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Sundance Diary: Days 2 and 3 (or: And So It Begins)

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Mass chaos in the EW photo studio right now, PopWatchers, as the casts of Bottle Shock, Be Kind Rewind, and American Son appear to have converged on our land simultaneously, creating a great deal of chatter and a dearth of places to sit. I’ve been relocated about six times: I interviewed Melonie Diaz on the green sofa, and Jack Black on camera in the video room, and Michel Gondry in the furniture store across the hall, and now I’m sitting on a black cowhide chair that I’m pretty sure was in our studio last year but I can’t really remember.

And so it is that Saturday, which started out slowly — with me sleeping through a screening of Blind Date (sorry, Stanley Tucci) and then visiting the Village at the Yard swag shoppe with Missy “Needs a Nickname” Schwartz — has suddenly ramped up to an impressive degree. In about 20 minutes, a cab will arrive to whisk me to the Racquet Club, where I will watch American Son (Iraq war movie starring Nick Cannon and the lovely, ubiquitous Melonie Diaz). After that, it’s off to somewhere else. I’m not sure where, and I can’t find my backpack in this crowded room to look at my schedule. I think Matt Labov might be using it as a placemat. I really want to steal one of Matt Labov’s fries.

So let’s look back, instead of forward, and try to assess how, exactly, I ended up with a crushing headache this afternoon. It may have something to do with Alan Rickman and wine. After the jump, we examine this vital issue, as well as Young@Heart, The Yellow Handkerchief, and Sweet at the Dance — self-billed as the first stand-up comedy show ever at Sundance. So that’s something.

Kicked off Friday morning by crying for the second time in two years. Last year, it was Laura Linney and The Savages. This year, it was the elderly choir folk of Young@Heart, and one particularly moving rendition of Coldplay’s “Fix You.” This documentary, which follows the choir — average age 80 — as they prepare for a performance in their hometown of Northampton, Mass., is something you should see when it comes to your town. (Fox Searchlight is distributing.) The music, needless to say, is terrific — their take on Sonic Youth is genius — and watching them learn complex songs basically by ear is fascinating. I’m interviewing three of the choir members and their warm-hearted director, Bob, tomorrow — watch this space!

From the Marriott to the Holiday Village, I then tromped to the Yarrow to check my e-mail, then to the Eccles for the premiere of The Yellow Handkerchief, where producer Arthur Cohn used the word “great” about a thousand times to introduce his road movie, starring William Hurt as an ex-con driving through Louisiana with two teenagers (played by Kristen Stewart and Eddie Redmayne, both of whom have been placed on my internal Faces to Watch list). Maria Bello appears largely in flashback as Hurt’s true love, and turns in a performance director Udayan Prasad told me he found “fearless.” The movie was lovingly received by the crowd, with one woman actually standing up in the Q&A just to thank Hurt and Bello for being awesome; no word on distribution yet, but the film is notable among the ones I’ve seen so far thanks to its hopeful, happy ending. Clearly, this is what Redford was talking about when he said this year’s fest would have more “levity.” Maybe he just meant more making out as music swells. I dunno.

[Tangent: My favorite thing about the Yellow Hankie cast was their unabashed thrill at being in each others’ presence. How strange I think it must be to spend months together shooting, have no one else to talk to, bond, then go your separate ways until Sundance, when you’re plopped in a theater to watch your movie for the first time, and then forced to answer the same questions over and over again. It would be like attending your high school reunion with a thousand strangers milling around in the background. Or, as young master Redmayne put it, “It’s a bit like that excitement of, you know, you’ve got a friend, and you both happen to be in a different part of the world at the same time. Kind of like, ‘Oh my God! What are you doing here??’ But what’s lovely about our job is that it’s not coincidental. It happens more often. The world becomes small.”]

From Eccles I walked again to the Yarrow for the press conference and interviews, then came to Main Street for my first glimpse of the EW photo studio. Tricked out as usual with laptops and a bar, it’s a fine home base, and bartender Jimmy has promised that, like Corey before him, he will be ready with his fly-on-the-wall observations at the end of this fiasco. A couple minutes warming up here, a quick video shoot, and it was off to the Bottle Shock dinner. Missy’s already written up her observations, but here’s what I saw: Bill Pullman videotaping everything in sight (oh, what I wouldn’t give for a copy of that), Chris Pine looking exhausted after coming straight from the Star Trek set, Alan Rickman “just happening” to win the Vegas hotel room giveaway, and some delicious kobe ribs making their way rapidly into my belly. I did not, however, see Eliza Dushku climbing the walls. In fact, I saw no such thing. I don’t know what Missy’s talking about. Must have been the wine. Eliza Dushku would never climb a wall. Ahem.

I ducked out before the bread pudding to see my pal Seth Herzog inaugurate the first Park City performance of his long-running NYC comedy series Sweet. Here’s a video that explains a little bit of what Seth was trying to do. My personal take on the whole thing was that Seth, Jason Sudeikis, Nick Kroll, David Wain, and John Veiner did the best they could in a room that was only about 30 percent paying attention. I was riveted, however, and not just because the Zog was wearing his trademark Wonder Woman leotard. Whoever says comedy isn’t educational missed a treat last night: I learned that Akon didn’t go on until 1 a.m. Thursday night; that the guys from “Fox Penlight” are trying to acquire a stand-up show at the fest; that not even David Wain can make me laugh at a fart joke; and what dumb people sound like when they’re having sex. We also heard from Seth’s mom, who they called via Skype, and learned that she was home in New York watching Psych and Monk. And when we walked back out into the snow, we learned some dude had fallen off a third floor balcony while trying to steal a TV. Ooookay then.

Vanessa “Ciudad” Juarez and I then swung by the always-welcoming Turning Leaf lounge for the Wackness party — this was Olsen sighting No. 2, as she shimmy-danced next to Sir Ben Kingsley — where the wine I drank at dinner mingled with the wine I was drinking at the party, and made me into a much happier person. So by the time we headed back to the Bon Appetit Supper Club for the Bottle Shock after party, the joy was palpable, and not even the rolling blackouts on Main Street could bring me down.

I can only assume it was the “joy” that motivated me, upon reaching said party, to wander over to Alan Rickman and introduce myself and then say what I’ve dreamed of saying to him ever since he first menaced his way on screen as Harry Potter‘s Severus Snape. No, not that. Gimme a little credit. Instead, I told him his characterization has always borne a terrifying resemblance to a costume design teacher I had in college, and that’s what makes me adore Snape — he’s a sadist, but a lovable and familiar one. According to Vanessa and Missy, Rickman was smiling while I was talking to him. From my perspective, it’s all a blur. After a certain point, he noted that I was a journalist, and he’s not supposed to talk to journalists about the Potter stuff. I could respect this, but I really wanted to know what he thought about Book 7. As for the Bottle Shock premiere, he felt good about how that went, and did deliver one perfect tidbit, in that perfect Rickman voice: “There’s no room in this business for paranoia.” Chills, PopWatchers. Chills.

My big moment of losery babbling behind us, Missy and Vanessa and I took the shuttle home, entertaining the folks around us by giggling incessantly. I fell asleep sitting upright at the desk in my hotel room, trying to write this blog, and didn’t wake up until 9 a.m. (see above: Sorry again, Stanley Tucci). My morning was a relaxing one, for which I feel exceedingly guilty. I also feel guilty for stopping by a swag suite. [NOTE: All swag will be addressed in a separate, swagalicious post. I don’t want to sully the waters.] I do not feel guilty for eating an entire bag of beef jerky today. And now that I’m back to where I started, I take my leave of you, PopWatchers.

Tonight is the big EW party, plus I’ve since successfully seen American Son, not successfully seen Bono, and interviewed Jack Black and Michel Gondry about Be Kind, Rewind. All that and more in the morning, kids. Meanwhile, a topic for discussion, foreshadowing tomorrow’s post: A 3-D concert film featuring U2. Awesome? Or AWESOMEST THING EVER? And what possible reason would Eliza Dushku have for climbing the walls? None, right?

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