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 23, 8:00 p.m.
It’s my last night at Sundance and I’ve resolved to get the most I can out of it. I’m on a tight schedule, but by my calculations I can see two flicks before the night is over. In addition to the films screened for competition at the festival, there are several premieres — films that are not necessarily looking for distribution as much as a higher profile. Tonight is the North American debut of one such film, “Angel-A,” the 10th and rumored last feature by visionary French director Luc Besson (“The Professional,” “The Fifth Element.”)
After the film concludes — it’s a sweet, fantastical tale of an angel and a man at the end of his rope — I literally race out into the chilly Park City night to see one more flick. After a couple of wrong turns I find myself wandering past several sketchy parking lots into truly the middle of nowhere. Briefly, I consider the fact that I may die here on a cold barren road in Utah trying to see a Lindsay Lohan film. Maybe this is what I deserve.
It’s a Sundance miracle! I have found the theater (with some help from a gas-station attendant) showing “Chapter 27,” and what’s more, I haven’t even missed a frame of it. This is the very first screening of “Chapter 27,” a much-hyped flick about John Lennon assassin Mark David Chapman (Jared Leto) in the days leading up to the Beatle’s murder. Lindsay Lohan in a supporting role doesn’t hurt the curiosity factor. After seeing a couple of movies at Sundance you learn the protocol awfully quick. The credits come up as the film concludes and the audience pays their respects, often with raucous applause. This is not a review of “Chapter 27,” so I’ll leave out my many thoughts on the flick, but suffice it to say, only a few people applauded at the end and I wasn’t one of them. This can’t be the last flick I see here. It can’t end like this.
January 24, 10:30 a.m.
It’s a busy day for MTV at the festival, really the last active day of stars plugging their flicks. By the end of business we should have interviews in the can with Justin Timberlake, Christina Ricci and Jared Leto among others. Sadly for me on a personal level, all that fun stuff is going down without me or after I leave for New York on a 5 p.m. flight. Still, I’ve just arrived at a hotel for one more conversation, an interview with Luc Besson. I’m hoping to dig for a little dirt on a “Transporter” sequel (of which he’s the producer) or even the long-rumored sequel to “The Professional.”
Still waiting on Luc, my dreams of making it to one more flick at 12:15, a controversial documentary called “Zoo,” are quickly going by the wayside. It’s a shame, really. Documentaries are a huge part of Sundance, never more so than this year, which featured a doc as the opening-night film. I’ve heard great things about a number of documentaries, from “My Kid Could Paint That” (about a controversial child prodigy) to “White Light/ Black Rain,” which examines the aftermath of the atomic bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. While I mourn my missed opportunities, I’m given a little time to interview the statuesque Danish model and star of “Angel-A,” Rie Rasmussen. I decide not to complain.
Turns out Rie knows more about movies than anyone this side of Roger Ebert, hence our lengthy chat. Finally her director, Besson, comes over, gallantly kisses her hand and sits down for a thoughtful conversation. I do my digging, get some interesting future plans out of him and get him to express his displeasure with Harvey Weinstein all at the same time.
So much for that last flick I was going to catch. But there’s just enough time for one more quick breeze through Main Street.
I run into Adam Rifkin, the Slamdance director I met the other day. I ask him how his swag grabbing is going. “It’s going great! I love it!” he smiles broadly.
Moments later, I pass Brett Morgen, the “Chicago 10″ director I interviewed on my first full day here. He looks giddy as he walks with his family. With all these familiar Sundance faces resurfacing in my last hours it seems like there are some cosmic forces at work. Could my first celebrity sighting, Sam Rockwell, be ready to pop out from behind a corner?
I receive a quick call from MTV News writer Larry Carroll. Larry is staying in Sundance until the bitter end, filing reports, and he’s just wrapped an interview with Justin Timberlake and Christina Ricci about their new film, “Black Snake Moan.” With all the cancellations this week, it’s a relief that this one is in the bag.
As I’m about to get in the car to the airport with some colleagues, we pass Jena Malone (“Saved!”) on Main Street. Rockwell, where are you?
Back to the Salt Lake airport for my fond farewell to Utah and the Sundance madness. The waiting area is filled with familiar faces, journalists and publicists who look a little bleary-eyed and anxious for home. I search in vain for a familiar celebrity face to deliver me back to New York safe and sound. Rockwell got me here, who will wrap up the Sundance experience with a bow?
Wish fulfilled? I settle into my seat next to — wait for it — Fisher Stevens. It’s been a long while since “Short Circuit,” so I choose not to strike up conversation. I do eavesdrop on a phone call he makes in which he calls himself “Fish.”
11:18 p.m. (New York time)
Exiting the aircraft — to the tune of Fisher singing “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” to himself — I try to relish the last moments of my first Sundance experience. The final numbers? Seven days. Seven films (only one a massive misfire). Twenty-nine interviews. One breath mint given to me by Paul Rudd. Oh, and one more sighting of a talented actor: Keri Russell grabs her bags off the conveyor belt and walks away. Sundance 2007 is over for her, and so it is for me.
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