I never go to movies in Houston, but I'm hooked on the Sundance Film Festival. Quirky jewels of films that may never be seen again, daring documentaries not favored by many moviegoers and the opportunity to ask directors and actors about their work in an intimate setting leaves me in awe of the art of movie-making.
I've been attending the festival since 2006. Because we have a second home in Park City, I was able to get tickets to 10 movies through a complicated lottery process. The bad news: I was only able to get tickets at crazy times and all crammed together. So three movies a day for the next three days. But I'm not complaining.
Novices are always surprised to discover the Sundance Film Festival does not take place in Sundance, a resort owned by Robert Redford. Instead it unfolds 50 miles away in Park City at such diverse locations as the town library, a racquet club, movie theatres and a high school performing arts center. The screening of Mother and Daughter took place at the Egyptian on Main Street, an old-time theatre with about 250 seats. As we arrived, the streets were filled with happy festival goers, and it was snowing heavily.
Sundance audiences are different from the typical movie-going crowd. As we waited for the movie to start, the audience was comparing notes on what they had seen, who they had seen and what movies have been bought — doing all this as they tweeted, updated their Facebook page, and chatted on their cell phones. Although snacks are sold, not many people come to their seats with a jumbo popcorn and licorice.
The three movies I saw within a few hours are all likely to attract a wider audience, either at theaters or on DVD.
In Mother and Daughter, a 50-year-old physical therapist (Annette Bening) wonders about the daughter she gave up at birth. The movie interlaces the daughter's story with the tale of another couple seeking to adopt. Naomi Watts plays the daughter as an adult, and the strong cast includes Samuel L. Jackson, Kerry Washington and Jimmy Smits. It's a "chick flick," though my husband was wiping away a tear at the ending.
From the Egyptian we hopped a bus in the driving snow to the Racquet Club where we caught the documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. The film follows Rivers over the past year, with flashbacks of her up-and-down career and personal life. It also included her winning stint on The Apprentice. I had no idea she had been blacklisted from NBC until The Apprentice because of her rift with Johnny Carson.
The audience howled at the 75-year-old commediane's attempts to prolong her career. "I will do a commercial for a Extenze if it means I work," she said during a question-and-answer session afterwards, referring to ads for a penis extender.
Her take on Conan and Leno? "Conan O'Brien is the luckiest white man alive — he was going to get fired sooner or later and now he has $40 million. As for Jay, he is better than Ambien. Don't listen to Jay while driving—it will cause drowsiness. "
Movie No. 3 started at 11.30 p.m. (Sundance films run about 19 hours a day.) Even at that late hour, a full house at the Park City Library watched Smash his Camera, a documentary about original paparazzi photographer Ron Galella. Galella became famous when Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (his favorite subject) sued him and Marlon Brando broke his jaw. In this day of tabloid frenzy and crazy interest in celebrity gossip, it was a timely topic with many first Amendment issues raised. It was also fun to glimpse previously unseen photographs of Katharine Hepburn and Jackie O. But we left after about an hour. Pardon the pun, but things weren’t clicking enough to entice us to stay for the rest of the movie. We got the picture.