Sundance Part One

The Q&A after We Live in Public

Last night N and I dropped E off at a friend's house and headed up the canyon to the Sundance Resort. I've lived in Utah full time for 8+ years but hadn't been to the resort until then (I don't ski.) It was quite lovely.

We first saw We Live in Public, which was directed by Ondi Timoner who won the grand jury prize in 2004 for her documentary, DiG! (N's does a nice job of breaking down the movie here.)

We Live in Public was fascinating. It follows Josh Harris who was one of the leaders of the early dot-com days and a pioneer in internet broadcasting. The film makes a point of exploring how fending for himself as a child (due to an emotionally unavailable mother) and growing up raised by TV influenced Harris. As a side effect of his upbringing Harris related more to characters than real people. (e.g. He refuses to call or visit his mother on her deathbed and instead sends her a video message in which he wishes her "all the best.")

But back in the 1990s Harris was ahead of his time back. He was one of the first dot-com millionaires and his special interest was how people would use technology to communicate with others. He foresaw that people would use the internet to broadcast the details of their lives and surrender privacy in exchange for popularity among strangers. Besides just having theories, Harris saw (and still sees) himself as a great artist. And so he built a weird underground hotel/compound (complete with lots of guns) and installs cameras and monitors everywhere and bills it as the art experiment of the millennium. A bunch of the New York City art crowd moves in and after a while, as you might predict, things do not go well.

The documentary doesn't pull any punches about how it was largely Harris' own flaws that brought about his professional, familial, and romantic failures. Because of that I felt kind of uncomfortable when I realized that Harris himself was there for the Q&A after the screening. We had just seen a lot of unflattering and embarrassingly intimate footage of his life and now here was the man himself on stage wearing khakis. (Understandably, Harris refuses to watch the film.)

The Q&A was great though. Ondi Timoner is whip-smart and super cute to boot. She actually stayed in the compound herself and there is footage of her in the film. To make the movie they had to sift through thousands of hours of footage. The way the film explores the questions of privacy and popularity and what they mean in the MySpace/Facebook era was intriguging.

The Q&A went on for a while and so we ended up missing our reservation at the Foundry Grill and just ate at the deli. We then went back to the screening room to see Manure.

Manure was a lot of fun. It's a comedy about manure salesmen in 1960s heartland America. The writing was funny and there were several great running gags/ zany hijinks. The cast includes Billy Bob Thorton, Tea Leoni, Kyle MacLachlan, and Ed Helms (from the Daily Show). Visually, the movie was stunning; the art direction was fantastic. The cgi backdrops reminded me of 300. They were dreamy and at times epic. The highbrow visuals contrast interestingly with the lowbrow humor (as you can imagine, there are poop jokes galore).

I'm not sure why type of distribution the movie's has set up. Even though it has a well-known cast it's so quirky that I can't see it playing at the local megaplex. But I would recommend watching it if you get the chance.

And that is all I have to say about last night's films because E is now insisting (quite vehemently) on my undivided attention.

Tonight we're going to An Education and 500 Days of summer. Bring on the coming-of-age stories and romances!