Buy My Movie!

    a great short



    people in black




    the white-haired man we saw everywhere



    Tilda Swinton and Goran Visnjic


    no caffe latte next 20 miles




    loved 'em all!

    good eats

    a nightclub act





    tell it to the BSA!

    yes, he's a real estate broker - how times change...


    two of us riding nowhere...

    the best of the fest





    wait list stubs for Raw Deal


    Starbucks to go

         email us

What is a vacation but time spent outside your own world?


Jeremy - great name!  

It was a quality issue.  

Is this basil fresh?  

Was it allegorical?  

Don't you have anything on the menu that doesn't have meat in it?  



The first day was strenuous. We had been up far too late the night before, the condo was too hot for comfortable sleeping, and our first screening was at 8:30am. At 7:30 I hustled down to the Prospector theater to pick up our tickets for the weekend. We had only seen the place in the dark, and didn't know where we could find breakfast on the run. With no time to sit down somewhere and eat, we stumbled across a deli and grabbed a bagel. At Sundance you have to get there 15 minutes ahead or you could lose your seat, even if you have a ticket.

Our first show was The Bleep Brothers, a Japanese picture, which looked good on paper. It could have been worse, but it turned out to be last on our list. Wandering, slow-moving story, bad soundtrack laced with really dumb English-language songs.

We went to the deli for another quick bite, before going back to the Prospector for Shorts Program 3. We were concerned after having seen something of a dud for our first movie. Shorts 3 brought us back to life. The longest picture in the bunch was 24 minutes. The short format works well when you're tired and your attention span is not what it should be! We especially liked Baby, Silent Mercury, and Jigsaw Venus. All of the filmmakers were there for Q&A afterward. This is a large part of the fun of Sundance - meeting and talking with the people who made the movie you just watched.

Then it was back to the deli again for a substantial meal: whole sandwiches! The guy running the place asked if we were interested in sleeping there.

Third screening of the day: Our Lady of the Assassins. More subtitles, which can be hard on the eyes. A very good film, done in HiDef video on location in Colombia by the French director Barbet Schroeder. You may know him from Barfly or Reversal of Fortune. After the movie was over, we had an exchange that went something like this:

Me: Was that you in the first scene?
BS: Yes, we tried to round up all the patrons of the brothel, but we couldn't get enough to fill the frame...
Me: They were reluctant to appear.... was Fernando sort of a stand-in for Colombia itself?
BS: No, no, he was just a character we made up.

After this we actually had a bit of a break. Our next screening wasn't until 9:30 that night. So we ventured downtown to see what we could see.

Park City runs north to south for the most part, with a section going east off the north end (the Prospector Square area, where we stayed), sort of like an upsidedown boot. Downtown is the upper half of the boot. It's pretty typical of ski mountain towns: overpriced restaurants with names designed to lure Californians ("Picasso", "Mediterraneo", "The Happy Sumo", "Lakota"), tacky souvenir shops, and lots of galleries selling photographs of bears catching salmon. This is where the People In Black can be found wandering the streets, when they're not watching a movie or attending some private party. We found a nifty little hole-in-the-wall called The Irish Camel, right on Main Street. Good Mexican, especially the salsa, reasonable prices, good beers.

Ah, to get a drink in Utah! It's never as easy as it looks. The liquor laws are like something out of Kafka, or Monty Python. There are restaurants that serve alcohol, and may even have an actual bar, but you can't get a drink without ordering food. There are private clubs, which look just like restaurants, but you can't get a drink there, or even go inside, without joining up and paying a membership fee. There are bars, where no food is served at all, but to get a drink someone has to sponsor you.

If you do manage to get a drink in one of these establishments, stay on your toes. There are more rules to be followed! Ordering another round is dicey: you can't have more than one drink per person on the table at any given moment in time. You can't have a shot and a beer - just the shot or just the beer, but not both. 3.2 beer is the norm, naturally, but you can get the real thing if you ask politely.

Wanna buy a bottle of the hard stuff? You've got to go to one of the state liquor stores, which of course have strange hours and are never open when you need them to be. On top of all this you have the unnerving presence of Breweries, right there in the state of Utah! How these demonic factories from hell are allowed to exist is beyond me.

I don't know how we so got lucky, but Saturday night we found the Holy Grail - a real Bar, where we were able to get a beer without playing Dungeons and Dragons. No food, no memberships, no BS. It's called Timbers, and it's in the Marriott in Prospector Square. It must be the best-kept secret in Park City - it was pratically empty.

Back to the movies! Our last screening on Friday was at the Eccles Theater, which in fact is the auditorium at Park City High. It's a very nice auditorium, with wonderful projection and sound. Not at all like the auditorium where you and I went to school....

Series 7: The Contenders is a very entertaining, very slick parody of "reality TV" - shows like Survivor and Cops. The question I put to Howie Movshovitz the next morning was "why make a parody of something that is pretty much self-parody to begin with?" Howie hadn't seen the movie yet.

Howie Movshovitz, Denver movie critic

Before the show started, we got our first celebrity photo-op: Wally Shawn!

Annette with Wally Shawn

Saturday began early - a mistake to do this two days in a row, but we didn't have much choice. Buying tickets was a nightmare, and I had to take what I could get. Sundance was supposed to sell tickets on their web site, but at the last moment they cancelled those plans. This meant that the only way to get individual tickets, as opposed to festival passes which are very expensive, was to call the box office. This meant six hours of busy signals! This meant that by the time I finally got through, many of the movies in our chosen time slots were sold out.

At 9:00am at Eccles we saw the best movie we saw all weekend: The Sleepy Time Gal. We had good seats, right next to the ones reserved for cast and crew, so we sat about 50 feet from Jacqueline Bisset et al. Before the screening, as they were all milling about, I said "I wonder who's that tall goofy-looking guy?" Turns out that was the director, who by all appearances is not the age of one who could have made such a mature, grown-up film, but somehow... Bisset was terrific, they all were, and what a great story! This one should play in the regular theaters, but as of this writing it has no distributor.

Annette with Jacqueline Bisset

Late that night we ran into Nick Stahl, who plays Bisset's son. He was standing alone in the snow outside the Blind Dog cafe, nervously trying to smoke a cigarette. As we passed by I said "we loved your movie - saw it this morning." He mumbled some sort of thank you as we went inside. Annette reminded me that he was in two movies playing at the festival. I wondered if it mattered to him which movie I was talking about...

There are no fewer than eight screens in Park City used during Sundance, and they are scattered all over town. Without public transit, getting from show to show would be horrific. The festival people realized this and set up a system of shuttle buses. You use them to get to your next movie, or to dinner, or to go downtown and rubberneck. The latter is what we had in mind after TSTG, because we had no show until 3pm.

Without warning, Annette got off the bus when it stopped at the Yarrow Hotel, and I ran after her, not knowing why. Soon we had a reason. Scout's Honor was showing in about 30 minutes, and we had not gotten tickets to any of the documentaries this year, so...Wait List! This is one of the nicer features of the festival. If you don't have a ticket you can queue up for the Wait List. Fifteen minutes before each screening the volunteers determine how many seats are still empty, and that's the number of tickets that are sold to the lucky folks in the Wait List. We Wait Listed three pictures this year, and made it in every time.

Scout's Honor tells the story of the folks, young and old, gay and straight, who have fought the Boy Scouts of America bureaucrats over their policy of discrimination against gay men. The slogan "Morally Straight" comes from the Boy Scout pledge itself, and is used to illuminate the distinction between what the Scouts' laws require and what the organization has arbitrarily proscribed. It's a documentary with a clear point of view, which adds to its power.

After the show we met the director, Tom Shepard, and a few of the Scouts who had appeared in the film. We wanted to get one of the pink bandanas that everyone was wearing, to show our support, and Tom told us we could get one at the Grub Steak restaurant the next morning starting at 11am. The Grub Steak was a short walk from the condo, so we strolled on down there at 11 on Sunday. From down the sidewalk we could see there was a long line of people waiting to get in. As we joined the line we thought "isn't it great that so many people have showed up to get their bandanas?" Then we noticed the sign hanging on the side of the restaurant: QUEER BRUNCH. Well now! We explained that we had only come by to get our bandanas, and that we did have a movie to go to at noon, but we still felt a bit rude taking our goodies and leaving.

After SH we had to get a bit of lunch and head back to Eccles to see Beaver Trilogy. This is a movie that walks a very fine line between admiration and humiliation - too fine, in our opinion. It starts with what amounts to "found footage," a TV cameraman (Trent Harris) trying out a new camera in the station parking lot and a goofy character who's all too keen to appear on television. This kid, who just happened to be there hanging out, runs through a series of impressions, shows off his car named Farrah, and generally talks a blue streak. He's funny, but not especially talented, and clearly something of an exhibitionist. He gets into his car and, after popping the hood to start it, drives off into the sunset. If the picture had ended there, it would have made a cute entry in one of the shorts programs. But there's more...

The Kid, who's from Beaver, Utah, writes the cameraman a letter. Would he be interested in coming down to Beaver to film a talent show he's putting on? Harris can't resist, and this is where things start to go wrong. Harris films the talent show, which consists of various Beaverians singing Olivia Newton-John songs, poorly, and as the piece de resistance, The Beaver Kid in full drag as Olivia herself. But wait, there's more!

The second part of the trilogy is Sean Penn imitating The Beaver Kid. Painfully. What's the point? Then comes the third part: Crispin Glover as The Beaver Kid, who's now known as The Orkly Kid and who's had a whole fictional story built up around him. This was shot around 1985, so it's a young Crispin, and it's mildly entertaining, but again, what's the point? Maybe it would have been better to find out The Beaver Kid's real story and film that. Or maybe, just maybe, they should have left the guy alone. This isn't moviemaking - it's exploitation.

Sunday came and finally we felt rested. We had learned how to regulate the heat in the condo (by turning it off), and with no early movie to see we were able to sleep in and then enjoy breakfast at our leisure.

So we went to the Queer Brunch, and would have liked to have stayed, but we had just eaten and did in fact need to hurry over to see The Deep End at Eccles. Of all the pictures we saw that weekend, this is the one you can count on seeing in wide release. It's a great familial drama, with a superb performance by Tilda Swinton. The male lead is the tall, dark and handsome Doctor Luka from ER, Goran Visnjic, which should help at the box office. I thought "what a shame, his first big starring role in an American picture and he has to play a bad guy," but they did a nice job of turning the character around - a bad guy with a conscience.

Annette with Goran Visnjic outside the Eccles

Next up was Portland Animation, a collection of 13 short animated films, back at Prospector. Three good reasons for going to Sundance, or any other film festival: shorts, documentaries, and animations. You'll rarely see any of those forms anywhere else, unless you live in a big city on either coast, and even then you'll probably have to hunt for screenings at museums and obscure art houses.

Portland seems to be a hotbed for animation, for some reason, and you'd be hard-pressed to pick a loser from the lot we saw. Some were just brilliant. Suspicious Circumstances, a surreally comic and dada-esque study of marital tension, and Surface Dive, which is pure cinematic abstraction with tremendously effective use of sound, are the stand-outs, but I can honestly say I enjoyed every last one of them.

Our last film at this year's festival was Raw Deal: A Question of Consent, a documentary about a rape case at the University of Florida. The case grew out of the videotapes made by several fraternity brothers as they had sex with and later raped a stripper they had hired to perform at a party. Far from being a clinical examination of a legal matter, the movie lives somewhere in the gray area between condemning prurient interest and pandering to it. There's a great deal of footage from the videos included - perhaps too much. While it's clear by the end that a rape did occur, it's debatable what the true intent of the filmmakers was. It's also clear that the version of the picture we saw will likely never see the light of day, unless the distributor is willing to accept an NC-17 rating.

This year's festival was, for a couple of true Moviegoers, even more rewarding than last year's. I suppose part of that comes from knowing the the ropes a little better this time around, which is not to say that we didn't learn anything this year. Getting tickets in advance is not nearly as important as we had thought. Going to 8:30am screenings is not a great idea if you're a night owl. It is possible to get lost even in a town the size of Park City!

The movies we saw this year were better. We greatly increased our level of Celebrity Contact over last year. The novelty factor was of course virtually nonexistent, and we still had a great time.

Sundance is another world, that's for sure.