Greetings from Park City, Utah, where, contrary to what everyone and their mother -- including my own mother -- warned me before I came here, it's nice, sunny and not that cold. Yet.
Part of the fun of Sundance is trying to play prophet and figure out which movies are going to end up becoming the Next Big Indie. Last year, the one movie I truly loved was 'Little Miss Sunshine,' and we all know what ended up happening with that one. So far this year, everyone's asking each other, "What have you heard?" "What's supposed to be good?" and there isn't anything close to a consensus. But we'll do our best to figure it out.
To that end, I saw three films on Friday, the first full day of the festival: 'The Savages,' 'Snow Angels' and 'Rocket Science.' The one I liked best was 'The Savages,' which despite the title is not about a couple who gets stranded in the wilderness and turns to cannibalism to survive. Nope, it stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney as John and Wendy Savage (get it?), dysfunctional siblings who are forced to take care of their estranged father (Philip Bosco) when he develops dementia. Specifically, he starts writing vulgar words on the bathroom wall using, instead of ink, his ... uh, well, it's a word that rhymes with "grit."
Hoffman and Linney are fantastic, of course, and the movie's surprisingly funny, given the subject matter of having to put your parent in a nursing home. (When Wendy calls John to freak out about their father's condition, he wearily tells her they're not at the point of having to worry yet. "So ... it's like we're at orange?" she says, hopefully. "Yeah," he replies. "We're at yellow. When we're at red, that's when we worry." OK, maybe you'll only find that funny if you live in New York.) It's also touching and sad and makes you want to call up your parents before they start forgetting who you are. In a way it's got a bit of that wry, bittersweet feel of 'The Squid and the Whale,' though it's possible I'm just thinking that because both movies star Linney. As for the film's ultimate success, it may still be too small to resonate with a wider audience. But I'm glad I saw it.
Another fun thing about Sundance is seeing if you can spot celebs. I'm fairly bad at this myself; guess I don't pay enough attention. So you can imagine my surprise when I had a minor (very minor) celeb sighting on my first night here. It was ... brace yourself ... Fisher Stevens, whom I saw in the lobby of my hotel. Fisher Who, you ask? Let's see, you may remember him from the 'Short Circuit' movies, and if you don't, I can't really help you. (He also dated Michelle Pfeiffer, lucky bastard.) He's here as a producer of 'Crazy Love,' a documentary that, by the time you read this, may have been bought by Magnolia in the first major deal of the festival. Which brings me to the other other fun thing about the festival. For all the films with big names and gala parties, it's this little doc about obsessive romance that's the belle of the ball right now -- if only for one day. And that's the beauty of Sundance for you. Go, Fisher!