It’s done. The Salt Lake City airport no longer vibrates with cell phone radiation. Park City has transformed back into a ski town pumpkin from a crystal film chariot. That locust swarm of Prada and Gucci has hummed off to the coasts, those rented black SUVs have been returned, and the acquisition execs have scuttled off, loops of celluloid tucked under one arm, light(er) corporate wallets nestled in their pockets.
And somewhere in this swirl of ego, art, and chirping phones winding down, the winners – oh yeah, THEM – were announced.
Though it may not seem it, Sundance is still a film festival, and a fun one at that. Sunday night in a suburban sports club – the kind of place with limited pool hours due to a lack of lifeguards – 2000 Sundance Special Award winner Donal Logue stood in front of hundreds of journalists, flacks, and filmmakers to dole out 18 glass prizes.
Surprises abounded. The documentary jury bucked the buzz that Internet Icarus tale ”Startup.com” and Arctic exploration story ”The Endurance” were the front runners. Instead, they handed hardware to Tom Shepard’s gays in the Boy Scouts film ”Scout’s Honor” (Freedom of Expression award), Stacey Peralta’s skateboarding flick ”Dogtown and Z-Boys” (for directing), and Kate Davis’ docu ”Southern Comfort” (Grand Jury).
The feature jury, which industry types deemed too eclectic to come to any kind of consensus, doled out a designed to please slate. So you thought ”In the Bedroom” was the ”You Can Count on Me” of 2001? A Special Jury Prize for acting went to costars Tom Wilkenson and Sissy Spacek. Loved the mind melting ”Memento” even though it had already shown in Toronto, New York, and just about everywhere else films are prescreened? Writer/ director Chris Nolan got the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for his screenplay based on a short story by his brother. Figured that ”The Deep End” was worth the multiple millions Fox Searchlight paid for it? Hallelujah! It got the Cinematography Award.
And for a finale, former October Films honcho Bingham Ray presented the Grand Jury Prize to the brainy Jewish Nazi tale ”The Believer,” the one movie at Sundance that everyone seemed to like, but no one seemed to adore. And sitting there, watching the amicable Logue mug, you had to think that these were sedate choices for a sedate festival. Sundance 2001 was a steady neddy affair, marked by constancy, but devoid of revelations. There was no ”Girlfight,” ”Blair Witch,” or ”You Can Count on Me.” No shivery discovery that jammed cell phone bandwidth for hours after the first screening.
Of course, you don’t need prizes to distinguish – or humiliate – yourself in Park City; just take the number of times I fell on my sorry ass hiking up Main Street (three). So awards notwithstanding, here are some other winners and losers from the 2001 festival.
Fox Searchlight The boutique studio needed to fill its slate worse than a school kid without answers. It did, picking up the screwball ”Super Troopers” for about $3 million and the award winning Tilda Swinton noir, ”The Deep End.” And by the end of the festival, word was that Searchlight execs may not be done buying.
The Sundance Screenwriters Lab Not only did it produce dramatic competition juror Darren Aronofsky’s ”Requiem for a Dream,” but also fest flicks ”Business of Strangers,” ”Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” and ”The American Astronaut.”
Richard Linklater It took cojones to bring two movies into the festival (”Waking Life” and ”Tape”). It took superior talent to make them two of the best.
The scenesters The coastal cool kids came, conquered, but didn’t see, well, ANYTHING. Sure, their condo/ chalet parties dominated the night life – often with the help of corporate sponsors – but c’mon guys, would it have killed you to actually take in a movie?
”Donnie Darko” Perhaps the most anticipated prefestival flick, the $6 million Drew Barrymore produced drama left without vocal supporters, and, more importantly, distribution.
Sundance 2002 Ugly rumors are already swirling: The festival will be earlier, it’s moving to Salt Lake City to avoid the Olympics, Toronto is overtaking Sundance in quality and prominence. Please Lord, let it all be as accurate as the prefest buzz on ”L.I.E.”