30,000 Pillows: A report with movie reviews from the 2003 Sundance Film Festival

“30,000 Pillows”
A report with reviews from the Sundance Film Festival, 2003.
By Caleb John Clark, January 18th – 26th, 2003.The shuttle driver from Salt Lake City he was talking to a real estate agent who said that there were 30,000 pillows for rent in little old Part City Utah this year for Sundance. Pillows seem to be a soft way to state an accurate head count, assuming you’re not talking about actual pillows, but just bed space.

Last year I wrote about the core of Sundance being dreams, and that the festival was one of waking dreaming.

This year I see it as dreaming, but also as a vacation for the mind. I figure about 35 hours of the last week I spent sitting in the dark and outside of my own head. I may have projected the story I was watching onto my life a little, but mostly during this time I was not thinking about the normal things one mulls over during a normal week. Things like career, relationships, money, family, logistics were all thought about within frames of sound and pictures in a rectangular world of rich media. I spent almost an entire work week in LaLa land. Now I’m back, and I feel strangely calm and grounded, as if my normal escapist instincts have been well quelled.

BEST FILM PICKS

  • Off the Map. My personal best of show for drama. Sublime story about an only child living off the map in New Mexico in the mid-1970s. No phone, garden, trading for things. Then a newbie IRS man comes to do an audit. Cambell Scott directed it from a play.
  • American Splendor. Sundance winner and my favorite in the docu-something category. The most original telling of a true story I’ve ever seen. Funny and real.
  • The Cooler. Hollywood at it’s finest. A love story with a twist and a original plot. Gritty, sexy sans air brushing, violent, surprising, touching, scary.
  • Docs:
    • Brother Outsider. A timely text book on how to effectively protest non-violently and the unusual story of Beyard Rustin who organized the famous 1963 civil rights march on Washington and had 55 years of activism and being gay.
    • The Pill. the story of the little pill that changed American and the world, which should be on PBS now.
  • Shorts:
    • Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness.15 minutes of Python-like liberal political humor.
    • Open Minds. Just strange and funny.
    • Earthquake. 3 minutes of fun with puppets. “Most” the best drama short I saw.
  • One’s that got away: “Rolling Kansas”, “Hebrew Hammer”, “Dopamine”

This is a film festival in a ski resort atmosphere, one that is cold, expensive, and snow white, for the most part. The busses and shuttles are all free here. The resorts pay for the cities mass transit all year, and they run every 20 minutes. If you pay a lot, you are a mandatory bus stop. Sort of a free market transportation system. There’s a Theater shuttle as well that comes to every Sundance Theater ever 10 minutes. This too is free. Sundance movies are all $10 for anyone. Seating is open except for some expensive pass and crew and cast sections.You can survive here cheaply, and many an aspiring filmmaker has piled 10 into a two bedroom. But overall we’re talking the well healed crowd, or those willing to shell out their yearly big vacation cash to watch movies, walk around in the cold and snow, and ski.

SATURDAY THE 18th

Arrival Saturday night, after the surreal experience of volunteering to get bumped on a Southwest flight and having them give me $300 and get me in two hours earlier, the Slamdance party was on the docket. I’m staying with about 15 folks in a three level house near main street. It’s really nice and pretty cheap with 15 or so pillows. Party open bar, but a cattle call to get a drink.

At Sundance you have to get used to glancing up and seeing a very tall ski mountain. Slamdance’s party was no different as the back patio was Dear Valley ski area. White trails glowed in the full moon light while snow spray from the magic machines sparkled in the work lights.

Home after we notice a bunch of well healed Sundance folks going to a neighboring house, including a limo marked “HBO” backing in to poise for a quick get away. Eddie, Paul and I crash it. It’s an LA scene with an open bar, that was also actually open with no wait. Eddie ran into small person who was in a movie he just saw. Someone made the mistake of sitting on the huge Indian drum that was a coffee table. The cop who drank the piss in Dumb & Dumber and was the ab man in Something About Mary was there. We had a drink and left by 3am. Some folks came over with us to avoid the crush and all was sleepy by 4am.

In the Digital Center now basking in the wireless and off to a Shorts program with Paul V. More later.

SUNDAY THE 19th
Picked up tickets in the AM at the theaters. Everything is hard copy here and tickets become like money. They are all $10.00 and most regular folks don’t scalp. There seems to be a general mood that it’s better to make a friend, then a buck. We all got 4 tickets to most shows, knowing we’d all trade and go as groups.

My first flick was a shorts program. Out of the 5 shorts, I felt two stood out.

Open Minds
U.S.A., 2002, 35 Minutes, Color
Director: Joe Sedelmaier
Presentation Format: Sony HD Cam
From the guy who directed the FedEx commercials, including the fast talker. Joe is a 30 years vet of directing commericals. This was his first bizarre foray into drama, and it was about…fake trees. Bizarre, with editing and writing some where between West Wing’s dialog and the Cohen Brothers.

Family Tree
“U.S.A., 2002, 35 Minutes, Color
Director: Vicky Jenson
Presentation Format: 35mm
A guy overwhelmed by demanding in-laws seeks help from his wives long lost brother, whose own problems are taking root.”
Very funny! Touching modern comedy seemingly set in Berkeley with all the BoBo things like picky eaters, smart dysfunctional people, travelers, and a troll that causes roots to grow from ones feet. See the brother ran away to cooking school in France and while truffle hunting…but that’s just a sub-plot. Director was the co-director of Shrek. This was her first live action film. During Q&A she turned out to be a young woman dressed like a snow boarder.

Best Q&A: What’s the market for shorts? “Not much, it’s passion about passion.” Joe, paraphrased “I never talked down to my audience, and I figure there’s got to be some people out there who think like me so I’ll do what I like.”

After the shorts I went back to the condo to try and figure out how to show a 6.5 GB movie file off my laptop to the big screen in the living room. This was because we were having our first “HOUSE DANCE” of home movies. 15 minutes each. . We also called it “CAN’T DANCE,” but as it turned out, we can dance and the movies were wonderful! And the thing was, it had just been mentioned once on the email list that we might watch some folks home movies…

More later.

MONDAY THE 20TH

Trying to keep up with the short reviews…so many movies. I didn’t know you could get actually physically sore from watching movies, but not pain, no gain…

Forgive the sloppy writing, but I’m rushed to get it all down while it’s fresh. 9am:

The Event
Canada, 2002, 105 Minutes, Color
Director: Thom Fitzgerald
Executive Producers: Robert Flutie, Vicki McCarty, Jeff Sackman, Mark Urman
Producers: Brian Hofbauer, Thom Fitzgerald
Screenwriters: Tim Marback, Steven Hillyer, Thom Fitzgerald
Cinematographer: Thomas M. Hartin, CSC
Production Designer: D’Arcy Poultney
Cast: Brent Carver, Olympia Dukakis, Jane Leeves, Don McKellar, Sarah Polley, Parker Posey
Presentation Format: 35mm

From the director of Beefcake and Hanging Garden. Main point, dying with friends, surrounded by love, is better then alone when you can’t even wipe your own ass. Olympia plays the mother we all want in this story about a young gay man in NYC’s Chelcy district who has full blown AIDs and the cocktails are failing. So, they have a party, a sort of last party, which is sort of…illegal…well I won’t spoil it. A tear jerker for sure with great acting. It’s draining to cry before noon. The younger sister scene during the shooting of a commercial was great comic relief. The young girls were great but Sarah Polley’s character was a little poorly fleshed out. “There is no law when it comes to dying that way” was a great line. Some stereotypical stuff, with Barbie dolls and lines like, “you did the makeup of your prom date. I knew you were gay for years.”Great ending.

During Q&A in the small Egyptian Theater Dukakis was there with the director and other stars and someone asked,
“How’d you make it through such an emotional shoot. One actor responded, “Olympia” then Olympia said, “Tequila.” The director, Thom, looks a little like Peter Jackson. The cost was “unknown, nobody was writing it down” according to the producers. Family, was new jersey, stereotypical. The Chelcy aids treatment center, the real one, has ashes stockpiled like in the movie. Think Film is distributor for north America. 10 years to get it made. Canada Gov. pulled funding because it was in NYC. Steven’s mother invested and a producer put in $100.000. It’s a real story, not a true story,…but…they knew of rumors of such parties. Next project, HIV, 4 stories from around the globe, called “3 Angels.”

Lunch with Chris and Kendra and Russ at a deli on Main. 30 minute line to order (note to self, the digital cafe may be dark and underground, but there’s no line and you can play with HDCAM cameras for breaks). Good company talk and at a table near us sat 4 young women dressed like 1960’s flight attendants. I chatted one up and it turns out they are from a new company that rents jets for film festivals, starting with Sundance. $300 round trip from LA to Sundance on a plane full of only Sundance folks, with trailers, schwag, etc. I wonder if it will fly?

Then a shuttle to a 3pm show of:


The Maldonado Miracle
U.S.A., 2002, 99 Minutes, Color
Director: Salma Hayek
Executive Producer: Salma Hayek
Producers: Eve Silverman, Susan Aronson
Screenwriter: Paul W. Cooper
Cinematographer: Claudio Rocha
Editor: Luis Colina
Cast: Ruben Blades, Peter Fonda, Mare Winningham, Eddy Martin
Presentation Format: Sony HD Cam

This is Hayek’s directorial debut and the first showing at Sundance (most movies are screened 3-4 times with the first having the most cast and crew present, but all have Q&A with at least a director or producer) A beautiful story of the coming of age of a young woman…kidding, that’s our joke this year about all films…or is it a bi-sexual woman. Anyway, this was a great, light, little finely textured movie with amazing tones and cinematography. Very touching characters and funny small town stoic behavior. It’s about a small town that is visited by wounded small boy coming over illegally from Mexico, and he can sing like a bird. Peter Fonda played a priest. Salma was not in it, doing the pure director thing. There’s also a very well done side love story between Eddy Martin and Mare Winningham who nailed their parts. Excellent directing and solid editing. And yes, Selma is a babe in person, a definite real woman with curves.

BUT, the Q&A was AMAZING. Salma came up to the lectern and was very outgoing. She shot the flick in Utah and just got up and just brought everybody up to the stage, and I mean everybody, as in the accountant, crew, sub-characters, etc. I counted over 40 folks. I’ve never seen it before. Selma was on fire and excited, then she brought the child actor up to sing a song he sang in the movie in a scene when he was along in an abandoned movie missing his recently dead mother and missing migrant worker father. He sang it amazingly well, full and rich, professional and got a standing ovation. This is his debut film and he nailed it, and the Q&A, which is a sort of coming out as well.

That night we had a communal dinner at the condo with about 16 folks. Adam and Glen lead the charge by cooking Rissoto and chicken soup from scratch. Most people leave for a movie but I stay to nap before a mid-night showing. This is another joke, napping…you just can’t sleep much at Sundance because something always seem to happen. Tonight it as Molli saying at 8:20pm, “Hey, American Spendor is premiering at the Library, lets go see the scene,” I reluctantly walked down the long steep steps to the closest theater, the Library, with her, expecting an empty wait line and a few chatting Sundance staff in their coveted jackets. Molli is in the biz of setting up film festivals and dresses in the wonderful firs and blacks that say independent film completely. Plus, she’s got great natural energy. We walk up to the front of the Library and chat with the staff. They say there’s a 100+ in the wait tent. We hang out for a few minutes with them, trolling for tickets from producers and VIPs who have friends not showing. Then, at 8:30pm, a staff says to us, “Hey, you want to go in? The 100 made it and there’s a few more openings.” Shocked we run in and in the normal wait seating scramble find two seats in the very front, and very side.


American Splendor
U.S.A., 2002, 100 Minutes, Color
Directors: Robert Pulcini, Shari Springer Berman
Producer: Ted Hope
Associate Producer: Julia King
Screenwriters: Robert Pulcini, Shari Springer Berman
Cinematographer: Terry Stacey
Production Designer: Therese DePrez
Music: Mark Suozzo
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis, James Urbaniak, Judah Friedlander
Presentation Format: 35mm

The single most creative and funny docudrama I’ve ever seen. R. Crumb, the famous underground cartoonist, had a friend before he moved to the Bay Area. His friend was named Harvey Pekar and worked at the VA hospital in Cleveland as a file clerk. Harvey is an obsessive compulsive nerd of the highest order, but strangely charming too. He walks everywhere, lives in trashed apartments and has been divorced twice. He collects records and comics fanatically. He’s depressed, strange looking, and spooky. He winces, slouches and scorns as he walks head down with an angry bounce through the gray streets of the bad part of town. When Crumb goes on to become famous Harvey decides he should make his mark writing a comic too, so he does, about his life, using stick figures. He shows it to Crumb, who loves it and decides to illustrate it. Thus starts the comic “American Spendor,” tracking a normal working mans life and his crazy co-workers and friends as they battle to survive their depressing, lonely and mundane life. Well it works, and he keeps cranking out stick figure comics with great writing that are illustrated by others after Crumb movies on. This is the tapping into of the pain we all feel when unknown, uncool, and unloved.

But here’s the kicker. The WAY the filmmakers tell this true story is wild. They cut from shots of the actor playing Harvey while he files at the VA to a shot of the real Harvey doing the voice over you’re hearing while sitting on a bench win a totally white “heaven” type wallless space with the same file cabinet next to him. They in fact use shots of the real friends of Harvey, his eventual real wife, and real footage from his many appearances on David Letterman, until lost it and got kicked off. The love story with his third and final wife is just plan funny with lines like Harvey breathlessly exclaiming during their letter writing courtship, “God she’s got good looking handwriting,” or his retort to the way his face looks, “Those are gumption lines.”

This is a must see. I even got a picture of the real Harvey the next day walking in the street.

After the movie I’m standing at the end of a row and a man comes out of the seats and almost bumps into me. Passing he says “hi” and I realize it was Al Gore. I wish I’d actually made contact with him so I could say, “I bumped into Al Gore the other night,” but it was just a near miss as he made for the back door with some young looking guys in puffy down coats.

Dazed from media overload, We all head back to main st. for a comedy documentary at the Egyptian.


DysFunKtional Family
U.S.A., 2002, 84 Minutes, Color
Director: George Gallo
Producers: Eddie Griffin, David Permut, Paul Brooks
Screenwriter: Eddie Griffin
Cast: Eddie Griffin
Presentation Format: 35mm

Never heard of the comic Eddie Griffen. He’s pretty funny and was there to introduce his documentary on a show in Kansas, with plenty of creative filler of his crazy, wacky, content well of a family. There’s a big heavy porn fixated uncle, the wire thin, gold toothed felony, ex user, uncle. His big beat you with a hitch mama, etc. He’s a crude, straight out comic with few bounds of decency. But he’s smart, and it’s smart comedy. And he doesn’t seem that angry. He’s a cat person, he disses everyone and teaches perspective in the process. On a visit to his old school he tells the kids to do theater and dance, and to study because you it helps you achieve your dreams, then he goes on to joke about a gay son giving head to his friends and climbs the curtains in the theater. This was a loud and funny flick, with some surprises. The Q&A was funny as well. Eddie is a natural and performs on any stage. His short white producer played an excellent groveling straight man during Q&A as well. The last question was “I just wanted to thank you for sharing such pain in such a positive way.” and Eddie seemed to let the act go for a minute and got quiet and said thank you and left with a sigh.

Shuttle to steep steps. Walk home. Hot tub for shoulders sore from stagnation, Bed.

TUESDAY THE 21ST

Late start. Digital Cafe for some wireless. Then to:


Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity
Canada, 2002, 90 Minutes, Color
Director: Mina Shum
Producers: Christina Jennings, Scott Garvie, Raymond Massey
Screenwriter: Mina Shum, Dennis Foon
Cinematographer: Peter Wunstorf
Production Designer: Michael Bjornson
Music: Andrew Lockington
Cast: Sandra Oh, Valerie Tian, Russell Yuen, Ric Young, Chang Tseng, Tsai Chin
Presentation Format: 35mm

Mina Shum is a young Canadian filmmaker who has made a nice tight little window into the Chinese scene in Canada. This is a 3 story piece about three different families. It’s subtitled and has a lot of Asian Hollywood actors, finally cast as actual people in a drama. Well done and pretty tight and charming. Deals with magic and has an aced performance by the young girl who is the protagonist and into spells and love potions and such. There as a tree falling and breaking arm scene that lost me, as the next scene had some tiny branches on the kid that wouldn’t have broken a finger, but that was minor.

Adam and I had a drink and dinner at Rosa on main, with Steve Buscemi (Fargo) at the next table. We behaved and didn’t bother him. Recharged we charge over to wait in line for the much BUZZED “Born Rich”, the doc on the kids of the very rich with apparently amazing access. Since none of us had tickets, we’d had friends in the wait line since 4pm who had gotten numbers in the mid-60s and 70s. They start letting folks in and we miss by about 15 folks. Bummer. Buzz flicks are tough. I take off with Laura and Amy around the corner for the much saner wait line for:


Music for Weddings and Funerals
Original Title:(Musikk For Bryllup Og Begravelser)
Norway, Sweden, 2002, 97 Minutes, Color
Director: Unni Straume
Screenwriter: Unni Straume
Producers: Edward A. Dreyer, Tom Remlov
Coproducer: Kerstin Bonnier
Cinematographer: Harald Paalgard
Editor: Trygve Hagen
Music: Goran Bregovic
Cast: Lena Endre, Bjorn Floberg, Rebecka Hemse, Petronella Barker, Goran Bregovic, Wenche Foss
Presentation Format: 35mm

The main set in this house redefines minimalism interior decorating. The exteriors are lush Nordic woods. This was my first Scandinavia French apartment movie. That’s sort of a joke. I believe saying it was a drama, heavy on dialog and relationships, about a famous architect and the three women (ex-wife, mistress, wife) who find out that they have him in common when…well I won’t spoil it…would be nicer. I just didn’t get all the symbolism or commentary on chaos vs. order and cultures and…it was just too slow at times, the way a euro film can be. Call me American. My two women movie partners loved it, but said it was a chick flick. I told a friend that and he said, “so lots of crying women,” which in fact there ironically were. In summation, pretty, good music, good acting, slow, deep.

I fell to my right after this and landed in the wait line for a short and a doc in a double bill at 10pm of:


Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness
Tiffany Shlain, Director. We had a copy of this at the condo somehow. It’s a 15 minute, tight rambling, almost Monty Python like, commentary on pro-life philosophy and frogs and environmental preservation. It’s a funny, brilliant use of stock footage and some staged scenes. Just a good bit of funny, thoughtful film. Savvy marketing folks were passing out condoms on the way into the theater to play of the documentary that followed it called:


The Pill
U.S.A., 2002, 56 Minutes, Color
Directors: Chana Gazit, David Steward
Executive Producer: Margaret Drain
Senior Producer: Mark Samels
Producer: Chana Gazit
Coproducers: David Steward, Hilary Klotz
Cinematographer: Joel Shapiro
Editor: David Steward
Music: Tom Phillips
Presentation Format: Sony HD Cam

I had no idea how the Pill came to be. I assumed it was a bunch of men at a big pharmaceutical company. But noooo. It was a woman battle horse fighting for a woman’s right to not have baby and after baby for 30 years that lead to another battle horse, a rich widower, funding a brilliant scientist in a failing lab, to make this little societal rocking pill. And once he made it, it had to get by the Catholic church and Puritan America. To do this a very famous doctor and devote Christian, crossed the church he loved to get it tested and approved. Sex followed. Lots of sex. First prescribed as a menstrual cramp aid, the Pill quickly empowered women like never before, probably to the delight of single young men everywhere. After sketchy but successful trial outside of the US the Pill pass the FDA and all hell breaks loose. Then in the 70s side effects lead to Congressional trials. Wild. This will be on PBS soon I expect, if not already.

After, barely able to distinguish reality from media I pass on a mid-night show and go home.

WEDNESDAY THE 22ND

Ok, this was a fantastically intense day of media and food. But first, I forgot to say that Salma’s “Miracle” movie turned out to be shot on digital tape and, get this, shown using, in her words, “the latest technology from Microsoft media player” I had no idea and could not tell until she said it at the end.

Up at 7:30pm and out the door to:


The Cooler
U.S.A., 2002, 103 Minutes, Color
Director: Wayne Kramer
Screenwriter: Wayne Kramer, Frank Hannah
Executive Producers: Edward R. Pressman, John Schmidt, Alessandro Camon, Brett Morrison, Robert Gryphon, Joe Madden
Producers: Sean Furst, Michael Pierce
Cinematographer: James Whitaker
Music: Mark Isham
Cast: William H. Macy, Maria Bello, Alec Baldwin, Ron Livingston, Joey Fatone, Paul Sorvino, Shawn Hatosy, Estella Warren
Presentation Format: 35mm

It’s rare, but refreshing, to see wrinkles and stretch marks on stars asses, but there Macy and Bello’s were in a seedy hotel room in Vegas. They still looked great. We were at the Eccles main theater for a big juicy premiere with some big stars. This was a peach of a classic Hollywood movie, in other words, an old story, told originally. In this case, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in the malls soon (minus the crotch shot of Macy and Bello holding their genitals like Adam and Eve). Vegas, love, sex, losers, and luck. This was a script! I mean those stories that you just marvel at who the fuck they wrote it so well. Macy plays a loser, such a loser that casinos hire him to walk around causing bad luck to winner sapping the casinos profits. Thus, he’s a “cooler.” But love, now love changes things…which is trouble for a cooler in debt to an old school Casino owner. This is also about the clash of old Vegas with new Vegas. Slick, funny, violent, with Baldwin as a bad guy, the kind you feel sorry for, then hate, then feel sorry for, etc. During the Q&A they say they wrote a first draft in three weeks, and shot it in three weeks, in Reno no less because they found a casino being remodeled that they could take over and light. Asked if Coolers existed the producers said, “Yes, because if they don’t then the bad luck is about you, so I’d like to think they exists.” A screenwriting debut from the writer, and a career turbo charge. Of the most sexy of the sex scenes the director said, “Bill and I went through it the night before.” And we all laughed along with his mistake. The ending was darker, but changed to be more logical with the characters. This was old school craft and writing at a high level.

I’m not sure what happened after that, but by 3pm I was watching:


Laurel Canyon
U.S.A., 2002, 105 Minutes, Color
Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Screenwriter: Lisa Cholodenko
Executive Producer: Scott Ferguson
Producers: Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Susan Stover
Cinematographer: Wally Pfister
Production Designer: Catherine Hardwicke
Music: Craig Wedren
Cast: Frances McDormand, Christian Bale, Kate Beckinsale, Alessandro Nivola, Natasha McElhone
Presentation Format: 35mm

This hit home for me, but it wasn’t a total crowd pleasure. Just a little flat character development wise. Single hippie mother in LA is visited by her very handsome doctor son and his outlandlishly perky girl friend who is finishing her dissertation while he goes to residency. Yeah, the cast was a freak show of impossibly beautiful people, but I can forgive that. McDormand commanded the movie as the mother, a very successful record producer still smoking dope, having a rolling party at her Laurel Canyon house, and being, well, open minded about sex. Particularly hard hitting for any son who might have had a young single mother who was still figuring her self out.

Russ and I dashed for a closed martini party for the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, where we were meeting a guy I’d met the day before that was a publicist. I figured both he and Russ might be able to connect business-wise in terms of Xodus. When our bus returned to where we started we got off and tried another. Then on Main street we walked the wrong way for a few blocks, turned around, walked past the party, turned around, and found it. Yes, overload had started. But we found it and in 20 minutes had two martinis met several key folks in a low pressure way who loved Xodus’s stuff, and gave away about 30 temporary tattoos. Buzzed, late, we bolt to dinner, bolt past the restaurant, turn around, bolt back, find it, sit, order a drink, and then proceed to eat a really special meal that entailed a lot of big, dead, cute animals like elk, ducks and Buffalo, in sauces that defied analysis. One of the Baldwin’s was there I think.

Waddling out, powered only by espresso and it’s winning a mortal battle with booze, we float to a 9pm of:


Off the Map
U.S.A., 2002, 105 Minutes, Color
Director: Campbell Scott
Producers: Campbell Scott, George VanBuskirk
Coproducer: Jonathan Filley
Screenwriter: Joan Ackermann
Cinematographer: Juan Ruiz Anchia
Editor: Andy Keir
Cast: Joan Allen, Amy Brenneman, Valentina d’Angelis, Sam Elliott, J.K. Simmons, Kevin Skousen, Jim True-Frost
Presentation Format: 35mm

Outside there’s no wait line when we get there. Bad sign since we had to try and dump a few extra tickets. I have no idea what this flick is either. Then someone who doesn’t want to dump a ticket gives me their ticket. I now have two to try and sell. Then a scalper comes along and offers me $10 for two, which was perfect since I paid $10 for one, but got one for free. Russ sells his extras, barely, and we go in.

This was the BEST OF SHOW SO FAR I had no idea what it was but Scott has crafted a very original movie from a great play he saw years ago. I was stunned. A smart little girl “off the map” in New Mexico living on $5000 a year with mother and father in 1974. No phone. Karosene lamps casting the yellow light only they can. Elliot plays the father, depressed, silent, crying, but his was not a downer, it was actually dryly funny and with dialog I can’t really explain. There’s the IRS guy who never quite finishes the audit he came to do. The silent country friend. The land, the boat, and the little girl, art, desert, gardens, etc.

This was about what we all find wrong in our world now and what it can be like perhaps. In our ADD-media soaked, processed food, psychobabble, pent-up skirting communication, world there is this finely told story to help us see options.

During the Q&A the little girl said she loved learning to drive the most. Elliot drawled out that it it took him a long time to get over playing this part. Also, this was a FRESH print, as in it was a print duplication it was so fresh. The credits weren’t even done it was so fresh. They were done editing 7 days ago in fact, from a 30 day shoot.

We all came out quiet stunned and amazed. A really special and originally conveyed film.

THURSDAY THE 23RD

9am and I get wait list tickets for a flick that Larry Charles (Scienfeld, Mad About You) and Bob Dylan (A muscitian, in case you’ve just landed on earth) teamed up on. It’s described as an “imaginative allegory, part cartoon, part deconstruction.”


Masked and Anonymous
U.S.A., 2002, 120 Minutes, Color
Director: Larry Charles
Executive Producers: David Thompson, Anatoly Fradis,Joseph Cohen, Vladimir Dostal, Guy East, Marie Cantin
Producers: Nigel Sinclair, Jeff Rosen
Screenwriters: Rene Fontaine, Sergy Petrov
Cinematographer: Rogier Stoffers
Editors: Pietro Scalia, Luis Alvaerz
Music: Bob Dylan
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Penelope Cruz, Bob Dylan, John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Luke Wilson
Presentation Format: 35mm

Dylan plays a musician in jail in some third world country in a strange near future world of dictators and poverty. He is released to play a benefit. This is the story to be told by John Goodman, Luke Wilson, Jessica Lange, Jeff Bridges, Penelope Cruz and lots of other starts in bit parts. Dylan, diminutive and stoic as usual, is wonderful to watch up close playing and playing the straight man in an insane world. But the shooting style, low budget sets, loose story, limited character development, and reminded me of hippie projects that rebel against things that are actually not the problem, and in doing so, fail to spread their message past the choir. And it was a timely and positive message about peace, leaders and media. Sadly for me though, the talent seemed wasted. I left wishing Mr. Charles had hired some writers and a hot director that would have used the incredible talent and star power at his disposal to make a piece of media that would have been drawn into the places it is most needed – the mall cinemas.

Mr. Charles does not look like he should. A long gray beard, Vietnam Vet looking military coat, wool hat, glasses, etc. Basically a biker-vet look. I’d expected a short Jewish looking writer type like George in Seinfeld. In the Q&A I heard such lines as “We didn’t really have a plan, we just wanted to let the creative process happen,” and, “My friends all told me to get off this train.” But Mr. Charles loved it and I guess that’s what matters if it’s your movie.

After lunch I had a nice talk about digital tape with the Sony folks in the Digital Cafe. Turns out 40 TV shows are shot in HDCam tape, which is 1/2″ video tape like Betacam. It’s is also called “24p” which means 24 frames per second (fps). The interesting part about this is that Sony tried to release cameras that shot at 60fps, which is much clearer and has less motion blur and no effect of car wheels looking like they are going backwards. But the film makers didn’t like the look, said it didn’t “look like film” to them. So Sony made cameras that could shoot at 24, and also up to 60fps. Nobody uses the 60p, but the Sony rep. said he expected a movie to come out soon with it and then others to leave the legacy of 24fps behind.

At 3:00 pm I cruised over to the Eccles for a Minnie Driver and the darling of Independent film, Seymour Hoffman in a film called Owning Mahowny. While sitting in the huge Eccles theater watching the throngs come in, and the VIP entourages, notice Rogert Ebert standing up against he wall where the stars and crew have to walk past to get to their reserved seats near the front. Then Minnie Driver and her crew come in and walk towards him. Minnie stops and shakes Ebert’s hand and then, to our surprise, Ebert takes a snap shot of Minnie just like a normal fan. You’d think he could get a nice head shot in a snap…strange.


Owning Mahowny
Canada, 2002, 107 Minutes, Color
Director: Richard Kwietniowski
Executive Producers: Edward R. Pressman, Sean Furst
Producers: Andras Hamori, Seaton McLean, Alessandro Camon
Coproducers: Victoria Hirst, Damon Bryant, Bradley Adams
Screenwriter: Maurice Chauvet
Cinematographer: Oliver Curtis BSC
Editor: Mike Munn
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Minnie Driver, Maury Chaykin, John Hurt
Presentation Format: 35mm

Another Vegas kinda’ flick, but this time it’s off of a true story about a mild mannered, mid-level, bank executive worker who gets on a serious gambling jag in Atlantic City. And I mean serious. He siphons 10 million or so off of his employers and is befriended by casinos and treated like royalty until his trail becomes too hot. He’s a purist gambler, playing until he’s broke every time, then leaving and going to work sleepless with his girlfriend irate. Character development was a little weak, especially in the cop, and Minnie Driver’s sand blond wig was just a crime against all that is beautiful in the world. A solid flick, but not inspired like The Cooler.

At 5:30pm I was off to:


Good Fences
U.S.A., 2002, 78 Minutes, Color
Director: Ernest Dickerson
Executive Producers: Spike Lee, Sam Kitt
Producers: Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover
Screenwriter: Trey Ellis, based on the novel by Erika Ellis
Cinematographer: Jonathan Freeman
Editor: Stephen Lovejoy A.C.E.
Music: George Duke
Cast: Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover
Presentation Format: 35mm

From a book about a black family during the mid-70s who moves into a lily white, rich suburb of Connecticut. Glover plays a successful lawyer, driven in part by a violent racist attack. Charming performances, especially Whoopi. Interesting race issues, especially the relationship of the family to other black folks. The construction of the movie was a little choppy though, with some tacky feeling voice overs and asides. All in all, an OK period piece with a good message.

Then in bed by 2am-ish.

FRIDAY THE 24TH

And I’m draggin’ my media soaked ass out of the house by 11ish.

Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin
U.S.A., 2002, 84 Minutes, Color
Directors: Nancy Kates, Bennett Singer
Executive Producer: Sam Pollard
Producers: Nancy Kates, Bennett Singer
Coproducer: Mridu Chandra
Cinematographer: Robert Shepard
Editors: Veronica Selver, Rhonda Collins
Music: B. Quincy Griffin
Presentation Format: Sony HD Cam

A primer on how to protest Iraq. Study how this incredible man ran the operations of a multiude of protests of all sizes and shapes. See how he was well dressed, as were his staff. Notice the lack of party atmospheres, looting, violence, drugs, and the deft us of moderate messages that the public can understand. This documentary is a text book on effective non-violent protest operations management.

It is the story of the life of a true background man. Do you know who organized the famous and successful 1963 civil rights march on Washington? Who advised Martin Luther King starting when King was 25 years old? Who worked with LBJ’s administration on civil rights for workers? Beyard Rustin is who. And he was disarmingly handsome and openly gay starting in the 1940s. He was profiled by the FBI, did time in jail and corresponded with his lover using a code while they pretended his lover was a woman. He traveled to India to study Ghandi’s ways where he was photographed with some very hot young Indian men flanking him. He was also arrested for indecency in the late 1940s with two guys in the back seat of a car in Pasadena and said after that that he would have to “sublimate his sexuality” to live in the world. This was to be used against him throughout his activist life and in part kept him in the background, literally as the many shots of famous people with him in the background attest.

At the end Bayard is 70 and in a gay and lesbian protest observing that this is the new front lines of the civil rights movement. Cool.


Shorts 6, 2:30pm
Of the five shorts, these stood out to me:

Twin Towers
U.S.A., 2002, 34 Minutes, Color
Directors: Bill Guttentag, Robert David Port
Presentation Format: 35mm
Two brothers, one a firefighter, one a police officer, are remembered for their bravery in New York City on September 11.

Straight up, heart tugging, tear jerking, patriotic piece with unreleased footage of 911. The director had amazing access and a great steady cam rig. Through some twist of fate, he’d been filming special unit cops in NYC before 911 profiling a hero who’s brother was a fireman, and father a very decorated fireman. 911 took both brothers. Made me wish the liberals and democrats would tap into some of the anger of 911 to do some good, instead of letting Bush tap into it for evil.

Why Can’t We Be a Family Again?
U.S.A., 2002, 27 Minutes, Color
Directors: Murray Nossel, Roger Weisberg
Presentation Format: Sony HD Cam
Two extraordinary brothers struggle to believe in their mother’s love.”

Amazing and due to 6 months of shooting another flick so they were totally desensitized to the cameras. This short should be shown to anyone considering how to solve the plight of inner city at risk youth, not that there are answers, just as a motivator. The youngest brother said during the doc. when he realizes his mother is not going to stop using, “I’ll have to hold my mommy in my heart, but I can’t let it stop my dreams.”

Cocktail party at 7pm. Small and good crowd. Susan and Ajita, two corporate lawyers from NYC were in full NYC woman form providing raucous and titillating conversation. Took off with David to Harry Os at 10pm, but the list was not the list we thought we were on. We tried to sneak in the back piss soaked ally, but to no avail. We bolted for the music cafe and hit their dollar drinks. David and I started thinking of gay superheros for Xodus magazine and had a blast coming up with names like SuperDick, Dick Hick, Woeman, who fight the Bad Ass SuperHero Eradicators (BASHERS) who come from the evil land of castronation. Some band comes up from LA and starts to jam. We listen for a while and cab it back to the condo. Folks are playing truth or dare and when we get out and go inside, it’s 5:50am! Oyi, the horror…

SUNDANCE 2003: SATURDAY THE 25TH

Woke up at 8am by housekeeping, naked in my ski coat on a couch. Sylvia wakes me up at 9am and offers their upstairs bedroom for healing. I accept and wake back up at 1pm in time for:

Short III, 2:30pm
This was the best shorts one of all.
Of the six fine shorts, these stuck out to me:

Earthquake
U.S.A., UK, 2001, 2 Minutes, Color
Director: James Brett
Presentation Format: 35mm
Amazing live news footage during a California earthquake.”
“Live news footage” is a joke. It’s 2 minutes of funny and original puppets shaking…got to see it to get it.

Good Night Valentino
U.S.A., 2002, 15 Minutes, Color & B/W
Director: Edoardo Ballerini
Presentation Format: 35mm
As the truth unfolds, it is clear that a great man is still but a man.”
A slick little short about the a dinner with HL Menkien and the first “live fast, die young” star, Rudolf Valentino. Used silky film for a great look.

Most
U.S.A., 2002, 29 Minutes, Color
Director: Bobby Garabedian
Presentation Format: 35mm
A poetic and powerful story of a father forced to choose between love and duty.”

Best drama short I saw. Euro story weaving of different characters centering around a single father and his son…and a bridge and a train.  Recoup at the house. Then off to the Eccles for a Zombie movie:

28 Days Later
Great Britain, 2002, 108 Minutes, Color
Director: Danny Boyle
Producer: Andrew Macdonald
Screenwriter: Alex Garland
Cinematographer: Antony Dod Mantle
Editor: Chris Gill
Production Designer: Marl Tildesley
Costume Designer: Rachael Fleming
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Megan Burns, Brendan Gleeson
Presentation Format: 35mm

We brought some brownies…anyway, I didn’t feel them until after the movie since I too busy holding my ears and using my baseball hat to block the screen. This movies was brilliantly edited and sound shaped. It’s about a virus of rage that decimates England. It spreads in 10 seconds, making people just flat out raging, killing machines spouting blood and screaming as short of Crow cackle from hell. I jumped down many times in my seat. The crowd was the most vocal I’ve ever heard at Sundance. We had to vent and once we heard each other, we did it more. 2000 folks all saying, “no, don’t go in the building, not the building…” together is very funny.

Heart pumping I contemplate seeing Rolling Kansas, a much needed comedy, but the contemplation takes too long and I miss the window. Float home, talk, socialize, sit on couch contemplating my computer screen, go to bed.

SUNDAY THE 26TH
Rested and with the awards out and the crowd thin, I slide on over to:

All The Real Girls
U.S.A., 2002, 105 Minutes, Color
Director: David Gordon Green
Screenwriter: David Gordon Green
Producers: Jean Doumanian, Lisa Muskat
Cinematographer: Tim Orr
Editor: Zene Baker, Steven Gonzales
Production Designer: Richard Wright
Music: Michael Linnen, David Wingo
Cast: Paul Schneider, Zooey Deschanel, Patricia Clarkson, Shea Whigham, Danny McBride, Ben Mouton
Presentation Format: 35mm

The last movie. A slow and beautiful small town love story flick. Nice, thoughtful, unique characters and dialog, sublime cinematography. Guy gets girl, guy loses girl, guy…the end.

Shuttling I talk to two New Yorkers who were with a big group that had grown over the years to 150 loose friends. Sundance attracts a certain type of folks. Intellectual arty, city folks who like to ski, or at least are willing to brave the cold for a good movie. This is a nice crowd to hang with.

THE END

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