Sundance Diary: The Nine Best and Worst Things at the Festival

In trying to sum up my entire Sundance experience, I admit I’m struggling a little. How to put a tidy bow on ten days of my life that were simultaneously thrilling and repetitive, inspiring and depressing, much easier than digging ditches but no cakewalk, either? Is it possible to enjoy a week and a half of seeing good movies and drinking free cocktails and hanging out with famous people if you’ve only slept for about 12 hours the entire time? And should you be drinking the free cocktails if breakfast, lunch, and dinner were a Clif bar? How do you catch a wave upon the sand, PopWatchers?

Well, I’m not sure. But I do know that my first film festival was an experience I’ll not soon forget, and I hope these blogs—in all their spazzy self-involvement—have given those of you not yet lucky enough to attend Sundance or its fellow festival brethren a little bit of insight into what the process is like. I certainly wasn’t expecting to be as tired/hungry/emotional as I was the entire time, but I didn’t expect to get a hug from Barry "Tequila" Zito, either, so I guess it all evens out.

And maybe it’s because it’s colder here in NYC than it was in Utah(or maybe it’s because my apartment is nothing at all like a Marriott),but by the time our plane landed last night, I was already feeling thestrands of Sundance slip away, the "really weird dream sequence"dissipating into the chaos of baggage claim and cab rides and piles ofjunk mail and unanswered personal e-mails. I sat next to the mightyMissy Schwartz on the plane and watched her writing her wrap-up for themagazine and realized that the journalism never stops here at EW—butthe world also doesn’t stop in order for us to get our journalism done.By the time I sit down and go through my notes and try to come up withdeep and meaningful things to say about the 2007 Sundance FilmFestival, life will have moved on—Isaiah Washington is due to saysomething else offensive any day now—and no one will care. Time is ofthe essence, and, as with all blogs, so is expediency. I’m sure you’veall appreciated the way I cannot for the life of me be concise, even inthis ADD-inspired format. For that, PopWatchers, I am sorry. And I wishI could make these words blink to better get your attention, but I’lljust have to hope a couple of you are hanging in there. Also, had Iknown that cat poster was going to come to symbolize this entireexperience, I may have thought twice about attending.

So what’s the best way to do this wrap-up? I guess I’m going with alist. This is America, after all, and if we can’t put stuff next tobullet points to help us remember history, then it’s as though it neverhappened at all.

[insert trumpet fanfare]


9. Rolling Suitcases
What was the must-have accessory of the festival? If three’s a trend, then consider this: In Rocket Science, Reece Thompson’s stuttering debater turned a brown wheeled suitcase into a Linus-style security blanket. In Life Support,Queen Latifah used a black rolling bag to transport condoms andsafe-sex pamphlets around her Brooklyn neighborhood. And on the streetsof Park City, director Crispin Glover (It’s Fine Everything is FINE)was never once seen without his trusty luggage. There were plenty ofthemes at Sundance—therapeutic sex, masturbation, dead pets—but thisone was the most random. Also, the one least likely to make me reallyuncomfortable.

8. Teeth
The last movie I saw was also the craziest: Teeth,Mitchell Lichtenstein’s schlocky, surprisingly funny exploration of thevagina dentata, a.k.a., a chick who can bite off penises with her,well, you know. And bite she did; this is not a movie for the faint ofheart. But for a bunch of exhausted people in a Friday night pressscreening, it might have been just the kick in the pants we needed tomake it through one last day. Congrats to star Jess Weixler for herdry, controlled performance—it won her an acting award—and to everyoneinvolved in this film for giving the EW staff a chance to sing "VaginaDentata" to the tune of "Hakuna Matata" every day for the foreseeablefuture.

7. The Holiday Village Sprint
The Holiday Village is a movie theater located about a half mile fromthe Marriott hotel where I was staying, and since a half mile (even at7,000 feet) is a very walkable distance for any good New Yorker, Ifrequently chose to hoof it there rather than waiting for the shuttle.But what a half mile (at 7,000 feet) is NOT is a pleasant distance torun, especially not at 8:27am, while wearing snow boots, before I’vehad any coffee, desperate to make it to a press screening for a moviewhose cast members I’m scheduled to interview later that day. I havenever before wished for powers of teleportation quite as strongly as Idid while trying to negotiate the icy sidewalk in front of AmericanLumber at high speeds. Next year, I’m hiring someone to stay in myhotel room and be in charge of waking my ass up.

6. My Hotel Room
My accomodations at the Park City Marriott faced the swimming pool,which is indoors and sheltered under a skinny skylight. Natural lightonly hits the ground in that atrium when the sun is directly overhead,and thus the amount of daylight making it into my room was pretty muchexactly the same all day long, whether 9am or 6pm or 3am. And asSondheim might say, perpetual sunset is rather an unsettling thing. Forall those wondering why I spent so much of my time at Sundance on thebrink of a nervous breakdown, I invite you to give Room 215 a trysometime.

5. Bangkok Thai
When I wasn’t eating Clif bars, I was eating the delicious pad thaifrom this establishment. And although this and every other restaurantin Park City puts a truly inordinate amount of salt in their food—mytheory is that they’re trying to force us all to drink water in orderto stave off the pulmonary edema—it was still a life-savingalternative to granola wrapped in plastic.

4. Our Bartender, Corey
Also life-saving: bloody marys.

3. Friday Night Dates
My usual NYC habit of meeting with friends for dinner on Fridays foundits way to Park City, and I got the chance to see how the locals livedwhen my pal Bridgette and her mountain-man boyfriend Matt took me outto their cabin and made me steak. Getting to the cabin required asnowmobile ride over a snowed-in pass, and when we buzzed back to thecar after dinner—with the moon shining down on the snow andeverything sparkling and colorless and spooky—I thought I might diefrom the beauty of it all, even though my face was freezing off fromgoing 40 mph on a snowmobile in the dead of night. My favorite reminderthat there was life outside the inside of a movie theater.

2. The Savages/Crazy Love
The first two movies I saw at Sundance, and still two of the best.Sure, the quality didn’t stay that consistent for all 10 days, but Iremember sitting in the theater and thinking, Man, if this is the kindof stuff I get to see all week, I am the luckiest gal on Earth.

1. The Nines
Oh, like any of you are shocked this is No. 1. It’s been a rollercoasterride ever since this movie came into my life—at first, I feltexhilarated, but then somehow (gosh, I wonder how) word got out that Iwas obsessed with this movie, and I started to feel a littleself-conscious about all the drooling I’d done. Even John August, thedirector himself, referenced me on his blog as basically the Ninessuperfan. For a couple of days, I tried to pull it back, tried toreclaim my dignity, tried to pretend like I was way excited about anartsy, foreign, depressing documentary instead… but I can’t lieanymore, PopWatchers. I really think this movie changed something inme, for whatever reason, and it’s so rare that I have that kind ofresponse to anything these days (see: "cold, frigid womb"). I hesitateto use the phrase "religious experience"—those who have seen themovie will understand why—but for me, The Nines was the mostpowerful example I’ve felt in years of great art’s ability to reachthrough the fourth wall and capture the hearts and minds of itsaudience. Redford wanted me to Focus on the Damn Film, and this is whatI’m doing. Dear Distributing People: I AM NOT EFFING AROUND. BUY IT. Ifnothing else, I need other people to watch it so I can stop feelinglike the crazy lady who saw the Virgin Mary on her Toaster Strudel.

And that, PopWatchers, is all I have to say. It’s been real, it’sbeen fun, and like 65 percent of the time, it was even real fun. Thanks forsitting in my pocket this whole time. I hope you’ll jump back intomorrow for quick interviews with the filmmakers behind Everything’s Cool and Low and Behold,and that you will remember to have your pets spayed and neutered. Also,keep those feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars. This isfar too short a denoument, considering everything we’ve been throughtogether, but my fingers hurt. Pastorek out!

Comments (11 total) Add your comment
  • John

    Seriously: stay strong. There’s good news coming. Soon you’ll get to stand up during the end credits and shout, “See, see! I _was_ right! I’m not a crazy Toaster Strudel lady!”
    p.s. Make Daily Variety print their review. No one reads Weekly, or the online reviews. Thanks in advance.

  • daisyj

    Well, I’m starting to feel kind of like a crazy stalker-fan for showing up with random comments for all your posts, but I did enjoy this last week in your pocket (sorry about the Kleenex thing, by the way; we thought you were done with that) and I hope they send you on another one of these soon, even if you don’t.
    And that’s good to know about the Thai food.

  • Ariella

    Woo Hoo – A Little Night Music shout out! Can I get a “What”, “What”?

  • Kat

    You’re long-winded, but you’re really enjoyable to read. Loved experiencing Sundance vicariously through all your blog posts – good job hanging in there!

  • Mozz

    Ever since you first mentioned it, I have been checking out the IMDB page and any information I can find on THE NINES. When is it coming out? I can’t tell, but I’m the first one in line when it does.

  • Mike

    I had the pleasure of playing a small role in Teeth, and am psyched by the overall positive response. Mitchell is a great guy and Jess Weixler is as cool and down-to-earth as you could hope for in a (hopefully) emerging film ingenue.

  • Bridgette

    Loved having you visit Whit. I need the pictures and the video of Riley howling!

  • Mare

    Thanks for keeping us updated throughout the festival Whitney! I enjoyed all of your updates so much – and now I have a whole new slew of movies I want at my theater!

  • Lora

    Love that you referenced Sondheim. You just earned 500 cool points…

  • Corey

    Whitney, thanks for putting me on the top 10. I’ll keep a bottle of Peppar and some bloody mary mix on my shelf for the next time you’re in Utah. Cheers!

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