Friday, January 25, 2008

A Little Festival Coverage

This is the first year in five years that I didn’t go to Sundance, Slamdance, or any of the other satellite film festivals in Park City. I had some friends invite me up, and while I would have loved to have seen my critic friends, a sick baby and a job got in the way of the festivities.

Also, don’t tell, but I can’t take the Industry jerks. They are so pretentious, not in the self-deprecating way that I’m pretentious mind you, but honest to goodness indie hipster pretentious. They descend on Park City in black from head to toe, dark glasses optional. They stagger about, nose deep in Variety, gossiping about which film got a deal, and bad mouthing Utah. Don’t mess with Utah or I’ll kick your self-important attitude and bleach blonde hair back to the Universal back lot.

I’ve met some really fun and really great people at the festivals, but the hipster pretensions and the social snobbery wears on my patience. It’s so bizarre to be at a party mingling with people and when the doors open to let in another reveler, everyone turns their head like a tennis match to see if the entrant is either a.) important or b.) famous. A slight lull in conversation follows while everyone immediately judges the worth of the entrant, and then the party resumes. Of course, after 50 minutes, I’m the only one who is still sober.

I have a lot of great memories of festival times: fantastic movies, really bad movies, interminable movies, and shoestring movies. You meet really fun people in line, fellow film geeks who are just there for the shows as well as the professionals; it's a great place to network. You also tend to see some of the same folks from year to year, which makes for "Don't I know you?" reunions and "Same time next year?" conclusions. People beg you to come see their movie, screened in a bar’s basement on Main Street. I loved knowing about a film first and trying to convince your friends that they need to see it when the movie finally rolls around, 6, 7, 10 months later.

I’ll never forget the night that my critic friend Scott and I waited outside the Egyptian Theater for tickets to 28 Days Later. The temperature was in the teens and we were waiting in a cement bunker under the street level. The people that surround you are both your friends and your competition for seats; an uneasy camaraderie. I didn’t want to see the movie but I wanted to see it more than anything: 28 Days Later was directed by one of my favorite directors but the movie is a very scary film and I do not do scary (let alone very scary.) Scott and I scored the last two tickets of the night. I sat next to a girl I’d never seen before. We said “Hi,” before the movie started. She and I ended up gripping hands in complete fright as we both struggled to make it through the utterly terrifying but awesome film. Afterwards, we laughed at each other and said goodbye.

What you don’t realize is that attending the festival is very hard work.

You see a lot of movies when you are press for an outlet. You might think that watching 4-6 movies a day would be fun, but it begins to wear on you after 5 days. By day 6 or 7 you're getting sick if you weren't already. You also have to write up your reviews, talk about the deals being brokered, and provide any other content the festival or your outlet requires of you. It’s so much fun watching the great movies, but you really have to watch a lot of dreck to get to the good ones. You also have to be mindful that a bad word from you can hurt the chances of a film being picked up and distributed.

I’m so glad that my friends still do that work, being a film critic is hard work, often draining and thankless, with little to no respect accorded. I stayed home this year to comfort a fevered Baby Proximo. I am sad that I missed my friends and the little cinematic gems, but am somewhat grateful that I don’t need to do it all anymore.

For the inside scoop on all things festival related, check out these sites by my friends:

Scott Weinberg's great coverage for

Eric D. Snider's coverage for Eric D., starting with Day 1 Diary.


Fig said...

I loved 28 Days Later.

And I'm a shameless celeb-obsesser, which would be my only reason for going to Sundance, which is why it's good that I don't go. I'm the person they're hoping WON'T show up in the "Team Jolie" T-shirt.

b. said...

I knew you were cool, I had no idea you were THAT cool!

b. said...

ps. Is that baby spit-up on your black carmina?

i i eee said...

I love 28 Days Later as well. Ah Cillian Murphy, love of my life.

I wouldn't have minded to go to see some films this year, but my schedule is too crazy -and the thought of having to wait outside in this cold...meh. I'll do fine with my Netflix, thank you.

But I am excited to see some reviews to know what I need to save for my queue.

~j. said...

Best name for a Sundance Film this year: Hamlet 2. (Or is it II? Either way...)

Ah Britty said...

You know, I read your blog all the time, and it's about time I leave a comment to let you know I'm reading! How fun and witty are you? I think one of my favorites is the big rat you have, that can use a knife. I was looking at a photo of you visiting me in the hospital post-partum with El Guille. Good days! I'm jealous you still get to hang out with the cool peeps every day. Say hi to everyone for me! Miss you!

April said...

Maybe Kristen and I should arrange our Utah trip to coincide with Sundance!

Michelle said...

I saw the 28 weeks later and was told it was scary but I wish I never saw it! It was the scariest movie I've ever seen- and I love scary movies. The thing is I am still wanting to see 28 days later- total masochist.

Gritty Pretty said...

really, you are the best writer! and i completely trust your taste. do you have a list of all-time favorite films? i'm so behind on watching movies that i'll never catch up. k, just looked all over your blog and can't find a best films list...please provide?

Brooke said...

the last time i went to sundance, i was not sober.

so it was a really really long time ago. :)