Gone Sundancin'

[I realized that I posted a draft of an unfinished entry about Sundance before I left for Park City last Thursday...pretend I never did. I'll finish that one and put it back up here shortly because I do believe the logistics of planning a Sundance trip are highly complex and frustrating, but all that's ancient history right now. I've had a great time so far, and I have one evening of fun left.]
I've been at Sundance since last Thursday evening, and tomorrow morning I return home. Most this time, I've been offline, so apologies to those I've failed to respond to in a timely fashion.
Last year's trip to Sundance was a surprise, but Jason and I had so much fun we decided to toss our hats in the ring again, this time with more advanced planning (i.e., we actually bought movie tickets ahead of time).
Every night, I've gotten fewer and fewer hours of sleep, and last night I grabbed only three hours of shuteye after returning home from a midnight screening of the disturbing and brilliant Old Boy before my cell phone alarm started screeching. By the time I heard and comprehended the meaning of that shrill cacaphony, it was 7:55am. My first movie of the morning started at 8:30am. The drive from Susannah's place in Salt Lake to the theatre in Park City was a half hour in light traffic. Then a half mile dash on foot to the theatre from the parking lot. Probably not worth it. I turned off the alarm and crawled under the covers.
But it was too late. My mind had awoken, and I began to think of how badly I wanted to see Noah Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale. You can sleep when you're dead, and all that shit. I tried burying my head under the pillow to suppress the idea, but it only gained momentum.
Damn it! I threw off the covers, rushed into the bathroom and cleaned up quickly, threw on some pants and grabbed a whole bag of papers and winter clothing and sprinted out into the freezing Salt Lake City air to my rental car. What ensued was a frantic dash up over the mountain pass through a dense fog, my rental car struggling to stay over the speed limit on the uphill slopes. I parked at exactly 8:30, and then I sprinted a half mile in the cold to Racquet Club Theatre. I was seated just as the pre-movie short ended.
The Squid and the Whale was wonderful, validating my morning's effort. Baumbach is friend's with Wes Anderson, and they have similar sensibilities. The story is based on Baumbach and his brother's experience of their parents' divorce in Park Slope, Brooklyn, in the late 1980's. As with Anderson movies, the father, played by Jeff Daniels, is a selfish, immature man-child, yet vaguely sympathetic. The humor and music also reminded me of that in Anderson movies, but I thought The Squid and the Whale was more accessible and consistently funny than The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Great performances by Daniels, Laura Linney as his wife, and Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline as the older and younger brothers. It will most certainly get picked up by a studio before festival's end.
Joannie and Karen joined me this year for Sundance, as did Mike, Arya, Jon, and Bill. Jason and Jamie were here, as were a scattering of other folks from NYC and Amazon. Having everyone around added to the fun. We snowboarded one afternoon, cooked dinner and soaked in the hot tub another evening, dined at 350 Main our first night together for my birthday, and attended a few Sundance parties, gawking at celebrities and laying siege to the open bars. In between all that, I'll have seen twelve to fifteen movies by the time they wheel me onto my flight tomorrow morning on a stretcher, and that's not including the Mormon conversion show Karen trapped us in just before her flight out.
More later on Sundance after I return home, but one instant movie classic deserves mention: Kung Fu Hustle. It's an exhilarating slapstick martial arts comedy, and it's superior to Stephen Chow's previous hit Shaolin Soccer. Sony is distributing the picture, and it should hit theatres in March. As is common to Asian martial arts slapstick, it blends a seemingly incompatible set of genres, from comedy to musicals to romance to melodrama to action. As a bonus for movie lovers, Chow tosses in homages to The Matrix, The Untouchables, Spiderman, and a whole series of other movies. I haven't laughed that hard at a theatre in a long time, and at movie's end, Stephen Chow came on stage to a standing ovation from all of Eccles theatre, Sundance's largest venue, a school auditorium seating over 1,000 spectators.
If you have the opportunity to catch Kung Fu Hustle before March for some reason, do so. I didn't see any movies I really disliked, and we all had our opinions of all the movies we saw together, but we all agreed that Kung Fu Hustle was an instant classic, ironic considering it doesn't feel like a Sundance movie.
Jason and I have already begun plotting our return trip next year. After two years here, I finally feel like I grok the Sundance Film Festival, finally understand how to organize a proper Sundance trip for a large group in such a way as to ensure that everyone gets a healthy mix of snow sports, movies, parties, and free time. See you all at Sundance 2006.