I'm writing this Tuesday morning, after the announcement of the Oscar nominations and before the arrival of my airport shuttle, and part of me is relieved to be getting out of Park City today. The prospect of a non-snowy Los Angeles sounds promising, yes, but it's also a relief not to have to be one the hundreds of journalists in town trying to get an interview with John Hawkes, who's got two movies in the festival.
Monday was another busy day of film acquisition – whatever doom and gloom we've been hearing about prospects for indie movies doesn't seem to apply at this altitude. Elizabeth Olson earned her "Sundance 2011 It Girl" status, with both of her films getting picked up: Martha Marcy May Marlene (which features Mr. Hawkes) went to Fox Searchlight while Silent House found a home with Liddell Entertainment (who will, in turn, look for a distributor for it). Despite very negative reactions from everyone I know who saw it, IFC Films found something to love about The Ledge – most likely, its marquee-value cast of Liv Tyler, Charlie Hunnam, Patrick Wilson, and Terrence Howard.
Over in the documentary section, Magnolia and Participant plan to collaborate on a release of Page One, about the inner workings of The New York Times, and Sundance Selects will bring the horse-whisperer tale Buck to homes across America. National Geographic Films acquired Life in a Day, a YouTube-sourced doc about 24 hours in the life of the planet, and HBO got remake rights to Knuckles, about boxing Irish travelers, which they will transform from non-fiction to drama.
Oddly enough, most of the talk I overheard Monday was less about movies and more about Sunday's parties, either gossip (a veteran film critic got high with a likely Oscar nominee!) or one-upmanship ("Oh my god, did you see Duplo?" "No, I was at Cee-Lo!"). But that sort of brings me to my Big Thought about Sundance – there's no definitive "Sundance experience" that anyone walks away from. Even leaving out the concerts and the gifting suites and all the ancillary crap that exists at the margin of the big event, there are so many movies showing here that it's impossible for any one person to take it all in.
It's like dashing through the Louvre in an hour: No matter what masterpieces (or missteps) you're able to directly experience, you're always aware that there's all this other art going on around you that you're just not going to get to take in first-hand. What's kind of cool about Sundance is that if you wanted to come up here and see nothing but documentaries, or subtitled films, or movies with recognizable celebrities, or odd little works that will never see the light of a multiplex, you could spend an entire week doing just that. At some point, I had to let go of the notion that I could be everywhere and see everything – it takes an army to make a movie, and it takes another army to cover this festival. I hope these dispatches from the trenches have captured at least a tiny bit of the flavor of this cinematic institution.