I know the end of the festival is near when I get six hours of sleep and consider myself lucky. Some people up here in Park City are hitting their second wind by Day 7. But not me. I look and feel like an extra from 28 Days Later.
Yesterday’s big premiere movie was The Darwin Awards, a kind of high-brow screwball comedy from Sundance vet director Finn Taylor (Cherish) starring Winona Ryder and Joseph Fiennes (pictured), and just about everyone else with a SAG card: David Arquette, Juliette Lewis, Tim Blake Nelson, Nora Dunn, Lukas Haas, and the always hilarious, inimitable Judah Friedlander (American Splendor). Also among the supporting cast was Chris Penn, who died on Tuesday. At the Q&A following the screening, Finn and Ryder had lovely things to say about Penn. “He wasn’t just Sean’s little brother,” the actress said, holding back tears.
A dinner at the W Lounge at the bottom of Main Street followed the premiere. I sat across from That 70s Show’s Wilmer Valderrama, whose work in Darwinis off-camera voiceover until the end. It’s sort of funny. Ryder was notdoing press, but she seemed in good spirits, chatting with her fellowactors, posing for photographers wearing a cute black ski hat, andjumping up from her seat at the dinner table when the boys fromMetallica (yes, that Metallica) dropped by. Lars Ulrich was treated toa nice, long bear hug from “Nonie.” The metal gods play themselves in Darwin and were in town for a “surprise” performance that night at the wretched, stinky, sweaty, smoky Main St. bar Harry O’s.
From about 8 p.m. until well after midnight, the sidewalk outsideHarry O’s was flooded with people who, one of many surly bouncersannounced, should not think they were going to get inside “just becausethey had a ticket.” Seems the place hit capacity pretty muchimmediately, which left the rest of the hopefuls freezing their bunsoff outside. Stephanie Daly’s Amber Tamblyn wandered up around 11:30. I lost sight of her, but I imagined her having to produce DVDs of both seasons of Joan of Arcadiato convince the boneheads at the door to let her pass. I ask you: Whyhand out 4,000 tickets if only 1,500 people will make it in? Were theparty promoters really that concerned that no one would show up at aMetallica concert? A Metallica concert in Park City, Utah?! Come on!
But back to the movies. Since beginning my sprint a week agotoday, I’ve seen some good ones, a few really good ones, and one greatone: The Trials of Darryl Hunt. It’s an HBO documentary aboutan African-American man who spent 20 years in a North Carolina prisonfor a hideous crime he had nothing to do with. Hunt is here at thefestival with his wife, and seeing him in person was a true honor. Here was a man who displays not a trace ofbitterness, and whose courage kept him fighting a racist, unjust systemfor two decades.
And really, that’s what Sundance is about. Sure, the celeb sightingsare fun. The swag-a-thons can be intoxicating. But in the end, it’sabout the stories on screen, and the exceptional individuals – actors,filmmakers, or just regular people like Hunt – who bring them to usmere mortals.