Posted by on January 19, 2007 in Film, General Pop Culture | 0 comments

Arriving in Salt Lake City

At the rental car counter, there was a special sign welcoming E. Kennedy and R. Kennedy, a not-so-thinly veiled note to let all of us know that Senator Edward Kennedy and his niece Rory, the acclaimed documentary director/producer, were on their way too. They probably rented a hybrid.


Screech (Dustin Diamond) from Saved by the Bell walked by quickly. Yawn. Am I in for a handful of D-list star sightings?!


The guy next to me on the plane was watching Sundance filmmaker interviews on his video iPod. I was jealous. He also had a spreadsheet highlighting films he was going to see. I was jealous of that too (the spreadsheet, not the tickets).


Day 1: Friday

Got up at 4:30am. Put on so many layers that I looked like Ralphie’s kid brother running in the snow in A Christmas Story. Drove over the treacherous pass in the dark from Salt Lake to Park City. Arrived at 6:30am. Secured a precious parking spot for $20 (so worth it…the traffic snaked throughout the town all day as annoyed locals and lost tourists fought for the few spaces left). Waited for a coffee shop to open at 7am. Ate a warm bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar. Received an official Wait List number for the first film of the festival, Strange Culture. Walked up and down the street, cursing my decision not to purchase the thicker thermal long underwear from REI. The rest of me was warm; my legs are still recovering from the numbing chill.


Got in to see Strange Culture, and sat in the first row.  The director introduced the film and the man whose life it was based on. It is a very sad and alarming story about an artist who was arrested by the FBI after his wife died suddenly, because they suspected he was a bioterrorist (his art focused on how bacteria affected food; some Petri dishes were on display at their house and they panicked that he had contaminated and/or poisoned her). This outrageous injustice is presented in interesting fashion; the film intermixes documentary footage with actual actors both portraying the protagonist’s roles and commenting about the story as themselves. We learned that this man’s wife loved the actress Tilda Swinton, so Swinton signed on to play her in the film (for little to no money). It was a very sweet footnote from a man who is still awaiting trial for a nightmare he’s trying to escape. I have no idea whether or not Strange Culture will receive a distribution deal, but if you see it out on DVD down the line, it would be quite an educational and eye-opening rental.  


For lunch I treated myself to an excellent bowl of soup at local Vietnamese restaurant while scouring the film guide to decide my next move. I chatted up a large group of ladies that I dubbed ‘The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.’ Decked out in their fur coats, Ugg boots and big hair, they were in line for a film they knew nothing about. They “just wanted to see a movie.” Sigh.


I met a really nice couple this afternoon on their way to a theater at 2pm. For a midnight premiere. Of their film (they produced it)! Here is the asinine part – they didn’t even have tickets! To quote them directly, “we had to give our tickets to Winona.” As in Ryder. Awesome. That is why I’m here. To soak it all in quietly and with a huge grin beneath my ski mask.


Later, I went to a theater further away from Main Street, hoping my chances to get a Wait List ticket would increase. Apparently that was a very unoriginal idea. The line was long and I was tired. I called it a day and went back to Salt Lake to rest up for tomorrow.


Star sightings: ½ (I think I saw Stanley Tucci). Here’s the thing – every single person at Sundance today was wearing a beanie or hat, sunglasses, and a warm bulky jacket. Frankly, there could have been famous people among the masses, but the cold weather attire masked their celebrity. I’m not disappointed though, because the city and the films and the atmosphere more than fulfilled my expectations. Besides, I’m heading back out there for a full day tomorrow. And I’m here for the experience and the culture. Seeing actual celebrities would just be an added bonus.


Random Observations & Stories:


* I love my rental car – a Subaru Outback 4 wheel drive with heated seats. It might have to be my next car.


* Everyone here drives like my grandma. And she’s 96. No offense, Utah.


* Salt Lake City is surprisingly smoggy. Park City is beautiful; it reminds me of Squaw Valley.


* Teenagers in Park City must be acclimated to this type of weather; some were wearing shorts and tank tops.


* Everyone involved with Sundance is really nice, from the vendors to the volunteers to the bus drivers who schlep filmgoers from theater to theater for hours on end.


* All of the people I met in various waiting lines today were from California. Not from Utah or anywhere else. It is a small world indeed.


* It is f’ing cold. Before any of you from the Midwest and East Coast give me a hard time, keep in mind that I have lived in California my entire life, so this is by far the coldest weather I’ve ever endured. Tahoe? Ha. Not cold. Not like this.


* It is f’ing dry. Here are the adjectives I would use to describe the air here: arid, bone-dry, moistureless. Good times!


* I walked today. ALOT. I know…it’s good for me, cry me a river, etc. But I feel like I skied all day in heavy boots. Uphill. In the wind. So I would like to take this opportunity to say: Thank You, Advil. You are there for me every single time.


* In casual conversation I used the word ‘crap’ to describe a certain actor’s body of work, and a woman next to me gasped. Out loud. I almost expected her to slap my wrist, shake her head at me and say ‘Language, young lady!’ with much disdain. Clearly, a local. Again, no offense to the entire state of Utah.


Stay tuned for my second and final Sundance blog…on Sunday. After I return home to my laughably comfortable 53 degree weather.

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