Hey there kids! This will, as you can expect, be my final blog entry for Sundance 2008. It is time to close the book on what was the most amazing experience of my young movie blogging career. Last year’s Comic Con was a bunch of fun, but it could not hold a flame to the experiences of Park City. Chief among my experiences were the fantastic people that I met along my journey. And I’m not talking about celebs like Colin Farrell, Olivia Thirlby, Jason Reitman, Quentin Tarantino or Morgan Spurlock — I am talking about the die hard movie fans. We rode buses together and chatted it up before and after screenings — for these folks, there was always something to talk about.
I also met a lot of you, readers of FSR. I was astounded by the amount of people who had not only heard of, but have read our little home for Hollywood’s outcasts. It is one of those experiences that energizes me, pushing me to work harder, find better stories and continue to push all of our writers to deliver the type of content that keeps people coming back here day in and day out. Never did I imagine that I would be sitting on a bus in Park City, Utah, talking to a complete stranger only to have them realize who I was — and then to watch them turn into a complete fanboy, over me — I’m just a dude with a blog from Ohio. It was altogether humbling, extremely energizing and wonderfully unexpected.
And lets not forget the films that I saw. Going into the festival I had my eye on films like Choke and Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?, both of which were great. But I was caught off guard in all the best ways by a little documentary about growing up in the midwest (American Teen), a funky, fresh mid-90’s drug comedy (The Wackness) and a smart, funny John Hughes meets noir high school detective story (Assassination of a High School President), among others. From a documentary about the man who brought Gonzo journalism to the world (Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson) to a quirky, accessible comedy from director Michel Gondry (Be Kind Rewind), there were so many beautiful gems at this year’s fest.
And sure, I will agree with some of my collegues — your first time at Sundance is always your most memorable. The freshness of the experience usually overwhelms you, clouding your ability to judge the quality of the festival. Overall, I am told that this year pales in comparison to years like 2004 (that features Garden State, Napoleon Dynamite and Super Size Me) and 2006 (where Little Miss Sunshine made a big splash). So maybe my view of the entire experience is clouded, but that doesn’t change the fact that I found more than a handful of films that I absolutely loved. These are films that I have committed to following throughout the year, as they deserve to be seen and you need to be excited about them. Plus, these are all films that may need a little help here and there. If I have learned anything about Sundance it is that once you get past some of the glowing star-vehicles, driven into the fest by one big name, you find some real gems that are destined to die in limited release — but it doesn’t have to be that way. That is why going forward, FSR will be committed to following many of these titles as part of our new, soon to be easy to browse indie section. Stay tuned for more details on that over the coming months.
So there you have it — Sundance has been an inspiration to me, an awakening experience, if I may. It has opened my eyes to the fact that in order to truly live up to the Film School Rejects name, we must better serve all of those breakthrough rejects — the ones that fight their way through the film festival circuit to attain stardom — we will do what we can to bring you the next round of Kevin Smiths, Jason Reitmans and Michel Gondrys.
Our next step in this process? Covering the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas from March 7 to March 15. Planning for the trip began yesterday, and hopefully we will have even more writers on scene in Austin to bring you even more in-depth coverage. So as we close the book on Sundance, we look forward to our time in Austin — we look forward to the year ahead. The only question is — are you ready?