This year I got high-centered in the film guide to the point where I couldn't seem to extricate myself without devoting a follow-up column to a few more of the scheduled films that caught my eye. As local film festivarians have long been aware, it's a jungle out there.
Years ago, I came upon an interesting Richard Linklater film called "Before Sunrise" that featured a couple of twenty-somethings (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who meet on a train to Vienna and spend the day and night pitching nuanced woo at one other. The Hawke character is brashly American while Delpy's is French and somewhat more understated. They promise to meet again in Vienna in one year's time.
Next, not all that long ago, I stumbled upon an obvious sequel entitled "Before Sunset." By this time the Hawke character is a married writer on a book-tour stop at "Shakespeare and Co." bookshop in Paris. You'll never guess who shows up for the reading. As with the first, very interesting and spontaneous verbal interaction sets the film apart.
Now I discover that the third in the series, "Before Midnight," will be premiering at this year's Sundance festival. Filmed and relatively recently wrapped in Greece, the story picks up nine years later and one would have to assume that it features more smartly-written dialogue from the Linklater-Hawke-Delpy menage-a-trois.
One would also assume that the Steve Jobs biopic "Jobs," featuring Ashton Kutcher as the visionary Apple CEO, won't be in town looking for a distributor. More than likely that horse is out of the barn. The tale of how Jobs and his buddy Woz turned the world on its head from inside the Jobs family garage, however, just has to make for good cinema.
"The Crash Reel," a look at high-risk sports that uses Olympic-hopeful snowboarder Kevin Pearce's New Year's Eve 2009 training accident at the Park City Mountain Resort halfpipe as a centerpiece, has more than a few local angles including the University of Utah trauma team that treated Pearce.
Academy Award-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple brings what looks like a quite intriguing documentary to the festival this year, a film that explores mental illness and suicide within the family of Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway. Through the points of view of Papa's actress granddaughters, Margaux, who also committed suicide, and the surviving Mariel, "Running From Crazy" explores one family's history of failed attempts at properly processing its past.
"We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks" takes a look at Julian Assange and the public's right to know in its broadest sense. An extensive look behind the scenes of the secret operations within corporations and governments and what effect whistleblowers and the mass release of top-secret information have on international relations is of topical interest indeed.
Filmmaker Sebastian Junger, author of "The Perfect Storm" and the co-director, along with the late Tim Hetherington, of the Sundance Grand Jury prize-winning documentary "Restropo," is bringing "Which Way is the Front from Here," a look at the life and times of his photojournalist and filmmaker brother-in arms. Junger celebrates Hetherington, who was killed by a mortar round in Libya in 2011, for his award-winning body of work and courage in getting the story right.
A political film that grabbed my attention is "No," which features Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal ("Amores Perros," "Y Tu Mamá También," "The Motorcycle Diaries") in the role of a Chilean activist during the campaign to oust dictator Augusto Pinochet and his brutal henchmen from power.
I could go on and on. How about "The World According to Dick Cheney" or "Computer Chess" or "Google and the World Brain?" And I haven't even mentioned any of the films selected for Slamdance or the Music Café or the always-informative panel discussions.
Other than acquiring tickets, there's not much that remains on my pre-festival to-do list. With my current read being a bit too hefty, however, I do need a paperback book for stints in waiting lines.
I don't hide it! With film, including its digital counterparts, being one of my favorite forms of media, the second half of January, by default, has become one of my favorite times of the year. The overall effect of the Sundance experience, when coupled with the Park City Film Series, has turned our town into a Mecca for independent film, and that's not a bad thing at all.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.