Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sundance Summary, pt. 3

Sunday morning, we drove out to Sundance Ranch, 45 minutes from Park City, for a screening of Reporter. It is just gorgeous up there in the mountains. Reporter was very moving, and we were fortunate to have an extensive Q&A with the director Eric Metzgar and producer, Steve Cantor. Read my review of Reporter here.

Sundance Ranch is a gorgeous ski resort, and they have one screening room there that screens films during the festival. During the summer, Sundance Ranch is where the Sundance Institute Labs are held. Aspiring young directors, screenwriters, film composers, and producers, come to Sundance Ranch and for a few intense weeks work on 4-6 scenes from their movie with small groups of their peers and creative advisors. The process is very intense, and real actors from LA are brought out to work out scenes from the movies with the young filmmakers. They rehearse the scenes, shoot them, and edit them under the mentorship of already accomplished directors, editors, and cinematographers. Money from the film festival goes towards supporting these labs. The Sundance Ranch buildings are covered with photographs from the labs, and you can see famous directors helping then young, but now famous filmmakers. It's also a kick seeing some of the actors who helped out at the labs years ago and later became famous, like James Gandolfini, for example.

We had an opportunity to hear Owen Glieberman, a film reviewer from Entertainment Weekly, speak, and he told us that his favorite film of the year is The Wrestler, but he thinks Slumdog Millionaire will win the Best Picture Oscar.

We then went to the premiere screening of I Love You Phillip Morris starring Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor and Rodrigo Santoro (300).

I Love You, Phillip Morris is based on a true story of a gay romance between two men who meet in prison. Jim Carrey plays Steven Russell, a former cop who was married and had a daughter. He finally comes out as gay, vows to "never lie again" and becomes a con man. One of the funniest lines has Jim Carrey in Miami with his lover played by Rodrigo Santoro and his voice over is "This gay lifestyle is so expensive!" He turns to scamming and having multiple credit cards under different names to keep him and his lover in Rolexes.

After he's caught he tries to escape in several amusing ways. He meets Ewan McGregor's sweet Phillip Morris in prison, and it's love at first sight. Once they are both out of prison, Steven tells Phillip that he won't lie anymore, but cons his way into a CFO job where he embezzles his way to matching his and his Mercedes convertibles.

I don't have any problem with a gay romance film, and I do admire Jim Carrey for taking this risk. The man who rakes it in doing films like Liar, Liar doesn't have to do films like this, and he's trying to stretch. I thought Carrey was great as this incredible con man escape artist. The film is very in your face about their relationship, and the kissing and so on. That didn't bother me at all, and it was one of the more romantic films we saw at Sundance. If they film goes to wider release, they might want to skip one scene. Ewan McGregor and Jim Carrey are lying down in a boat, and Ewan gets up and spits over the side. I hope I would react with the same "Ewww" for a heterosexual romance depicted this way. That got more than a few gasps in our audience.

In the Q&A, Jim was asked how kissing Ewan was. Jim smiled and said "It was the highlight of my life. Just look at him!" Ewan McGregor talked about how weird it was to play a real contemporary person. He got to meet Phillip Morris in Arkansas and spend a couple days with him. The real Phillip Morris appears in one court room scene at the end of the movie. The real Steven Russell has a life sentence in prison in Texas. Jim Carrey said that he'd heard that Russell was getting a big kick out of a movie being made about him, but that he'll never be able to see it.

It's a very funny, and surprisingly touching film. You can't believe all these things happened, but it's a true story! Check out the trailer to see how crazy it is -- Steven Russell is a sociopath, but he really does love Phillip Morris. Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor as gay prison lovers may be a difficult sell to the Ace Ventura crowd who would probably have a heart attack at some of the scenes!

Check out more pictures from my trip to Sundance on Flickr!

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