Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What Killed Main Street?

CITY Nice video clip from UtahStories.com; looks like City Weekly moved to Main Street just in time. In 2010, maybe we'll be battling Mad Max-style over lattes with our mortal media enemies KUTV 2 across the street ... (Bill Frost)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

This Is The End

SUNDANCE FINAL :: My viewing is at last complete, and the awards are in. I won't go into detail about the winners, except to say that yet again the jury opted to bring attention to movies (Padre Nuestro and Manda Bala) that did not yet have distribution. Whether that's a good, admirable thing or an indication that the title of the award should be changed to Grand Jury Prize Excluding Movies That Don't Really Need Our Help, is up to you.

Here's a complete grade report of the 50-some features of which I saw all or part. Please note that the "Incompletes" at the end don't necessarily indicate the festival's worst films, just the ones that I was unable to finish either due to a pressing appointment, or fatigue, or ennui.

A: Once
A-: My Kid Could Paint That
B+: Waitress, Rocket Science, Joshua, Son of Rambow, Protagonist
B: The Last Dining Table, Reprise, Away from Her, Offscreen, Acidente, Driving With My Wife's Lover, Chicago 10, Chasing Ghosts, Angel-A, The Signal, Starting Out in the Evening, Manda Bala (Send a Bullet),
B-: Delirious, A Very British Gangster, Crazy Love, Grace is Gone, Smiley Face, Snow Angels, Padre Nuestro, For the Bible Tells Me So, The Pool
C+: Banished, Drained, Ghosts, Enemies of Happiness, Hot House, Summer Rain, Broken English, Zoo, Black Snake Moan, The Savages
C: Fido, Hounddog, Dark Matter, We Are the Strange
C-: The Island, Year of the Dog
D+: The Good Life
D: Weapons
D-: Adrift in Manhattan
Inc: Bugmaster, Clubland, Four Sheets to the Wind, Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait

Until 2008 ... (Scott Renshaw)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

What's Up, Docs?

During a typical Sundance, I see a lot of documentaries. There are two primary reasons for this. One, the documentaries may be far less likely to show up in some commercial release down the road. And two, the documentaries are generally less likely to suck. The best films in the Documentary Competition regularly top the best films in the Dramatic Competition, and the worst films in the Documentary Competition are never as hideously pointless as, say, Adrift in Manhattan. (Note: I will only stop hating on this movie when I learn definitively that it will never be foisted upon a paying public.)

But this year, for some reason, I haven't made a concerted effort to see a lot of the docs. Maybe it's because I found it hard to work up enthusiasm to sit through movies about Abu Ghraib, Iraq, Darfur, Hiroshima, etc. Sundance can be enough of an endurance test without the weight of Western civilization's guilt adding to the burden.

As it turns out, there have been some truly innovative documentaries this year. It just took me a week to see several of them. Zoo certainly broke new ground structurally, but it just didn't work for me. Far more effective twists on traditional documentary forms are Manda Bala (Send a Bullet) from director Jason Kohn, and Jessica Yu's Protagonist. The former is a visually impressive, thematically rich exploration of Brazil's culture of corruption, violence and kidnapping. It's staggeringly depressing to watch the growth industries that have emerged out of the epidemic of kidnappings -- bulletproof cars, under-the-skin tracking devices, ear-replacement plastic surgery -- but Kohn fashions something fascinating to watch (though sometimes hard to watch, as when we watch one of those ear-replacement surgeries start to finish).

Protagonist similarly does amazing things with a simple idea: The life story of four men, no apparent connection between them. Using the building blocks of classical Greek drama as her foundation -- and nifty carved puppets as the Greke chorus -- Yu explores how something as seemingly random as a human life can be shaped into a narrative when you search for common threads. Also, one of the film's subjects, Mark Salzman, is such a damned hilarious dude that I'd watch a documentary about anything if he were a significant part thereof. (Scott Renshaw)

Friday, January 26, 2007

You're So Respectable

I've learned something about myself over the decade that I've been attending Sundance: As the week progresses, my enthusiasm for films that are merely "good" wanes. Energy is at low ebb, and I'm looking for something exceptional to re-charge my batteries. It's not the movies' fault, but timing on my festival schedule can matter a lot.

Starting Out in the Evening and The Pool -- from the U.S. Dramatic Competition -- are both solid, respectable dramas. Both find lonely or isolated people forming connections: The former deals with an aging, ailing novelist (Frank Langella) who works with a grad student (Lauren Ambrose) who wants to bring his work out of obscurity; the latter, set in India, finds a poor, fatherless kid befriending a wealthy man whose son has died. Both are well-acted, and both are made by filmmakers with at least one feature under their belts, and who have a certain sense for what to do with a story. I have nothing particularly negative to say about either film. But neither do I have anything particularly laudatory to say about them.

Part of the problem (if in fact "problem" is the appropriate term) is that both films come from directors whose previous works demonstrated a kind of ragged energy that's utterly lacking here. Starting Out director Andrew Wagner came to Sundance two years ago with the dysfunctional family road-trip comedy The Talent Given Us, an improbably charming effort that I only saw in 2005 because I bumped into Wagner on the way to another screening and he encouraged me to see it at a time when I happened to have an empty slot. The Pool's Chris Smith is one of the several veteran documentary directors making the transition to dramatic features, following his Sundance hit American Movie. Those were the kind of movies made by rookies who went for it like they had nothing to lose; these dramatic follow-ups feel like what happens when someone who has made a film on a shoestring gets a chance to be "taken seriously." They're fine films, but they both feel like the kind of movies Miramax would have distributed 10 years ago, complete with a solemnly-intoned trailer. As perfectly respectable as they may be, it feels like kind of a shame that this is where it seems the road from obscurity must lead.

One great little tidbit from the Eccles Center public screening of Starting Out in the Evening that I attended: Wagner, attempting to introduce the film, was so overwhelmed by emotion at playing "The Big House" that he simply couldn't complete his pre-film introduction. And that's the kind of feeling I'd like to see him pour into his next movie. (Scott Renshaw)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Concert Update

Just found out that Glen Hansard (The Frames founder and co-star of John Carney's scrumptrulescent Sundance entry, Once) has just been added to the ASCAP music cafe at the Star Bar. He'll follow Donovan's 4:30 p.m. set. Also, be sure to check out Far*East Movement and Donovan on Friday beginning at 3:50 p.m. and Emerson Hart at 3:50 p.m. on Saturday. Woot! (Jamie Gadette)

Uncontrollable Urge

We humans are pattern-makers. We look for connections where there may be none, in a valiant attempt to give order to the chaos of existence. And of film festivals.

Sometimes the threads that link themselves across Sundance movies are obvious: Parker Posey, Iraq, butt-ugly videography. Then there are such seemingly disparate movies as The Signal and Black Snake Moan, both of which address the consequences of being unable to controll one's basest impulses. Also, people get smashed in the face a lot in both movies. But I digress.

The Signal, from the filmmaking trio of David Bruckner, Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry, has at its foundation a single high-concept idea (strangely similar to that of Stephen King's Cell): A mysterious transmission, broadcast through every possible electronic device, making people homicidally crazy. It's more properly thought of as an anthology, though, since it's broken into three segments, each directed by one of the co-writers individually, and each with a very distinct tone. While the bookend segments both lean towards conventional horror, the middle segment (by Bush) is the wildest and most entertaining, veering into pitch-black comedy as a few survivors hole themselves up in an apartment on New Year's Eve. And if I were putting early money on who'd I'd favor for the best supporting performance of 2007, I'd go with Chadrian Morris, playing an oblivous dude who shows up for a party and never seems to have a clue that there are bigger things going on than whom he might be able to hook up with that evening. The tonal shifts may be jarring for some, but there's no question that The Signal is a distinctive, unconventionally satisfying piece of work. Also: Brilliant opening sequence.

The Signal fusses with subtext about how easily people can be distraced from what they know is true by the clutter of the modern world, but it doesn't devote much energy to they "why" behind its characters' breakdowns. Black Snake Moan, on the other hand, winds up spending way too much time in that area. Hustle & Flow auteur Craig Brewer concocts a great B-movie premise -- a emotionally wounded bluesman (Samuel L. Jackson) taking it upon himself to cure the town slut (Christina Ricci) of her hunger for sex -- and then proceeds to let it all fall apart in the third act. This movie ending in a mutual therapy session after its down-and-dirty early vibe is pretty inexcusable. Providing yet another weird connection point with another movie -- two characters synchronizing their watches so they can be thinking of each other, just like in Grace is Gone -- is just plain weird. (Scott Renshaw)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

wound down, recapped, preview

It took me a full day to recover from my stint in Park City and a good chunk of this afternoon to reassimilate to CW HQ. All in all the daily festival update experience proved to be a wholly rewarding, if not completely exhausting, five days. Skipping the velvet-rope hooplah was a great decision. My soul especially appreciated the particularly warm, open arms of Hanna at BMI, Pauline at ASCAP, John Sutton, T and others at Star Bar, the Slamdance ladies who let me crash in their office to write last-minute articles, Mike Beck, the Wallstreet Journal Weekend Edition's Cafe Brilliant organizers, Taste of Saigon and Good Karma's owners (who also let me take over a table to write), Eric Hynes, Susan Norgett and other down-to-earth folks who compensated for icy Hollywood egos.

For those planning to continue Sundancin', here are a few music acts worth checking out:
Donovan's playing the Star Bar on Thursday and Friday around 4:30 but I'd line up earlier to ensure a spot inside.

Maxwell Productions is presenting local experimental psych-folk rockers Calico along with West Indian Girl and others at the Star Bar on Friday around 7 p.m.

Nas is playing Harry O's tonight but good luck getting in. I'd rather check out Hells Belles and Thunderfist at Suede (a better bargain, a better time). Tomorrow at Suede, enjoy DulceSky and Black Market Vabies Burlesque along with Vast at Suede again.

The best bang for buck is Of Montreal and Shiny Toy Guns performing a free--FREE--concert on Park City's Main Street at 6 p.m. It's free. You will be cold.

Down in the valley, Da Rugged Man will be blowing up Monk's with his Long Island raps and Laura Gibson will cast a spell on you at Kilby Court with Paul Jacobsen on Thursday.
Whew. (Jamie Gadette)

Quick Hits of Films Not Yet Mentioned

Year of the Dog: I think I'm supposed to find this woman -- whose only affection in life surrounds animals -- sympathetic. But also eminently mock-able. And I don't much care for that duality.

Padre Nuestro -- In the upper 50th percentile of the Dramatic Competition films I've seen thus far, yet I couldn't really recommend it strongly to anyone. It's been that kind of year.

Angel-A: Luc Besson does Wings of Desire, with a six-foot blonde hottie helping a loser find his sense of self-worth. Black-and-white for no real good reason, but it's a clever and well-executed version of a somewhat conventional story. Look for the American remake within two years. (Scott Renshaw)

Dakota Territory

"So, does anyone know what this movie is about?"

That was the clever pre-screening comment of Philadelphia City Paper critic Sam Adams regarding Hounddog, which was as widely covered as any film I can remember in my decade attending Sundance. Sean Hannity, church groups, et. al. weighed in on the terrible-ness of a movie in which a 12-year-old -- played by Dakota Fanning -- is raped on screen.

I have my own feelings about whether or not such content should ever appear in a movie, and your mileage may vary. Should this ever make its way to wide theatrical release, you should trust your own judgment regarding whether you want to see such a scene in any context, or of any duration. You should also trust your own judgment regarding whether you want to see a movie that is, basically, ridiculous.

Not so much ridiculous in the "nothing anybody does makes any sense" sense; that's Adrift in Manhattan. Just ridiculous in the "I don't think I'm supposed to be laughing at this, yet I am" sense. It's sort of about trying to break out of feeling attached to those who abuse you, and about the blues as a manifestation of that re-claiming of personhood. Which is interesting, in theory -- until someone is literally struck by lightning, and snakes start metaphorically and literally slithering through every scene, and characters start making dark philosophical pronouncements. Fanning does a lot with her role, because she's that talented. Writer/director Deborah Kempmeier, however, leads her astray. If you're going to put a kid in front of the firing squad of public opinion, it has to be for something better than this. (Scott Renshaw)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I Don’t Know Anything

Don’t get too excited about the confession in the subject line, hatas. I mean that in the William Goldman quote sense, wherein he famously opined in Adventures in the Screen Trade that in the movie industry, nobody knows anything. They don’t know what will sell; they don’t know what’s actually any good; they don’t know anything. It’s a business of guesses and second-guesses.

There are many reasons I could never work in he movie industry—chief among them that spending only a week per year in the near proximity of these people and their overwhelming sense of importance and entitlement makes me want to saw off my head with a spoon. But I also could not pretend to know what’s actually going to work for a wide audience, because I’m so not that audience.

Last year, Little Miss Sunshine killed at Sundance. Killed. And I didn’t get it. I saw it again before it’s wide release, just to be sure, and I still didn’t get it. It proceeded to become a surprise hit. And just got an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. And that whole “getting it” thing? Still not so much happening for me.

So when people at Sundance start talking about the big crowd-pleasers, I’m not a good judge of anything beyond my own head. An Australian film called Clubland—about the insecure son of a has-been cabaret comic—got a distribution deal yesterday, presumably because it was deemed “crowd pleasing.” After about an hour, this member of the crowd wasn’t particularly pleased, and opted not to stick around for the final 48 minutes. I wasn’t as actively annoyed as I was by Little Miss Sunshine, but for my money the Less Annoying Than Little Miss Sunshine Club isn’t particularly exclusive. Clubland simply plods along in ways that makes it feel like a hundred other films about people triumphing over their dysfunctional families (at least for the hour I saw; if it suddenly turns into a musical or a dark thriller, my apologies).

More in tune with my own crowd-pleaser sensibilities is Son of Rambow, a lively, engaging comedy from the Hammer & Tongs team (including Garth Jennings). In 1982 England, a young kid from a strict, popular culture-eschewing religious community has a creative epiphany after viewing his prep-school classmate’s pirated videotape of First Blood. The unobtrusive nostalgia elements were an easy sell for me—the brick-sized cell phones, Duran Duran on the radio—and the oddball sense of humor was right up my alley. Yet while it’s friendship story arc might not go anywhere particularly surprising, the individual elements delivered along the way—including a French exchange student whose exotic qualities make him an alpha dog--kept me consistently engaged. I laughed; I cried; I was in the crowd, and I was pleased. (Scott Renshaw)

So Very, Very Tired ...

... and so very, very far behind. Trying to catch up on a day-plus worth of screenings doesn't generally work at 1 a.m.

Working on my fourth late-night of
Festival Update-ing, I feel kind of like the characters in Adrift in Manhattan appear to feel: lost, confused and incapable of doing anything that makes a shred of sense. I devoted all of 125 words to a capsule review, and I still think I put more thought into that movie than the filmmakers did.

A number of disappointments among the Dramatic Competition films reminded me that the Documentary Competition films almost always seem to be stronger top-to-bottom -- yet my less densely-packed schedule hasn't made all that much time thus far for the docs (only Zoo and My Kid Could Paint That in the first three days. Today I managed two of them: For the Bible Tells Me So and Chasing Ghosts. Capsules will be posted in the Tuesday festival update, likely by the time anyone gets around to reading this. But they were enough to start washing the taste of Adrift in Manhattan and The Good Life and Weapons out of my mouth.

Meanwhile, a reader emailed today asking about whether Joshua -- probably the best of the Dramatic Competition films thus far, though Rocket Science runs a close second -- had been picked up by a distributor. I had to confess something that makes me a bit of a Sundance pariah: I don't pay active attention to what films have been the subject of intense bidding wars or actually purchased. When the festival is ending, I take a look at
IndieWire and gather the info, so I know if my favorites will be making their way out into the world. For now, I know such things only if I happen to overhear industry chatter on a shuttle.

The much-talked-about Hounddog -- better known as the "Dakota Fanning's character gets raped" movie -- premiered tonight, but I was not there. The press screening is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, and it is sure to be packed to the rafters. Meanwhile, there are still people who have not seen Once. These people should rectify the situation immediately. (Scott Renshaw)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Don't Work with Kids and Animals

The word on the street pre-fest was that wi-fi would be as accessible as slush in the streets, a veritable bounty of access. That, however, is a big fat lie. Wi-fi is occasionally available in a few select locations, provided you are a guest of a given hotel or perhaps far more famous than I am.

This makes blogging a more logistically complicated task than you would expect if you have made the commitment to carry around a laptop only slightly lighter than a dining room table. My one visit to the press office -- the one place truly flowing with wi-fi milk and honey -- occurred too early in the day for me to have anything really worth writing. Except about how hard it is to find anywhere to write from.

Later in the day, however, I was able to groove to a couple of very good films with children at the center -- in ways about as disparate as I can imagine. The Dramatic Competition film Joshua, from director/co-writer George Ratliff, initially appears to be a riff on The Omen, with a 9-year-old boy (Jacob Kogan) responding badly to the new baby sister born to his upper-class New York parents (Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga). But rather than being straight-ahead horror, it's actually a pitch-black satire about parents who give their children everything but a moral center. Grim-faced cautionary tales like Kids and thirteen may have tried to make similar points about how not-alright the kids are, but none of their ilk has done such a wonderfully creepy job of showing the effects of a soulless generation.

Adorable 4-year-old Marla Olmstead isn't nearly as chilling as Joshua, but there's other disconcerting stuff going on in the absorbing documentary My Kid Could Paint That. Director Amir Bar-Lev follows Marla -- whose abstract paintings became an art-world sensation -- through her rise and post-60 Minutes expose fall from grace. Predictably, it's at least a little bit about pointing a finger at the pretentious art snobs and laughing, Nelson Muntz-style, "Ha-ha!" Far less predictably, it's also about the entire nature of narrative, and about how we decide to grant things value. You won't find a more brilliantly disheartening scene than the one in which Marla's opportunistic gallery broker sells a skeptical buyer on a painting she doesn't really like, because it might become valuable.

As for the animals: If you don't know the premise of Zoo by now, think about the images evoked by the mock title employed by a Sundance staffer, Horseback Mountin'. Yes, it's based on the real-life death of a man who died after having sex with a horse, an affinity he shared with other "zoophiles". Director Robinson Devor takes an impressionistic approach, overlaying the voices of key players in the events on re-enactments and other dreamy imagery. It's intriguing and genre-busting, yet it's also strangely flat -- so determined not to judge anyone or anything that its canvas is utterly blank. Try selling that, Marla Olmstead's gallery broker. (Scott Renshaw)

A Couple Of Pics That Didn't Get Picked

Cold Prey director Roar Urthaug (left)
Mike White, Year of the Dog (right)


So apparently posting blogs at 2 a.m. after a full day trudging up and down Main Street is not terribly effective. The message posted this morning has vanished, as has some of my enthusiasm, but I'll try my best to relive the moment:

I'm riding an indie-rock high!! Not sure if Sundance organizers intentionally pack their music lineup with bands like Death Vessel or if I'm simply strapped with the most efficient Pitchfork/GorillaVsBear radar. Whatever the case, Vessel--which is mostly just Joel Thibodeau and his gorgeous, high-pitched woman voice--appeared at the Star Bar last night for Sub Pop Records Washington Party showcase, along with The Album Leaf and Low. His performance was truly amazing. Watch for him. Better yet, pick up his 2005 release, Stay Close. Now.

Also, a special shout out to Star Bar staff for helping me out without a hint of attitude. Hoorah for locals!

Today, Chris Stills will be at the BMI/Turning Leaf lounge after which Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova (and maybe M. Ward) perform at the Kimball Art Center. Not sure if it's open to the public, but it's definitely worth trying to get in. (Jamie Gadette)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Seriously, enough with the gunshots already

After two full days of festival screenings, I've seen seven of the 16 U.S. Dramatic Competition films. And three of them begin exactly the same way: With a gun being fired, immediately followed by a flashback to x-number-of-days-or-weeks prior, so that we can learn the events leading up to said gunshot. Weapons, Snow Angels and now The Good Life all go Chekhov one better by firing their gun in the first five minutes, then waiting around to show it hanging over the fireplace sometime in the third act.

The Good Life, from writer/director Steve Berra, is one of those movies that throws a mountain of crap at its protagonist -- in this case, dead-end 25-year-old Nebraska lad Jason (Mark Webber) -- then expects us to find it uplifting because it shows one scene in which he defiantly takes a shower. It gets kind of ridiculous watching literally everyone around poor Jason turn out to be either crazy, or desperately self-obsessed. At least he has Bill Paxton around as your Convenient Random Expository Dude, whose sole plot function is to know precisely the obscure facts that will shine a light on earlier events. Even the ever-fetching Zooey Deschanel isn't enough to rescue this trite swipe at small-town ennui.

There's a whiff of the familiar, too, about Broken English -- though fortunately, not due to the presence of any firearms. Parker Posey takes the latest Sundance stab at neurotic urban singletonhood as Nora: She's 30-something, over-educated, under-employed and prone to panic attacks. Quite a catch, eh? Her anxious romance with a visiting Frenchman (Melvil Poupaud) has its charms, but writer/director Zoe Cassavetes (yes, of those Cassaveti) flails about a bit in trying to capture Nora's self-discovery. Next time, spend less time on fish-in-a-barrel stuff like the narcissistic, philandering actor, and more time on what makes this train-wreck of a woman who she is. (Scott Renshaw)

Day 2: Tooth and Consequences

With some cloud cover accompanying the prospect of snow later tonight, it's also not nearly as frigid. The absence of sunshine also might prevent the slush piles on the sidewalks from turning into lakes for which a catamaran might assist in the crossing. Unfortunately, without sun you don't get one of the most strangely lovely Park City roadside phenomena: diagonal stalagmites of ice in amazing patterns. You find quiet beauty where you can when everyone around you seems to be the world's biggest hurry.

Quiet beauty has been one of the hallmarks of David Gordon Green's films, including his previous Sundance competition entry All the Real Girls. As one of the only filmmaking known-quantities in the Dramatic Competition, Green became a magnet for high hopes bringing Snow Angels. And it's another often lovely film -- it just also happens to be bleaker than a Democrat's election prospects in Utah. Green captures individual moments of heartbreak as well as anyone, but this story of small-town relationships takes a depressingly dim view of cycles of optimism and disappointment. It's a good film I really don't feel like ever seeing again.

Less overtly depressing, but also less skillfully crafted, is writer/director Mitchell Lichtenstein's Teeth, about a high school girl (Jess Weixler) with a unique anatomical feature. Suffice it to say that being conceived in the shadow of a nuclear reactor has made her potential team leader for the Chastity X-Men. It's a one-joke black comedy with a fiercely interesting lead performance by Weixler, and your stomach for it may be limited by how many comically severed apendages you care to see in one 85-minute film. (Scott Renshaw)

Dramatic Competition films get rolling

The word "buzz" must die. Not as it applies to insects, or alarm clocks, in which case it's perfectly fine. But Sundance's first couple of days are always about what has "the buzz", which really means "which movies have the most hyper-aggressive publicists, or the most recognizable star, or involve someone having sex with someone/something inappropriate."

But now we can actually see some of these films. Some don't necessarily have "buzz" but deserve it; for others, the only "buzz" will be the sound of snoring during the screenings.

Adam Bhala Lough's Weapons, in the U.S. Dramatic Competition, certainly isn't boring. It begins with a literal bang, in a way that may put you off chain burgers more readily than Super Size Me and Fast Food Nation combined. But it then proceeds to go nowhere particularly interesting fast, relying on odd motifs -- everyone seems to drink red Kool-Aid and listen to really sloooooooow hip-hop -- rather than a propulsive narrative. It's alarmist verite a la Thirteen and Kids: Kids, don't do sex, drugs and/or guns.

Jeffrey Blitz has a somewhat different view of adolescents in his smart, charming fiction debut Rocket Science (he directed the documentary hit Spellbound). Reece Daniel Thompson plays Hal, a withdrawn, stutter-afflicted high-school student who is improbably recruited by the school's debate-team star (Anna Kendrick, channeling Election's Tracey Flick). The details may occasionally threaten to throw the Quirk-o-Meter into the red -- parents doing a cello/piano duet of Violent Femmes tunes as sexual therapy -- but it's so consistently funny, and has so much fun subverting expectations, that it ain't worth it to quibble. (Scott Renshaw)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Hey! Hey Screech!

While Park City has once again transformed into an Icelandic Hollywoodland, activity on Main Street today was rather uneventful. The only celebrity sightings worth noting involved Screech and Gary Coleman in an apparent race to see who could snag the most swag. Coleman, dressed in oversized dress slacks and cowboy hat, flew past a freezing bunch of credential holders into the Star Bar to collect random items--expensive beanie, T-shirt, herbal tea--stuffed inside a fashionable tote. He flew right back out minutes later, missing four artists including The Bird & The Bee and Chuck Prophet, who blew this critic away. Their performances offered some hope for Sundance 2007's musical offerings. There might not be any artists with reputations on par with 2006's highlights, but after this week they could be on the tip of every high-altitude hipster's tongue. I'm headed to the BMI/Turning Leaf showcase then back to the Star Bar tomorrow night for Low, The Album Leaf and Death Vessel. In the meantime, you can catch me in the trippy Airborne lounge getting high on antioxidants and industry gossip. (Jamie Gadette)

Day 1: It's Cold

No, seriously. It's cold. I know, it's cold in about 75% of the country right now. And it's probably not exponentially colder than it has been in Park City Januarys passed. But there's a bite in the air that feels just a little more vicious.

A little of the sting was taken out of the early morning air by the press screening of the opening night film, Chicago 10. It took me a while to get in the rhythm of the thing -- a mix of archival footage and computer-animated re-enactments of the 1968 Democratic Convention riots in Chicago and the subsequent trial of Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, et. al. For one thing, Hank Azaria provides the re-enactment voice of Hoffman, and for a while it sounds like he's doing Moe Szyzlak via Boston. But it's a slick, entertaining production with a lot of energy.

Maybe some of that energy will rub off on the rest of the people here, who thus far appear to be slowed down by the temperatures. All it will take is one great discovery ... (Scott Renshaw)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

We've got you covered

About 24 hours away from Opening Night, and we're about ready to kick off our ongoing coverage throughout fesival week. For pre-fest capsules and a look at Sundance's New Frontier on Main, take a gander here. And the main City Weekly site will include links to our daily Festival Update content beginning Saturday. We trudge through the snow at freezing high altitude so you don't have to. (Scott Renshaw)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

gearing up, tracking down

Last year, the Sundance Film Festival brought to town several stellar music acts including Beastie Boys, Broken Social Scene, Iron & Wine, Rufus Wainwright, Imogen Heap, Mike Doughty and even Metallica. This year's offerings are few and far between. BMI is hosting a singer/songwriter showcase featuring, among others, Chris Stills; ASCAP/Filter is presenting The Album Leaf, Sean Lennon, Donovan and others but the night shows are a bit difficult to get into—even for those holding festival credentials. MySpace is apparently in residence at Harry O's, but no word on who's appearing or whether anyone without awesome connections and/or silicon implants will be able to get in. Keep your ears open and your arse warm—even if you track down "secret shows," you'll be waiting in line for a long, long time. Believe the hype, just don't get bogged down in it. Until next time ... (Jamie Gadette)