Jay Meehan: The fence
January 28, 2014
On this side of the film festival fence, we of the cinematic-arts persuasion are contemplating the void left when the recent influx of visionary filmmakers packed up their collective wares and hit the road back to from where they came. On the other side of this cultural divide, however, there’s a flat-out party going on!
These folks, and many of them are close friends of your humble scribe, couldn’t be happier that the Sundance crowd has finally given us the slip. And they never shy away from sharing, with me anyway, the depth of their contempt for this annual invasion of and interruption to their normal lives.
Admittedly, from those trying to get to work or the market or a barstool to the rest of us trying to get to a film or the Music Café or a barstool, film festival week is inherently difficult on everyone. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I feel their pain just not overly so.
Actually, during the screening of each film that fortune allowed me to attend this year, one or more of these friends would cross my mind. With so many of the anti-Sundance crowd awash in artistic sensibility, they entered my reverie easily and often. "Now, wouldn’t so-and-so have just loved this particular slice of celluloid?" I would ask myself.
With sports and music often being the adhesives that first attached me to those on the other side of this cultural divide, not to mention also being subject to matters that have historically influenced many of my film selections, I have little doubt that if only I could get them to join me for a day or two of pub and theater crawling, their views on the festival might moderate a bit. Nah! Probably not!
Take "No No: A Dockumentary," the film about Pittsburgh Pirate hurler Dock Ellis purportedly tossing a no-hitter while in the throes of an LSD trip. More than a few of my Sundance-bashing friends appeared to me during that screening. Only because they are sports fans, you understand.
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And even if they have never come into contact with musician Nick Cave, I’m sure the film "20,000 Days on Earth" would be to their liking. Most of these folks flaunt an abiding interest in the "creative process" and Cave’s rather quirky modus operandi would no doubt have kept them fully engaged until the closing credits.
Although it’s possibly one of the greatest music documentaries of all time and I’m sure they would love it, actually getting them into the theater for the revolutionary afro-beat classic "Finding Fela" might have proven problematic in more than a few cases — not all of them being totally invested in diversity, and all.
Not that, as a group, there are huge cultural and/or political differences between those on opposite sides of the film festival fence. But it does occur to me that some of the more strident anti-fest folk probably dig Limbaugh more than Dylan, demolition derby more than ballet, and shooting ranges more than poetry.
I must say, though, that those are stereotypes that don’t hold up all the way across the board. That’s because, among most of the Sundance bashers, it’s not the cultural aspect of the films at all but, rather, the self-serving antics flaunted by many among the "people in black" that descend on their towns and highways.
Where both sides do find common ground, at least in my case, centers around the classic ambiance of a tequila-infused honky-tonk dance floor. Just not during the film festival. More often than not, we keep our distance while agreeing to disagree. Now that Sundance 2014 is in our rear-view mirror, however, all bets are off. Once again, we’ll gather at the roadhouse.
Speaking of politics, I would have loved to have a quorum of their ilk passing a flask with me for "Last Days in Vietnam" or "Cesar’s Last Fast" or "Dinosaur 13" or "Dear White People." As usually is the case, we’d have probably found as much common ground as areas of disagreement, but, hopefully, we’d have had some sort of verbal donnybrook.
But it’s not that Sundance haters don’t like great films. They just don’t like having their "wah" disturbed. I have absolutely no doubt that following the final frame of the U.S. Dramatic competition Grand Jury prize and Audience Award winner, "Whiplash," that they would have jumped out of their seats and joined the ovation with the rest of us.
If the truth be known, however, I hope they never do come around to my way of thinking, especially on Sundance. It’s way too much of a blast to laugh and poke fun at each other. I mean what would we do with our spare time if verbal abuse were removed from the equation?
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.