I�m sitting in a darkened

by francine Hardaway on January 27, 2005

I�m sitting in a darkened theatre in Park City, Utah waiting for a movie to begin. The name of the movie is �The House of Joy,� and we are seeing it because 1)it is set in San Francisco and 2)we could get in by putting ourselves on the wait list. That�s about all I know about it, but to tell you the truth � I don�t care.

By now you�ve undoubtedly guessed that we are at Sundance again, this time for an abbreviated last week-end. Most of the press is gone, and many of the studio bigwigs. And in fact, someone behind the credentials desk told us many people from the east coast didn�t even get here this year, because all the flights were cancelled from New York and Boston just as the Festival began.

For us, this is probably a good thing. Between coming for the last weekend and being immune to many of the deterring elements, we will have a chance to see movies we would ordinarily be locked out of, even with our passes. During the crucial first week, when the deals are made, even $1000 passes don�t get you into the films you really want to see.

Our pass includes several of the Award Winners, who won�t be known until Saturday night, so there will be some real surprises.

My daughter tells me the trailers before the films this year were made by JibJab, the animation company that produced the viral parody �This Land is Your Land� during the Convention. So far, what�s in front of me is a still picture of Park City with the 05 Festival Logo visible. Snow is falling in the foreground. I can�t figure out what the technology is, but it must be digitally projected. When the trailers go on, they�re not very good.

Forty-five minutes later, we are out of �The Joy of Life,� having seen enough of a lesbian�s view of San Francisco. Every man in the theatre walked out, too. Beautiful photography, no real story, and a great deal of angst with which we unfortunately can�t identify Preceded by a short in which a young woman interviews her mother and father, who both came out during her childhood. Not one gay parent, but two. Had that been the feature I would have stayed.

We stood in line for an hour and got into Steve Buscemi�s film �Lonesome Jim,� about a guy who comes home to his parents� house in a nameless town in Indiana to have a nervous breakdown, only to find out that life�s not as bad as he thought. That summary doesn�t do it justice.

It�s a film with an ensemble cast, and some interesting characters who unfortunately don�t get developed as much as I hoped they would. The hero is a laconic guy who isn�t always likable, and with whom most of us don�t identify. Played by Casey Affleck, he has a transformation at the end that I didn�t find credible.

This film, though unexceptional, will be released commercially. It was shot in digital video in 120 days. It looked to me like what I get on my HDTV.

It has funny moments. Buscemi said he liked it because it was like his earlier film �Trees Lounge,� and dealt with the struggle of a young man to come to grips with where he came from. It�s based on a real story (the writer�s), in which the company didn�t even change any of the names. During the Q&A he quipped that his family is only speaking to him through lawyers.

I�m back into Sundance now, after this first day: it�s the place where you lose touch with the outside world, you think people who make movies are important, and you live on snack food so you don�t have to miss a movie for a meal. More to come.

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