After a fairly turbulent flight and our first full day of filmgoing at Sundance, one thing is for certain--this may well be the snowiest festival yet. Thursday's arrival was greeted by a few sets of flurries and mild temps in the low 30s, but it started really coming down that night and just hasn't stopped since. Mild to blizzard in strength, perhaps as much as a foot and a half has fallen in 24 hours or so--absolutely beautiful but it makes for treacherous foot traffic. None of us can ever remember the sidewalks ever being this bad (tiny steps, tiny steps...)
Apparently my doppelgangers have been busy. Two different people told me yesterday that they had seen me recently in NY and LA! One thought I was on his flight out from NYC to Salt Lake City on Thursday, the other thought they saw me introducing a film at a theater in Los Angeles last week. Amazing what you can get accomplished while pulling marathon FFF final selections sessions in Orlando.
Day 1 for movies was a mixed bag but mostly positive, aided by the fact that all industry screeenings are now taking place at the Holiday Village (with its excellent sound and stadium seating) and no longer split time with the Yarrow (and its bad sightlines, portable chairs, and overheating). I don't think you'll hear any of us complaining about this development. Though it is too bad that they moved they Industry Lounge from the Yarrow over to HQ at the Marriott, leaving one less gathering place in walking distance of the press screeenings for all of us to hang inbetween films.
Film Short Takes (star ratings based on the current Tribune 4-star scale used in the Orlando Sentinel):
GET LOW (4-stars) - Robert Duvall in an Oscar-worthy performance gets his best role in years as a legendary and reclusive old hermit with a secret who decides he wants to have his funeral party while he's still alive. Bill Murray and Lucas Black run the struggling funeral parlor and Sissy Spacek is a past love in this sublimely moving and often funny period piece aided by a beautiful backwoods score featuring Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan and Alison Kraus.
THE RED CHAPEL (3 1/2 - stars) - An activist filmmaker from Denmark sets out to reveal the real North Korea when he takes two young Danish/Korean comedians, one a self-described spastic, on a supposed cultural exchange tour to the bizarre and frightening world of Kim Jong Il. Government officials are soon brought in to tweak their performance piece and essentially purge everything Danish about their skits, and this sometime hilarious doc is subversive performance art that may even outdo The Yes Men.
HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE (2 1/2 - stars) - Josh Radnor of TV's "How I Met Your Mother" fame wrote, stars in, and directed this decent feature debut about a bunch of young New Yorkers struggling with adulthood and relationships as they push 30. An ensemble piece with some good lines and a few funny moments, Radnor's central role as a struggling writer who finds himself taking care of a young African-American orphan boy while trying to romance a hot cocktail waitress/cabaret singer named Mississippi (really!) is the best of the three story threads. Entertaining but not exactly engaging, I just didn't care enough about the other supporting characters (including a hairless Malin Akerman)
A PROPHET (4-stars) - Wow! This one is certainly deserving of all of the international acclaim thus far, including a major award at Cannes, a Golden Globe nomination, and the Oscar shortlist for Best Foreign Film. An extraordinary, exciting, and almost poetic crime drama that focuses on the complex prison journey of a young French Arab, I now understand the GODFATHER comparisons I've been hearing since Toronto in September. A must-see.