Sundance Film Festival Day 1

Officially, Day 1 was Thursday – the day I forgot we had four tickets to the opening party DJed by Frodo himself. I don’t wanna talk about it…

So, our Day 1 was yesterday.

Looking back on just one day feels like a week ago when I think about all that happened yesterday. I don’t know about Stark, but I’m still in that unpredictable part of jet lag where I may or may not remember what’s going on or what I say at any given time so the memory of morning was a blur to say the least.

We woke up early. We checked out of our Salt Lake hotel, filled two half cups full of free coffee from their breakfast spread, and waited for our Uber Select to pick us up in proper Sundance Acura style. For the first time in my life, I had more than I could carry. I felt like such a girl insisting on taking three jackets with me.

Our Uber driver was super awkward. I don’t know how he was even allowed to be a special Sundance official driver. He let us struggle to put the car seats down and load our gear, saying his leg hurt and he didn’t want to get out of the car. And then he proceeded to talk so awkwardly that we couldn’t do anything but let his comments fall into awkward silence over and over again. But he’d insist on continuing to talk, leading us into quoting movies and then almost violently telling us that the movies we were excitedly quoting were stupid movies or the worst movie ever. Hello?!? You’re driving for a movie festival. Maybe you should STFU. I think that offset the entire morning of what should have been a more exciting time.

We checked into our room at the Yarrow, happy for our upgrade to a King Suite with a balcony and even happier that they immediately had a room ready for us. That made life much easier.

We didn’t have time to get too comfortable, however. We had only 30 minutes to grab the bus to Main Street, pick up our passes, and get down to Eccles theater to stand in line for our first premiere.

Thanks to a better Uber driver, we made it. We even made it with hands full of free Red Bulls courtesy of the Uber tent after I had already downed a free coffee from the Acura Tavern. Ready!

Long story short —

Day 1 was 3 movies and 1 skipped out waitlist (for Maggie’s Plan which we already had tickets to at a later time anyway).

12:15 Morris From America at Eccles theater. 3/4 stars. Hilarious movie that lacked a strong storyline. It kind of lost its way for a bit and seemed to have a lot of parallelism that never truly met up. Still, very much worth seeing.

This was the premiere and it included a Q&A with the Director, cast, some crew members, and producers. I thought that the sound artist was the coolest, of course. It was interesting to briefly hear about the music be produced for the film.

The film, in short, is about a widowed father and his son living in Germany as singled-out new comers largely due to being black. Throughout the show,  the son finds some terrible friends and a little confidence through rap. Where the story lacked is that he never really became a rapper. What started out as a shared thing between him and his father, didn’t truly end up being the thing that kept them together in the end. Neither him or his father wound up with friends, and their understanding of each other was not played up as enough of a tie to tie up that lose end.

Famous people seen in this Q&A? Craig Robinson and new comer, YouTube star, Markee Christmas.

Lunch: Off the beaten path taco dive that serves up the best Mexican grub on the Wasatch Back. Then, time for a bath and power nap before our evening round.

8:30PM Miles Ahead at the MARC. 4/4 stars. Included Q&A with Don Cheadle and Ewan McGregor to name only two.

This film was amazing. The entire film was done with no second takes, ok a $6,000 budget (I’ve filmed indie music videos on more than that), with an All Star level cast. This is Don Cheadle’s director debut. The film has already been purchased by Sony, appropriately.

This film is about Miles Davis. It is an emotional account of what Miles experienced in his 5 silent years before making a come back. This was the type of movie that started abrupt and strong, coming full circle in the end with enough story and action throughout that by the time the story started to wind up, you had completely forgotten how it started. You were on a journey. You became involved.

This movie will have you intently watching, holding your breath, smiling, laughing, and crying. Honestly, I didn’t cry because I was sad. I cried because I was overwhelmed. It was just too amazing to see so many great people working so patiently on this film. Plus, music films always get me. They are my favorite part of Sundance each year.

Don received a heartfelt, emotional, and incredibly honoring standing ovation at the end of the film. I was among the first to jump out of my seat. Cue: Crying (thanks for that mom).

The four, core cast members all spoke. Don was POWERFUL and INSPIRING to say the least. He’s an amazing man.

Ewan was… Well, let’s just say at one point I realized my mouth was gaping open in awe, so I turned to smile at Stark (also a very big fan of EMc) and he had the same 😵 look on his face. Both of us had completely forgotten that Ewan was even in the film. So the moment Don announces, “Ewan McGregor!” and claps him onto the stage, both of us had the look of pure shock on our faces and Stark simply said, “Holy Shit!” describing the moment perfectly as if seeing Don play Miles freaking Davis wasn’t already amazing enough.  

Needless to say, we stayed right up through the end, jumped on the next Theater Loop bus, and made it to Prospector Square for the Midnight Shorts program right in time to just walk in. We wouldn’t have made it if it were any other film. All ticket holders and waitlist members were already loaded in. And the theater wasn’t full with reason.

The midnight program at Sundance is fairly new and has grown in popularity over recent years as Sundance’s horror films. The crowd that attends is far different from the day time crowd. They are loud, quirky, young, instant cult-following types and the energy is a lot of fun. This? Was not.

We expected a Midnight Shorts film to somewhat honor the success of Sundance’s VHS and VHS2 films from 2012 and 2013. Nope. They were just 6 completely unrelated, crazy, drug-inspired films where gruesome no longer meant just gore. You can imagine these films as the kind of film a perverted and lazy film student would make as a final project after turning in no other homework for the entire semester and with the intent of screwing over their rich parents for giving them a hard time for choosing a film school over a “real job.” Immature, really. From a core point of view, most of them were done extremely well from a filming, lighting, editing, and sound standpoint. So, I can understand that the execution would be honored here at Sundance. Still, it came as no surprise to hear the various cast members and directors discuss their film submission to the popular Adult Swim television channel. Not my thing.

Oh and dinner? A proper Sundance dinner water, caffeine, and theater candy.


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