A 4:00 AM alarm in January can only mean one thing—it’s time once again to pick up Shannon before the crack of dawn and head to Sundance. With our traveling buddies in tow, I try to supplement my meager three hours of sleep last night by catching some z’s on the plane. No such luck, but I at least get a promising Florida Film Festival entry from Mexico watched on Shan’s laptop during the rest of the flight. Between the excitement over the microwave breakfast platter from a vending machine (classic!) and Lucy Liu (sans “Angels”) being nice and friendly to one of our men in uniform, baggage claim at Salt Lake City was not entirely lacking in entertainment value.
After a picturesque shuttle ride to our usual condo at the Three Kings (the snow covered mountains never fail to impress), we get registered with a little fuss but no real mess that’s ultimately taken care of in a caring and professional manner by the office staff and Cooper himself.
The first shuttle ride to a flick finds me in familiar company—FFF jury veteran Stephen Garrett, covering the festival for indieWIRE, Time Out, and Esquire, and IFP New York head Michelle Byrd, who got to hear about some of the projects I discovered at the IFP Market this year that will be appearing in the upcoming Florida Film Festival this March.
My movie watching kicks off at the new and improved (?) Raquet Club with SOMEBODIES, a funny and authentic African-American comedy set in Georgia that overflows with lots of local flavor and focuses on “Scottie” (well-played by writer-director Hadjii), a college student dealing with friends, family, religion, women, and life in general. Overall quite the crowd pleaser and an impressive debut. Regarding the new seating arrangement at the Racquet Club, the risers are a great idea for sightlines but the metal steps going up to the rear of the theater are awfully noisy. And the fact that the film started over 20 minutes late and some idiot’s cell phone rang about 8 times behind me didn’t help matters.
Shuttle buses are already taking forever to get from place to place, but at least I got on “the Techno Bus” to my next screening. Instrumental electronica played through the whole trip, and it didn’t sound like the format was changing anytime soon but I wasn’t complaining. SPECIAL was my next film, and Michael Rapaport is excellent in this unusually thoughtful and often humorous tale of a lonely, comic-book reading parking enforcement officer who believes the clinical drug trial he’s participating in has given him super powers. And the bad guys in suits are trying to stop him from fulfilling his destiny and doing good. Comic book fans should really dig this! I’d also like to congratulate Justin Hayward for DIVORCE LEMONADE, the terrific and visually striking comedic short that preceded SPECIAL. Well done—I just wish it had been submitted for this year’s FFF.
Closing out Day #1, it’s time to put on a few more layers and head out to a late show of DESTRICTED, the arty porn omnibus featuring short films from the likes of Matthew Barney, Gaspar Noe, and Larry Clark. More on this later…