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January 24th, 2011 By Jason Gargano | Movies |

Sundance Mayhem Underway

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The Sundance Film Festival's opening weekend is now in the books, and if occasional CityBeat contributor/Salt Lake City Weekly A&E editor Scott Renshaw is any guide, Park City, Utah, is again awash in movie mayhem.

While I miss being at the center of the cinematic universe for seven days every January — I covered the festival for CityBeat in 2007 and 2008; before that Steve Ramos was there for us from 1996-2006 — I don't miss the shitty weather, logistical nightmares (Park City is a ski-resort town with far-flung, often unconventional theaters, spotty transportation, overpriced lodging and mediocre coffee) and the unpredictable quality of the films (especially among the fictional narrative offerings). In my experience, the reality of Sundance, at least for a working journalist, was a far cry from what it might seem like from afar.

That's not to say I wouldn't go back in a heartbeat if we could somehow find a spot for it in our editorial budget — it's always fascinating to see how a film is shaped by critical response/audience buzz and then subsequently handled by the marketplace gatekeepers (aka film distributors).

A handful of strong, unique films never fail materialize each year, many of which actually make it to a Cincinnati theater. Festival favorites over my brief, two-year trek west include Charles Ferguson's No End in Sight, Azazel Jacobs' Momma's Man, John Carney's Once, Christopher Bell's Bigger, Stronger, Faster, Mitchell Lichtenstein's Teeth, James Marsh's Man on Wire, Andrew Wagner's Starting Out in the Evening, Lance Hammer's Ballast, Joachim Trier's Reprise and Jennifer Phang's Half-Life.

And, for the record, my two favorite “celebrity” encounters included chatting with Crispin Glover about River's Edge over cocktails in a tiny Main Street bar and getting a compliment from Zooey Deschanel during a small club show by ace Canadian singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith.

Like almost everyone else, I now have to live through those who are still able to attend, a number that has gone down dramatically in an age when gainfully employed film critics/feature writers are nearly extinct and editorial budgets for publications of every stripe have been slashed to the bare minimum.

Lucky for us, Renshaw is just a short drive from Salt Lake City to the festival. Here's a link to his blog coverage, which includes an update on Kevin Smith's latest, Red State, a “horror/comedy/satire about a Westboro Baptist Church-esque fundamentalist community that murders those it finds abominations in God's eyes.”

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