"This is the true story... of seven strangers... picked to live in a house... work together, and have their lives taped... to find out what happens when people stop being polite... and start getting real...The Real World."
Replace "seven" with "eleven" and "work" with "see movies" and you've basically got the intro to my first Sundance experience. As a movie buff, it's impossible not to know about the annual Park City fest, now in its 28th year, but this is my first year actually hitting the very snowy grounds and checking out films. Like scores of other attendees, I'm staying in a condo with ten other friends and friends of friends, and it's been a blast helping cook brunch for a dozen people, comparing notes about what movies were must-sees (and more importantly, must-avoids), and debating which of the endless parties and concerts to check out.
But enough about domestics, and more about movies! Saturday was my first full day running around catching screenings, navigating the shuttle system that whisks the 50,000+ attendees from theater to theater, and interviewing actors and filmmakers. As a member of the accredited press, I'm able to duck into separate media screenings that take place alongside the public screenings, and my first film of the day of "The Guitar," a drama starring model-turned-actress Saffron Burrows as a New Yorker who loosens up (and goes on an uber-shopping spree) after she's told by doc Janeane Garofalo she has only a month or so to live. Directed by Amy Redford - yes, daughter of Sundance founder Robert - the film also features a menage a trois, which the large man sitting behind me loudly whispered to his seatmate was the best part of the movie.
I then caught a screening "The Wackness," newbie Jonathan Levine's first film as a writer/director but better known as the movie that features Ben Kingsley making out with Mary Kate Olsen. Peripherally a coming-of-age tale, the film is a veritable valentine to the year 1994 and features plenty of shout-outs to Kurt Cobain, Gameboys, and the O.J. Simpson trial. Making my day a Kingsley double-feature, I also caught a screening of "Transsiberian," in which the Oscar-winner has a brief role as a Russian cop tracking down American tourists Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer and the shady couple they become entangled with while traveling from Beijing to Moscow. Directed by Brad Anderson, who previously debuted "The Machinist" and "Happy Accidents" at the festival, the thriller has been generating buzz, especially for a particularly vicious torture scene involving knives and plastic sheeting.
Between the latter two films, I took in a screening of "Secrecy," a documentary about our government's "classification universe" and the staggering amount of information our government hides away as "top secret" and what this mean for democracy. To clear my head, I ended the day at EW's party at Legacy Lodge, where celeb-y attendees included Emily Blunt, Eliza Dushku (in a cute black dress), Emily Mortimer, Tom Arnold, and Armande Assante.