Sundance 2010, Day 4: The Best Parties Are the Movies Themselves
Well, and this. This looks like a party too.
“I’ll have a quad espresso with three ounces of heavy whipping cream!” shouted the man in front of me at Starbucks. He turned to me. “Doesn’t this place smell like a pet shop?”
Sundance isn’t something people seem to do in moderation. But then, it is a world-renowned festival, in production all year long for a ten-day event.
Of course there are the film-industry folks: radiating urgency, always moving, talking, texting, as they try to figure out where to be, who to see, and how to do it. Them, I expected.
What I didn’t necessarily expect were the pure and simple movie lovers, those who have no ties to the business, no ties to the actors, and no ties to publicity or the news. These people are not here to go to parties, be noticed, or network; they simply want to go to the movies.
During my time in Park City, I had precisely one real movie ticket — which would require no waiting on line, no arriving early, no braving the cold, and absolutely no stress. It was for “Blue Valentine,” and lucky for me, the premiere fell smack dab in the middle of the Jets-Colts game.
As I smugly boarded the free shuttle with coffee and ticket in hand, I sat next to an older couple, also headed to the Eccles Theatre. They saw me get nervous as we pulled up to a long line snaking around the building perimeter. “Is that the line for the wait-list?” I asked the woman. Had I and my fancy actual ticket arrived too late after all?
“No, that’s the line for ticket holders,” she said. “But don’t worry. It just takes a minute.”
“Will we still get seats?”
“Honey, of course.”
She was right: The line moved quickly. But we still had time to chat. The couple had flown in from Philadelphia, I learned, like they do every year. Registering for advance ticket packages months in advance, they like to rent a house and go to a dozen movies in three days. “It’s a lot of money,” the man told me, “but worth it.”
It made perfect sense. I’d been seeing these older couples and groups of women all weekend, the ones calmly sitting on the free shuttles, leafing through their festival guidebooks, while I scrambled to figure out how to do Sundance right for myself. There are the industry people and the behind-the-scenes people, and then there are these people — the audience, whose silent presence also makes movies happen.
Once I’d made it to a seat, I noticed that everyone around me was pointing their cameras in my direction. “Why are they taking pictures of us?” I whispered to the man next to me. “Because you’re sitting one seat down from John C. Reilly,” he whispered back.
I fell into an embarrassed silence. What should I say to John C. Reilly? I racked my brain. I thought about telling him how I loved him in “Chicago” when he sang “Mister Cellophane” and how sometimes I sang it too, in my kitchen, when I did the dishes. Thankfully, my shyness prevented me from saying anything. “Have you spotted the other famous people here too?” I whispered back.
“This is your first Sundance , isn’t it?” he asked. “Well,” he continued, “If you look to your left, there is Amy Adams, and over there is Ryan Gosling and there is Michelle Williams.” He pointed them out in the 1,700-person crowd, like I used to do with my “Where’s Waldo?” books for the pages I had memorized. He went on to tell me who was nice and who was rude. “John C. Reilly is nice,” he murmured, “but Marisa Tomei? Rude. Do you know who else? The most rude of all?”
At that moment, his secret of the universe was lost forever to the start of the film.
The movie seemed to last 20 minutes rather than 120. At the end, I found myself lurched forward with my hands on my knees, crying — which I never do in movies. I looked to my left only to see what I think were tears falling down John C. Reilly’s cheeks too. I smiled at him, thinking we were sharing a moment. He didn’t see me, but I still would like to think we did.
“Blue Valentine” is a tattered love story starring Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, directed by Derek Cianfrance, The soundtrack is by Grizzly Bear, and could make anyone want to break up and fall in love at the same time.
In a post-screening Q&A, Cianfrance told the audience that his two greatest fears growing up were nuclear war and his parents getting a divorce. And when he was 20, his parents did in fact get that divorce, prompting him to question the genuineness of their marriage, and the point of ever trying to be in a relationship. Cianfrance added that although the film had been on his mind for 12 years now, he was happy its fruition took so long: In those years, he started his own family, and feels that his life experiences have reformed and informed the ultimate evolution of his film.
Overall, what made the film for me was its wince-worthiness. In every scene, whether it was fighting, lovemaking, or Gosling just cracking his knuckles, I got an uneasy feeling, and wondered if I should be privy to lives too real to possibly be fictional. When one questioner asked about the ambiguous ending, Cianfrance pointed us to the movie’s anthem by the Supremes, “Where Did Our Love Go?” Which, of course, ends on a question.
After the movie, I caught up with friends at the sports bar Doolan’s, where my excitement for the movie was put on hold for the Vikings-Saints overtime. We grabbed dinner at 312 Bistro and headed to a party called Canada!, honoring the several Canadian movies that made it to Sundance this year. Shabu, a trendy Asian fusion restaurant, was packed. I couldn’t tell if the party-goers were mainly Canadians, fans of Canada, or just fans of free wine. What I really liked about this party, though, was the fake guest list. The people working the door readily admitted that their guest list was pretend, agreeing with the general consensus that Sundance can get a little pretentious at times.
From Shabu, I crossed the street to the nearby “Where Internet & Film Collide” party, presented by Indie GoGo, IndieFlix, and AFCI at Sidecar. Proximity makes a big difference when the temperature’s in the low teens. By the time I arrived, the party was dying down and a band was playing reggae, making it the perfect spot to wind down.
At the risk of sounding cheesy, I’ll say that for me, the best parties at Sundance were the movies themselves. Whether or not a movie is buzz-worthy, it is chilling to witness a full-house audience clapping and cheering as the lights come up and the filmmakers step forward.
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