On Friday, Tom Brokaw was in Washington, D.C., helping to lead NBC News’ coverage of President Trump’s inauguration. Less than 24 hours later — as thousands of women marched through the heart of Sundance mid-snowstorm to protest the new administration — the veteran newscaster touched down in Utah to promote a documentary.
Culture shock much?
“I’ve been doing this for a long time, and that one was — to put it lightly — unique,” the 76-year-old said of the inauguration. “Most presidents who deliver State of the Union addresses try to do something that is lyrical, poetic and historically contextual. He did not. It was another campaign speech — which was his intention. He’s going to run the White House as if his campaign never stopped.”
First things first. Yes, there is a movie at Sundance called “L.A. Times.” No, it does not have anything to do with this here media organization, the Los Angeles Times. (Trust me, when the festival’s program announcement came out, there were some very quizzical looks around the newsroom, as if people were afraid they had been in a documentary and/or reality show without knowing it.)
Rather, “L.A. Times” is a look, at once both breezy and insightful, into the personal and professional intersections of a small group of people in the creative enclaves of Silver Lake, Echo Park and Los Feliz. The first feature film directed by Michelle Morgan, who also wrote the screenplay and plays the lead role, “L.A. Times” launches her as a multifaceted talent to watch.
The film had its world premiere on Friday night at Sundance as part of the discovery-oriented Next section. In the film, Morgan plays Annette, who impulsively breaks up with her boyfriend, Elliott (Jorma Tacone), and finds herself feeling adrift. At the same time, Annette’s friend Baker (Dree Hemingway) has problems of her own as she juggles an affair with married man (Tate Donovan) and an increasingly complicated relationship with a cousin (indie stalwart Kentucker Audley, revealing himself as an unexpectedly credible romantic leading man). The supporting cast includes Margarita Levieva, Adam Shapiro, Angela Trimbur. Robert Schwartzman and Nora Zehetner.
“Eight years ago was an amazing day,” said Emmy-winning film producer Julie Goldman (“Life, Animated,” “Weiner”) on a palpably subdued inauguration morning at the Sundance Film Festival. “Today is the opposite.”
Sundance veterans can vividly recall Inauguration Day 2009, when attendees of the prestigious annual film festival put the movies on pause, gathered in the snow-covered streets of Park City, Utah, and squeezed into viewing parties to watch Barack Obama get sworn in as the 44th president of the United States of America.
Friday morning at this year’s Sundance, no such celebration greeted the anointing of President Trump.
“The inauguration is over, so you can turn off your cellphones!”
That was the Sundance Film Festival’s director, John Cooper, introducing the Friday afternoon screening of Gillian Robespierre’s new comedy, “Landline.” For those of us who chose to bury ourselves in movies rather than pay attention to the events transpiring across the country, the mention of the inauguration jolted us briefly back to reality — a needle puncturing our cozy Hollywood bubble, if you will — shortly before the lights dimmed and a fresh distraction took over the screen.
Reactions to the inauguration seemed fairly muted in Park City, at least from this observer’s admittedly limited, partly scarf-concealed vantage. Rather than cheer, jeer or laugh in response to Cooper’s mention, most of us simply followed his instructions and put our cellphones away — a fitting enough way to ease oneself into a movie called “Landline.” In this 1995 nostalgia-fest, a Manhattan family must rely on floppy disks and mixtapes to make their way through a gauntlet of dysfunction and bad decision-making. (More political reminders: At one point, the characters watch Hillary Clinton delivering her “Women’s rights are human rights” speech in Beijing, though mostly they just admire her pink pantsuit.)
Neither the snow nor the possible conflict with Robert Redford's private brunch stopped Sundance filmmakers from participating in the women's march at Park City, Utah.
Led by comedian Chelsea Handler, the independently organized event featured speeches by filmmakers, local politicians and activists, including Aisha Tyler, Jessica Williams, Dolores Huerta and Maria Bello.
"It's not 1917; it's 2017," said Handler as she addressed the crowd gathered for the rally. "Who knew we had to fight for progress we already had?"