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Sundance is coming on Friday! I know what you’re thinking, “I live in Atlanta, why should I give a shit?” Well, sir/madam, I’ll tell you why. Sundance isn’t just important for the people who are fortunate enough to attend (me, /gloating), but for all the movie enthusiasts in the world. It exposes us to new talents, new ideas, and films that would never make it through the conventional studio system. Would Clerks, a crude exercise in vulgarity shot in black and white, have made it through? What about Reservoir Dogs, a heist movie where you don’t actually witness the heist? Napoleon Dynamite, which made us laugh hysterically but had no plot at all?
Blair Witch Project was made for 25 grand.
Boys Don’t Cry turned Hilary Swank into a star and gave her her first Oscar.
Little Miss Sunshine. Chasing Amy. Slacker. Sex, Lies, and Videotape. Blood Simple.
Without the festival, we would be deprived of some of the most interesting talents of the last twenty five years! The Coen Brothers, with their hits Fargo, No Country For Old Men, and their latest True Grit, got their start at the festival in 1985 with Blood Simple. Quentin Tarantino’s visionary directing was recognized by Sundance directors in 1992, and he turned that opportunity into Pulp Fiction, the Kill Bill’s, and my personal favorite, Inglourious Basterds.
The great movies and talent aren’t the only reasons I love Sundance. I like the bad films, too. I’m lucky enough to see 10-12 pictures at Sundance every year, and invariably, 4 of them are awesome, 2 are okay, and 4 just plain suck. Do you know how hard you have to fail to be considered quirky enough to get into the festival? This often happens with films that have two elements: big celebrities, and controversial subject matter. A couple of years ago there was a film named Hound Dog. It starred Dakota Fanning as a kid who gets raped. The movie was unremarkable except for the courageous performance of Fanning’s, and every year it seems like Sundance chooses some “word of mouth” movies as I like to call them. Last year’s was The Killer Inside Me, a sorry excuse for a film noir that had a five minute long sequence of Casey Affleck punching Jessica Alba in the face, turning it to a bloody pulp. Alba actually walked out of her own screening! Afterward, an old lady yelled at the director during the Q and A, shouting “how could this get in here!” You don’t get moments like these outside of Sundance!
Unfortunately, for someone who doesn’t have the opportunity to make the trek to Utah, that is the extent you can enjoy Sundance - you get some great films you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to see (and I didn’t even mention the great documentaries like The Cove), and some others that are so bad they make you marvel how they were ever made.
One can only really feel the greatness of the festival if they are in Park City. Streets teeming with people who love movies as much as I do, Quentin Tarantino shooting the shit with the common folk as they wait for the next film to start, the shuttles, the snow, skiing with Cameron Diaz. I’ve just told you about a film Mecca. You should consider making the journey.