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Sundance Film Festival
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The staff of The Salt Lake Tribune covers the Sundance Film Festival, on the streets of Utah and beyond.

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2nd weekend of Sundance in Salt Lake City

The second weekend of the Sundance Film Festival is the one where the celebrities have all gone home, and much of the frenzied excitement of the first weekend has died down. The focus is on film — and that's not a bad thing.

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I spent the second weekend enjoying films with my wife, who except for a screening of "Anita" on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, had avoided Park City and the festival. While I had spent much of the week at the Broadway Theatre downtown watching the 3 p.m. films (and getting especially bored through most, but I'm not complaining -- seeing movies on work-time is a privilege) and my wife was slaving away at work, it was nice to finally enjoy three films with her during the final weekend — all in Salt Lake City, where we live. And she usually helps me out with explaining parts of films I don't understand.

Friday evening after work, we went to the Beehive Tea Room, which was packed, so we didn't get to see the ukelele-playing musician in the room with the stage. We each ordered a pot of tea — I ordered an herbal called something like Bella Colla, which was fruity and sweet especially with 17 packets or so of Splenda. (I hope scientists don't someday discover that Splenda causes severe hemorrhoids for decades.) I ordered a tomato-and-cream cheese sandwich on rye. The most excitement at the Tea Room was when two fancy-looking people (who were much better dressed than I or my wife) walked through the Room and I speculated that one of them was Amanda Seyfried, and my wife whispered that she looked more like Dakota Fanning. I couldn't confirm that either was famous, but that's the nice thing about blogs -- you can speculate all you want without worrying too much about the truth in regards to whether that blonde in a Tea Room was really famous or not. I'll tell my family it was probably both--they'll never know the difference. In the end, that's all we did for the rest of the evening, even though I had to go to the bathroom every 10 minutes for the rest of the night. (Drinking a whole pot of tea can do that to you.)

On Saturday, we caught the 3:30 p.m. screening of "Austenland" at the Rose Wagner Theatre, which was mobbed. After seeing films all week that revolved around dysfunctional, mopey people in some sort of downward spiral, it was nice to see a comedy. Director Jerusha Hess told everyone in the audience beforehand to not search for any hidden meaning or deeper message, and I followed my instructions. And I didn't feel sleepy in the least, especially during the Q-and-A afterward, which was one of the most entertaining Q-and-A's I have ever seen after a film. There weren't too many artsy-fartsy questions where the question-askers tried to be super smart or clever, and the question-answerers (Hess and author of the book that inspired the movie, Shannon Hale) were quick-witted and amiable. Hale said one of the actors kinda looked like Joseph Smith, and she kept waiting for him to have a vision. And she also admitted that she had a life-sized cut-out of Colin Firth (as Mr. Darcy) in her room, much like how Jane in the film has one.) There was a cameo from Hess' husband as a travel agent, though the filmmakers said they were hoping to cast Firth in the role.

After dinner with friends at Red Rock Brewery (fried green tomatoes and a Reuben), we caught the 9 p.m. screening at the Broadway of "Fill the Void," which was a gamble because we knew absolutely nothing about it when we bought tickets. The only reason we bought tickets was because my wife has visited Israel and the film was set in Israel. After there was no Q-and-A, the film was mobbed and it turned out to be one of the better things I had seen all week. (And by the end of the 10 days, I had seen 13.) The film told the story about the aftermath of a young woman dying in childbirth, and the possibility of the young widow marrying the younger sister of his late wife. It was a look at a Hasidic Jewish world that was illuminating, the struggles and pressures of the younger sister were portrayed in a sympathetic way. What was even better was talking about the film with my wife after stopping at Wendy's — I thought the movie had a happy ending, but my wife believed the film had a sad ending. She's usually right.)

Sunday we caught the third and final screening of "Jobs," the film that had debuted Friday night at the Eccles Center in Park City. Ashton Kutcher and anyone involved with the film were no-shows at the Rose Wagner, but I believed Kutcher pulled off the role. While the film wasn't innovative in any way, I frankly knew next to nothing about Jobs beforehand and found myself being engrossed by the film. With the highs and lows of Jobs' life, it would be hard to make a film about him that would make me sleepy. For more well-educated people than me who knew much more about him than I did, it might have seemed to be devoid of any inventive insight into what make Jobs tick (and be a prick).

As we left the screening, snow was falling and our Sundance weekend was over. I have a ticket to see the "Best of the Fest" screening of "Afternoon Delight" Monday night at the Rose Wagner, though I might just end up giving that ticket away to someone in the office who hadn't caught any films. Having the festival in our state is one of the pleasures we have found in Utah since moving here five and one-half years ago, and even though severe hemorrhoids might one day result from my Sundance experiences, it will all be worth it.

OK. Almost worth it.

— David Burger



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