“You’re not one of those gals that uses sex as a weapon, are ya’?”

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on January 25, 2009

Back at Sundance – Day #6

The big finale.

Actually not. Because today is the day that I decided maybe not to get up early or even try to go out that much. Rather, I would do what so many people at Sundance do either because they have the same tethered to the homestead issues, they’re pressed for time, they hate people, or they love the condo they’re staying at (and I mean REALLY love the condo): They watch their movies on DVD.

That’s right. All of Park City is one big ‘ol indie multiplex at our disposal and we’re still watching the same movies that are here on DVD. And here’s the funny thing about it – I’m watching the first movie and I swear I’m no more than 30 minutes into this thing and I want to pause it to go get a Pop Tart. If I was in the theater, no such dilemma. But because I know I can, I want that damn Pop Tart and I don’t want to wait.

And the movie was great. It was Doug Pray’s documentary, ART & COPY. We had Doug’s film, BIG RIG at AFI FEST so I was very interested in seeing this one. The film looks at the advertising industry, the men and women who made it the all-encompassing force that it is in all of lives, and…well, the all-encompassing force that IT IS in all of our lives. So much is there: the innovation (remarkable at the time) in the early 60s of putting the art directors in the same room as the copywriters, the alarming stats (In 1967 a person had contact with 1500 advertising messages a day, today it’s 5000), the campaigns (Volkswagon – “Think small,” American Tourister – “Gorilla vs. luggage,” Mac – “The Super Bowl 1984 commercial,” Reagan’s “Morning in America” spot, and the “Got Milk?” campaign among them).

Along the way, some of the advertising legends (George Lois, Hal Riney, etc.) speak for themselves doling out nuggets such as “Great advertising makes your food taste better, your car drive better…,” “Sometimes we have higher aspirations for our clients than they have for themselves,” and finally, the truth you already knew about advertising – just not to this extent: “It’s like air and water. It’s around you. It’s going to happen to you.” This could have been a dry talking head-0-rama, but Pray is money in the bank again.

Next up were two shorts: On the great side there was Dominic Bisignano’s animated food for the funny bone, FROM BURGER IT CAME. In it, we follow the first person recounting of a young man who believes he has contracted AIDS by eating a hamburger someone has left behind. There are few things better than crazy logic teaming up with crazy animation.

Then, the not so good: Kai Orion’s COPPER ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK. This one fell into the “huh?” category. Basically, some guy is living in a cabin in the snowy woods dealing (I guess) with unrequited feelings with a girl (who lives there too?) by chopping a lot of wood and drinking a lot of beer. I think? Maybe? Let’s face it I couldn’t figure out what the point of any of it was. And even though there is a senseless killing at one point involving a black bear (which should’ve tickled me to no end), it was merciful when the pointlessness (i.e., the movie itself) ceased.

Fortunately, Michael Shannon arrived on the scene in a modern day noir chestnut, THE MISSING PERSON. Written and directed by Noah Buschel, the film is a stylish piece of work about a private eye who is paid to follow a man from Chicago to L.A., then (as is always the case), he gets there, learns more about the guy and things change, as he’s hired to bring the same guy back to New York. The movie easily takes a rightful position among the better gumshoe films and the main reason is its gumshoe. Shannon can make breathing look fascinating and/or curious, and he’s joined by a cast that would get any director excited – Frank Wood, Amy Ryan, Yul Vasquez among them. A cop on a segway makes a Soupy Sales reference, lines like “You’re not one of those gals that uses sex as a weapon, are ya’?” are casually delivered, and sepia tones give way to cool blues and then back again. Nice. And better yet, a nice film for me to finish with.

And with that, my official Sundance viewing is complete. I’m debating about the need to go to the final awards party since tomorrow I start driving to Dallas for the hard core AFI DALLAS prep. I’ve done the drive from L.A. to Dallas and back a couple of times but this will be a new twist going from Utah to Dallas. So, maybe not so much with the “Hi, I’m John Wildman. Damn glad to meet you.” routine tonight. That would be my second ANIMAL HOUSE reference in a couple days.

I’m sure it’s the turtlenecks…

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