Sick at Sundance

I started to fall ill Wednesday evening — coughing, congestion — and I felt sicker all day Thursday. I did a lot of sleeping, drank a lot of water. And on top of this, I discovered Wednesday night that the phone in the condo I’m staying in has been shut off, so there’s been no internet (and the phone won’t be turned back on until Friday morning…great).
But at least I managed to drop by the Sundance Film Festival headquarters Thursday morning to pick up my press pass, along with three ‘loaner’ tapes of Sundance flicks. I went back to the condo (right behind the Radisson Hotel) and watched them between naps. One sucked, but two were quite good.

Greg Mclean’s Wolf Creek, which has been picked up by Dimension, is dark as shit, but it’s a knockout. It’s going to be a sizable hit when it opens this summer, and for good reason. It’s well made, genuinely scary and very believable.
Shown as part of the just-begun World Dramatic Competition, it will have its first festival showing on Monday evening, and will also screen Tuesday and Wednesday. If you’re in town, don’t miss it.
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The theme of this way-above-average horror flick is basically ‘watch yourself when you go on a trip to an outlying area, because it’s entirely possible that you might run into a degenerate homicidal wack-jobber.’ Especially in the Aussie wasteland, where there doesn’t seem to be any kind of civilized anything, much less a visible police force.
The Wolf Creek rundown is that three late-twentysomethings from Sydney (Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi) run into one of these hayseed nutbags during a camping trip to the outback.
The fiend (deliriously well played by John Jarrat) is a good-natured yokel type with a vaguely charming, wholly diseased personality. The more ghastly his actions, the more he chuckles. He’s like the
bad-seed cousin of Crocodile Dundee who’s gone crazy from loneliness and who probably smells like a dog and farts 24/7.
One of Jarrat’s better lines, spoken during an extremely dark moment, is straight from the first Dundee film.

His coming is expertly foreshadowed by Mclean when the two-girls-and-a-guy meet up with another outback psycho at a roadside rest stop. You can feel the awful stuff approaching from this scene on.
Scene for scene, there’s very little that feels formulaic in Wolf Creek (apart from the boiler-plate borrowings from Deliverance, The Last House on the Left and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).
There are always those in any audience who say they can predict what will happen, or who always claim after-the-fact that they saw it coming. Trust me, there’s no predicting where this film is going. I was genuinely shocked at two third-act plot turns.
Nothing that happens seems conventionally movie-ish, which is partly due to the fact that Mclean based his screenplay on a true story.
My only beef is that it’s hard to understand a lot of the dialogue during the first half. Those ‘strine accents can be mothers. When Miramax puts the DVD out, they should include optional subtitles.
Peter Raymont’s Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire is a documentary companion piece to Terry George’s Hotel Rwanda…or vice versa.
I liked and was moved by Hotel Rwanda, but the doc is sadder, deeper, more affecting. Raymond is a bit more of a visual poet than George. He pays attention to Rwanda’s natural beauty, for one thing, and I don’t mean just the landscapes but the feeling in the eyes of the natives. There’s a quietly focused tone in Shake Hands with the Devil that somehow conveys a fuller absorption of the overall.
Dallaire is a former U.N. peacekeeping commander who went through all kinds of hell and torment during the 1994 Rwandan massacre (he was played, so to speak, by Nick Nolte in Rwanda) as he tried — without much effect — to maintain order and do something to contain the slaughter.

Dallaire feels guilty about this failure, but he was under-funded and under-supported by the U.N., and he doesn’t seem to be a guy who has ever dodged a tough situation. Decency and compassion seem like natural components in his DNA.
The doc was shot last year when Dallaire revisited Rwanda for a ten-year memorial anniversary of the horror. Raymont explains the background of the Hutu-vs.-Tutsi hatred, somewhat. But he never just says (as I feel he should have) that the Tutsis were, for the most part, better educated, jacket-and-tie types with ties to the Belgian colonialists, and that the Hutu killers were basically disenfranchised yahoo rednecks.
Bill Clinton is ridiculed for having said during a visit to Rwanda (i.e., years after the killings) that he didn’t fully grasp the degree of the savagery that was happening during April and May of ’94. An outspoken talking-head authority says in no uncertain terms this is total bunk.
There are supposed to be a couple of decent sex scenes in Hal Hartley’s The Girl from Monday, and this, frankly, is why I wanted to see it. I respect Hartley but his films have always bored me, and this one is true to form. No, it’s worse.
The story is some kind of futuristic political thing, and there’s no energy or tension to any of it. Or rather, the portions of the film that I saw. I was feverish, remember, and I was sitting in a big fat leather easy chair. I just wanted to see the actresses take their clothes off, but I nodded off a couple of times and missed the good stuff.

Early Talk

I heard two tips at a Wednesday evening dinner party in Deer Valley. Take ’em with a grain.
One, forget Kevin Bacon’s Loverboy, a drama about twisted motherhood that will show at the Eccles on Monday evening and at the Library on Tuesday afternoon. I√ɬØ√Ǭø√ǬΩm sorry to pass this along, but a guy who saw it earlier this week told me it’s too gloomy and sluggish.
This was a sales guy talking, however, so maybe David Edelstein, Charles Taylor or Armond White will like it.
And two, I was told I should catch David LaChappelle’s Rize, which is said to be crappy on a story level but apparently has some heat as a dance film…you know, on an anthropologically vital, life-in-the-here-and-now vein.

It’s basically about ‘krumping,’ a South Central dance phenomenon that involves super- quick body gyrations, and various dancers competing with each other, etc.
Shot on a Sony High-def camera, LaChapelle�s 84-minute feature is based upon his 24- minute documentary short, Krumped, which showed at Slamdance two or three years ago.
The idea is that kids of a wayward, egoistic persuasion are more into krumping than gang-banging. Krumping is their voice, their expression…whatever, dawg.
An acquisitions guy who claimed to be on vaguely familiar terms with L.A. clubbing said that Rize (which is pronounced ‘rise’) has an aliveness that will work with younger African-American audiences, but his colleagues didn’t agree with him so that was that.
I was telling people at the party that Craig Brewer’s Hustle and Flow, one of the festival’s most hotly anticipated films (said to feature a lead breakout performance by Terrence Howard), kept blurring in my mind with Rattle and Hum , the Phil Joanu U2 concert film, and Shake, Rattle and Roll.
I suppose the blur will go away when I see Hustle at a Saturday afternoon press screening and it takes root on its own terms, but until then…


View of Deer Valley from swanky Solamere Drive chalet being rented by Paramount Classics co-president Ruth Vitale. I love that digital cameras can capture this much light and detail after dark. If I were to manipulate further I could probably whiten the snow a bit more.

Second-floor living room — Thursday, 1.20.05, 1:27 pm.

View from rear porch of condo — Thursday, 1.20.05, 1:30 pm.

An unruly desk indicates a creative mind — Thursday, 1.20.05, 1:33 pm.

Protest Paris!

An e-mailed press release announced earlier this week that the dreaded Paris Hilton is supposed to attend tonight’s party for Rize at the Gateway Center (at 136 Heber), which starts around 9:30 or 10 pm.
I sent the following e-mail off to a couple of people who are repping the party:
“If it’s okay with you guys, I am going to try and organize a mass boycott of the Rize premiere party, preceded by a march down Main Street (complete with chants, torches and picket signs), all to protest the appearance of Paris Hilton at the Sundance Film Festival.
“Lloyd Grove at the New York Daily News started something, I think, when he promised a few weeks ago that he would no longer write about Paris. I believe her to be this year’s symbol of everything rancid, glossy, overblown and spiritually screwed-up about the Sundance Film Festival…or what it’s become, rather.

“Will Paris in fact be at this party? If so, could you ask her to autograph my picket sign? And why haven’t I been invited to the party instead of being sent this entirely demeaning invitation to ‘cover’ the party?√ɬØ√Ǭø√ǬΩ
One of the publicists responded by saying, “I am sure Paris would sign it if you agreed to run a photo of her doing it.”
I am half serious about protesting her presumed appearance. A lot of people out there despise what she seems to be, and certainly what she represents. Do a Google search of �protest Paris Hilton� and you�ll see what I mean.
I guess there’s no point in this anti-Paris venting. We should just be good sheep and lie down and continue to take pictures of the rich and powerful and watch them on tabloid TV. Wherever they go, whatever they are.
In any case, the aesthetic problem presented by the appearance of leeches and ding-a-lings at the festival has been geographically solved.
It’s been clear for the last two or three years that there are two Sundance festivals. The one about movies and people who matter happens at the Marriott, the Eccles, the Library, the Yarrow, the Holiday Village and the Racquet Club. And the one that’s about parties, corporate piggybackers and GenX binge-drinkers happens on Park City’s Main Street.
Other expected “guests” at tonight’s Rize party include Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, Steven Dorff, Erika Christiansen and Busy Philipps.
Where is Al Qeada when you really need them?


You’d think that a rented Park City condo would have a working phone, at the very least for local (internet service provider, medical emergency) calls. You’d think that between the owner and the renter, somebody would ask about this or explain or something. Think again.

When I called Thursday morning about needing to get the condo phone turned back on, the people at Qwest said they’d have to wait three business days to activate the line. That meant Monday afternoon at the earliest, or possibly Tuesday morning.

The only way they could do it sooner, they said, would be if they were faxed a letter from a doctor saying it’s essential that I have a phone. I was feeling shitty anyway so I went down to the Park City Family Medical Clinic and saw a doctor (a nice woman named Eileen Price-Burke), and she agreed to write the letter to Qwest.
But I had to pay her fee of $115 plus $20 for a bottle of codeine cough syrup and $20 for an inhaler. The Qwest account cost $45 to get things rolling so the entire cost to get the phone turned on was about $200…not counting the stress.
The Qwest installation guy didn’t get here first thing Friday morning, like the dispatcher promised. He didn’t even show up in the ayem. Thanks, guys.

Nick and Neville

I’ve had this unformed thought about Nick Lachey for a long time, and it finally hit me last weekend: he’s Neville Brand.
A World War II hero with thick features, a gravelly voice and a street attitude, Brand mostly played heavies. One of his first decent roles was in Stalag 17 (�53), and he played Al Capone in the TV series The Untouchables.

Lachey (pronounced “lashay”) is Jessica Simpson’s vaguely doltish husband who hangs around the house, bitches about day-to-day stuff and tries to get his music career rolling on Newlyweds , their MTV “reality” show.
Anyway, they’re more or less the same guy…right?
Check out the shot of Neville in a cowboy hat — that was taken in the late ’50s or early ’60s, when he was in his 40s. By the time Lachey is 40-plus he√ɬØ√Ǭø√ǬΩll also have that portly, beefed-up, potato-head look.

Lachey should start playing bad guys. Right now he’s just a house-husband. In the next Newlyweds season Nick will reportedly “build a studio in his home, sign with Jive Records and works with his label to get his CD in stores,” etc. But all he’s seemed to do on the show so far is walk around in T-shirts and baggy shorts and sometimes help the delivery guys install a new refrigerator.
Note to readers: I’m totally aware of how shitty it looks for the Neville Brand and Nick Lachey photos to be differently sized.

Bad Press Computers

The flat-screen computers in the press room at the Sundance Marriott are unfriendly to journalists.
That’s because the person who set them up made sure that users can’t access the hard drive, which is what you need to do if you’re going to transmit text or JPEG’s off one of those portable USB drive doo-dads. The Marriott computers only let you surf the internet, meaning they’re almost totally worthless from a working point of view.
Thank fortune that the Intel people have a free business center (or press room) on the 2nd floor off the Yarrow hotel, with six or seven connected laptops and nothing preventing you from doing your job. They also have a wireless thing going so you can bring your laptop in and get online as long as you have a wireless card. This is Intel’s second year at the festival.

Parting Shot

This was taken from the back balcony of the condo around 10 ayem on Friday morning. Tourists take balloon rides all day long, apparently. This would probably be a very cool thing to do if you�re dressed for it.