Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tales From Park City - Anger and Alternate Reality

The week is already starting to catch up with me. It’s probably a bit too early to admit this, but it behooves a writer to be honest.

The streets of Park City were the more crowded on Saturday than they have been all week. It’s understandable, given the arrival of first full day of weekend screenings and the coming of audience members enjoying their day off. It does make for a challenging time getting around, not only with foot traffic but also with the free shuttles.

That’s one of the single best things about Sundance. Not only is it easy to find out where you need to go, but there’s very little need to rent a car of any kind, provided you can just get to Park City in the first place. In fact, you’re actually discouraged from renting a car by the Festival itself. My friend, however, had to transport some stuff up here, and wasn’t so lucky. When he told me that he was driving up to Main Street to make a delivery, “good luck” were the only words I could think of to offer him. Fortunately, he found a great parking place. After driving around for 30 minutes.

Ok, onto today’s screenings at Slamdance:

Where I Am: another strong Slamdance documentary. The film tells the story of Robert Drake, an American writer, who was brutally attacked while living abroad in Ireland. The real tragedy is that the only reason he was attacked was because he is gay. While the film runs a little longer than it needs to and begins to repeat itself toward the end, it’s an emotional piece that does a good job of exploring the complex feelings that Robert and those around him have about the attack. I was struck by the idea of a man who has to depend on other people for just about everything being able to so readily forgive his attackers, even though they’d gotten off extremely easy and “justice” wasn’t done. He’s a remarkable man, and it was a pleasure to see him at the screening with his long-time assistant, Butch.

The Bitter Buddha: one of the funniest things I’ve seen this year. The Bitter Buddha takes a look at the career of comedian Eddie Pepitone. He’s one of those long-suffering guys that other comedians swear by, but just hasn’t had the big break that he deserves. A big part of what makes him so likable is he’s incredibly open about his anger and insecurity. There’s a more than ample supply of both. There’s a ton of interviews with other comics, most notably Patton Oswalt. The film goes to video-on-demand in February, and you’d do well to catch it. Here’s a link to Eddie’s Twitter page.

The Institute: this is one of the single best things I’ve seen at the Festival so far this year. The Institute documents an “alternate reality game” that lasted for 3 years and had, at one time or another, over 10,000 participants in and around San Francisco. Jeff Hull, the game’s mastermind, created a convoluted narrative about rival organizations fighting over who was going to control the future of human happiness. Director Spencer McCall was initially hired by Mr. Hull to shoot footage that would become part of the gameplay, and after ending up with over 1000 hours of footage, decided to move forward with the film. It’s fascinating stuff, particularly as you begin to wonder if what you’re watching is even a documentary at all. At certain junctures, it seems impossible that some of these people could be serious about what they’re saying with a straight face. What makes the film really shine is that it’s able to create within the mind of the viewer the same effect that I’d imagine it had on the participants. On some level, you’re not only wondering how people could take this stuff seriously, you’re also wanting for this to be true on some level because it’s been so skillfully put together.

The Brotherhood of the Traveling Rants: Meh. This is the “official documentary” of Canadian comedian Gavin McInnes’ tour in promotion of his book. I’m not going to deny that he’s funny, but only sporadically. There’s also just far too much material that’s clearly been staged for the camera. His best friend comes along for the ride, and there are certain bits where they’re clearly riffing off of each other, and that’s fun to watch, but then later there are just far too many attempts at emotional authenticity that are being attempted by guys who aren’t the greatest actors. Additionally, the film’s introduction makes it seem like Gavin’s setting out to make a film about whether or not comedy is a learned behavior or instinctive ability, but this is quickly abandoned to document the tour. I wish that the film had either stuck with the framing device, or just allowed the camera to roll when the guys were out doing their thing. The latter would have been a lot more fun. There’s enough history between these two to make this thing a lot more fun than it ends up being.

No parties for me at the end of the night. I got out of my last film at 11:30 PM so my party connections were already kinda shut down. 

I’ve got 3 screenings on the docket for today, but am hoping to catch a bit of the 49er game. My buddy’s a HUGE fan and has been making new friends all over town with his authentic (and pretty stylish) Niner gear. I want to watch him watch the game more than anything. Also, he’s got a GREAT Dave Grohl story that I’m going to try and get on camera so I can share it with you tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s the big one for me. I’m going to rushline a screening of Before Midnight at 8:30 AM, which means that I’ll have to be there around 7 AM. Which means I’ll have to get up at . . .  ug. On top of all that, I fly out tomorrow night and have to move house tomorrow morning. Should be fun. Those films mean a lot to me, and I’m really hoping for another stellar entry in the series.

OK, off to a busy day.

More later,

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