Jay Meehan: True grit
The first thing you notice when you pull your head out of the sand, a common occurrence in these times, is the roughness of the granules themselves. They fall from your eyebrows to hang suspended from any facial whiskers currently making the rounds.
With Trump visiting Utah to carve up national monuments for the drill-baby-drillers and cement his spot in the afterlife with church elders, maintaining the big picture (i.e. visualizing the post-apocalyptic landscape) has a way of seeking out denial in its more gritty forms. As for me, I’m quite able to invert myself into whatever finely divided rock and mineral particles avail themselves.
An alternative, of course, at least this time of year, is full immersion into the celluloid. And that would be where I’m heading. It’s time to cut to the chase and “roll film.” The 2018 Sundance Film Festival looms and that, with more than 100 feature films already identified and on the table, is where I’m going to be sticking my head.
Right out of the U.S Dramatic Competition chute we get “Blaze,” a film treatment of the life and times of Texas outlaw music legend Blaze Foley, a work ramrodded by Ethan Hawke. Hawke, a native-born Austin lad himself and an actor-collaborator on much of legendary Texas film director Richard Linklater’s cinematic art would seem the perfect fit to helm this long overdue tale.
Foley, a singular songwriter and guitar fingerpicker, existed in a musical landscape that presaged the movement that would make many of its practitioners a quite comfortable living. The modifiers “idiosyncratic” and “quirky” might also be brought into play.
Within the U. S. Documentary Competition lineup, an entry that quickly made my “must see” short list was “Bisbee ’17,” a film that delves into the mass-deportation of 1200 immigrant miners from the now-quaint and trendy Arizona border town of Bisbee almost exactly 100-years ago. Quite timely, one might say.
The World Cinema competitions, both dramatic and documentary, have long kept close touch with my personal ticket selection processes due to the improbability of any of them showing in the near future upon the screens in my hometown of Heber City. You gotta grab ‘em while you can.
One shortcut I often take when normal procedures fail in these categories is to allow those with festival portfolio to take the reins, as I did this year in the World Cinema dramatic competition with the Brazil-Uruguay co-production “Loveling.” This World Premiere selected for screening during the prestigious “Day One” window, made my list pretty much by default.
On the World Cinema Documentary side of the aisle, you might say a film collaboration from Russia and the USA entitled “Our New President” figuratively grabbed me by my Putin-ishly thin lapels and has yet to release its grip.
According to the blurb, it is the “story of Donald Trump’s election told entirely through Russian propaganda. By turns horrifying and hilarious, the film is a satirical portrait of Russian media that reveals an empire of fake news and the tactics of modern-day information warfare.” Sounds very much like my cup of Stolichnaya. If that wasn’t enough, it is also a “Day One” selection.
The “Next” category has hosted some of the more edgy and interesting fare within each year’s festival lineup and this time around it very much appears to have followed suit. My initial choice from this grouping happens to also be the preordained winner of the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize for the 2018 go-around and that would be “Search,” a thriller that unfolds mostly on a missing teenage female protagonist’s computer screen.
The “Sloan” is awarded annually to the film deemed the most science-friendly of the lot. And, in these times when science is debunked from on “low,” it doesn’t take much at all to get me onboard.
From the always popular “Premiere” category, I’m going with “A Futile and Stupid Gesture,” a film dealing with the life and times of Doug Kenney, the co-creator of “National Lampoon,” “Caddyshack,” “Animal House,” and other zeitgeist comedic touchstones of the ‘70s.
The fact that Doug seemingly met his demise just down the road from where I type this on the island of Kauai also seemed a sign I couldn’t ignore. There is something about the precipice overlook of Waimea Canyon that one should never treat lightly.
Come on in, the waters are fine. Celluloid is the real true grit.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.
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Columnist Tom Clyde writes that the “area around Jordanelle Reservoir is a jurisdictional chowder gone bad.”