Monday, January 25, 2010

Sundance Continues...

Hey Geek Mongers! JeffroGee here. The first weekend at Sundance has officially ended and as usual a slow calm has drifted into the wet streets. Years ago, I recall the frantic haze of this festival to be a nonstop trip. From start to finish, the concept of breathing independent cinema rocked the mountain.

However, I have noticed as of late that there is a lull to attendance and energy the festival embraces after the first weekend has come to a close. It may possibly be that many journey through for the first weekend, treating Sundance like a weekend get away, subsequently departing the fest for real life soon thereafter. The other viewpoint is that programmers have front loaded the festival so that buyers, distributors, and agents can spend less time at Sundance and get back to work on time Monday morning.

New festival director John Cooper has certainly brought new life to the festival this year by showcasing more independent film. Past directors sometimes seemed to revel in the premieres and ability to lock films with huge stars and large budgets into the schedule. In the case of new director John Cooper I have certainly appreciated the change of pace and spotlight on productions with true independent mindsets and budgets. Sundance has always been about films that rebel or challenge what a “normal” industry type story is.

With that being said, the festival has certainly come to its calm phase but with true film lovers sticking around to sample the indie buffet. The true question being, what is independent film? Can a film be independent if it has a budget over twenty million dollars and dares to take us to a unique place often frowned upon by mainstream audiences? Or does an indie flick have to be made with less money and zero A-List stars to truly fall into the category? My answer is that it can land safely in both places. If the story/characters are interesting, I could care less who is in it or how much it costs. You could make a film for ten bucks and if it bends my mind in the right way then I am in.

I happen to also enjoy seeing favorite actors drop their normal asking price to appear in a work they believe in. And in the case of indie cinema, Sundance has everything you could ask for within that argument.

(Spoiler Alert!)

This topic was truly brought to light last night with the premiere of KILLER INSIDE ME starring Casey Affleck at the Eccles Theatre; a film that challenges audiences with its debatable depiction of violence. In this film, Casey Affleck plays a smirking sheriff loved by his small town who murders those he states he loves at night. The film garnered much criticism at its premiere due to as scene where in Jessica Alba is beaten to a bloody pulp with little left to the imagination.

During the Q and A, one audience member angrily stood up and asked-”Why did this film get accepted into Sundance?” She then went on a rant against the film’s rather unsettling approach to its violence that resulted in scattered applause throughout the large Eccles venue. This was followed by her exit and many questions aimed at the director such as-”Why did you feel it was necessary to make the movie the way you did which seemed to glorify murder?” Director Michael Winterbottom answered-“I just loved the book and we adapted it word for word in an attempt to bring the book successfully to the screen.”

In this case, a film like KILLER INSIDE ME is certainly an independent film and deserves its screening at Sundance. Because, let’s be honest, as much as some of us may rush out to see Jessica Alba in a film-many studios would shy from buying/distributing a film which shining moment depicts her being brazenly beaten.

As I buzzed about I ran into the very talked about EXIT THROUGH A GIFT SHOP at the coveted Library Centre Theatre. This was the film about street art focusing much of its duration on the famous Banksy, a sort of Robin Hood graffiti artist who travels around the world stenciling art into the sides of buildings often with a liberal viewpoint at the forefront. This was clearly the place to be on Sunday night as it seemed well over a hundred people involved in the piece were in attendance to enjoy its debut.

And although, many would love to have had the slippery Banksy for a Q and A, fest director John Cooper merely read aloud a letter from the artist at the film’s intro. After the credits, everyone remained seated in hopes of a Q and A that would never happen as the lights came up and the podium remained empty. Sundance favorite Adrien Grenier was one of the many to remain seated with that hope in his heart. If this were an episode of Entourage, I am sure his loving bro Johnny Drama would have created some sort of distraction to unveil the true identity of the ever-mysterious Banksy.

Many speculated Banksy was in the audience camouflaged as a normal audience member. Even as I disappeared to the restroom for a moment, a man in the Library hallway called out to me-“Are you Banksy?” And with a smile, I replied-“Maybe.”

Also in form last night was the always-epic Indie Moguls party at Deer Valley where pole dancers gave lessons and massages were free. Only at Sundance, I thought to myself.

On the bus ride home, many were speaking kind words in regard to the film about Joan Jett’s first band called THE RUNAWAYS starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning. Joan Jett herself was in attendance at the premiere and is scheduled to play a show at the trendy Harry O’s on Main St. later in the week.

More to come of course as the week pushes on. Today many rushed out to see the controversial 8: THE MORMON PROPOSITION. And I am sure; we will have reports on how this doc is faring at the fest later.

The snow has seemed to stop falling. The sun has started to show itself. And the festival will continue with what looks to be many more memorable moments.

Until next time…

JeffroGee out.

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