Thursday, January 31, 2008

sweater song

i used to wear karen's soccer sweater in high school.

your guess is as good as mine, but laurie tipped me off to this this afternoon and it is, hands down, the most indescribably awesome thing i've seen all week.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

entertainment weakly

i'm sitting down to movie #25, a gay zombie movie [yes, you read that correctly], and will be leaving in half an hour to see another movie, next door.

it's quickly getting quiet around here.  i got what i was hoping for: a free copy of entertainment weekly's oscar issue, toned down significantly from last year's double-issue, likely due to heath ledger's death and the oscar-dangerous writer's strike.  i read it during my afternoon break instead of 'heart of darkness' like i was planning.

people here are surprisingly glued to their blackberries.  on tuesday i was watching 'pretty bird', and when the showing ended around 3:30, everyone checked their phones, including me.  i had a text from jess, saying she'd just heard that heath ledger died.  it seemed that everyone in the theater had a similar message, as everyone was suddenly talking about it.  it was the constant topic in the industry lounge for the whole day, occasionally a late-comer asking out, 'did you hear that heath ledger died?' 

i guess i hadn't though too much about it, but i had the impression that watching movies at sundance would be similar to renting a few years' worth of best picture noms-- a string of amazing movies.  it hasn't really been like that. 

Monday, January 21, 2008

snowy days and mondays

9:34 a.m.  looking at my burger king croissanwich, it's smaller than i'd like, and i wonder how much the sausage, egg, cheese, and croissant actually cost.  not all of the remainder is profit.  that money also goes to printing the paper wrapper, making the blue plastic serving tray, paying the employees' wage, and the clever pr campaign that bk has recently developed-- i love reading the odd little comments on the tray paper and fry package [labeled 'frypod'].  say my croissanwich costs the king 40 cents.  that leaves them $2.10 to use for everything, including advertising.  i'm paying them to lure me back.

i arrived at the ticket office at 6:20 and had a better spot in line than i ever have before, yet this is the first time the ticket has sold out right as i got to the counter [twice i've been told i got the very last ticket, so i guess it's my turn].
it's snowing pretty well outside-- i've had to brush my car off twice this morning.
it's looking like i have three movies to see today, the last being 'be kind, rewind,' which i heard in line this morning isn't that good.

1:15 p.m.  generally enjoyed 'anvil! the story of anvil', loved the ending.  a doc of a real-life 'spinal tap'-- kind of.  you can't help but admire their optimism.

just read last week's 'entertainment weekly.'  i'm surprised how fast i can read an entire issue; there's really not a lot in them.  i've got a slamdance movie at 3:30.  it feels like i've been here for a month without a single night of good sleep.  i'm not as cheerful and personable as i like to be.
next week i'm going to watch 'fanny and alexander', one episode per night.

6:36 p.m.  i've got a good seat to see 'be kind, rewind.'  : )
i went in to see 'phoebe in wonderland' at 2:00, planning to leave early to get up to slamdance to see 'fix' at 3:30, but ended up staying for the whole thing.  a refreshing pg-13, it's an uplifting story lead by a 10-year old girl who gives a fantastic performance [elle fanning, dakota's little sister].  there are heavy themes and some dark moments, but it is ultimately about theatre, youth, family, and imagination.  with the exception of the one-dimension emotionless principal, who could have been lifted from the school staff in 'dead poet's society', the story's supporting adults are well-developed.  bill pullman and patricia clarkson create people we like but who are not without their faults, and felicity huffman has the film's best monologue, about the pressures and questions of being a mother and an adult.
i'm curious what others thought of the movie, as it's more reaffirming than what's usually here.
i raced out and caught a bus up to slamdance.  running up the street i saw some good friends who have a short film at sundance.  i'm starting to talk like an industry person, all rushed and generalized [i.e. 'you're all great and awesome'].  i hope it doesn't last.

i think writing is just cool, especially the way it looks on a notepad.

'fix' was standing room only, but was the best thing i've seen anywhere in park city.  a guy and his girlfriend bail his eccentric brother out of jail and need to raise money for rehab, where he needs to be by the end of the day.  the guy is a doc filmmaker, so the show's 'gimmick' is that it plays entirely as a doc through his camera.  but it works too well to even be called a gimmick-- it's a style and it's great.  characters continually acknowledge the camera, it's expertly edited [which could have easily broken the movie] and given just enough inserts and narrative style to assure us that everything was thoroughly planned out.  the story held our attention the whole way through, even though i had to stand the full 90 minutes.
the movie ended with cheers and applause, and afterward i met the female lead [and director's wife]; she was in 'the black donnellys' a short-lived show that mark and i really liked.  and i talked with the director, telling him that we'd like to talk with him and exchanged information.

8:47 p.m.  'be kind, rewind' was mediocre, sadly.  the homemade videos were top-notch gondry, fun and clever, but the rest of the story was little more than a device to show the hilarious poor-man versions of 'ghostbusters', 'robocop', 'the lion', and such.  i read about how it's a commentary on today's ability for anyone and everyone to be involved in the movie-making and distributing process, thanks to inexpensive mini-dv cameras, home editing systems, and outlets such as youtube.
and that's true, but it was still a dull movie.  stick with 'eternal sunshine of the spotless mind' and the music video collection.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

just another day

'it's crazy, i don't sleep and don't eat, and yet there's something exhilarating about it all.'
-text message i sent this morning after waiting in line since 6:45 a.m. to buy tickets for some of today's shows.  as i handed nick the tickets for 'perro come perro', he told me the movie was sold last night but that i have a good eye.

i carried a yellow legal pad in my complimentary 'sundance film festival' shoulder bag.  it became a sort of journal for me during the festival.
and i quote:

1:15 p.m.  i just got out of 'american teenager'-- it's the first movie that's left me with plenty to think about and to write.
it floated between kind of melodramatic and very melodramatic, and usually getting away with it because it was 'documenting real life.'  that was where i began to question the movie, as things worked out almost too conveniently, and they seemed to have too much coverage.  the art girl started by talking about how much she loved her boyfriend and couldn't imagine being without him, and shortly after they broke up.  near the end, she began focusing on preparing for college and comments that she has to be careful not to get a boyfriend because that would really distract her, and at the battle of the bands, a guy develops a crush on her and they begin dating.  granted, with a year's worth of footage following around at least five or six kids, there would be enough to carve out and get just the best.
all of the stereotypes are shown and often reinforced.  we see the spoiled prom queen from the rich family; the jock who's college hopes rely upon his basketball performance and the unfulfilled dreams of his father [who works as an elvis impersonator]; the incredibly socially awkward and acned video game nerd; and the alternative dramatic art girl, who immediately becomes and stays the most sympathetic/likable.
as the story unfolds, we do catch glimpses of hopes, dreams, fears, and similarities between them all.   ...kind of.  the geek remains largely unchanged, though events happen to him.  but the stereotypic rich brat is later given some sympathy, showing not only tragedies she works to cope with but also the immense pressure that comes from having a solid oak roof over her head.  while the film gets stuck not too far beyond stereotypes, taken in aggregate it shows the facets of the struggles, highs, and lows of high school life.
the most one-dimensional characters are the adults.  school staff are shown as lame, alien, and useless.  parents did little more than inflict pressure and be completely inept to understand-- this is the teenagers' movie.  an odd and likely unintentional side-effect from this was to make me realize how grateful i was for my own parents; for all their work, caring, and involvement in my life, especially in high school.

1:52 p.m.  waiting for my third movie to start.  all i've eaten today have been two separate fruit-granola eco-friendly bars that were freebies.  every laptop here is a mac.  i haven't seen a single pc laptop.  text messaging helps keep me company.
iv'e got one more movie after this.  then we'll probably meet and talk about 'perro'.  i think i might stay up here tonight, since i have to be in line for tickets before 7 tomorrow morning.  i should have stayed last night.

3:57 p.m.  that last movie kind of pushed me over the edge--i'm getting tired of seeing vulgarities, profanities, and the worst conceivable scenarios presented as 'addressing issues'.  i wish my sunday were a sabbath.
i'm getting tired of art films.  i just got the criterion edition of 'armageddon' in the mail yesterday and it's sounding pretty good right now.

6:13 p.m.  'sleep dealer' started off with potential-- an interesting premise, good cinematography and great production design.  but the lead actor was weak and 3/4 through i realized i didn't really know what the objective/conflict even was.  lots of sfx done alright [which is unexpected for a sundance film].  the upside was that it was a pg-13.  maybe there's a teen audience for it.
i'm done with showings for tonight and need to meet up with mike.  if i'm free by 7:30, i'll go to provo tonight.  otherwise, i'm sleeping on their couch-- i'm not making another drive on 5 hours of sleep.

11:09 p.m.  in the interest of being a committed team player, i opted to stay tonight.  looking back as i write this, i remember thinking that if i got home by 8:30, went to ward prayer, was asleep by 9:30, and up by 4:45, i would still only get five hours of sleep.  i'll let that speak for itself.
around 8:30 mike suggested we go to the 'industry mogul party.'  i desperately wanted sleep and did not want to go to another awkward evening of snobby small talk.
the party was actually a very good idea--much more of a loud, crowded music party.  i saw four different people i knew within ten minutes of getting there, including an actor from 'the sasquatch gang' who was in a movie i saw this morning and two friends from provo who were equally glad to see me.  and i set up a meeting with the 'high school musical 3' producer who was very happy to see me.  the free food was excellent and i had my first-ever massage, for free.  that was a good way to end the day.
ruby was mentioning how she's looking forward to getting home to toronto.  i actually feel very similar; i don't feel like i'm in utah.  park city + sundance is nothing like my utah, and i'm working much longer hours than any movie [though hsm3 may change that!]  i can barely remember that i was home last night.
so here i sit, on a comfortable couch with my sleeping bag next to me, setting my alarm for about 5:20 a.m.  and as good as i'll sleep from the massage, not having to fight to stay awake during the morning commute is even better.

11:45 p.m.  just noticed that my underpants are on backwards.  no more questions.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

dog eat dog

how my day was planned out:

9:00 a.m.  see 'perro come perro' ['dog eat dog']
11:30 a.m.  go across the street to see 'the guitar', amy redford's movie [daughter of robert]
2:00 p.m.  see 'reversion', one of the experimental movies
4:30 p.m.  see 'king of ping pong' from sweden
10:30 p.m.  see 'the merry gentleman', directed by michael keaton

what actually happened:

9:00 a.m. saw 'perro come perro'.  plays like a colombian 'reservoir dogs' and has me leaving the theater thinking this is the kind of movie i'm supposed to be looking for.  i call mike and tell him i think he needs to see this [i feel pretty cool, leaving the theater and whipping out my phone to immediately talk about a movie deal].  he wants me to find out when the next showing is and to get him a ticket.  i'm on it.

11:30 a.m.  'the guitar' is packed.  i don't make it to the showing.

11:47 a.m.  mike and i grab some food at burger king, the only eatery near the theaters.  i find out his nephew was a techno dj for a while as we discuss who will see what movies in the coming days.

2:00 p.m.  i'm in the showing for 'reversion'.  the movie starts off with a lady getting carjacked by the most apathetic robber i have ever seen.  she eventually makes it to a grocery store, where we see her walking into a grocery store and just eating the food, seeing another guy doing the same, then running out.  in the parking lot, another guy is held at gun point by some kids who look very much like someone stuck a gun in their hand and said 'ok, now in this scene you rob this guy--action!'  this story is intercut with two kids sitting on a roof, smoking a joint and talking about how some people don't carry the gene that makes one move through time; that some people exist out of time.  this is a sort of 'greek chorus' narration for the other story.  the movie very quickly feels like a couple of kids saw 'pulp fiction' and watched 'the matrix' too many times and decided they would make a movie.  i'm surprised to find out it's actually written and directed by a female ucla grad.  this will ultimately be one of my least-liked movies at the festival.

2:43 p.m.  i happily leave 'reversion' early to get mike a wait-list number for a public showing of 'perro come perro'.  if a movie is sold out [everything is], you can arrive at the theater two hours before the showing and receive a number.  come back to the theater thirty minutes before the show and you can buy unclaimed tickets in order of the number you have.  i'm first in line for 'perro' and next to me are some friends from the hawaii movie, in line for a different show.

3:33 p.m.  i triumphantly leave with my #1 ticket and meet up with mike.  he runs into a friend who is representing another movie and wants him to see it.  he's seeing 'perro' at that time and so asks me to go see 'chronic town'.  it's my job, but i'm kind of sad to miss 'king of ping pong'.

4:40 p.m.  i arrive at the library theater plenty early and so sneak into a quiet room and read my free copy of 'entertainment weekly'. 

5:03 p.m.  deciding i am now appropriately early, i call mike's friend, tell her i'm here, and get the ticket from her.  she asks me to call her afterward and tell her what i think of the movie.

5:35 p.m.  working as an 'industry' person, my badge gets me into all of the 'press and industry' screenings.  these are in three theaters, all grouped closely together and completely separate from the public showings.  the public showings are much more fun, i've learned.  the audiences are much more responsive--i don't know if they're over-eager to see a 'sundance' movie, or if the industry people are tired of seeing movies or preoccupied with the other stresses of their job, but there's a significant difference--and the public showings are where the director and stars come.
'chronic town' had no one i recognized.  set in alaska, it followed a small group of people and all the tragic things that happened to them.  billed as a comedy, it wasn't that funny but was lead by an actor who both looked, sounded, and acted like my hometeaching companion.

8:00  p.m.  meet up with mike at the yarrows hotel, where the industry people hang out [since two of the three theaters are here].  he affirms that 'perro come perro' is a great movie and we need to get on that.  walking back to the condo, i remember to call his friend with my thoughts on 'chronic town'.  i don't want to become a movie person who says they love everything just to make someone happy, so i be honest; i tell her i think the lead actor was great and that i loved the cinematography and how it captured the town.

8:12 p.m.  mike and i talk with nick [the company ceo] about 'perro', that it's something we should acquire.  early, i had the impression from mike that we would consider anything that's halfway decent.  nick is much more scrutinous, repeatedly asking me where i'd place it on a scale from 1 to 10, what was the plot, why it was so great, and such.  we talk for a while and eventually he gets the film's rep on the phone, but they can't work out a deal.  i leave around 9:30, needing to be in line early tomorrow morning to get him a 'day of show' ticket for 'perro'.  i'm feeling pretty good that i found a good movie.

finally: for the record, my name was on the guest list for the 'be kind, rewind' party.  i didn't get because it was late and i was tired, and we justified it by reasoning that jack black and michel gondry would be off in some v.i.p. room, anyway.

Friday, January 18, 2008

down the rabbit hole: the sundance chronicles

briefly: i got a job working for an acquisitions company out of toronto for the sundance film festival.  my responsibilities are to go to as many movies as i can and find ones that would be wise to acquire.  that's it in a nutshell, and that nutshell is 100% outside of anything i've ever done or know about.  here's to adventure.

my goal was to get to park city by 7 a.m., so that i could get in line and get 2 tickets for a show today.  i left at 6:20 for the hour commute, not accounting for the backed up traffic leading in to town.  i was also not prepared to find that the previously-free parking lots were now $20 to park.  yet i did find a miraculous free parking spot.
day-of-show tickets go on sale at 8:00 a.m. and i was told to get there an hour early.  i arrived ten minutes to 8 and as i took my spot at the tail of the anaconda-like line, i contemplated the ethics and logic of asking the people in the front of the line if i could simply pay them to buy me two tickets to 'the yellow handkerchief' today.  in the end, i decided not to, and, shortly after 9:00, found myself at the ticket agent buying the very last ticket for today's show.
the bonus to this was that the wait took up enough time that there was no reason to go see my first movie on my schedule.  it's paragraph description included the word 'sex' or a derivation thereof seven times; i didn't want to see it in the first place, was glad that i missed it, and  felt better when i heard that it wasn't very good anyway.

i watched a solid-made documentary consisting entirely of interviews with prominent members of the black community discussing current racial issues.  it was rather good, but nothing we could market.  i liked chris rock and al sharpton's interviews the most.
from there i hopped a shuttle bus to downtown, visited with a friend working up there, where i also met two other people and had quintessential 'sundance' conversations such as: 'yes, i would be interested in talking with you about working with you on a project - thank you for your demo reel,' and 'your daughter sounds very talented; i will talk with my friends and see if i can get her into 'high school musical 3'.

...ok, i wasn't that superficial.  i tried to actually give out legitimate advice while still giving answers the people wanted, but i saw how easy it can be to simply fabricate things that sound good.

a goodbye hug and i was off to see another doc about young boys in a russian detention center, incarcerated for everything from stealing jam to murder.  it was a good subject and, while the film had no immediate faults, it got long in the middle.  again, nothing we could market.

i think working for the 'international cinema' at byu was actually a very good primer for this sort of job; seeing a lot of varied movies helps you develop an eye for it all.

the company i'm working with also produced a movie that is playing here, one directed by stanley tucci [the airport supervisor in 'the terminal'].  our evening included a dinner, the premiere of the movie, and an after party.  the dinner was held atop some new high-rise complex where apartments start for $2.5 million, the wine was sponsored by a couple who apparently make some of the finest wine in the business, and was actually not even a dinner but a schmooze event with very good hors d'oeuvres, and where i had to ask the staff in order to get a non-fermented drink.
i was dying at that party.  i still feel very new in this job, knowing so little about my job that i couldn't even talk about it.  the delicate art of conversation is something i don't understand and generally dislike except when i realize that perhaps i would like these sort of situations if i knew what the rules were.  talking to people about nothing only because we're supposed to talk about nothing seems pointless to me, so that when i do, i feel like i've wasted the time anyway.  but if i knew how to keep score and could walk away from an evening knowing that i'd done a successful job, well, then i suppose i'd like it.
i did make a friend with one of the associate producers and she and i kept each other company with genuine conversation for most of the evening.  meanwhile, there was some sort of 'you must be this cool to enter' room decorate with pairs of uggs boots that were free for the taking if you knew who and how.
at the premiere stanley and patricia clarkson got their pictures taken by photographers with lots of flashes.  stanley had a look like he was trying not to smile.
his movie was interesting.  again, more of an 'international cinema' type - all in one location, odd premise, and slowly paced, relying much on subtexts and inferences.
the after party was like the dinner but with less food and more people.  i had to drive home and drive back in too few hours, but did have another coke and found out that after we'd left, some guy snuck in the balcony window, grabbed the hd tv, took it out to the ledge, the tv, the guy fell three stories, landed on an atrium, bounced on to the snowy ground, and got away.  and the power went out for a while, too.  wow - welcome to sundance.

as i was saying goodbye to our people, i began to feel more like i was a part of them, and ruby, our amazing festival coordinator, said she would try to get me into the 'be kind, rewind' party.
i'll let you know how it goes.

i think i've got 5 films to watch tomorrow.

Monday, January 14, 2008

to the moon and back

well i'd like to visit the moon
on a rocket ship high in the air
yes, i'd like to visit the moon
but i don't think i'd like to live there
though i'd like to look down at the earth from above
i would miss all the places and people i love
so although i might like it for one afternoon
i don't want to live on the moon

and so ernie would sing as he lay in bed at night.  i never gave much thought about it when i was younger, and didn't even think too deeply on it when laurie put it on the cd she made for me a few months ago.  not until this weekend, as i was looking out from the 10th story window in our suite at the venetian, the largest hotel in the world, did i understand what ernie meant.

we saw 'O', the cirque du soleil's aquabatics show, similar to CATS but a little more eerie and, certainly, wetter; we ate at elegant restaurants, where everything from the orange juice to the prime rib is among the best you will find anywhere; we lived in a palace that felt as though we were walking through the height of the renaissance, a cultured royalty; we enjoyed cacti and chocolates; and, best of all, we watched the glorious fountain shows at the bellagio.

we also walked past stores selling such fine apparel that only a few items were on sale, and where i could have spend my entire earnings from 2007 without difficulty; past billboards and clubs calling out with promises of fame, wealth, and sexuality; past people repeatedly gambling over $100 on a hand of cards; where everywhere i looked i was being told that i'm not rich enough, cool enough, wild enough, elegant enough, hot enough, fun enough, good enough.  
after a while, you start to wonder if maybe that's true.

we enjoyed ourselves: we savored the food, enjoyed the lights, appreciated the architecture, and drank a $4 bottle of water.  as i looked out over the unreal reality below, where people from around the world come to see this amazing spot like nowhere else, i felt like ernie.  i had danced on a moonbeam, and i was ready to come back to earth.

after saying goodbye to my parents, i slapped my 'tally hall' sticker-magnet back onto my car, stopped at in-n-out burger--which seems to get better every time i go there--and went home.

on the way, i passed a billboard for ',' displaying a mushroom cloud and advertising 'survival kits available.'  
so it's not just vegas that's weird.

i also decided that i want to come to vegas when i'm married.  
that's probably just the george bailey in me.

Friday, January 11, 2008

fond of strategem or a bit of a coward

we saw 'amelie' tonight at byu.

it reminded me of the joy in being a dreamer, and that i still believe in true love, though i now feel a little self-conscious writing that.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

traffic jam

as is customary these days, when the clock struck midnight i sent text messages of a happy new year to all of my friends, most of whom were an hour behind, thus making my message being one of peace from the future.
it took about 12 minutes to send roughly fifteen texts.  
i suppose millions of others had the same idea i did.