Tara Reid, Matisyahu And Two Seriously Quirky Flicks: Sundance Diary

Fest first-timer struggles to unravel event's mysteries while gathering info on first deals and hitting parties.

PARK CITY, Utah — This year MTV is covering the Sundance Film Festival from every conceivable angle — including an ongoing diary of our news team’s experiences at the fest.

January 22, 9:25 p.m.
Another night at Sundance, another buzzed-about flick gets its long-awaited debut. Tonight I’m seeing the first screening of “The Nines.” Curious Sundance sidenote: numbers seem to be very much in vogue this year. In addition to this one, there’s “The Ten” and “Chicago 10.” And none of them is even a sequel! Anyway, tonight is all about “The Nines” and the crowd is buzzing at the Eccles Theatre. It’s packed too. I even spot “Veronica Mars” herself, Kristen Bell, looking for a seat. I also spy “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” director Doug Liman running around the theater for no apparent reason.

11:15 p.m.
The film concludes and the arguments begin. This happens a lot at Sundance. Nearly every conversation begins with something along the lines of, “So, what’s good?” Well, that or “Who have you seen?” In the back of a taxi leaving the theater, opinions are divergent on “The Nines,” a head trip of a flick starring Ryan Reynolds. It’s a drama, a comedy and sci-fi flick all in one, and I was mesmerized. MTV News writer Larry Carroll couldn’t disagree more. He’s ready to throttle the director.

January 23, 12:30 a.m.
I make a couple of brief stops in town at premiere parties for “The Nines” and “The Ten” (where Matisyahu has the crowd pumped) before hitting the hay. Frankly, sleep is more of a priority than party-hopping at this point.

9:35 a.m.
Here’s another one of the many little ironies of Sundance: No one knows what’s going on. How do I get tickets? No one knows. Does this pass get me in here? Maybe, you can try. Where is the interview happening? I think it might be down there. And finally, what’s the hot film? Ask five people and you’ll probably get six answers. This morning I learned about some of the first deals in place at the festival. The Sam Rockwell thriller “Joshua” went to Fox Searchlight. John Cusack’s “Grace is Gone” went to the Weinsteins (they’re also sharing the rights to a racy little flick called “Teeth”). In short, none of the films I’ve seen have been bought yet. And here I thought I’d been checking out the must-see flicks at the festival. Like I said, nobody knows what’s going on.

1:30 p.m.
I’ve been itching for a comedy and I’ve finally found one. “Year of the Dog,” which stars Molly Shannon as a canine-obsessed sad sack, is about to begin and I’m ready to smile after overindulging in tales of child abuse, alcoholism and suicide.

3:15 p.m.
“Year of the Dog” does the trick well enough. Shannon’s winning smile carries the day in the quirky Mike White-directed flick. But this being Sundance, even though it’s a comedy, it has its share of darkness.

4:52 p.m.
After taking care of a few odds and ends (viewing some tape for pieces we’re cutting), I make a quick stop at an afternoon party in town for Picturehouse, the theatrical arm of HBO. I notice Rainn Wilson of “The Office” in deep conversation with Timothy Hutton. File that under things I wasn’t expecting to see today.

5:37 p.m.
I just passed Tara Reid. Any festival that can debut flicks starring Tara and Anthony Hopkins in the same week gets my vote.

5:40 p.m.
Besides Robert Redford, the first thing that probably comes to anyone’s mind when they think of Sundance is the swag. Yes, this is the place where everything from massages to cosmetics are thrown at anyone with even a small amount of notoriety. I’ve asked a ton of celebrities this week about the swag and just about everyone says they have no interest in it. Well someone is lying, because the swag doesn’t walk off by itself. And I’ve finally met a guy who is stoked for free stuff: “Detroit Rock City” director Adam Rifkin gleefully tells me he’s only been here a couple hours and he’s already gotten free boots and an iPod. “I am all about the swag,” he enthuses. “I love it!” We talk for a bit about his Slamdance caveman comedy, “Homo Erectus” (I’m not making this up), and then he moves on. On to the next party full of free stuff, I suppose.

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