Day 3: Sunday January 20, 2008

Posted January 21, 2008 in

Ah, the sight of overfilled parking lots, the roars of PETA members, and the incessant chatter of individuals' hatred toward Paris Hilton. This can only mean one thing...the 2008 Sundance Film Festival is in full effect!

First stop, the Rock the Vote party at the House of Hype. With vintage Stevie Wonder classics filling the air (none of that I Just Called to Say I Love You bullshit) vendors promoted their innovative products to ogling patrons. Puma's Mongolian Shoe BBQ website allows customers to create their own shoe's color, design and style online. Need a pair of kicks for that pea green business suit your grandfather left you in his will? Choose a little from Column A and a little from Column B, and you're good to go!

As I made headway toward my first that Nick Cannon getting harassed by a meter maid?...I stopped at the Panda Buffet for a quick bite. Awkwardly and luckily enough, I stumbled into the Asian Pacific Filmmakers Reception. The hosts graciously welcomed me to their party and fully stocked complimentary buffet. Talk about a rarity. Eight years ago, this event consisted of a small table of filmmakers. This year, over twenty filmmakers and countless actors have illuminated the beauty of Asian Pacific cinema at Sundance including Gregg Araki's The Living End, Kenneth Bi's The Drummer, and Yung Chang's Up the Yangtze to name a few.

As I sat in the Yarrow Hotel with a stomach full of delicious MSG injected food, I was excited for my first film of the festival, Geoff Haley's The Last Word. The film tells the story of Evan (Wes Bentley) who makes an odd living by authoring clients' suicide notes. His disturbing occupation forces Evan to cross paths with Charlotte (Winona Ryder), the sister of a satisfied customer, and Abel (Ray Romano), a potential client. I admit that I am not a fan of Romano's television endeavors, but his deadpan performance as a depressed composer steals every scene...even if it's only his voice on the phone. Best relationship advice? "Don't fuck her in the ass. Sodomy changes shit." While at some points it seemed the dialogue's energy went straight into Bentley's character, neglecting the rest of the cast, the film's overall message is well crafted and leaves a lasting imprint with its definitive question: What do we want to leave behind after we die?

Film: Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Director: Alex Gibney

Venue: Yarrow Hotel - Press Screening

Rating: 5 out of 5 Wild Turkey Bottles

(Photo Caption: One of many Ralph Steadman interpretations of Hunter S. Thompson)

Having been a long time fan of Thompson's writing and the films that depicted excerpts of his life, I already knew the subject matter was going to be entertaining, but could Gibney add to the already wild rollercoaster that is Dr. Hunter S. Thompson? The answer...yes! With Johnny Depp's genuine narration, the film chronicles Thompson's life from 1965 to 1975 using archived news footage, faceless dramatizations, interviews with friends and family, never released home videos, and photographs that come to life right before your eyes. Thompson's words are alive! From his imbedded stint with the Hell's Angels, to running for sheriff in Aspen, Colorado, to his uncontrollable obsession with guns and drugs, Thompson was the ultimate rock star journalist. The film ultimately compares the condition of current American standards and politics to those of the 60s and 70s (George W. Bush vs. Richard M. Nixon). Are we doomed? Is there hope? Another great addition to the film is the soundtrack. It connects so well with the theme and personal stories that it adds an entire level of perfection by itself. After watching, I never wanted to shoot a gun with a bottle of Wild Turkey in my hand so bad in my life! R.I.P. Dr. T. !

Until tomorrow ...

—Jimmy Martin

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January 20, 2008

After a long day of hard sleep, the crew was back in Park City to take in the festivities. Tonight, the main event was the Composer's Party, held at the Kimball Art Center. Apparently, this was one of the 'fancy' parties, and we were rubbing elbows with the likes of Danny Glover, Dennis Hopper, and U2's Edge. It was pretty funny to watch Danny wait 15 minutes for a drink as the bartenders ignored him, followed by him standing alone at a table texting for a half an hour. Anyways, celebrity watching aside, the music entertainment was kicked off by some abysmal Killers-type band, who could only be described using such powerful terms as: lackluster, unoriginal, boring, lame, and blahrg. Fortunately this was short lived, and the next act was probably the coolest party accompaniment ever. Michel Gondry was on drums, Mos Def on vocals, and Jean-Michel Bernard on keys brought to life a jazz performance that made me feel awfully fancy.

(Photo Caption: Mos Def makes a cameo in Michel Gondry's Jazz Trio)

Angela stayed behind to catch Patti Smith, while Fluffy and I headed to Slamdance to meet up with our Tromadance friends and catch the screening of Paranormal Activity at the SlamDance film festival.

Film: Paranormal Activity

Director: Oren Peli

Venue: Treasure Mountain Inn

Rating: Three Bottles of Holy Water

This film was genuinely terrifying. Following in the footsteps of the found footage genre pioneered by Cannibal Holocaust, and more recently, Blair Witch Project, the film centered on poltergeists and demon possession. Brilliantly paced, the terror slowly escalates - there were moments that made me nearly shiver from the chills! The slow beginning of the film helps increase the suspense near the end - and the only thing keeping this film from a four star review are the small production related elements that took me out of the picture. Filmed in high-resolution digital, the quality of the film rides a thin line between believable found footage (i.e. grainy, poor focus, jerky camera, etc.) and professional footage (i.e. tracked shots, 35mm, etc.). Additionally, some of the effects, (fades, text overlays) looked tacked on and cheapened the experience. However, the characters were excitingly believable, and the genuine horror was palpable at the film's climax. You will not be able to sleep after seeing this film.

—Ryan Powers

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Film: A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy

Director: Dennis Dortch

Venue: Broadway Centre Cinemas

Rating: 5 out of 5 Metal Afro Picks

Upon entering SLC's Broadway Theater, I immediately noticed the floor covered in plastic. This protective layer of thin polypropylene lined every walkway— from the bathroom to the concessions stand, to my tenth-row seat in the theater. Somehow, It seemed like the most appropriate way to welcome me to the Salt Lake screening of A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy; in lieu of a red carpet, I was walking on a giant floor condom.

With the Theater only half-full, my popcorn and I sat next to a Mother, her pre-teen daughter and the daughter's friend. The lights dimmed and the show began.

A Good Day to Be Black and Sexy artfully portrays six individual sex scenes that when combined together, create 92 minutes of thought provoking, witty and of course, SEXY content. Filmed with a Sony HD Cam, Cinematographer Brian Harding, did a phenomenal job filming in low-lighting situations. I had to remind myself several times throughout this screening that it was indeed shot digitally, as certain shots encompassed the warmth and graininess of film.

(Photo Caption: Cinematographer Brian Harding and an actress from the film host the Q & A.)

A Good Day to Be Black and Sexy is set in 1976 and offers a fresh take on the genre of black 70s culture and the period in time surrounding it. Director Dennis Dortch 's combination of unique sex scenes, stimulating visuals, gender roles and 70s soul music, is what makes his storylines fresh and alluring.

Dortch initally began this project with ten stories and paired it down to six; hopefully this film will gander enough attention so that Dortch can give life to the remaining four that never made it into this production. This is one of those rare moments that I as an audience member, actually WANT to see a sequel.

After seeing a stellar film, it was time to catch a stellar performance by the legendary New Yorker, Patti Smith.

I jumped into my car and jetted up to the Sundance House inside of The Kimball Art Center in Park City where met up with Ryan Powers.

After a two-hour wait that included the aforementioned Mos Def appearance, Patti Smith hit the small stage and rocked Park City like it was CBGBs in 1974.

—Angela H. Brown