Sundance Confidential

Forget the big picturethat'll come next week. Here's the dirt from my first five days in Park City.

IT WAS 2 A.M. WHEN a sozzled Seattle cineaste spotted Paris Hilton emerging from a party and shouted, "Paris Hilton is a SLUT!" Then he grew contrite, eyed her work-of-art outfit, and purred, "Lovely Chanel you're wearing!" At Sundance, everybody's a slut for cash and glamour, besotted by kumquat "saketinis" (sake martinis) and preening celebrities, but still more by the possibilities of film. At an HBO soiree, the clown from Capturing the Friedmans literally bumped butts with Al Gore, who was tanned, presidential, and enthusing about TV technology. I felt like a pilgrim to a holy place where minds reel, deals and names are made, and arguments spill out into the streets more promiscuously than Paris herself. Here are a few flashes of the scene, sordid and otherwise. Our first homegrown Sundance feature debut since 2002's The Business of Fancydancing was Evergreen, an ode to picturesquely decrepit Everett by Bellingham-born poor girl made good Enid Zentelis, an ex-Avon lady who went to NYU film school. Snaps for capturing a white-trash Snohomish County sense of place, getting great work from Smoke star Gary Farmer as a casino worker, and discovering Addie Land, 15, the film's coming-of-age, dirt-poor heroine. Asked if she's the next Sherman Alexie, Zentelis said, "No, I'm the next Enid Zentelis." Addie could be the next button-nosed WB network cutie if she gets some acting chops to go with her winsome innocence, turns up the emotional volume, and learns to strut like a movie starwhat former-teen star Natalie Wood called "putting on the badge." Trend alert: Why should a company be content with flashing its logo when it can fund a film that shows characters actually using its product? "We've had conversations with one high-profile software company,' said future-dwelling movie guy Steven Beer, sipping a lime saketini. "They call it 'life-immersive product placement.' In fact, that is happening now on CSI." Say, don't we have some software companies in greater Seattle? (In a more old-fashioned way, a Microsoft pasha ponied up crucial cash to green-light Evergreen.) Most Hostile Audience Award: Most Sundance audiences are true-believing applause monkeys, but Wallace Shawn's Marie and Bruce, a relentlessly savage, Shawn-esquely elliptical sorta-satire of a venomous New York couple (icily inspired Julianne Moore and Matthew Broderick) inspired resentful incomprehension in the Q&A afterward. The Q's basically asked, What was the point? Shawn's answers boiled down to: If you can't see one, I can't invent one for you. On-screen Sex Confession: Jennifer Tilly, whose crossing-guard character, "Carole With an E," bumps uglies with Joe Pantoliano in the drecky loser comedy Second Best, told an interviewer she has no memory of the event. "I completely blacked out the sex scenes. Of course, I'm usually drinking." Eeriest-Looking Film Award: Guy Maddin's The Saddest Music in the World. Isabella Rosellini tops her Blue Velvet turn as the double-amputee dancer who finds happiness with the beer-filled glass prosthetic legs given her by the drunken doctor lover who once accidentally sawed them off. Think Dennis Potter meets Tim Burton's Kiss of the Spider Woman. Best Send-Up of What Directors Usually Say When Introducing a Film: Maddin declared, "I swore if I ever got famous, I would never repeat myself. I'm not even that famous. I'm sort of a grade-B celebrity. But I long ago ran out of the truth in interviews and discussions, and then I ran out of lies, so now I go for secondhand manure and try to figure out some other way of introducing the film." Most Original Funding Technique: Maddin continued, "I financed it by selling off some organs and collecting tears of weeping children and selling them to perverts." More Audacious Than The Saddest Music in the World Award: The faux documentary CSA does a Ken Burns number on what happened after the South won the Civil War. D.W. Griffith made The Hunt for Dishonest Abe, and 1950s TV audiences guffawed to Leave It to Beulah. Ineptly executed, but quite a premise. Most Inept Execution of a Promising Premise: Grand Theft Parsons, about the real heist of the corpse of Australopithecus Byrd Gram Parsons. You could write a better script while you were watching this one. Dueling DV Directors: Mario Van Peebles' re-creation of the making of his dad's 1971 counterculture classic Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song took only 18 days to shoot, one less than his dad needed to create the original. Angela Robinson uses DV to give her bisexual Charlie's Angels pastiche D.E.B.S. a perky pop sheen to match its Clueless-style dialogue. DV is not just for documentaries, people. Next week, I'll try to make sense of all the films I've seenand there are still four more days to go! I think I'll go fortify myself with a cool saketini first. You never know who I might bump butts with at the bar. They say you never forget the first time you see Paris.

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