by Aaron Peck
Today was the day I realized the schedule I had previously mapped out, simply wasn't going to work at all. I'd put too much faith in the memory of public screening tickets being easier to procure in earlier years. This year, press tickets for public showings have become a competitive race to see who can get to the press office first. Most movie bloggers are horribly out of shape, so this makes for a very awkward race indeed.
Yesterday I'd been shut out of 'The Spectacular Now' premiere, which caused my meticulously planned schedule to crumble like a house of cards. Now I was left scanning the schedule to see what tickets I could request instead. Premieres were being snapped up fast. So I decided to get a ticket to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut premiere of 'Don Jon's Addiction.' Thankfully, I got into that screening even though there was a long line for requests.
With my schedule somewhat set for the rest of the day, I tried to relax. This year I've been trying not to rush around so much. Last year I pushed myself as hard as I possibly could and became exhausted. This year, even though I wanted to see a lot of films, I really didn't want to push myself to point of exhaustion. This is a promise that sounds good, but ultimately is impossible. So many films to see, so little time.
To make matters worse, the organizers and Park City health services are scared of an influenza outbreak. Think about it. The nation is seeing one of the worst flu seasons ever and now all those flu strains are gathering in one small town in the mountains. It's a recipe for disaster. Someone even took it upon themselves to create a comedic Twitter account called @SundanceFlu to remind people that influenza is lurking everywhere. Ready to strike.
The first screening of the day was for 'The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete.' The press tent was full of the all too familiar cattle guard gates where they herd everyone in, line them up, and then keep them confined until it's time to fill the theater. I immediately noticed the sea of coffee and Red Bull. People were already gearing up for what was going to be a strenuous week of watching and writing.
'Mister and Pete' ended up being a decent little story about two kids in the ghetto that are forced to live on their own for an entire summer. The performances are astounding and genuine. Even though the movie runs through some standard conventions, it still pulled at a few of my heartstrings.
The second movie I saw was 'Mud.' Another movie about two kids, with a couple more surprising performances by child actors. 'Mud', starring Matthew McConaughey, already premiered in Cannes to rave reviews. That buzz is well-founded. Jeff Nichols, who directed the fantastic 'Take Shelter,' puts together another wonderfully constructed movie filled with rich characters.
The last screening of the day was the premiere of 'Don Jon's Addiction.' There's no way that Joseph Gordon-Levitt's original cut of this movie will get an R rating. As it stands, I would bet anything that it'll get an NC-17. The movie is about a Guido from New Jersey who has an addiction to porn. Gordon-Levitt has decided to cut in real porn clips that show everything except for penetration.
Sundance likes risqué, but the MPAA will most certainly tell him to cut out a lot of the clips he included. The movie itself has too much of a tonal problem going on. It tries to be both hard and unforgiving – like 'Shame,' – and then sweet and loving – like '(500) Days of Summer.' The Q&A was fantastic though. Almost the entire cast was there. Scarlett Johansson and Brie Larson were missing.
Despite the scheduling snafus of the first day, the second day turned out to be a decent one. Day three, however, would prove to be one of the worst festival-going days I'd ever had...