SUNDANCE 2008 FILM FESTIVAL ROUNDUP for 2009!
Entertainment Today: If you are planning to go to Sundance this year, this is what you may expect to see in 2009.
Here’s the annual Sundance Film Festival Roundup, complete with my views and reviews on the parties and events, the lounges, and the festival in general, for those who are interested, or weren’t able to make it there. I try to keep it real here, so you’ll not only hear about the great, happy moments (of which there were many!), but also my gripes, complaints, and sometimes outright whining. :)
As with every year, I had a truly wonderful time – met some really fascinating people, and got some great business done – and even got some skiing in to boot! Kudos to Sundance and Park City in general for being able to deal with the huge, instantaneous influx of what is something like 50,000 people that all converge on the little few-block area known as Main Street. I have heard unofficial reports that attendance may have been up to a third lower than expected, possibly due to the writers strike – from my own observations it did seem to be a little less crowded and hectic than last year (no complaints here!), though. So, given all that Park City has to contend with, even with my occasional whining and belly-aching on a few issues, just know that overall it’s always a great experience!
While on the surface, and even at its heart, Sundance is about the films and the filmmakers; even though there seems to be an ever-burgeoning prevalence of the “gifting suites” – and I must say the continual temptation of all the free stuff was indeed quite tempting, but I have made my own personal decision after this year to greatly reduce the amount of time I spend in the quest for swag, as it distracted me to the point of not only missing a number of screenings I wanted to catch, but also other events, parties, and opportunities to meet and mingle with like-minded filmmakers and other creative individuals. And will any of the free stuff make my life any better? Probably not, but it does at least give me some cool bragging rights… :) Swag-bashing aside, for those who know where to look, there’s an entire sea (or should I say mountain?) of opportunities to meet, mingle, and network with old friends and new acquaintances, getting work done all the while having ridiculous amounts of fun at the plethora of parties, events, panels, lounges, and yes, even the gifting suites. It is a place where new dreams are born, and old dreams are realized.
While Sundance films usually run the gamut from “Wow, you’ve GOT to see this film!” to “good, but not great…” to “downright horrible” (at least to my tastes), the overall feel this year seemed to be a pretty steady stream of “good, but not great.” Nothing that made me want to grab you by the collar, shake you, and say, “You just HAVE to see this film!” – and the upside is that there was not much in the “downright horrible” category either (at least that I saw).
So, here’s the inside scoop on the parties, and more:
THE PARTIES & EVENTS:
As with every year, this year had more than it’s share of parties at the festival – although every year seems to become more and more front-heavy with all the big stuff happening in the first four or five days – the downside being that you get to actually attend less events because they all occur at the same time, instead of being nicely spread out through the festival. That said, here’s the roundup for this year’s events that I attended:
Downstairs @ Harry O’s
Quickly becoming one the hottest events at Sundance, ChefDance brings top chefs in to prepare amazing meals for an invite-only high level guest list. On the first evening of many ChefDance dinners at the festival, Armand Assante was seen quite enjoying the cuisine prepared by top So Cal chef James Boyce, as was music artist Chamillionaire, whose beautiful date for the evening may have been more delicious than the cuisine! :) The evening started with a lentil and winter black truffle soup, followed by smoked Taku River Coho salmon with an Osetra caviar-quail egg carpaccio, and then a braised Summerfield Farm veal shank. While the soup was absolutely delicious, I’m not much of a fish guy, and even less of a caviar guy, so the 2nd course I can only say that the people around me seemed to enjoy. The Veal Shank was quite tasty – but since there seemed to be at least a 45 minute wait between courses, it was getting late and we couldn’t stay for the dessert course (warm figs and sour cherries in phyllo dough and braised mascarpone – sounds great, bummed I had to miss it!), but we unfortunately (or fortunately!) had yet another event to go to…
SUNDANCE OPENING NIGHT PARTY
@ Legacy Lodge
As Harry O’s is usually waaaay too crowded, and waaaay too noisy, and waaaay to dark to do any mingling whatsoever, we opted to miss out on Grammy nominated music artist Akon who was performing upstairs from ChefDance, and head on over to the official Sundance Opening Night Party at Legacy Lodge. A lot of the high level execs weren’t in town yet, but a good mix of filmmakers and other industry folks were present. As was the case last year, the chicken skewers and won tons were quite tasty, but I think I made the dessert my main course with a tray full of brownies, cookies, and a fruit/yogurt dish that was amazingly delicious – since we didn’t get to quite fill up at ChefDance, the great and plentiful food here was definitely welcome, and definitely filled my belly. Hewlett-Packard was kind enough to sponsor a photo wall where everyone could take pictures. I kept running into good friends and people I knew, so I never seemed to make it out of the back corner of the party…
GEN ART 7 FRESH FACES IN FILM PARTY
@ The GenArt Lounge
In previous years, GenArt had a long standing reputation for throwing the biggest and coolest parties at the festival – and while the last couple years they’ve decided to scale things down considerably, they still throw a great party with a great crowd. In attendance were the evening’s host, director Jason Reitman (Juno), and the 7 Fresh Faces in Film Melonie Diaz (wonderful in Be Kind Rewind), Shoshanna Stern (Adventures of Power), Jason Ritter (Good Dick, and The Deal), Paz de la Huerta (Choke, and wonderful performance in The Guitar!), Rachael Taylor (Bottle Shock), Olivia Thirlby (The Wackness, Juno, and last year’s Sundance film Snow Angels), and Kate Mara (Transsiberian). A complete power outage on most of main street shut this party down for about 45 minutes or so, but once the lights came back on we got our whole group in without too much trouble… Also in attendance was the lovely Booke Christopher, the Hosty with the Mosty!
VISUAL COMMUNICATIONS ASIAN FILMMAKER PARTY
@ China Panda Restaurant
Agggkkkk!!! The evil curse of the gifting lounges! We got so tied up in getting everyone in to the lounges, that we missed what is always one my favorite events at the festival. Next year, I am swearing off the gift lounges for sure… Although I didn’t make it, I’m sure the food was just as delicious, and the crowd was just as great as always.
@ House of Hype
The folks here were very friendly and accommodating – I was able to get my entire entourage in, and we had a great time! The evening here started out on the slow side, but then picked up and became quite fun indeed. Steve Aoki and Nick Cannon DJ’d the event an kept the dance floor thumping.
SLEEPWALKING PREMIERE PARTY
@ The St. Ives Lounge
A very cool event at a stylish new venue on Main Street – in attendance was Charlize Theron and her boyfriend Stuart Townsend, Dennis Hopper, Nick Stahl, as well as the beautiful and charming May Wang and talented veteran actor Arthur Roberts.
SAG FILMMAKER BRUNCH
@ Cafe Terigo
I had a great time here – the food was tasty and filling, and I got to meet some great up and coming filmmakers, including Adetoro Makinde, who is producing a film on the story of the true heroism demonstrated by a veteran known only as “John.” Makinde also happened to be casting director for the Sundance film A Good Day to Be Black and Sexy.
WRITER’S GUILD PARTY
I never heard back from them, so I didn’t attend this year…
NOBEL SON PARTY
@ The Green Lounge, Downstairs at Cicero’s
While not in the Sundance competition, Nobel Son was from the same filmmaker who did the wonderful film Bottle Shock (Randall Miller). There were a lot of rumors flying around that U2 was going to perform at this venue directly following this party, so I overheard a number of people discussing hiding in the bathrooms, etc. as a way to sneak into the next party. To my knowledge the U2 concert never occurred, at least not at Cicero’s that night, so I hope those folks didn’t have to wait in the bathrooms for too long… :) Rumors about later parties aside, in attendance at this party were Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, and Eliza Dushku from the film. Paul Oakenfold was DJing…
FOTOKEM/FUJI/IRON MOUNTAIN/HOLLYWOOD REPORTER PARTY
@ Snow Park Lodge
This is a party I’ve always been sure to attend every year during my long history at the festival, as it has always been one of the best parties at Sundance, with personal masseuses and great food, and other great amenities, including great music and a big dance floor. While it seems to be slipping a bit, it is still ultimately one of the more enjoyable events at the festival (once we finally made it past the not-overly-friendly people at the door).
DAILY VARIETY TOP 10 DIRECTORS TO WATCH PARTY
@ Stein Erickson Lodge
The Variety party is always one of the best at the festival – it’s still about the filmmakers, instead of all the hype, loud music, etc.; they provide a great atmosphere where you can actually talk with people, instead of yelling over way-too-loud DJs. While noticeably absent this year was their “gourmet macaroni and cheese,” it was luckily replaced by the most incredibly good chili I have ever eaten – it was a “wild game chili” with wild boar, elk, and something-else-or-other, and quite possibly the best single dish of food to be found at the festival…and I had some pretty darn good food up there! In attendance was the always lovely Nia Peeples, and a host of other celebrities including Jodie Foster, Andie MacDowell, Ben Affleck, Colin Firth, Saffron Burrows, Stanley Tucci, and Geoffrey Gilmore. Always a good, high level crowd, great networking, and an all around nice time. Kudos, Variety! Variety seems to be clamping down on the guest list, and my contact isn’t there anymore, so I simply got in anyway as someone else’s guest. Sometimes it’s good to know a lot of people… :)
Here’s the directors who were honored and in attendance at the party:
Ben Affleck, Gone Baby Gone
Daniel Barnz, Phoebe in Wonderland
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Seth Gordon, King of Kong
Nadine Labaki, Caramel
Anna Melikyan, Mermaid
Cristian Mungiu, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Jose Padilha, Tropa de Elite
Johan Renck, Downloading Nancy
Alex Rivera, Sleep Dealer
@ Riverhorse Café
Glad we got there early, as the line for this always-popular party was down the street in no time. As always, great food from the Riverhorse kept my belly full, a good crowd, and ample bars…and the usual lackluster band – when will Kodak bring the music up to the otherwise high standard of the rest of the party?! the little berry pies on the dessert tray were fantastic! The gift bag consisted of a pretty cool Computer Bag – which was subsequently stolen at The Deal premiere party later in the evening…
THE DEAL PREMIERE PARTY
@ Hollywood Life House
Attended by the film’s stars William H. Macy and Meg Ryan, as well as Jason Ritter and other celebs, The Deal party was a great time. The drinks were flowing, and the crowd had a great cross section of stars, filmmakers, financiers, and some just plain interesting people! The only downside was that someone had absconded with my computer bag from the Kodak party – no biggie, I suppose – I don’t even own a laptop! :)
THE ABSURDISTAN PREMIERE PARTY
@ the Gen Art Lounge
Ex-ACME Talent and Literary Agency CEO and Founder, as well as Sundance luminary Lisa Lindo was here (we missed you, Lisa!), and so a good time was had by anyone within range… :) While I had been looking forward to seeing The Absurdistan, after meeting the completely obnoxious director Veit Helmer, I proceeded to tear up my ticket and review another film instead. Other than the host, I had a great time at the party! :) If Gen Art is at all involved, you know it will be good! Again, Kudos to Gen Art!
NEW YORK FILM COMMISSION PARTY
@ Mike McCormick’s Ridiculously Huge But Oh So Fun Condo
Always an incredible party to found at the Mike McCormick mansion-of-a-condo with an indoor racquetball/basketball court, indoor pool and Jacuzzi with waterfall, etc. While the food is always slow to come out at the McCormick parties, it’s always good once (and if) you finally get some. But the real focus of this party was the great people in attendance – the NY filmmakers and talent, and filmmakers from the festival. It’s always a fun, friendly, and interesting crowd. Actually, just taking people on tours of the place was a fun time in itself (“What! You haven’t seen the racquetball court or grotto yet?!!”) A big thanks to Jerry Stoeffhaas and Pat Kaufman with the NY Film Commission for always putting together a great bash, one of the highlights of the festival!
GREEN DOOR PARTIES
Also @ Mike McCormick’s Ridiculously Huge But Oh So Fun Condo
A little more of a night-clubby vibe than the NY party at the same location. And just like an LA nightclub, since I wasn’t on the list, I brought a few beautiful girls and got right in… :) Good thing, because the sub-zero temperatures outside would not have been a fun wait… Also in attendance were good friends Regina Rice (Alpha Dog) and LA businessman and sometimes producer Adam Berns. Paris Hilton was seen falling on her keester, hopefully she made it okay.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY PARTY
Also @ Mike McCormick’s Ridiculously Huge But Oh So Fun Condo
Yes, there were great parties up at Mike’s pretty much every night…in attendance at this event was my good friend Alto Reed (sax player for Bob Seger, and creator of the iconic sax lick from “Turn the Page”), as well as Chelsea Handler (Chelsea Lately), internet models and Myspace sensations Kaila Yu and Toni Leigh, and producer and all around good guy Alan Cooksey.
MAC AFRICA / TIFANIE JOUDEH CONDO PARTY
My good friend, sometimes partner, and famed LA club promoter Mac Africa teamed up with my other good friend and attorney Tifanie Joudeh to throw a great shindig – a good turnout, good food, and a friendly crowd made for a truly enjoyable evening.
THE YEAR OF GETTING TO KNOW US PREMIERE PARTY
@ a great condo past the Canyons…
After watching one of the better films at the festival, it was great that it afterwards became one of the better parties at the festival. While enjoying myself with friends Fatim Roslan and Michael Merrins, I got to meet the producers for the film, as well as a plethora of filmmakers, financiers, and all around quality guests – also in attendance was Patricia Kara (Suitcase #9 on Deal or No Deal). Great gift bag with Borba Skin Balance Water.
@ The Shop
The party here was a good time as always, with great music, an ample dance floor, drinks, and Wii consoles set up everywhere. Burton rep Janice Callado was the reigning champion on Wii boxing, and also seen in attendance were Armand Assante, Maria Bello, Paris Hilton. Semi-champion on the Wii boxing game was writer and fine artist Chris Dellorco. Note to self: having half a dozen lanyards around your neck that get tangled in the Wii controls is a definite handicap in Wii boxing!
JONATHAN GRAY CONDO AFTER-PARTIES
@ His Deer Valley Condo
The after hours parties were always cool and fun at Jonathan Gray‘s, where there was usually almost enough booze, and many interesting people and conversations to be found, including filmmakers and producers, and talent such as Meagan Goode (Stomp the Yard), who also was promoting her new film Miles from Home. You could get cozy around the fireplace, dance in the living room, or hang in the kitchen and talk and drink to your heart’s content.
SUNDANCE CLOSING NIGHT PARTY
@ Racquet Club
The closing night party is always the last hurrah, the last chance to see everyone (who hasn’t already left yet), and say goodbyes, discuss all the films you’ve seen or missed, and get some photos. For some unknown reason they’ve decided to make it ridiculously dark for the last couple years – so dark that you can’t see or find anyone, and even when you do, the music was so loud that you weren’t really able to talk with anyone, especially given that most people’s voices were already gone from an entire week of yelling at other parties. This used to be a great, classy event, but it definitely took a downturn this year. It wasn’t that long ago that Sundance used to throw a great bash every single night of the festival. Every year Sundance gets more and more crowded with more and more people, and I can only assume Sundance makes more and more money (approximately $60 million in economic activity statewide due to the festival!) – it would be great if this was even a tiny bit reflected in the budgets of the events they put on…
Reporter – Jeff (center)
HOLLWOOD LIFE HOUSE
This was a great gift lounge, not only with a great ambience and a ton of celebs coming through, but they had some great gifts there as well, including some way cool bags from Vera Bradley (they had a design reminiscent of the “Italian Pottery” style, and were seen all over the festival – and they were also amazing in providing gift bags for the big Billboard Oscar Party at the Beverly Hilton that I was involved with – truly a cool company.There was a quite attractive woman representing AMC Theaters who gave me a pass for free movies for a year (yes!), and since I frequent the all-new and state of the art AMC Theaters in Century City, I’m quite looking forward to this! I’m hoping Andrew Marc New York comes through the great looking leather jacket they promised to send (very nice indeed!). Asics Onitsuka Tiger had some cool T-shirts and leather bags they were giving away, and some eye-catching shoes that were only on display (I’m assuming they probably had some for the celebs, though…) Ole Henriksen had some great skincare products, as Charlize Theron was happy to let people know, and were giving away their “3 Little Wonders” Gift Box – This very special triad of products features the award winning Truth Serum-Collagen Booster, Sheer Transformation-Renewing Creme and Invigorating Night Gel-Firming Treatment. The results of these three products when used in conjunction faithfully are truly amazing. Each formulation is oil-free, lite texture, firming, lifting, pore tightening, and promote uniform pigmentation, and embrace your skin with protection, comfort and hydration, without overlooking the importance of providing anti-aging and retexturizing benefits. Sephora provided a multitude of great products as well (Nars, MakeUp Forever, etc.). Although one company whose name I won’t mention wouldn’t give me the sunglasses I reeeaaallllllly wanted, they also never came through with the designer watch they promised to send either! While I’m the first to admit that the greed of the people attending the gifting suites runs amok (myself included), it was also interesting to note the dishonest and manipulative tactics of this company in particular to lie and promise products they had no intention of delivering, just to get as much coverage as they could from press folks like me. Solstice definitely made up for it, though, with a generous gift certificate toward a pair of their sunglasses! And Sexy Hair was on hand with plenty of hairspray – now I just need to let my hair grow long enough to use it… :) Tom Arnold, Dennis Hopper, Lukas Haas, and many other celebrities were observed in attendance.
KENNETH COLE REACTION LOUNGE
Jessica Alba and Paris Hilton were personally observed by me enjoying the shower of Kenneth Cole gifts, and other celebs reported to be in attendance include Mary-Kate Olsen, Bill Pullman, and Maroon 5. I myself have been a Kenneth Cole Black user, and was quite tantalized by some of the other fragrances they had display including Kenneth Cole Reaction, R.S.V.P., as well as Kenneth Cole Black Eau de Parfum for Her… While I wasn’t able to finagle any of the iPhones, iPods, or Playstations they were giving away, there was some great other stuff to be found there – Triple5Soul had a great selection of jackets, shirts, shoes, and other apparel that was cool, hip, and stylish – and they were waaaay cool to give me a bunch!! – I could be their new biggest fan!! Plantronics had some high quality hi-tech items on display, and I’m told their Bluetooth headset will give me far better reception with my Motorola Razor than the ridiculously poor reception I’m currently getting with a Motorola headset – you’d think if the same manufacturer makes the headset and the phone they would at least be compatible, but I’m looking forward to Plantronics showing them up. Also on display were great hats from Buji Baja, great gifts for your pet from Anamigo.
The food here was definitely delicious, and I’m still craving the hot chocolate with marshmallow cream… the food and overall ambience made this not only a great place to relax and unwind, but also a great place for interviews, as is evidenced by the number of celebrities and other VIPs in attendance at the Myspace Café during the festival including Mena Suvari, Tom Arnold, Woody Harrelson, Method Man, hot newcomer on the Sundance scene May Wang, and many others. And they even gave us a cool gift bag with a wonderfully thick and warm hoodie sweatshirt (much needed in the sub-zero temperatures!), a Myspace T-shirt, and a computer headphone/microphone, very handy to be used with Myspace IM and Skype.
LRG/MYSPACE GIFTING LOUNGE
LRG, one of the first companies to bridge the gap between the skateboarding and urban communities, put together a great gifting lounge, and had some great designer clothing from their Luxirie by LRG line as well as computer bags on hand, and more. Skullcandy provided me with a pair of their high end, cool looking designer headphones, as well as some of their more portable and “indestructible” headphones. Monster Cables was there and happily gave me an iPod headphone splitter cable – perfect for listening with two! They also had on display a number of their other products such as cable organizers, etc.
VILLAGE AT THE YARD
The T-Mobile Café changed locations to the Village at the Yard, and provided truly delicious food, and a great atmosphere for interviewing filmmakers and celebrities. The Yard also had an ample supply of great gift lounges, including Timberland, who provided me with a nice and warm down jacket – I almost got a great pair of boots as well, but then they held back at the last moment – dang! Pure Romance had plenty of romantic lotions, oils, and other pleasantries on hand to make sure my love life is exciting and full… :) and Drugstore.com kept me supplied with enough Airborne to keep me from getting sick during the long haul of late night parties and cold weather at the festival! Plus, I got a great hat from FourSquare, just to make sure I was toasty warm.
LEXUS PROJECT GREENHOUSE LOUNGE
There were a number of great eco-friendly and organic items on hand here including cutting boards from Tru Bamboo, shirts from Cotton Market, wonderfully scented candles from Joya, Patyka Organic Perfumes, and tasty snacks from GoHunza.com.
FRED SEGAL FUN EXCLUSIVE STYLE GIFT LOUNGE
Although the people at Village at the Lift didn’t get me my promised pass for this lounge until they were already out of many of the items I wanted, the great folks at Fred Segal Fun were friendly and accommodating, as were the companies on display inside. I still did pretty good, getting a pair of great designer jeans and silk bandana from 4 Stroke Jeans and another pair of great designer pants from J & Company. A couple great shirts from Yudu Life were appreciated, as were the cool shirts from Hurley. Last but definitely not least was Activision’s presence with a stack of Guitar Hero III games (which I was unfortunately not able to talk them out of…so no review of the game here!) Also on hand was other great stuff from many of the Fred Segal Beauty brands (L’Oreal, Kérastase, Nars Cosmetics, Precious Moments, etc.) and delicious fragrances from Summersent. Celebrities abounded here, including Dennis Quaid, Mischa Barton, Paris Hilton, Tom Arnold (I saw him everywhere!), Jessica Alba, Bijou Phillips, Tara Reid, Kim Kardashian, and Tom Anderson from Myspace.
WOW! LOUNGE / LUXURY MIXER
While my schedule didn’t allow me to make it to this lounge (dang!), I heard they had some great gifts on hand from Caniglia, fatboyusa.com, Luxury Image Group, anti-aging cream Rejenuvie, VIP Smiles, Paperorchid.com Luxury stationary, top rated laptop bags from Skooba Design, Fudge Is My Life, Trim Spa, PURE Chocolate, Fiji Water, Monster Energy Drink, SunlessBeauty.com, Vera Bradley handbags, and Sonja Paz art watches. I was able to make their Luxury Mixer, however, and had a truly wonderful time at this intimate affair – this was definitely a case of quality over quantity. In attendance at the Gift Lounge were Timothy Daly of “Private Practice” and “Wings”, David Blue of “Ugly Betty”, Kaycee Stroh and Ryne Sanborn of “High School Musical,” Matt Servitto from “The Sopranos” and Calvin Klein Model Jalzen Homller.
So, that’s it for my coverage of the Sundance Film Festival – the films, the people, the parties, and the gift lounges.
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