I'm not at my best. I've eaten exceptionally badly for six days. I've been living in close proximity to six [awesome, dedicated, but insane] MTV News dudes for so long that our inside jokes have beget inside jokes. It was cold. Real cold. Sleep was not plentiful. Oh and I'm writing this on a plane after one Chili's margarita (well deserved, I think!) and running at breakneck speed to the gate after I got the time difference wrong in Minneapolis, where my flight connected, to take me home at last.
All of the above is which to say my seventh (how the hell did that happen?) Sundance Film Festival is in the books, and yes, once again Robert Redford's baby was thrilling, frustrating and quite memorable. Below are some of the trends I noticed and some personal highlights:
Sex on the Brain
If I asked one more actor about taking it all off, Dr. Ruth would have stormed into our shooting space to say I have a problem. But I swear, it's not just me! This year's selection of films at Sundance really did warrant the line of questioning. January Jones and Dakota Fanning took it off for the first time. Amanda Seyfried played a porn star. Joseph Gordon-Levitt played a porn addict. And then there's James Franco: three films, two of which were extremely explicit (documentaries "Kink" and "Interior. Leather. Bar."). I've now spent 30 minutes talking to James Franco about sex. Don't say I never did anything for you.
Their Big Moment
We spoke to movie stars galore, but for me, it's always a special thrill to talk to someone that you can just feel is on the precipice of a big career. Two years ago, I couldn't pick Jessica Chastain out of a lineup, but after seeing "Take Shelter" and talking to her at Sundance, I was raving about her to anyone who would listen. If you want to bet on the next big male star, start closely following the careers of Michael B. Jordan (earning raves for "Fruitvale"), Miles Teller (making a big leap from wild teen comedies in "The Spectacular Now") and Dane DeHaan (who popped in every scene he appeared in of "Kill Your Darlings").
Something to Prove
OK, it's one thing to show up to the festival with nothing to lose, but how about those actors looking to reframe their career and break out of a box? Mission accomplished for a host of my favorites this year. Amanda Seyfried confessed to me extreme worry just hours before the debut of "Lovelace," in which she exposes a lot in every conceivable way playing the famed porn star. Her concern seems to be for naught, as the reviews have been kind. Meanwhile, Michael Cera found a friend and trusted collaborator in Chilean filmmaker Sebastian Silva, who cast him against type in not one but two divisive films, "Magic Magic" and "Crystal Fairy." Finally, "The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman" wasn't for everyone, but I found a lot to like in the messy but original and romantic comic thriller (actually, putting this in a genre box is a bit fruitless). And I found a lot to love in Shia LaBeouf's lead performance. LaBeouf goes for broke in the role. It's a bold and brave performance, and he's never been better.
The Boy Who Lived
Daniel Radcliffe is a gentleman and a maniac. Last Saturday morning, he dropped by the MTV News house we were all staying in and ... let's just say it all ended up with him and I head-to-head in adjacent beds. Watch for a very special "After Hours" soon.
Late to the Party
OK, now I get it. I confess I'm not a "Community" viewer, but watching Alison Brie freestyle rap has converted me. I'm a fan for life now. Oh, and she loves "Ghostbusters 2" as much as me. Soul mates.
Matthew McConaughey is a straight shooter. He could have politely begged off weighing in on a question about Lance Armstrong, but instead, McConaughey (headlining "Mud" at the festival) pulled no punches delivering a lengthy, passionate take on the unfortunate situation.
Facing Your Fear
Scariest interview and biggest relief for me? Dave Grohl. If you know my stuff, you know it's mostly actors and filmmakers I chat with. I know and appreciate how important Grohl is to so many, and I wanted to do him and the audience right with a smart/fun conversation. All worked out as Grohl was charming as he spoke enthusiastically about his new doc, "Sound City," not to mention breaking news with us that the Foo Fighters' next album may not be so far away after all.
Living the Dream
About a year ago, an awesome shooter/producer at MTV News by the name of Evan Jackson Leong left us for other pursuits. It turns out one longtime passion project of his turned into one of the biggest crowd-pleasers of the entire festival, "Linsanity," the documentary detailing the hard-to-fathom rise of NBA superstar Jeremy Lin. Evan stopped by to chat with the MTV News team, and I know I speak for all of us when I say it was a beautiful sight to behold, the dreams of a young filmmaker realized beyond his wildest dreams. Swag suites be damned, Sundance still is about the movies.