Entertainment behind the scenes
Often called America’s best ever female rapper, Lauryn Hill got no respect from a group of self-important VIP’s at a concert on the sidelines of the Sundance Film Festival Wednesday night. So Hill, who is known for not mincing her words, asked her security to remove the people and their roped-off, Very Important Person section that was set-up just meters from the stage.
As she performed the latest concert on a current small tour — a comeback of sorts after a hiatus from the music scene — she had to contend with the VIPs, whoever they were, as they mostly ignored her set, often with their backs to the stage while swilling champagne and at times blocking the view of and distracting ticket-paying concertgoers.
For the record, Hill’s show was not affiliated with the festival itself, but was just one of many performances set up by party and corporate promoters that Sundance has long battled. For years, the sort of circus atmosphere created by the marketers has irked Sundance’s backers, including Robert Redford.
While there is little Sundance can do about private enterprise at work, there was plenty that Ms. Hill (as she apparently likes to be called) could do about the rowdy crew in the velvet-rope section. In fact, she asked her security “to move the crowd, you understand me?”. Bravely she carried on despite the strange set-up, playing new versions of her songs from the Grammy-winning “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” and finishing with the Fugees’ “Ready or Not,” “Killing Me Softly,” and “Doo Wop (That Thing)
The Sundance Film Festival reaches its climax on Saturday when winners of best feature films and their directors, writers, cinematographers and sometimes actors are announced. And make no mistake, those winners will go on to claim movie glory both outside and inside Hollywood.
Don’t believe us? Take one quick look at last year. What was the Sundance 2010 jury prize winner for best dramatic film? “Winter’s Bone.” What is a 2010 best film Oscar nominee? “Winter’s Bone.” What was the Sundance 2010 jury prize winner for best documentary? “Restrepo.” What is a 2010 best documentary Oscar nominee? “Restrepo.”
If you’ve been reading our coverage of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival (and we certainly hope so, otherwise our boss won’t pay for a return trip in 2011), you know by now that this year event organizers were promoting a return to a rebelliousness among independent filmmakers — those people making movies outside Hollywood’s major studios. The words “rebel,” “rework,” “rebirth,” and others figure prominently on Sundance posters, t-shirts, film trailers and the like. If you haven’t been reading about it, click here and here.
So the natural question all week has been, “do this year’s films exemplify a renewed indie spirit?” The answer depends on how you look at it. In the opening day press conference, even Sundance founder Robert Redford and festival director John Cooper seemed to disagree with Redford calling it a festival of rebirth for that independent spirit and Cooper thinking it was more a renewal of Sundance’s pledge to promote fresh, new voices in cinema. Rebirth or renewal? … TomAIto or TomAUto.
The Sundance Film Festival is nothing if not about discovering new filmmakers and fresh voices in the world of cinema. Most of these writer/directors, of course, want their movies to make some sort of impact on audiences, but what impact does Sundance have on them beyond just selling their films into distribution or starting a career? We talked to some of them at a filmmaker meet-and-greet on Wednesday. Click on the video to see what they had to say.
It is not unheard of, but certainly is uncommon. After film documentary “A Small Act,” which tells of the plight of kids struggling just to get an education in Kenya, debuted here at the Sundance Film Festival this week it became a cause celebre — not for starpower, rather for charitable giving to send kids to school.
To here director Jennifer Arnold tell it, after the second screening a woman stood up in the audience and offered a $5,000 donation to help the kids. She challenged the audience to give, too, and her $5,000 was quickly matched by another check for $5,000. Midway through the festival, the amount raised and pledged had grown to $80,000. That’s a lot of schooling. According to the documentary, in Kenya secondary school can cost less than $10 a week.
Adrian Grenier would know better than most — Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and a few others excepted, of course — about what it’s like to be stalked by aggressive photographers and celebrity hounds. On “Entourage”, he plays actor Vincent Chase, who faces flashbulbs and autograph seekers at every turn. As the show has gained popularity, life has begun to imitate art for Grenier, who is now a celebrity in his own right and faces the same attention that Vince deals with.
In his new documentary “Teenage Paparazzo,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, Grenier turns the tables on the paparazzi, following the picture takers with a camera and focusing on 13-year-old snapper Austin Visschedyk. (Read about it here.) But Grenier also succeeded in turning the tables on himself, as he tried to chase down celebrities to get their takes on the paparazzi. Stars including Lindsay Lohan, Matt Damon and Hilton herself weigh-in on their own experiences. Still, Grenier said, he had to work hard to get the access to the stars, despite his own Hollywood credentials.
Usually, actors will do almost anything to avoid being typecast, or too closely associated with a particular character they’ve played in the past (Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, we’re looking at you here, among many). But sometimes having that extra baggage can be useful for an actor.
In Sundance movie “The Perfect Host”, David Hyde Pierce — or Niles Crane to anybody (and it’s nearly everybody) who’s ever seen 1990s sitcom “Frasier” — makes use of his public perception as the timid little brother of Kelsey Grammer’s Frasier Crane in his portrayal of Warwick Wilson. In the film, directed by Nick Tomnay, Wilson is a “consummate host” who unwittingly invites a career criminal to dinner. As the dinner progresses, the audience finds that appearances can be deceiving.
So, maybe you thought the Sundance Film Festival was just about movies? Think again.
A big part of a successful movie is a good score, hit song or great soundtrack. Any director or producer will tell you music can make or break a film, and each year the festival promotes music seminars to help filmmakers learn the ins-and-outs of creating or picking good tunes. Also, the festival will screen a few films dealing with musicians, bands or the recording industry, and this year is no exception.
Every year at the Sundance film festival — and journalists can pretty much count on it — during the opening weekend an unexpected celebrity will show up in town and captivate the media’s attention. Whoever that is or (whatever he or she has done) becomes a “must-have” story. This year, the title was shared by British grafitti artist Banksy — who evidently turned up, although characteristically no one has seen him — and businessman Bill Gates.
On Thursday, the word on the snowy streets of Park City was that Banksy had tagged several buildings with his art. And in fact he — or someone — did. That’s a picture at left.
Since August, most of us have become all to familiar with the concept of a financial market “correction” in which prices for the stocks and bonds in 401K and other accounts were too high and so they “corrected” downward. The financial cost to many was on the order of 30 percent or more in those portfolios, many of us lost our jobs, and the pain continues.
We don’t mean to trivialize the personal cost of the current recession by comparing it to a film festival. No. We just bring it up because much of the talk on the snowy streets (this year, it seems there’s been more rain than snow) of Park City, Utah where the Sundance Film Festival is located, has been of a Sundance correction.