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Sundance Feeds Hungry Egos -- Some Deserving, Many Not

by John Anderson
January 22, 2014 3:12 PM
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Call it Sundance Head. There is one sad phenomenon that Sundance Film Festival publicists can’t do anything about: the fleeting, illusory and oxygen-deprived belief among certain of their clients that they have become, and will remain, the center of the universe.

Maybe they’ve had a few good screenings. Maybe they even got a standing ovation (from people, let’s face it, who are eager to say they’ve been at a movie that got a standing O, especially if they stood in the cold for an hour to get in). The filmmaker always knew it would be like this, his/her genius finally recognized, their place in the lineage of Griffith, Ford, Welles and Kevin Smith finally cemented by the adulation of the cold, hungry, wet and tired. And in a place that has spawned so many masterpieces of modern cinema, like “Happythankyoumoreplease.” Or “The Tao of Dick Cheney.”

Morgan J. Freeman

It’s a form of dementia, perhaps unavoidable in some cases, given the white hot media light that shines on Park City. Sometimes, too, the disorder is simply part of a filmmaker’s DNA: One such auteur arrived in 1996 with his first feature, and proceeded to leave interviewers up and down Main Street drop-jawed with his arrogance. He's matured since then, and is up for a best director Oscar, so perhaps he had a point. Filmmaker Morgan J. Freeman shared his own Sundance Wild Ride.

But the story of Sundance is rife with stories of filmmakers on the precipice of obscurity, whose last known words were “Do you know who I am?” One candidate, a documentary director, is in the mix this year, and it’s almost delicious to watch his unmaking unfold. He’s been late for every interview. He begins each one by taking a phone call that lasts 10 minutes. He doesn’t go to bed till 4 a.m., and not before canceling his early morning press events. It’s a slo-mo self-immolation, around which a frost-bitten press can keep its hands warm, while waiting for him to get off the phone.


  • Chris L. | January 23, 2014 4:29 AMReply

    Was the 1996 director Russell or Payne? It's easy to suspect the former of such behavior, but Flirting with Disaster wasn't his debut, and according to IMDb it didn't play Sundance.

    Evidently the nice-guy image I had of Mr. Payne requires some adjustment. Too bad.

  • Jinx Mayberry | January 23, 2014 6:01 PM

    There has been a pic of Russell at the top of the article and also a mention that the arrogant director was up for his second Oscar in as many years, so it's not Payne.

  • Hmmmm... | January 23, 2014 1:53 AMReply

    Blind Items are only fun if they are about secret gay sex or other weird sex type things. I do like though that there is someone who is such a jerk that you felt the need to make a blind item.

  • Jinx Mayberry | January 22, 2014 10:39 PMReply

    What happened to the picture of David O. Russell?

  • I'm here for the laughs | January 22, 2014 7:00 PMReply

    It seems this writer is just another angry "internet critic", upset that an admittedly genuine Sundance buffoon is getting more attention than the writings on this website.

    You "internet critics" should really just stick to watching movies and talking about them instead of attempting cultural criticism. Getting rebuffed by neophytes and Sundance d-listers is part of your job.

  • sherlock jr | January 22, 2014 6:20 PMReply

    This is the start of a really interesting article but where is the rest? John is the right person to do it considering his book on the festival, SUNDANCING where he interviewed a range of participants.

    Easy enough to figure out who the debut director was in 1996 but now you have us really curious about this year's doc jerk.

  • Incremental Jones | January 22, 2014 5:55 PMReply

    Damn, there's a lot of anger and resentment in this "story." Besides, has Sundance and the media really crowned an "it boy" director since Ed Burns in '95? Too many duds that didn't pan out as the next Orson Welles.

  • Susan | January 22, 2014 5:37 PMReply

    Is this the whole article? Really?

  • Plundered & Tossed | January 22, 2014 4:57 PMReply

    Feels more like tumblr material than news. Shocked to hear about arrogance and wankery at Sundance.

  • DJ | January 22, 2014 3:54 PMReply

    Oh, c'mon John -- you just put that doc director on blast. Now you HAVE to go ahead and name names!

  • Bewildered and curious | January 22, 2014 6:06 PM


  • fhfhfh | January 22, 2014 3:39 PMReply

    Curious to know who the doc director is.

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