Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sundance Summary, part 1

We saw 12 movies in 5 days at Sundance this year. My husband says he's done for the whole year. Now that I've posted all my photos on Flickr, I'll go through the whole list of movies and give you a few thoughts on each.

We flew in on Thursday, and saw the opening film of the festival, Mary and Max, an animated film by the same team that won an Oscar for their animated short Harvie Krumpet.
Mary and Max is the story of two improbable pen pals, or pen friends, a little girl in Australia (Toni Collette) and a slightly off older Jewish man in New York (voiced by Phillip Seymour Hoffman). Adam Elliot, the writer director introduced the film and told us he wrote the story about pen friends because of his own pen friend that he's had for many years, and never met. The movie is in the claymation animation technique used in Wallace and Gromit. It took them a whole day to do 5 seconds of film, and the whole film took 5 years. I really wish the director hadn't mentioned that all the water in the film is sexual lubricant. I couldn't stop thinking of that looking at every fishbowl, toilet flush and rain drop!

The film is quite odd, and I'm not really sure what audience it is aimed at. I'm not going to take my kids to a movie where the character Max says, after talking about his job in a condom factory, "By the way, I've never used a condom." I also have major issues with the ending. It was an interesting choice to open the festival and the first animated film to do so, but no contest to the excellent In Bruges that opened the festival last year. None of the voice talent were there at the premiere, and that was a contrast to all the stars we saw last year at In Bruges.

On Friday, we saw two films. The first was No Impact Man, a documentary about Colin Beavan and his wife Michelle Conlin and their experiment over the course of a year to have no impact on the environment while living in an apartment in New York City with a toddler. Colin Beavan's blog, No Impact Man chronicled each step and phase, from starting to only eat locally within 250 miles of their house all the way to turning off their electricity and powering his laptop with a solar panel! His goal was to write a book about the experience, and that book will come out sometime in 2009. Some friends of theirs offered to film a documentary about the whole year. The movie is really about Colin's relationship with his wife, and how they negotiate each phase of his plan and struggle with it. His wife is a Prada loving, Starbucks addicted writer for Business Week, and she really was the audience's entry into this film. Just watching her face as she says, "No electricity. Hmmmm." They said in the Q&A that a year of no TV made them better parents and a closer family.

Colin stated that he didn't expect everyone to be able to follow what their family did, but to think about how we are impacting the environment with our choices. My husband gave me a look when I said I'd been thinking about a worm compost box for our kitchen scraps. After watching the Beavan's fly infestation from theirs, I said, not in the house, maybe the garage.

Friday night we went in to Salt Lake City for the gala night showing of The September Issue. The documentary follows Anna Wintour and her editors at Vogue as they put together the most important issue of the year, the September issue. It was like the real life Devil Wears Prada. I was most interested in Vogue's creative director, Grace Coddington, who started at Vogue the same day as Anna Wintour, 30 years ago. The movie shows the tension between these old friends and rivals and the creative process and decisions that go into the magazine. It was really fascinating. Even my husband was more interested in the film than he thought he would be. You get some insight into the icy Anna Wintour and how her father was a famous newspaper publisher in England and her brother the political editor of The Guardian. She is the most powerful woman in fashion, and says of her family that they "are amused" by her career. I caught up with R J Culter, the director at the party after the screening, and was glad to be able to tell him in person how much I enjoyed his film. I think it's likely to come to theaters later this year.

Here's a cool little clip from the Sundance Channel about director R J Cutler and the making of the film:

Check out all my photos from Sundance 2009 on Flickr.

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