by Aaron Peck
You know what they say; you can only eat so much Burger King before your body launches a full scale revolt against you. What? They don't say that? Well, they should, because, boy is it true.
This isn't a journal entry for the weak stomached. This is a cautionary tale, like many of the films up here at Sundance. This is a what-not-to-do festival rundown. If you ever find yourself taking on the mammoth task of a film festival, please use this information wisely.
The day started off nicely enough. I hopped on a crowded morning bus heading into the city. I put my headphones on and listened to some local radio as we traveled into town. The drive is a nice one, particularly when you're sitting at your own window seat gazing out at the snow-covered mountains. When you're crunched between a large man and a woman who has no idea where she's going and has to ask the bus driver every stop if this is hers, then it's not as enjoyable.
I had an early start to the day, which is always nice. There's something about sitting down for a movie at 9:00 AM that makes me happy. I don't know why, because by all rationality I should be sleeping.
The first movie of the day was a documentary called 'Dirty Wars.' A startling tale about covert operations, innocent people being killed during night raids across the world, and the U.S. government agencies behind it. A reporter pieces the labyrinthine puzzle together and what comes out the other side is staggering.
My original plan hadn't included 'Virtually Heroes,' but since the first couple days were ruined by weak planning on my part and the scarcity of press tickets for screenings I wanted to get in to, I decided to hit up the Park City at Midnight entry. It would've been better as a 20 minute short. It's a low-budget live-action version of 'Wreck-It Ralph.' A couple of guys in a first-person shooter video game become self-aware. All the references are used up in the first few moments of the movie. Oh yeah, Mark Hamill makes an appearance. So there's that.
It was about this time that I felt the first tummy rumble. Like a harbinger of doom my innards gurgled and popped. "Uh oh," I thought. "This can't be good."
'Austenland,' the new movie from the 'Napoleon Dynamite' people was next. Standing in the press line waiting to get in I was wondering what my body was trying to tell me. Was I coming down with the dreaded Sundance Flu? Or was it my careless fast food eating the previous two days?
I had a hard time sitting through 'Austenland.' My stomach was speaking more than an elderly lady in a complicated sci-fi movie. This was getting bad, but I had a packed schedule I didn't want to let up.
'Austenland' was agreeable enough. It's the best movie the Hesses have made, but that's not saying a whole lot. I'm not a huge fan of their weirdo quirky humor. Although, Jennifer Coolidge needs to take it down a notch, or five. She's so far over the top in this movie that it caused quite a few of my colleagues to simply give up and walk out. Keri Russell plays a woman who is obsessed with Jane Austen and the time period that her books portray. So, she travels to a reenactment place in England when it's all Austen all the time.
After getting out of 'Austenland' I had only 30 minutes to make it to the premiere of 'The Lifeguard' starring Kristen Bell. I underestimated the time it would take to get from the theater I was at to the theater where 'The Lifeguard' was playing. Any other day, I would have jogged there. Not today though. Not with my stomach feeling like a Xenomorph could burst through my gut at any moment.
The road to the theater was packed with cars. It was a parking lot. There was no way I'd get there in time on a bus, so I started walking. Time seemed to be passing faster than it should've been. I switched to a brisk walk, and then a light jog. The cold air stung my lungs. Exhaust fumes from the stalled cars on the road choked me. My stomach gurgled in resistance.
I barely made it and was greeted with the worst seat in the house: very front row, far right. I craned my neck all the way to the left like I was watching a one-sided tennis match. The movie started. Beads of sweat started forming on my head. This wasn't going to be pretty. I ran to the bathroom. Relief! Or so I thought.
'The Lifeguard,' directed by Liz Garcia (pictured above) is about an older woman, played by Kristen Bell, who falls for an underage teenager after she moves back home because her life is in shambles (FYI: A shamble-y life is a Sundance staple). It's a completely ridiculous movie that is made all the more unwatchable by the sheer number of implausible and uninteresting subplots they try to shoehorn in.
My stomach was feeling alright now, so I stayed for the Q&A session. Kristen Bell was there looking very pregnant. I took a few pictures and the session ended. Mrs. Bell came walking back over to my side of the room. I got up, put on my jacket, picked up my bag and started to walk out. The sudden change in position shifted something deep inside my bowels. "Uh oh," I thought. I half-turned my head to see pregnant Kristen Bell directly behind me. I couldn't hold it in.
Kristen, if you're reading this, I'm sorry for crop dusting you.