Notes from Sundance Film Festival: Were they inspired by ‘The Fighter’?

At the Sundance Film Festival, celebrities may come and go by luxury SUV, but most folks make their way from theater to theater around Park City, Utah, via a more humble mode of transportation: the free shuttle bus.

Which can lead to problems.

Though festival organizers try hard, the vagaries of traffic and weather mean the buses are often later and fuller than they are supposed to be. Anxious filmgoers crowd the doors in a frantic attempt to get on and off as quickly as possible, and on the first full day of the festival, at the stop by the Yarrow Hotel, sparks ignited.

One burly man alighting collided with another burly man boarding, and before you could say “The Fighter,” they were throwing punches. The fisticuffs lasted only a few moments, but the incident was more dramatic than some of the films in competition. As the combatants were separated by cooler heads, one person said in weary exasperation, “It’s only a bus.”


Not at Sundance it isn’t. — Kenneth Turan


Spider loses out to ‘Black Power’

On Tuesday afternoon at the Temple Theater (which is not actually a movie theater but, in fact, the Jewish house of worship Temple Har Shalom, on loan for the festival), filmgoers were filing in for a screening of the documentary “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-75" when suddenly there was a commotion in the front rows, as people exclaimed and pointed.


A rather sizable spider was making its way across the screen, a scuttling black speck against the blue Sundance logo projected before each film begins. A festival volunteer appeared with a janitor’s push broom and tried to shoo the bug away. The spider moved higher up the screen. An extension to the broom’s handle was found, and the volunteer tried again. The speck was gone. The crowd cheered. – Mark Olsen


A mover of shakes holds forth

In search of a salad and some solitude after a day among Sundance crowds, I stumbled on Silver Mountain Pizzeria. With no lines and a chalkboard touting everything as organic, it seemed promising. What I found inside were a sage and a shake: the latter a vanilla and almond dream, mixed up by the former — that is, if a twentysomething guy named Cameron can be deemed a sage.


It was still early, so Cameron had time to explain a few things, such as why the beer on tap was the best (organic, wheat but no hops, light and smooth); why the pizzeria had salads but no Italian dressing (he lost me a little there, but the key word was either “experimental” or “progressive”; by this time I was sampling the beer, so I’m not sure); and why Sundance was disappointing him a little this year.

It wasn’t the movies, he said, it was the people. There were more of them, he said, but they were in town for the scene, not the films. The scene people, he opined, were neither as nice nor as interesting as the filmmakers and movie lovers who stopped by. His best encounter this year, Cameron said, was with the guy who scored Morgan Spurlock’s documentary “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.” Now that, he said, was a kick. Nice guy, he added, real smart.

When he came back from checking on the salad, Cameron asked whether I’d try a new milkshake he was working on (turns out when he has free time, Cameron concocts new milkshake recipes). This one was a blend of chocolate, coconut, almond and vanilla extract, with vanilla ice cream as the base: The Almond Joy. Absolutely heavenly. The best part? No guilt, since I didn’t even order it — the observations or the shake — and they were both great. My only regret? I’ll have to wait until next year to see whether Cameron has perfected the peanut butter and honey shake he’s working on. He plans to call it The Elvis. — Betsy Sharkey



Brush with royalty at ‘Miss Representation’

After last weekend’s premiere of “Miss Representation,” a documentary by Jennifer Siebel Newsom (yes, wife of California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom) about the portrayal of women in the media, a luncheon was held, and actress Geena Davis and women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem were scheduled to speak. As I waited for a panel discussion to begin, a man — probably noticing my boredom — sat down next to me.

I took the opportunity to ask him what he, as a man, thought of the film. “I thought it was great,” he responded. “I’m very into women’s issues, because my wife is an actress.”

Thinking his spouse was probably a little-known indie player, I inquired about who she was. “Olivia Wilde,” he responded, referring to the “Tron: Legacy” star. Surprisingly, Wilde has been married since she was 18 to the man with whom I was speaking: Tao Ruspoli an Italian prince (and filmmaker himself). So why haven’t we seen him alongside Wilde on the red carpet — most recently at the Golden Globes, when she donned a stunning princess-like gown?


“That’s her thing,” he said. “I don’t want to be the kind of guy who carries his wife’s purse.” – Amy Kaufman


Footwear issues in colder climes

For many Sundance attendees, part of the joy of the festival is just the change of scenery from sunny Los Angeles. Waiting for the premiere of the documentary “Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times,” I noticed a woman tromping into the Temple Theater wearing a long, puffy silver jacket that looked as if it could double as a sleeping bag. As she brushed some snow from her shoulders, an usher approached and pointed to her right hand.


“Ma’am, would you like to store your snowshoes on the side of the theater during the screening? I’ll keep an eye on them.”

Now that’s something you never hear at Grauman’s Chinese! – Julie Makinen


Sharing the same funny bone


The roughly 1,000 people who had gathered at the Eccles Theatre on Wednesday night were stirring. They had just seen “I Melt With You,” an intense movie that takes a turn from the relatively benign activity of male partying to the much more serious notion of collective suicide. They were in need of some comic relief when a famous face came to the rescue.

“Mom, I’m sorry,” said Jeremy Piven, one of the film’s stars, as he walked onto the stage. The audience burst into laughter. A second later, there was a response.

“I didn’t know you were going to die!” came the evidently surprised voice from the crowd. It was, indeed, Piven’s mother.

The audience laughed again. But the man known for getting his way on “Entourage” wasn’t about to let someone else have the last word — not even the woman who gave birth to him. After the laughter had died down, he waited a beat and, with perfect comic timing, quipped back: “Well, I didn’t want to ruin it for you.” — Steven Zeitchik