Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Last Day in Utah Ends in Grand Slam

On my last day in the frozen tundra, I rather enjoyed the folks I talked to and the films I saw, with one glaring exception. I started the day with a sweet film called SLEEPWALK WITH ME,
about a struggling and not too funny comedian who lives with the lovely Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) and struggles with insecurity, fear of commitment and a case of sleepwalking sickness that sends him into some precarious situations. It was a really nice film, nice story and liked the actor who had a running dialogue with the audience. The next movie, COMPLIANCE is barely worth the words I write, but I will only to say - why was this movie made? It's a sick story, quite misogynistic in nature. Hopefully it will just stay as the filmmakers fantasy. Thank goodness I ended the day and my Utah festival with UNDER AFRICAN SKIES, a fabulous documentary about the making of Paul Simon's masterpiece album,
GRACELAND. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't remember the huge dust-up that occurred when he broke the UN sanctioned cultural boycott when he visited South Africa at the height of Apartheid to work with the local musicians and build the album from roots of local artists. So glad that was my last film of the festival. Today I'm winging to Houston. Two of our theatres, the Sundance Kabuki in San Francisco and our new Sundance Houston are participating in Sundance Film Festival USA tomorrow. This is a great program the Festival started where filmmakers and their films are whisked to 9 different cities (mid-Fest), for a presentation that mirrors the Sundance Film Festival. Both shows have sold out, and we're so happy to be a part of this again this year.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Many Movies & Sad News

The last couple of days were filled with movies and a few parties sprinkled in, altho some of our condo-mates were certainly hitting the high life in terms of parties. There were a few I just could justify attending as I needed to watch as many films as possible. On Sunday we saw ARBITRAGE at the Eccles with filmmakers in attendance (expensive film-ok storyline), THE COMEDY (bad film about rich ugly zeros), RED LIGHTS, a highly anticipated thriller that fell down in the end, with Robert DeNiro and my fave gal Sigourney Weaver, then a really nice and heartfelt MIDDLE OF NOWHERE about a woman keeping her marriage together while her husband is in jail. Really liked it.

Monday started out with SMASHED, about a woman who decides that it's time to go sober and how it affects her marriage, then SAVE THE DATE, a perfectly fine inde/sundance/relationship film about a woman who has a hard time committing and her friends and family. After that we headed over to the Sundance Channel party, a party I look forward to every year. Sarah Barnett, the head of the Channel is a friend and our gracious host. Here's snap mid-party.

Over the weekend we all heard that Bingham Ray, longtime distributor and exhibitor of independent film had suffered two strokes while here at Sundance. Then yesterday the sad news that he had passed away. Most recently Bingham had taken over the reigns as Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society, producers of the San Francisco Film Festival. In the short time that I knew him I felt he was a truly original person, who cared a great deal for his family. He had a lot of good friends who will miss him, and our heart goes out to his family.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Snow Arrived - A Slog of Films

The snow arrived yesterday with blizzard-y conditions (hey I'm from California so it seemed like a blizzard) that caught everyone off-guard. Most especially whomever is responsible for plowing the streets and sidewalks. It's a mess. And it was also a mess of a day for watching movies. We discovered they had changed a screening of THE WORDS from an industry screening to an invitation only screening. I wasn't as upset as I was concerned for the volunteers who had to deal with some egos in the tent who were pretty upset and felt that they should have been invited. Not good. Guess the film isn't sold and they wanted people who could help make that happen. I waited on the side and was the 11th and last person to get in from the unwashed masses line. Front row. Center. Everyone in the front row said: this movie better be worth it. Sad to say - nope. The next film of the day was THE PACT -lasted 15 minutes into the low budget scary/slasher film. Probably the reason why I left was that they did too good of a job of set design. A suburban tract home with every detail in place, decor left untouched since 1962. And not the MAD MEN kind of 1962. I met up with my pal from Dolby who had some tickets for us, then went to a party at a pal's condo. Last movie of the night was LAY THE FAVORITE, with Bruce Willis and Rebecca Hall. My impeccable upbringing prevents me from giving my dear readers my opinion. Directed by Stephen Frears (THE QUEEN, THE GRIFTERS), let's just say it was a surprise. He looks in shock to me standing next to Willis and John Cooper from the festival. When we got back, everyone in the house was up and we had a great time discussing what we'd all seen. Not counting Willis and Frears, no other celeb sightings.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 1 - The Films Begin

My Southwest flight was not only on time, but it provided me with my first 'celeb' sighting of the Fest. A man who has spent his young career playing villains, and most recently in BIG LOVE, Matt Ross.

After checking into our lovely condo, we had our annual dinner at Zoom on Main Street. A pleasant time was had by all and it was nice to catch up with some of the folks we hadn't seen since last year. Today was the first day we saw movies, and for the first film fest in quite some time, I was pretty happy with all four. The morning started out on a real upbeat tone with WEST OF MEMPHIS, a grueling documentary about a horrific murder of three 8 year-old boys in Arkansas, the incarceration of three teens, and the subsequent release after many people banded together to fight for their innocence. The film was just completed weeks ago with an ending provided in November. Next up a bizarre movie with a stellar cast called THIS MUST BE THE PLACE, starring Frances McDormand (shout out to Bolinas!), Harry Dean Stanton and starring Sean Penn looking like a female goth queen. The storyline was somewhat surprising, to say the least. David Byrne makes some appearances, and the film is filled with Talking Heads music. Loved the next film, a documented train wreck called THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES, about wealthy people in Florida who agreed to be filmed showing off their opulent lifestyle, only to have their financial world crash around them mid-filming. Lucky for the filmmakers and us as viewers, too. The movie recently received a lot of press due to the main 'character' suing the filmmakers and the Sundance Film Festival for their portrayal.The last film of the evening was a lovely movie called WHERE DO WE GO NOW, from the Lebanese director of CARAMEL. It takes place in a small village of characters, where the women are strong in character and spirit, and work to keep the men from foolishly following a road of violence between Christians and Muslims.
Tomorrow will start early and end late...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

T-Minus Two Days

All day long this nagging feeling...I've been furiously planning my films, packing my suitcase with more warm things, back to the computer to finish the thousand projects on my list...oh yes! Begin the blog! So much has happened since last year. Sundance Cinemas went from a vibrant two theatre circuit, to a now FOUR booming theatre circuit. In November we opened a new theatre in Houston, Texas. A mighty, mighty, fine theatre. Gorgeous. And we took over a theatre in Los Angeles, soon to be called Sundance Sunset right on Sunset Blvd. My dad was in the used car and auto parts business. We had a different car very often. One day my dad brought home this beautiful stylin' convertible. That night we drove out to Sunset Blvd, and my brother and I sat on the top of the back seats, waving at people and throwing kisses. You know, acting like movie stars on Sunset Blvd (did they do that?). And now, we will have a movie theatre on Sunset Blvd.
We looked like this:Back to the Sundance Film Festival. After weeks and weeks of dry cold weather, in my honor it's turned into wet cold weather with a severe storm warning right about the time I fly in. Snow and snow and rain. It's ok! I have all the gear I need, and anything else I will purchase from the overpriced stores. Oh - movies. In this blog I'll be posting my musings plus my impressions of the festival and the films I've seen that day. Not wanting to disappoint the legions of folks who follow my blog, I will be counting the following: Movie stars (and other noteworthy individuals) seen and consumption of a variety of high protein/low carb items. This year - no caramel apples. So strap on your best Uggs, and follow the Sundance Cinemas team to Sundance Film Festival 2012.