Before La Tragedia de Macario was an eerie and actually quite lovely Spanish short called "The Natural Route." I don't want to say much about it because part of the pleasure is in figuring out what's going on. Unfortunately, as of now, this isn't one of the ones available on the Sundance site.
So, anyway, after the disappointment of La Tragedia we headed back to the Broadway Theater. It looked like tickets for Friends With Money were going to be nearly impossible to get (and the buzz on the street was that it's only so-so anyway), so we decided to get stand-by tickets for one of the Shorts Programs.
While D and I were waiting in line (because M gets to go into the theater before us with her locals pass) we were lamenting the depressing nature of everything we'd seen so far. Lots of blood. Lots of violence. Lots of death. D said what she really wanted was a movie about puppies and kittens. I agreed. And then some kid handed D a flyer for an art exhibit at one of the nearby galleries. Oh look, I said, pointing at one of the pictures, there's a kitten. A vaguely creepy painting of a weird-looking kitten, but whatever. Then D opens the brochure and inside is another picture of the same kitten with a cast on his tiny little furry arm. I hate Sundance, said D.
A short time later we met up with M inside the theater and the Shorts Program began. The first one is something called "Bug Crush." It's clear from the tone that something bad is going to happen, but it takes a really long time to get around to it. Eventually, though, something bad does happen, and it is really, really bad. Let's just say it involves bugs and gang rape and leave it at that. What is WRONG with people? I say when it's over. We notice in the credits that the story was taken from a gay horror anthology called Queer Fear II and marvel at the implication that there must also be a Queer Fear I out there. *shudder* We also marvel at the fact that the director thanked his mom and dad in the credits--the only thing I can imagine more mortifying than watching "Bug Crush" is showing it to my parents. What is WRONG with people? I say again.
Next up is a short called "True Story." Ah, I think. This one's about a nice, sweet old lady telling a story from her childhood. It's sure to be more pleasant. Sure enough, she starts talking about a manx cat she had when she little, and how it had two kittens--one with a tail and one without. See, I whisper, nudging D. Kittens! The sweet little old lady goes on to tell us how everyone liked the kitten without the tail more and she felt sorry for the one with the tail. Uh huh. "...so I took it out to the barn and I picked up the axe..." M and I are immediately seized by an uncontrollable fit of giggling. "...but it wouldn't stop yowling so Daddy went and got his shotgun..." D looks like she's been hit between the eyes with a hammer. M and I have our hands clamped over our mouths to stifle the sound of our laughing. Sadly, the director of this short was sitting just two rows behind us and I hate to imagine what she thought of our reaction. It was actually a perfectly nice short film, it was just exactly the wrong subject matter at exactly the wrong time for us.
Anyway, after that, things started to cheer up a little and--lest you think that Sundance is nothing but bleak, violent, gross-out films--they stayed cheerier for the rest of our festival experience. There was an incredibly sweet and lovely French short called "Monsieur Etienne" about a man trying to decide between two friends' funerals (it sounds like a bummer, I know, but it's actually adorable); "A Conversation With Basquiat" which is exactly what it sounds like (i.e., interview archive footage of artist); and "Fourteen," which again I can't describe without giving away too much.
The last short was "The Pity Card," directed by Bob Odenkirk, and all I can say is god bless Bob Odenkirk. It is hysterically funny, and washed away all the residual ick from "Bug Crush." Sadly, Bob himself wasn't in attendance at our screening, but we did catch him on The Sundance Channel's Festival Dailies hinting that he was shopping the short's concept around as a TV series.
After recharging on cookies and grilled cheese sandwiches (in that order) at the Festival Cafe it was back to the Broadway for No. 2, my favorite film of our entire festival experience. It's a wonderful movie starring Ruby Dee as the matriarch of a Fijian family living in New Zealand, and her grandchildren's efforts to bring the whole family together for a feast in her honor. Simply marvelous. I really hope this one finds a distributor and that it does well in the competition (I gave it a 5/5 on my Audience Award ballot). Writer/director Toa Fraser and several of the Kiwi cast members were there for a Q&A, but we had to rush out in order to make our next screening way over at the Tower Theater.
Still basking in the glow of No. 2, we filed in for our last screening of the day, a midnight showing of Lucky Number Slevin, starring Bruce Willis, Josh Hartnett, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley (and no, none of them tore themselves away from the parties in Park City to turn up at a midnight screening in SLC). I really didn't expect to like this one much (did I mention Josh Hartnett?), but it was surprisingly enjoyable. It's kind of a Pulp Fiction-y mistaken-identity gangster flick with a few twists and turns and enough humor to offset most of the blood spatter. And Josh Hartnett doesn't suck. It's part of the premiere slate, so it'll be arriving at a theater near ya'll sometime in March, I think, courtesy of the Weinstein Company.
And that was our Saturday. Five screenings between noon and two a.m. Yeah, we were tired.
More on our Sunday screenings later...