Reading Eugene Hernandez' blog whilst waiting the for the cab to arrive to take me to La Gaurdia this morning, I learned that David Poland and Jeffrey Wells have declared that Sundance 2007, which officially begins tonight, is, in fact, already over. You see, they arrived in Park City a good 48 hours ahead of me, took turns inserting their thermometers in the rectum of the festival, and rushed to their computers to report the reading: cold. In fact, according to Wells, EVERYONE is saying that this year's line-up looks "flat, so-so, nothing to write home about material...a couple of almost-but-not-quite- as-good-as-Half Nelson flicks, and apparently nothing even close to a Little Miss Sunshine-type breakout waiting to happen."
Though tempted to reach for my phone to cancel the car -- a Sundance without a Sunshine is no Sundance for me! -- my more rational self prevailed. Instead, actually invigorated by the prospect of attending a film festival in which an over-hyped (and over-priced) Vacation retread steals headlines (and potential aquisition dollars) from ten or twelve films more deserving of market share, I zipped up my laptop and went downstairs. I went to the airport, got on the plane, and landed a little while ago. I even had my first Chik-fil-a in the Cincinatti airport during my layover. It was good. I ate too many waffle fries, though.
I don't want to risk coming off as unsportsmanlike, but it would be hard to deny the fact that Poland and Wells are men who make a living from evaluating not the content of a given film, but from estimating that film's eventual level of commercial success. They're also both prolific self-publishers who speak to large audiences hungry for an "inside scoop" on events the readers, for the most part, cannot themselves attend. Understandably, these readers will forgo the task of digesting a raft of 1000-word reviews in favor of gobbling up their chosen webmaster's quick diagnosis. And Wells and Poland are smart enough to know that, as Billy Wilder put it, "bad news sells best." In fact, Poland knows this sort of dread-mongering well: it's the exact sort of behavior he slammed headline-hungry journalists for back in 2005, during the mostly media-manufactured box-office slump.
Please don't think I'm spouting some tired diatribe about how Sundance would be a better experience if all the Hollywood dealmakers went home and left the 150 films on the schedule to vanish into icey obscurity. I think that politically-correct chestnut is, actually, retarded; if you care about the general state of film and filmmaking, don't you want the good ones to be seen by people other than you? I love it that the Festival has given an explicit shout-out to its sponsors on this year's micro-swag, forcing the apparent revelation that it can't be "all about the movies" unless someone foots the bill. I think devoting column/blog space to market news is, unquestionably, a public service -- which is all the more reason to worry about the consequences of using that space to declare the market dead before its even begun.
Another thing people complain about regarding the State of Sundance: stars. Or, rather, the presence of celebutantes such as Paris Hilton, who are apparently ruining the Festival by showing up at parties that were probably too difficult for anyone who's there to see films to get into to begin with. Perhaps the haters will sleep easier tonight, for as I learned from watching the TODAY show this morning, none other than Lindsay Lohan herself has checked into rehab, and thus will not be able to appear at the festival in support of her film, Chapter 27. Lohan co-stars in Chapter opposite alleged former boyfriend who plays Mark David Chapman; the film recounts the days leading up to the assassination of John Lennon.
Though I'm sure we're all rooting for Miss Lohan to make a speedy recovery from ... whatever, it's not clear whether or not Lohan was planning on popping up in Park CIty had she not answered the 12-step call. I received a press release a few days ago regarding the film, which listed both Leto and Lohan's appearances as TBA, which is usually publicist speak for "we're still trying, but it looks like they might have better things to do." I sent an email to the film's publicist, who has not yet responded; my totally uninformed guess is that if Leto wasn't booked to make an appearance, they're moving full-force to corrall him now, so as to force poor director Jarrett Schaefer to handle The Lindsay Questions all by himself.
Whatever. I'm not going to let cranky bloggers and MIA starlets ruin my festival. At least, not yet.