Sunday in the Park
My kitchen counter is littered with debris. The silver, green and black ticket stubs from numerous Sundance movies. Scratchy notes written in the dark on the back of envelopes, deposit slips, film guides. Half-used Chapsticks, Snickers bars, earring backs. There are flyers and promotional materials from coffee mugs to T-shirts and keychains. And pounds and pounds of literature — movie magazines, trade publications, brochures from national corporations. The tea cups are scattered — ditto the wine glasses. And ringing the bar stools at the counter are pairs of shoes and boots and different weight coats and jackets tossed about.
What’s a girl to do?
So many opportunities, so little time. In a whirlwind of only 10 official days, Park City becomes the most cosmopolitan city in, if not the galaxy, at least the Intermountain West. The concentration of politicians and media pundits and Fortune 500 CEO’s combined with the unheralded convergence of talented filmmakers and actors and musicians is the headiest of intoxicants. Stimulating conversations with folks from Washington, D.C. and New York and Los Angeles and Toronto (all those terrific Canadian volunteers who work so hard behind the scenes for the festival, we love you). I have felt challenged in my opinions, beliefs and faith by what I have seen and heard and felt this week.
In no particular order and in MTV rapid-style snapshots, there have been some memorable moments. Sir Sting walking in the back door of the Park City High School to get into the Eccles Center and stopping at a locker pretending to know the combination. Holly Williams, granddaughter of the late Hank, singing at an elegant party in Bald Eagle and closing her set in the white-on-white living room with an almost whispered, haunting rendition of "I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry" and we did. The documentary film, "Wrestling With Angels," about playwright Tony Kushner, his social justice side, his gay life and marriage, his spiritual, provocative writing. And the technique the filmmaker used to transition segments a fluttering of unseen wings. At the Queer Lounge, the tall, thin man with the long, thin, painted-on mustache that looked just like John Waters, who turned out to be John Waters.
Actress Joey Adams ("Chasing Amy"), turned writer/director at the Q and A for her film, "Come Early Morning," starring Ashley Judd, saying there would be no DVD of this film with the director’s cut this was the director’s cut. "This is exactly the film I wanted to make," she said proudly.
High up, at the top of The Colony, on a clear night, when the stars seemed close enough to touch, 30 people gathered in the great room to hear singer/actor Minnie Driver, unplugged, sing songs from her soon to be released CD. Her clear, bluesy voice was as warm as the fire. She had donated her talents to raise money for the Summit Land Conservancy and to thank her friend, Colony Czar Keith Kelly. She and Doc, her talented sidekick and guitar/piano player, sang and strummed for a tight set that included Minnie doing just one cover, Springsteen’s stylized "Hungry Heart," to perfection.
There was much good karma in The Shop, a yoga studio, as it was transformed into a studio for the first "Amazon Fishbowl" event featuring host Bill Maher, authors Stephen King and Armistead Maupin and former Matchbox 20 singer, Rob Thomas. The zingers went flying, the flubs were unprintable but hysterical and the audience of less than 100 was appreciative to be part of such a smart event.
Back on Main Street on a clear, mild night mid-week, folks were hopping in and out of restaurants and lounges. The smart retailers were still open and doing brisk business. Down at the two-story, clear-sided hip tent on the future site of the Sky Lodge, less than 50 folks were gathering for a special dinner to honor board members of the national organization, The Creative Coalition. The candlelit dinner featured Giancarlo Esposito, from this year’s film "Sherrybaby," actor Sharon Lawrence and photographer/director ("Rize") David La Chapelle. Discussions about advocacy issues for arts and entertainment were peppered with talk about First Amendment concerns. These busy folks volunteer year-round to keep funding and awareness flowing for the arts community.
Back at the Eccles Center, Neil Young fans were not disappointed by Jonathan Demme’s celluloid love letter to the performer — an amazing documentary film of a two-night concert in Nashville. You are part of the running conversation and you see musical greats, like Emmylou Harris, take to the stage unannounced to play and sing in support of a legend who was facing medical challenges. The audience applauded after each song as if they were actually at the concert. And at the very end, with credits rolling, the final scene showing a solitary Young, playing one last song on his guitar, seated onstage in an empty theater, is a poignant moment that hushed the crowd. Then, from the back of the silent room, came a voice, "Thank You, Neil!" And Young, who had already stepped out the side door, came back into the room and hugged director Demme, as the pair waved to the crowd. (Demme was here in the early ’80s at the United States Film and Video Festival — the precursor to Sundance — with his film, "Melvin and Howard." In those days there were after-film discussions held in front of the fire at the Yarrow Hotel with drinks for the dozen or so film buffs who showed up for conversation.)
As Demme and Young waved to the crowd in the semi-darkness of the screen-lit room and the standing-ovation crowd was wildly cheering, another solitary figure stood against the brick theater wall, briefly separated from his own entourage. Robert Redford smiled at the scene and then quietly slipped out the side door.
As I write this, there are still days left for more adventures and film viewing. All too soon this temporary insanity will eerily vanish without a trace and we will back to being a town of less than 7,500 year-round residents. But for now, get out and enjoy the metropolitan atmosphere. Ride the bus, people watch and join in a conversation. What an extraordinary confluence of events floats us to this enviable spot on the planet! Don’t miss connecting on any of the days left of the festival, including this very Sunday, in the Park
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Park City at the start of 2021 is preparing for the return of numerous special events, something that could help reignite Park City’s tourism-heavy economy and re-create some of the energy that was lacking in 2020.