All You Ever Needed to Know About Sundance -- Like, Ever

Walter Mosley, author of Devil in a Blue Dress and Black Betty, hanging out in the Sundance HQ Friday afternoon

As the sender and recipients of this particular e-mail are fine folks well-regarded in the movie bidness (I know, right?), we'll leave their names off this missive. But for those who witness Sundance from the warm sidelines or for those ass-deep in freshly fallen snow, these few words sum up the film festival better than anything else I've ever read.

I get up there Saturday night. I imagine that the corporate boys have more demands on their schedules, like a screening of a super high priority available title that will turn out to be somewhat disappointing but will nevertheless provoke a crazy bidding war followed by a gloating yet optimistic press release by the winning company who then immediately second-guesses its acquisition and schedules multiple test screenings only to find out nobody really wants to see their movie. I’m pretty free and would love to hang out.
As of Friday, I'd seen at least one movie that fit that poetic description perfectly: The Wackness, otherwise known as the movie in which Mary-Kate Olsen makes out with Sir Ben Kingsley ... and, yes, gross.

What else you wanna know; what else you need to know? Set in 1994, a high-school grad (Josh Peck) sells dope to his therapist (Kinglsey), pines for Kinglsey's step-daughter (Juno's Olivia Thirlby) and watches helplessly as his father bankrupts the family and exiles them to Jersey. Hailed in by Sundance director Geoffrey Gilmore as the work of the "next generation" of filmmakers, writer-director Jonathan Levine's post-All the Boys Love Mandy Lane offering is strictly oldie-moldy material dosed with acid and fueled by weed -- though, in the end, it's all so much decaf romantic dramedy whatever.

So, of course, after the screening at the mammoth Racquet Club several major acquisitions execs were huddled beneath heaters trying to get their hits off The Wackness. Distributors with reps at the screening included THINKFilm, Fox Searchlight, Sony Picture Classics, Picturehouse, Lionsgate and Focus Features. Even Harvey Weinstein was there, a vision in powder blue -- made sense, of course, since Weinsten Co. will be releasing the Central Texas-made Mandy Lane in March, or some 18 months after its bow at the Toronto International Film Festival in September '06. Hurry up and wait. Then keep waiting.

The same folks were all lingering outside the same venue late last night, following the debut of Sunshine Cleaning, starring Amy Adams and Emily Blunt as crime-scene cleaners (oddly, the same gig Sam Jackson has in Cleaner, a Toronto busto in September). No doubt it too will go for a small fortune: Distributors love Sundance debuts with the word "Sunshine" in the title, especially if they co-star Alan Arkin.

Later today, maybe, an interview with Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. Or, at least, a few cigarettes with the stars of In Bruges. --Robert Wilonsky


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