Notes From Sundance, Take 2: Thwarted Sightings And After-Parties

In what I hope isn’t the start of a trend, I was turned away from the wait list when I tried to see the premiere of “Hesher,” at Sundance Film Festival today. Any rejection is disappointing, but standing in line with a hip flask and 200 fellow film freaks is so close to a party, it’s one of those exercises that can be its own reward. I tried to attend because the film is getting almost as much buzz as “Howl” and “The Runaways.” To be frank, though, I wasn’t crushed to miss a film about a greasy van-dweller who takes advantage of a grieving family and who tries to take advantage of a movie star-gorgeous grocery clerk, even if she is played by Natalie Portman. It’s probably very moving, but just not what I was in the mood for. I did, however, peek at a very un-greasy Joseph Gordon-Levitt on the red carpet. The “Third Rock from the Sun” kid has grown the eff up! After this festival, I’m going straight home to rent “500 Days of Summer,” which I clearly shouldn’t have skipped.
Sadly, my James Franco sighting plans ended in disappointment again. I had the perfect plot: Go see the series of short films screening during cocktail hour (not a sacrifice, thanks to my old pal, the hip flask), and support the generally under-attended “shorts” programs that are really such an important part of any independent film fest. I happen to know that James directed a 13-minute film that was in the lineup tonight, and I thought he would be at the Q&A. Our first conversation! I skipped through the nearly non-stop snow that’s been coming down since the fest started, and hopped on the nearly non-stop free shuttle that runs between the theaters. Flirting and sight-seeing with all the other tipsy festival-goers was as much fun as usual, until we realized that the tram was hardly moving at all. It turns out there was a car wreck on one of the central avenues here, which clogged traffic, especially in a mini-storm. I never got anywhere near the Library Center theater, or even found out if anyone was hurt in the accident.

To cheer me up, my friend Dan conjured a ticket to the premiere of the almost budget-free but delightful “One Too Many Mornings,” about two 30-something men who never quite grew up after graduation. Dan introduced me to first-time director Michael Mohan after the screening. Michael told me that his cast and crew worked all weekend, every weekend, for free, for two years to complete this project. At the after-party, the lead actor and co-writer, Anthony Deptula, told me that every Wednesday he would start growing his beard so he would have the same five o’clock shadow over the course of the four- or five-day story. Now that’s passion for film.

Whether it wins awards or not, no one from “One Too Many Mornings” is quitting their day job yet. A black & white movie with the feeling of a short story has little to no chance of broad distribution. It was made with love, for the love of film. Thanks, Michael, for the reminder of what Sundance is really about.