who is very good. Near the end of the day we cross the ridges to the other part of the mountain. The views seem to be most of Utah, and we sip our Dickel to take the edge off. As the light alcohol buzz hits we find bits of virgin powder and sunny wide slopes where you can bisect the fall line in wide slow turns that seem almost dreamlike. By 4pm we’ve done 5 different lifts and lots of runs. We make it down as the lifts close and my legs are so used up that I almost don’t make the last low run to the main lodge.

In the theater for the next flick I sat with my face stinging from the sun and cold air of the mountain, buzzed on wine, a heavy dinner, and high altitude exercise, I feel unable to judge the next movie. I watch the people file in to the theater.

By now we’ve got the seating tricks down at the Eccles. Get there early. File in and break right. Trot down to the second row on the right side near the bullpen for the VIPs and stars. Excellent seats for both for the screen and sound, and for special people watching.

Case in point. As the VIPs filtered in, one woman in a cowboy hat stood out. She had to be somebody, she just had the look. Graceful, confidant, her own fashion look, and with a smile that could heal cancer. She’s hanging with a couple of actors from the Full Monty and some tall, pasty white English guy with glasses, in regular clothes, that looks like it could be her boyfriend. I, like I assume most of the men who were attracted to her, hate him on sight. She should have a titan of industry, or a young longhaired French artist lover – someone who at least has the courtesy to help us all be able to justify the envy.

The movie starts. The woman in the Cowboy hat turns out to be the beauty from Elysian Fields starring as the love interest in the romantic comedy. She is my new crush, Olivia Williams. You may remember her as the teacher in “Rushmore”.

[review title=”lucky break” rating=”|||”]

About half way though this romantic comedy (by the director of the Full Monty with some of the same stars), I have to start to listen to the crowd to see if this flick is good or not? I try and see when and how hard other people are laughing to see if things are funny. Apparently they are. Still, in the end, I have to go with my gut. It was a good flick, funny moving, but at times unbelievable and shallow with some real mistakes in focus, lighting and willing suspension of disbelief. Olivia of course was perfect…

[/review]

I’m going to throw this review in here, but I’m not sure when I saw this flick because it was a late night, and it was a last minute repeat that is not in the schedule. But I ended up at this bar see, and I was talking to folks and met a girl who had tickets to some comedy that was “like Monty Python and Saturday Night Live, but better.” We ended up going together.

[review title=”run ronnie run” rating=”|”]

An odyssey of fart, puke, and booze humor. But well done, so I can see why this was popular and considered funny. And why it comes from a popular show on HBO I think. Personally I found it a disturbing comment on humor at the hands of southern alcoholic morons. But it was also pretty funny at times, and had good comments on our sick TV culture, LA unreality, and it did have sort of a happy ending. In the end, lines like “I bet you fucked up dog is going to eat that puke!” put me off and I gave it up for bent. While it seemed to work for the audience, like its characters, I don’t think it has the smarts to last long with the likes of Monty Python and Saturday Night Live.

[review]

Bedtime. Dreams of Olivia might make it though my over dreamed mind tonight, she’s such a fantasy girlfriend.

Day 6, Thursday 17th

Lots of buzz over some documentary about Bill Gate’s assassination, which was interesting because I hadn’t heard the news. Wired, CNN, etc. wrote it up because it deals with the assassination of Bill Gates. Great marketing with makes it seem like he really was shot. Needless to say we have to see this one. Of course they missed the point and probably didn’t see the movie.

[review title=”nothing so strange” rating=”||||” category=”docudrama”]

In reality this is a social commentary piece using a fictional assassination of Bill Gates and the resulting citizen’s group, Citizens for Truth that forms after the event. The group tries to find the real killer and the real facts battling with the LAPD every step of the way. Needless to say the kind of people who make this group a fulltime job is interesting in themselves. I give it four skies for production value and attention to detail. Plus it picked a great story for marketing. A brilliant touch is that the creators used real life and made it look like the world their fictional community group. They DV taped real community meetings with the LAPD dealing with the Rampart scandal and made it seem with voice-overs like it was about the assassination, even to the point of getting a speak thrown out for talking too long about corruption in the LAPD. They also had shots at the real democratic national contention in San Diego that they got by actually applying for a permit for the “Citizens for Truth”. Their talk was well received, with only a few reporters asking “but what are you actually doing again?” They all didn’t comment and got out undetected. Flaws: It’s about 20 minutes to long and doesn’t address the issue that any real assassination of Gates would become a federal issue, FBI, NSA, Federal Reserve, and not just LAPD. After the movie cast and director were there. Director said it started with his obsession with assassinations. Steve Sires was at the screening, aka “bogus bill v2.0″. Paul, Russ and I asked him for a shot and got it.

[/review]

After the screening I cruise around the warehouse like Silvermine trying to offload extra tickets I have for some movie called Crush to staff and folks working the doors. No go. I realize that Slamdance is still a little at odds with Sundance from this experience and talking with Slamdance folks. While tourists like myself see Sundance as one big happy family of film festivals, it may not be so. I ask around and Slamdance folks say that while they are big and 10 years old, they still have had no contact with Robert Redford. I see the tickets in line for cost.

[review title=”crush” rating=”|||”]
This was a nice flick, big stars, soft focus British scenery with lush ever summer curved hills. It’s about a group of single women in a small town who all bitch about being singles and men, until one falls for a young stud, etc. On the down side there was some sloppy editing, sloppy focus, too highly backlight trees. The director said this was originally called “ the sad fuckers club”. It is in the end, a sort of chick flick with the women as losers, but charming and well acted.

[/review]

Back to the Eccles for a big premiere. The scene is surreal. Nichole Kidman is supposed to be in the house, so there’s a low level buzz. She shows up and she is blond, and tall, and fucking gorgeous! Unlike so many of the other stars she is taller and better looking in person. But it also must be said that she was totally put together, made up, styled out, and stayed in good light. So in a sense it was like she was in a movie, not in reality. She spoke briefly with the director and other cast and walked out the back way, never to return. Guess she’ll catch the flick at the mall theaters.

[review title=”birthday girl” rating=”||||”]

I give this my personal “most well written” award. The story kept me guessing and was original and tight. Kidman plays a Russian mail order bride and she’s perfect at it. There’s a bit of David Lynch strangeness in it, a healthy dose of Hollywood drama, and a great way of making things funny, just when you think it’s all going down the “violent/stress/action” toilette.

[/review]

Day 7, Friday 18th

Sundance 2002: Day 7. Thursday, January 187th.
Caleb John Clark

I start the day at Emma’s basement café. Emma’s is a subterranean granola place full of wood and tiled tables with bohemian music playing. We’ve come before because it’s cheap and has a great vibe, mostly due to one of the employees who is exceptionally bright, as in light. Not that she reflects actual light better then others, but more that she good social energy from some abundant internal source. She smiles and her eyes shine with genuine concern. She is also somewhat of a hottie, which doesn’t hurt, but not a standard Barbie kind. She seems to me the kind of person people will go out of their way to buy coffee from because she makes them feel good. Or maybe it’s just me.

We grab a table next two burly men from the east cost, one of whom spends his time on a cell phone letting out little bits of audio like “800 grand and we get 100 each.” And “it’s all about communication, but we’ll do the deal either way.” Or, “The food better comes soon or this new age music is going to make me suicidal.” Their food finally comes after we’re done.

Someone mentions the Sundance Music Café and that they have free music with Julia Fordman playing today. We head over and hear Tim Eastman, Julia, and Rhett Miller. It’s a very Sundance experience. Free venue, short snippets of talent, sponsored water and energy bars, all pointing to the exposing of smaller artists to a demographic that might help make them more exposed (read famous).

Later on three guests arrive from the Bay Area and we go to the Sundance box office. I was surprised having never realized that there was a central box office. And even more amazing, we end up scoring tickets. Apparently they let some out each day, which is a cool thing to know about.

I head back to Emma’s cafe, looking for a dose of that girl’s vibe. I end up meeting her and her sister (married, alas), who turn out to own the café. And they grew up in Maine! I’m smitten and begin plots to move to Park City and get out of the rat race. You know, settle down with the kind faced girl and raise some toe headed kids. Of course they are paid to be charming and provide good service.

Back at the condo the group is screening a documentary I got from some drunken young snowboarding guy called “The Mullet”.

[review title =”the mullet” rating=”||”]

Yes, it’s a documentary about the hair cut called the Mullet, aka, “Hockey Hair”. It’s funny and does cross the country after getting away from New England where the Mullet is common. The thing about this haircut is that it makes sense from an engineering standpoint. I recognize and respect that. Short on top, so product and styling is easy or not needed at all, and helmets and hats don’t give you hat head. But long in back so you don’t look like a soldier, but instead give the appearance of being the rebel that you really are. And, it looks a little like Knights and such from movies. The doc is sort of sloppy and disjointed, but a wonderful effort. The director in the bar told me he made fake HBO and MTV patches and told all the mullet heads that they were doing a show on “fashion”. Little did they know it was really a show on the lack there of.

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Then we’re off to “Karmen Gei” down the street. We hear only that this is a feature that is perhaps the first African musical feature movie ever made. It’s, you guessed it, based on the opera Karmen.

A short that preceded Karmen Gei.

[review title=” Bintou” rating=”||||” category=”short”]

What a peach of a short. It took place in present day Africa, in a poor but vibrant township where a big beautiful woman is getting beaten in a public by her husband because she stole money so their daughter could go to school. The neighbors break it up and after, in desperation, the wife starts growing spouts and selling them for money. It is the only skill or schooling she ever had. Her husband chills out a little, but when she starts to make money he breaks her sprouting pots. She keeps making more money and in the end the husband follows her, thinking she is having an affair, to the business cooperative of women she’s become part of. While spying on her he’s caught and nearly beaten to death by a mob women because they think he’s stealing one of their scooters. His wife stops them and the two make up and the husband chills out permanently. It was sponsored by some social change groups and obviously meant to change traditions that are hurting parts of Africa, but it was done very well from my point of view.

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[review title=”karmen gei” rating=”||||” category=”musical feature”]

What a strange ride. I think its really a three ski movie, but the forth is for the guts to make a version of a European Opera, in Africa, using African drums and music. This was one beautiful and sexy flick too. The lead femme fetal was amazing and the drums were powerful. For me the story was a little hard to follow and it was subtitled.

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I think I went to sleep after this but it’s hard to tell and after 7 days I’m getting a little filled up with images and sound, so these reviews might be of dreams I had.

Day 8: Last day, Saturday 19th

Dazed and confused I brace for the last day. It’s going to be a day of short movies, lots of them, capped off by a sexy foreign film.

[review title=”shorts II” rating=”comments by titles”]

Shorts:
1. “Birju” A great Indian short about a kid and the things he did in real time leading up to a certain moment in time.
2. “Spare me”. 12th grade girls talking. Pretty bad. Not sure why it was in the show.
3. “Morning Breath”. A smooth ghetto ‘boy loses girl, boy doesn’t get girl back” piece of visual poetry and great images. Superb acting, shooting and poetry voice over.
4. “I Shout Love”. A quality relationship piece about a woman who forces her boyfriend to stay with her for one more night before they break up so she can video tape their special moments. Great acting, amazing beginning and feature-like in production quality.
5. “Bus 44”. The best of this run. About a young man getting on a bus in the Chinese countryside. The drive is a pretty young woman who gets raped by bandits who board the bus and steal everyone’s money. Nobody but the young guy tries to help her, and he gets beat up and fails. After she recovers he tries to get on the bus, but she won’t let him. He doesn’t understand but after hitchhiking for a while he understands. Tight and wonderfully done.
6. “Blue Haven”. Skate movie about two boy skaters looking for empty swimming pools called “Blue Havens” and finding drug money, and falling in love. One of the boys uses the drug money for a sex change and things get, well, interesting for the two best friends.

[review title=”shorts VI” rating=”comments by titles”]

1. “Three Sisters on Moon Lake”. This was the best acting I’ve seen from kids that I can remember. An epic fantasy told within a simple Asian suburban house with one older brother and three young daughters. I can’t give this ending away, but it’s a must see.
2. “The Green Hour”. A wife and mother having trouble in an unfulfilling marriage with one daughter. She strays to a lesbian lover and things well, get worse. This was sort of French like in texture, and slow. But well done and made a point without vilifying the husband beyond him being out of touch and small minded.
3. “The Donut King”. A very short short, like 4 minutes, but worth every one. Just little ditty about a kid, his mother and some donuts. But done with still shots and in black and white film. Charming, simple and left you happy.
4. “Buddy and Grace”. This was a feature in the making, but also worked as a short. Very well done. It’s about an old couple that is split up by the husband’s heart problems and the wife’s dementia. But the husband refuses to accept this and takes matters into his own hands for he and his wife’s future. It is a fantasy I’m sure most anyone has had on either end of putting parents in rest homes. Great acting by some veterans. Great writing.
5. “Taste”. Another gender bender. This time about a pretty boy cook who was a woman before, and the woman with a kid who falls for him, and attempts to overcome his history. Pretty good.

Ok, now I’m spinning, but one more feature to go and my plane leaves in the morning.

[review title=”sex and lucia” rating=”|||”]

There’s nothing like three full frontal penis shots, one of which of a very big penis in mid-expansion, on a very big screen, to end a film festival. This movie was actually pretty good. The lead young woman was just downright euro-hot and thankfully euro-flick naked a lot. And the story was original, I think. It was about a novelist who gets seduced by this young smart hottie. They move in, but the writing of his current novel, as usual, takes him into a dark world of a former one night stand and the resulting daughter, the nanny, sex, violence, insanity, etc. It ends up on an island where everything seems to end up and is rumored to have no base connected to the earth, which is why high tide makes everybody dizzy. OK. Like, euro-whatever.

[review]

Wrap up:

With that my Sundance dream ended and the harsh reality of the world coming back into focus. It happened very quickly when our friend locked the keys in the rental while it was running, outside, in sub zero early Utah winter dawn. Nobody was upset, since we were all too dazed to want to drive anyway. We went into a nearby hotel and read USA Today, which was full of very sobering Enron news and some other business gone bad stories. AAA shows up as always and we’re home with no worries. And since the car had been idling for 40 minutes we didn’t have to scrape the windows and it was toasty warm.

I fly back the next morning. The Emmas girl starts to fade, but I remind myself to see if they have a web page for the cafe.

The picture of me with Olivia Williams came out great and I sent her a fan letter with the picture. 7 days later the letter came back from the studio as a wrong address.

I guess other people’s dreams have no zip code.

THE END

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