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Sundance Diary: Opening Weekend

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Savages_l

Savages_lOverheard at press screening of Rocket Science, Jan. 19, 7:10pm: “I would never disrespect the Alamo Drafthouse, but the Arclight is the greatest theater I’ve ever been to in my entire life.”

Howdy there, PopWatchers, and greetings from the snowy streets of Park City! I’m still here at Sundance, and you’re still in my pocket, getting a first-hand glimpse at what it’s like to report from a film festival when you’ve never been to a film festival before and are doing all of your writing between the hours of 1 and 4 a.m. We’ve got a whole weekend to recap, so this is gonna be long — grab a cup of tea and settle in, won’t you?

First, I want you to know how lovely it was to check in here after my post from Day One — in which I basically had a small nervous breakdown — and find your encouraging words. I’m hanging in there. (Insert photo of cat clinging desperately to tree branch here.) I’ve figured out where everything is, I’ve made it to plenty of screenings, I’ve hit some parties, and I even got in a couple hours of snowboarding without hurting myself. I have gotten used to surviving on a diet of Clif bars and water. I no longer spend hours hysterically highlighting schedules. I may even be having fun.

Also, I met Roger Clemens today.

Yeah, that’s right: It’s the biggest film festival on American soil, and I’m gonna lead with sports. I’d like to send a big shout-out to my friends at ESPN for having the brilliant idea to set up shop across from EW’s headquarters on Main Street, stocking a three-story club with very few fest-tards but plenty of big screen TVs, comfy sofas, and Shiner beer, a.k.a. The Official Beer of Whitney. And you couldn’t beat their guest list: I took a poker lesson from reigning World Series of Poker champ Jamie Gold on Saturday afternoon while sitting next to Brian Westbrook and Donté Stallworth, or approximately 64 percent of the Philadelphia Eagles‘ offense. Two interesting stats: Westbrook’s biceps are the size of my head (and his watch is the size of my apartment), and Stallworth carries around a Razr, a Blackberry, and a Sidekick decorated with flowers that he kept insisting to me were trees. (When asked why he needs three phones, he responded, “I like phones,” which makes sense.)

During Saints/Bears on Sunday, I had a great chat with Clemens, whohad just flown in from the Bob Hope golf tournament and is currentlyworking with Samuel L. Jackson to plan an athletes-vs.-entertainersRyder Cup-style tourney for December. Despite all that time spentplaying the sport of retired people, he maintains he is still “failingmiserably” at staying away from baseball, and while I didn’t get him totell me where he’d be playing this summer, I maintain that I deservesome sort of award for remaining upright and decently professionalwhile talking to the greatest pitcher in the history of the game. I amalso very proud of myself for not asking Matt Leinart how he managed tofather a child and make out with Paris Hilton in the same year yetstill come across as an aw-shucks cute shy guy. And lest you think thatI was accomplishing nothing EW-related while I was there, I also hadlovely conversations with Dan Klores (whose terrific doc, Crazy Love,is one of the first big sales of the fest) and Rod Lurie (the former Commander in Chief showrunner is the director of Resurrecting the Champ,starring Clemens’ golf buddy Jackson), and if I hadn’t been forced togo see a stupid movie, I would have gotten some time with JustinTimberlake.

(Other things I could have done, were there not movies: Seen theapparently-amazing second half of the Colts/Patriots playoff game;slept.)

But lemme guess: It’s the movies you want to hear about, right? Oh,fine. Here’s what I’ve seen, in the order in which I done seen it, aswell as my unvarnished opinions, except in the case of the movies I’vebeen assigned to cover, in which case I’m going to skip over theopinion part in the interest of not establishing a bias before Iconduct my interviews. (Those movies will be indicated with anasterisk, because this computer cannot draw a chicken.)

The Savages
Absolutely devastating movie about two grown children (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney, pictured) taking care oftheir invalid father (Philip Bosco). All three are brilliant. Directed by Tamara Jenkins,who intercuts the whole thing with these impossibly gorgeous shots ofsky. Totally messed me up for hours, and remained my favorite film ofthe festival for 2.5 days.

Rocket Science
Super-quirky, hyper-intellectual movie about a stutterer who joins the debate club. Think Rushmore,but less articulate. My co-worker Adam Vary wants to marry this movie,and he’s not alone. Me, I’ve got a low quirk threshold, so I’ll justsay that the performances from a cast of (mostly) unknowns were damngood but it is really hard to listen to someone stutter for 2 hours,and leave it at that.

Crazy Love
The aforementioned documentary from former publicist Dan Klores tellsthe story of Burt Pugach and Linda Riis, a quintessential New Yorkcouple who squabble like hens in a wet box but have been married forthree decades and together for five. Of course, for 15 of those years,Burt was in jail for hiring three dudes to throw acid in Linda’s face,but who’s counting?

Everything’s Cool*
Takes all the science of An Inconvenient Truthand puts a face on it by focusing on a bunch of people fighting thegood fight against global warming (and the people fighting the badfight against those good people).

Smiley Face*
Anna Faris stars as the most stoned person ever: Think Harold and Kumar,except with just one chick trying to get to the beach. Directed by seven-time Sundance vet Gregg Araki. Also stars the darling John Krasinski,who is at one point shirtless. Features the first of three masturbationscenes I saw on Sunday.

Adrift in Manhattan*
Masturbation scene No. 2 came via this interwoven drama aboutthe lives and loves of Manhattanites, in which Victor Rasuk plays ayoung photographer who stalks an optometrist played by the agelessHeather Graham. Taught me that rough sex can at times be therapeutic,if you make it through the emotional collapse brought about by therough sex.

The Nines
Okay, it’s 4:38 a.m. right now, and I’ve had a long, long day, but I amprepared to declare that despite containing today’s third and finalclip of someone wanking, The Nines was the best movie I’ve seen this year. Period. Stars Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis, and Melissa McCarthy, directed by Goscreenwriter John August, and awfully hard to explain, but I’ll try:It’s three separate but connected movies, starring all three castmembers in separate but connecting roles, exploring the nature of God,reality TV, World of Warcraft, love, death, addiction, fame,friendship, and truth. And when the last scene hit, it was like a trapdoor unlatched in my brain, and I went from being fascinated andintellectually engaged by all sorts of meta storytelling and mysteriousphenomenae to crying my eyes out and using the word “nice” a lot. Youknow that kind of “Oh my God I didn’t know I needed to cry like thatbut I just did and now I can’t stop” kind of crying? Yeah, that.Perhaps best of all: Van Wilder can act. Can act a whole lot. Dear Distributing People: BUY THIS.

Interview
Didn’t see it, cause no one would give me a ticket. Glean from that what you may.

Okay, has this been long enough for ya? Yeah, me too. And I haven’teven talked about the swag suites  or the parties or the way they takethe shuttle bus back to the depot and switch drivers every single time I get on one…but as this cat’s last claw starts to slip from the tree, it’s time forbed.  I guess that means that tomorrow morning after I go see Grace is Gone (already purchased by the Weinsteins, who are apparently trying to get John Cusack the Oscar he’s deserved since Better Off Dead), I’m going to swing by the EW photo studio and write up a second weekend update.

In which I will try to refrain from talking too much about sports.

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