Friday, January 16, 2009

Sundance Film Festival - Day 1 - Part 2

I made it with 15 minutes to spare! Granted, I did have to pay extra and skip the shuttle for a cab from the airport, but I made it just in time for the opening night screening of "Mary & Max." A curious, stop-motion clay animation film from Australia created by Adam Elliot. Elliot may be familiar to some as the director of "Harvie Krumpet," the 2003 Academy Award Winner for Best Animated Short Film.

Based on the unlikely, 20-year pen pal relationship of a chubby 8-year-old girl from Australia and a 44-year-old Jewish man in NYC who is morbidly obese and suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, "Mary & Max" charms in the beginning, showcases excellent voice acting (Philip Seymour Hoffman & Toni Collette) and surprising visual complexity, but seems to stretch itself a bit thin by the end. Definitely worth the effort to see, but would be surprised if it receives any kind of wide distribution in this market. Word on the street is that distributors are really reluctant to pull the trigger on buying films this year an with no easily identifiable audience, “Mary & Max” may just slip through the cracks.

I mentioned in my opening post that the Sundance Film Festival is celebrating its 25th Anniversary, well, sort of. The Sundance Film Festival was actually founded in 1978, but was then known as, get this, the United States Film Festival. It is the 25th Anniversary of the Sundance Institutes purchase of the festival that is being celebrated. Purchased in 1985, it was immediately moved to Park City from Salt Lake, and shifted its focus to more independent film fare. In fact, in the first year the Coen brothers won the Grand Jury Prize for their debut film “Blood Simple,” a crisp, low budget neo-noir caper. They did not change the name of the festival until 1991.
For more on the history of Sundance, visit:

Tomorrow will be a full day of planning and screenings. The industry office was kind enough not to schedule a morning screening, allowing all of us to get our bearings.
Also of note, this is the first time since I have been going to Sundance that I would describe the temperature as balmy. However, I believe that has more to do with temperature in Milwaukee when I left this morning then the 35 degree temperature here.

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