Whether you’re headed to Park City for Robert Redford’s annual talent orgy in the mountains or not, it’s important to know the ins and outs of what makes a successful Sundance experience. Why? Because for the next ten days, it’s all anyone who’s anyone will be talking about, and who doesn’t want to be anyone?
Like any major festival, Sundance would be nothing without its volunteers. Need info on how to get tickets? Catch a shuttle? Find out where James Franco is staying? Festival insiders, which is the fancy name volunteers are given at Sundance, have been trained to clue you in, and will be camping out all along Main Street and at every major venue wearing “Ask Me” buttons. I’d personally like to know how Robert Redford does bed head so effortlessly, so all the time? Anyone in Park City, please ask and report back ASAP.
It’s the year of the biopic, with several real-life cultural iconoclasts getting the indie treatment at this year’s fest. Chief among them is that tech-guru-in-the-sky, Steve Jobs, played here by Ashton Kutcher, in the Joshua Michael Stern-directed jOBS, one of the week’s hottest acquisition titles and the fest’s closing night film, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Rookie helmer Jon Krokidas is looking to score big with the in-competition, birth-of-the-beat-generation thriller Kill Your Darlings, featuring Daniel Radcliffe, Jack Huston, and Ben Foster as a young Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouack, and William S. Burroughs respectively. Sandwiched in between the two (which is probably how she likes it), is Lovelace, the Amanda Seyfried-starring account of Deep Throat darling Linda Lovelace’s sordid life. Bolstered by a stellar supporting cast that includes Bobby Cannavale, James Franco, Sarah Jessica Parker, Peter Sarsgaard, Chloe Sevigny, and Sharon Stone, the film–unlike its title character–probably won’t suck.
Yes, the Benjamins will be flowing in Park City this year–can’t you just feel the fest’s indie ethos slowly slipping away? But despite the stretch hummers filled with Hollywood’s heaviest of hitters already en route, broke-ass filmmakers and underpaid journalists working with skimpy per diems (if that) will also be a plenty. Though the thought of blowing $39 on a Sundance pepper steak at Robert Redford’s Zoom (660 Main St.) sounds tempting, cheap eats are definitely available for those willing to search for them. The Pig Pen Saloon (1415 Lowell Ave.) serves up burgers and barbecue, while El Chubasco (1890 Bonanza Dr.) specializes in the ultimate hangover cure, burritos. The healthier-minded festival-goers can check out Back Door Deli (136 Heber Ave.) for sandwiches and salads, while the late night crowd will feel right at home at Maxwell’s (1456 New Park Blvd.), and Davanza’s (690 Park Ave) which both do late night ‘za.
Some major discrimination is going down at Main Street’s Uptown Fare (227 Main St.), Karleen Reilly’s soup and sandwich shop, where a banner that reads“Locals only club” hangs outside, warding off the pompous out-of-towners who claim the sleepy city as their own every January. ‘They would camp out in here with their computers, order two cups of coffee and stay four hours,” Reilly says of more inclusive years-past. So how does the long-time Park City resident distinguish the locals from the hordes of Hollywood trash? “You can tell a Sundancer a mile away. It’s pretty obvious.”
Contrary to popular belief, movies actually do get watched at Sundance, and the best ones get watched at Eccles Theatre (1750 Kearns Blvd.), whose 1270 seat capacity is by far the festival’s biggest. This year the majestic movie house will again play host to several boldface premieres including the Rooney Mara/Casey Affleck-starring Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, the Celine n’ Jesse reunion pic Before Midnight, and maybe the fest’s most anticipated entry, JGL’s directorial debut Don Jon’s Addiction. If you can’t get tickets and want to feel like an insider, just stand outside and eavesdrop on phone conversations being had by anyone wearing a baseball cap and chomping on a cigar.
Thanks to its ongoing corporate takeover, Sundance has become the center of the swag universe, with gluten-free cookies, coconut waters, and insulated underwear being doled out en masse at every turn. But with a Flu epidemic sweeping the nation, festival organizers are making sure a different kind of freebee is also on hand. The Park City Medical Center will be handing out 5000 bottles of hand sanitizer over the course of the tej days, a good thing considering this year should see a record number of deals made, pushing the rate of HPS (handshakes-per-second) through the roof.
To all the ladies who cried sexism over the Kathryn Bigelow Oscar snub, fear not: Girl Power is in full effect in Park City. This year marks the first time that an equal number of male and female directors will be competing in the dramatic competition. Among the women vying for the top prize are Lynn Shelton and her massage therapist dramedy Touchy Feely, Liz Garcia’s Kristen Bell-starring tale of forbidden love Lifeguard, and Jerusha Hess’ screwball look at fandom, Austenland. For you early-risers, start the day off with a glass of OJ and a shot of estrogen at the Women in Film breakfast panel being held at 350 Main on Sunday, January 20.
Some of your favorite filmmakers first gained notoriety here, and those that do blow up, rarely forget where they came from. This year marks the homecoming of two of Sundance’s most recent darlings. Another Earth’s Brit Marling returns with The East, a mysterious thriller about the infiltration of an anarchist activist group, and Like Crazy’s Drake Doremus, who’s back with Breathe In, a modern day Lolita starring Guy Pearce, Amy Ryan, and Felicity Jones.
Two years ago, Lizzie Olsen showed us what the right amount of hype at Sundance can do for a young actress’ fledgling career (blow it up). Last year Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Lizzy Caplan, and Felicity Jones flirted with breaking out, but failed to become a flat out Olsen-level sensation. This year several young ingenues aim to separate themselves from the pack, chief among them; Mackenzie Davis (Breathe In), Lindsay Burdge (A Teacher), Ambyr Childers (We Are What We Are), Kaya Scodelario (Emanuel and The Truth About Fishes), and Julia Garner (We Are What We Are). But when the snow settles, look for the already familiar but not-quite-famous Juno Temple (Lovelace, Magic Magic, Afternoon Delight) to emerge as Sundance’s big winner.
The Ed Burns-led Jury charged with awarding the top prize in the U.S. dramatic competition just feels like it holds more power than in years past. Why? Because last year’s winner was Beasts of The Southern Wild, that’s why.
If the slopes and cinemas seem a tad barren on Sunday afternoon, blame it on the NFL. Two games will be played—kick-off is at 3PM and 6PM respectively—to determine who goes to the Superbowl, so yeah, they’re kind of a big deal. To mark the occasion, The Paige Hospitality group will be hosting a viewing party at the swanky Sky Blue Space at the Sky Lodge Hotel (201 Heber Ave.). Gourmet grub and libations will undoubtedly be served. For those that aren’t on the guest list, No Name Saloon (447 Main St.) is big with the less pretentious Sundance set and an ideal spot to tuck in with a pint and watch Tom Brady do WORK.
We haven’t seen much of Lake Bell since HBO axed How To Make it in America, and that’s never a good thing, because Lake Bell is awesome. So it’s good news then, that she’s returning to Sundance, her former stomping grounds, with In A World… a comedy she wrote, directed, and stars in, about a daughter trying to follow in the footsteps of her father, who just so happens to be crazy-trailer-voice-guy. Like we said, Lake Bell is awesome.
Like it or not, Main Street continues to be Sundance’s central nervous system, with almost everything film fest-related taking place on the historic drag. Festival mainstay Cisero’s (306 Main St.) will play host to a slew of events, including this weekend’s Youtube/Google mixer, Saturday night’s after party for the James Franco porn pics Interior. Leather Bar. and Kink and Monday’s fete for the world premiere of the Amy Poehler/Adam Scott-starring A.C.O.D. If you’re willing to trudge the slushy sidewalks, a few blocks away, Hope Gallery (151 S. Main St.) will be hosting the Sundance Channel Studio media lounge, which will compete with Entertainment Weekly’s media lounge (577 Main St.), and The McCafe Lodge (427 Main Street) as the pit stop of choice for journos looking to file stories and refuel. When the sun goes down, Main Street becomes a real shit show, but for more on that, please see below.
Nirvana fans will be well-represented this year when Dave Grohl takes the Park City Live stage (427 Main St.) on Friday night to celebrate his rock doc Sound City. He’ll be joined by former Nirvana bandmates Kris Novoselic and Pat Smear, and oh yeah, Stevie Nicks and John Fogerty will hum a couple tunes, too. Obviously the gig is sold out like ten times over, so for all the die-hards that couldn’t get tix, get your kinda sorta Nirvana fix when Courtney Love plays Star Bar (268 Main St.) on Monday night. Kurt Cobain she’s not, but if you get a little boozy and squint really, really hard….
There’s a ton of documentaries screening here over the next ten days, but none more talked-about than Manhunt, the where-in-the-world-is-Osama-Bin-Laden doc riding into town on a sea of Zero Dark Thirty-infused buzz. Based on reporting by CNN national security reporter Peter Bergen, the film examines the real-life efforts of a group of female C.I.A. analysts who heavily informed the creation of Jessica Chastain’s character in Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar contender. And If ZDT’s recent box office domination is any indication, expect this one to play to packed, packed, packed houses.
Those who are looking to go nuts after a full day of theatre-hopping, fear not: Sundance’s nightlife has become the stuff of legend, and thanks to a whole whack of pop-up clubs coming to town, this year’s fest should provide a year’s worth of debauchery in JUST. ONE. WEEKEND. Lineups will be snaking up and down Main Street thanks to mega-clubs TAO (825 Main St.), Hyde (625 Main St.), and the Wynn’s XS and Surrender, whose velvet ropes will be tight, but friendly to the public. On a more exclusive tip, New York transplants The Westway (625 Main St.), The Gansevoort (573 Main St.), and nightlife impresario Nur Khan (614 Main St.) will all host invite-only gatherings sure to draw the fest’s A-list. After successful pop-ups at TIFF, Grey Goose and Nikki Beach (201 Heber St.) will also hold exclusive soirees, but unless you know someone who knows someone who knows someone, don’t bother.
“Queer” isn’t the first word that comes to mind when you think of ultra-conservative Utah, but thanks to a path blazed by gay filmmakers like Greg Araki and John Cameron Mitchell, many Sundances ago, the festival has become one of the most visible hotbeds for queer cinema. This year features a dozen films heavy on the queer content and 11 films directed by openly gay filmmakers, including the high profile premieres of Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s porn biopic Lovelace, John Krokidas’ Kill Your Darlings, and the Travis Matthews/James Franco-directed ode-to-S&M Interior. Leather Bar.
The official coming out party for two of Hollywood’s preeminent renaissance men is here. James Franco will debut Interior. Leather Bar (please see above) a Franco art film of the highest order, in which he reimagines the reported forty minutes of explicit footage cut from William Friedkin’s Cruising. He also produced Kink, a naughty documentary about the underground world of BDSM, (that’s Bondage-Discipline-Sadism-Masochism for all you prudes), a more than suitable companion piece. The second busiest man in showbiz, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is looking to steal some of Franco’s thunder with Don Jon’s Addiction, his directorial debut in which JGL stars opposite Scarlett Johansson as a sex addict looking to mend his ways. Based on the subject matter of all three films, the two actors are feeling kinda frisky, and this year it’s contagious, which brings us to…
Sex is on everyone’s mind at this year’s fest (and everywhere else, all the time) thanks to a steamy program that’s particularly heavy on the bumping and the grinding. That’s where The Sutherland Institute comes in. The conservative Utah group is displeased with its state’s decision to help fund a festival that screens films about porn stars and adultery, calling this year’s slate “obscene”. “We are a family friendly state and we endeavor to be so because we value the benefits that strong families bring to society.” said Derek Monson, Sutherland Institute’s director of public policy. “There are a lot of people here that find that kind of thing objectionable.” Yeaaaaaah, but those people suck and no one we know are friends with them.
Can’t make it to Sundance because you too are a struggling writer saving his subway fare? Here’s a brief guide for who to live vicariously through on Twitter over the next ten days: @kateyrich (ed-in-chief of CinemaBlend), @jillwaysolo (Afternoon Delight director Jill Soloway), @variety_jld (film editor at Variety), @lakebell (writer/director/babe of In A World…), @jamesrocchi (freelance writer), @jamesponsoldt (The Spectacular Now director James Ponsoldt), @samuelaadams (writer for The LA Times, AV Club), @lizwgarcia (The Lifeguard director Liz W. Garcia), @jhoffman6 (critic at film.com), @stuzicherman (A.C.O.D. director Stu Zicherman), @kristapley (editor at HitFix), @britmarling (The East writer and star Brit Marling), and @realdanbarna (me, just cuz).
Uber, the super hip on-demand car service will be picking up and dropping Sundancers who can request a car simply by using an app. Oh, New Yorkers, if only it were always that easy.
Last year, Sundance produced two major video-on-demand hits with Richard Gere’s Arbitrage and Kirsten Dunst’s Bachelorette, which means this year, distributors will be taking the VOD approach a lot more seriously. You traditionalists have nothing to fear, as theatrical releases aren’t going anywhere, but VOD is the buzzword-du-jour, and small movies with big names—Before Midnight, Kill Your Darlings, and Don Jon’s Addiction among them—are expected to garner major consideration for release on the burgeoning digital platform. There’s a real paradigm shift happening, so get on board people.
If the van you’re sleeping in doesn’t come equipped with a fireplace, whiskey is a fun and tasty alternative to keeping warm, and the High West Distillery & Saloon (703 Park Ave.) is the best place to get it.
In one of the week’s oddest pairings—okay, it’s the week’s oddest pairing period—the original Ruff Ryder DMX will invade Sundance (yes, that’s DMX and Sundance in the same sentence) when he takes the stage on Sunday at local club Downstairs (625 Main St.). Afterwards, the rapper is expected to wait in line at TAO with all the other non-celebrities.
In a valiant (and necessary) effort to keep up with up the ever-changing landscape of content consumption, Sundance is partnering with Youtube to bring the rest of us a piece of the festival by showcasing 12 of the 65 short films in this year’s short film program. The channel is called The Screening Room, and as someone who was raised on short student films that sucked, I can tell you this: these ones don’t.
The Facebook dinner being held at Park City’s only four star restaurant, Riverhorse, on Friday night, is being called the festival’s hottest ticket. Does that mean Mark Zuckerberg himself will be there? If so, word of advice dude: leave the hoodie at home.