Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Sundance Kids

Utah is a very interesting state. While it is totally gorgeous with its white crystalline snow, it took me a while to get used to the serene and tranquil atmosphere the mountains effused. One thinks of Utah and one immediately thinks, "Mormon." You know it's true (kinda). Upon meeting a Utahan (Utahian? Utahoan? Utah resident?), I learned about some very interesting laws:

A. It is legal to own nuclear arms as long as you promise not to detonate them.
B. Whaling is illegal. (Because there are so many whales in Utah, right?)
C. If you want to drink at a bar, you must either sign up for a membership or get sponsored by the local drunks.

I got to learn such fun facts when I attended the Sundance Film Festival 2009 this past weekend. I got to meet some celebrities (Joseph Gordon-Levitt! Michael Madsen! The Karate Kid!), check out some sweet bars and parties, and see some great movies. Here are some recommendations if you ever get to Park City, Utah, or want to see some great movies in the very near future.

1. Humpday
Directed by Lynn Shelton and starring Mark Duplass, one of the directors of The Puffy Chair and Baghead, pic focuses on the heterosexual relationship between two best friends, who get drunk one night and in full machismo masculinity, somehow challenge each other to create an art porno . . . starring them. Awkward hilarity ensues. I won't lie when I say that I was very hesitant to see this movie. It ended up being the first film I saw at the festival. And I loved it. Shelton handles the material subtly and earnestly. The movie is not a gross-out comedy but a hilarious testament to the loyal bonds of friendship. How far would you go to help out your best friend? Magnolia Pictures recently bought the picture for distribution.
2. Zombie Girl: The Movie
This film was actually submitted into the Slamdance Festival in Park City. About 15 years ago, Dan Mirvish, John Fitzgerald, Shane Kuhn, and Peter Baxter got together to create a festival "by filmmakers for filmmakers." Apparently, that's not Sundance?+ Slamdance has spawned notable directors such as some people you may have heard of: Chris Nolan (The Dark Knight), Marc Forster (Monster's Ball), and Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite). Now, 15 years later, the festival still continues its tradition by showcasing this documentary about a 12-year old girl from Austin, Texas, who makes a feature length zombie film. She openly admits that her film sucks as it took her two years to make, but boy did I feel lazy after watching this! She shot, produced, directed, wrote, and edited the whole thing with the help of her very supportive mother. Speaking of her mother, the film's subtext is really about this mother/daughter relationship as they argue with each other incessantly and find inspiration in each other. Funny as hell, this doc was a rare find.

3. Art & Copy
A fascinating documentary about the evolving perception of advertisements as works of art. Doc chronologically charts the beginning of advertising to where it is now, with an optimistic emphasis on digital marketing. The film touches upon every facet from the relationship between copywriters and art directors to the conception and collaboration of creating concepts to the cultural impact advertisements have on us today. Inspiring and influential, this documentary is a must-see for anyone interested in entering the world of advertising.

4. Cold Souls
The feature debut from Sophie Barthes, pic stars Paul Giamatti as, well, Paul Giamatti: an actor so burdened by the world that he decides to pay a company to extract his soul. Then, a Russian soul mule steals his soul and takes it to Russia, so Giamatti follows her to the USSR to get it back. While not a film in which one could emotionally engage with, the film is thought-provoking as it raises several philosophical questions about the nature of the soul and what it consists. In the Q&A, director Sophie Barthes stated that the idea came to her in a dream, with the difference of Woody Allen having his soul extracted instead of Giamatti. An interesting unison of dreams and filmmaking I would say.

I also checked out some sweet bars, so if you ever get on Main Street, check out these places:

1. The No Name Saloon

Like the name, this bar is remniscient of those old cowboy saloons, stocked with modern alcohol of course. Pints are relatively cheap (around $6). However, the main staple of this bar is their world famous Buffalo Burgers. Served six different ways, the buffalo meat is leaner, more tender, and better tasting overall. I had the mushroom and sour cream buffalo burger and although my stomach went into a coma, I had "the hunger" for another one. Worth it.

2. O'Shucks
Apparently, this place was the "place-to-be." I say this because of "the list" one had to be on in order to enter. Fortunately, my dear friend O-Rizzle got me a hook with the bartender James and got us in for free. The bar is known for its schooners of microbrew beers. Schooners are basically huge fucking goblets of beer (it's nearly three beers). The place also had some really decent fish and chips. Adorned with Mortal Kombat and Safari Hunter, this place was a great party bar.

3. Cisero's
Just your typical Irish pub in Utah, complete with pool tables, two bars, large dance floor, and an Irish rock band named Swagger, who ended the night with the inspiring song "I Just Sat On Your Face." I had the pleasue of meeting the bassist after the show--a robust man with a mohawk and a kilt. When I asked him if he was cold because of the kilt, he responded, "Dude, I'm going commando. My balls are freezing."

4. The Star Bar
I had considered the option of going to Star Bar on my first night at Sundance because the Slamdance Festival was having their opening night party there, but I opted not to go because the cover was so steep. The next day I found out that I would truly regret it for the whole cast of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia was present and drinking heavily. Hoping to see them again on Sunday night, we all hit The Star Bar only to find that we were pretty much the only patrons in the joint. It was pretty cool to have the place to ourselves, but as stated in Swingers, "This place is dead anyway."

Sundance was an incredible experience, and the great thing is that it's open to anyone! I got to stay in a beautiful condo, met some really cool people, and really saw with my eyes what could possibly be the rest of my life. I definitely going to come again, but this time with business cards.