By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 17, 2009 at 3:04AM
My flight from LAX to Salt Lake City was delayed. Every seat was taken, many of them by industry folks heading to Park City for the Fest which launched Thursday night. I enjoyed a pleasant sunset drive up the mountain with Robin Schorr, who recently left River Road to put together a new development company with funding from a private investor. She told me to see Big Fan, from writer-turned-director Robert Siegel (The Wrestler). The voice behind Ratatouille, Patton Oswalt, breaks out in this one, I hear.
Maudlin sentiment, miserablist humor and scatological sight gags are affectionately but awkwardly molded together in the Australian claymation feature "Mary and Max." A glum tale of friendship between two very unlikely pen pals, writer-director-designer Adam Elliot's follow-up to his Oscar-winning 2003 short "Harvie Krumpet" has its share of deadpan amusements, but its combo of mordant whimsy and tearjerker moments winds up curdling in an unappetizing fashion. A strong voice cast headed by Toni Collette and Philip Seymour Hoffman could buoy the toon's otherwise uncertain prospects beyond Oz.
At a civilized dinner at Black Dog with a bunch of film critics, we talked, naturally, about newspapers and mags slashing salaries and/or jobs. The New Times chain is down to two critics: Scott Foundas in LA and Jim Hoberman in New York will service the entire chain, with freelancers, now including ex-LA Weekly film critic Ella Taylor. Andy Klein was let go from L.A. CityBeat. Time Out New York lost its lead film critic, Melissa Anderson. The gloomy drumroll drones on.
And we talked hot fest titles:
I had been tipped on Burma VJ, which HBO scooped up before the fest. John Anderson has seen it and raved.
He also liked We Live in Public, the doc about New York dotcom millionaire Josh Harris in the early 90s that bears some resemblance to The Truman Show. A bunch of CAA agents raved about this. And Jeff Wells also liked it.
UPDATE: Word is, The Greatest is a four-hankie breakout for writer-director Shana Feste and Brit actress Carey Mulligan, who stars in another hot fest title, Lone Scherfig's An Education. Producer Lynette Howell (Half Nelson) has high hopes.
Here's the Variety special Sundance section with list of Hot Titles. Ken Turan runs down all the films he's seen in advance of the fest. The NYT is running a Sundance page. And check out the revamped IndieWire, which is running a constant feed of Sundance stories along with its own reporting.
Here's the We Live in Public trailer: