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Ruthe and Me (My Sundance Enemy)

Ruthe and Me (My Sundance Enemy)

At Sundance 2005, I lost my mind, but only briefly. Fortunately, my hysterics garnered me more fans than detractors, and yet for a moment there, I was not in control of myself. The story, of how the San Francisco Chronicle’s Ruthe Stein stole my seat at a press screening of “The Jacket” and my subsequent vituperative attack, has already been recounted elsewhere by some bloggers, on Defamer and San Jose Mercury News. And while I appreciate my 15 minutes of fame, I regret that I ever came to blows with Ruthe Stein.

That’s not to say that she didn’t richly deserve it. Judging from those who spoke to me afterwards, it sounds like Ruthe Stein has been in need of a serious chewing out for some time now.

But the incident reflects something wider, indicative of the entire film festival environment, where people filled with entitlement, privilege, and selfishness think they are more important than you. Has Ruthe cut in front of people while waiting in line for a movie? Has she waved at the shuttle bus to pick her up at an unofficial stop? Has she snuck into parties, passing people by who are waiting patiently outside? Has she taken into consideration anyone in the world besides herself? I’m sure she has done all these things.

But the problem is, so have I. Why did I freak out in the first place? Because what she did was totally unethical, unreasonable, and downright inconsiderate. Of course. But also because I was thinking only of myself. The only person in the room who wasn’t thinking of himself was the man gracious enough to give up his seat for me, not a journalist by the way, but an industryite named Paul Schwartzman (who Ruthe whispered to me took her seat — I don’t believe her).

Who ever is to blame, I’ll bet most of us Sundancers have done these things, too. Although I’ve never thrown someone’s things off their chair and stolen their seat, I have edged in front of people in line for a movie and squirmed my way into the VIP entrance for a party. Maybe the reason I was so angry with Ruthe is she reminded me of the dark side of myself. But I guess the difference between Ruthe and me is she didn’t seem to mind.

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Ruthe Stein obliged RR by breathlessly printing whatever he whispered into her palpating little ear, no fact-checking necessary…

Scott Weinberg

I was just a few rows back in the Yarrow2 screening when the fireworks began, Anthony, and I think you had every right to make the stink that you did. I don’t think it makes you rude or pompous (or whatever) to react angrily when some jerk throws your COAT on the FLOOR so they can get your seat. My colleagues and I were the ones who started clapping. And yes, I thought it was very classy of that gentleman to give you his seat. We just felt bad that you had to sit next to the offending party for the next 100 minutes. (Plus the movie stank.) – SW

Eileen O'Brien

Boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, let us all take a moment to put this situation into perspective. Talk about entitlement, can anyone in this discourse keep in mind that the mere priviledge of being at the festival and having the opportunity to see great films months(sometimes as the only ones)before others…is enough to keep everyone in this situation civil? As one who has experienced such behavior and responses from all sides of this discussion, try to remember one thing: the film is the thing! And being film, oh beautiful art, it exists to be seen again and again for those who cherish it. I can not tell you how many times, I have either personally or in aiding/counseling others, about a missed opportunity at a festival (screening or otherwise) have I or they found the when the future came, a grand misjudgement proven in the amount of urgency created about the experience. Leave a little to the magic of the moment…often you will find that the moment knows what you need. With that in mind, I just want to remind everyone who had the good fortune to be at this screening, that it is the passion and energy of the film itself that should be remembered and discussed here. Do not forget how priviledged all of you were to be there at all and to have the good fortune to experience this art in what I consider one of the most resectful “cinema cathedrals” in the world. For only at a place like Sundance are you in the company of others who not only show the proper respect and love for the art by keeping perfectly still, quiet and attentive to the art on the screen, but they are also those others, like yourself, who are so passionate that they are willing to “fight” for their seat. This is the real beauty of this situation and should not be forgotten by anyone, regardless of who is right or wrong. And in the end, isn’t that what should be remembered? How was the film?

cal godot

Admittedly, I’m not one of those people who knows all the names.


(And why is she fucking with my favorite film journo?)

Joshua R.

“But I guess the difference between Ruthe and me is she didn’t seem to mind.”

That, and the fact that she’s a lousy writer.

The Rabbi


The difference between Ruthe and you (besides the obvious) is that removing someone’s belongings from a seat they had already claimed is far worse of an infringement than sneaking into a VIP room @ a party or waving down the shuttle. In both of those cases, someone else makes a choice to either let you into the VIP room or to stop the shuttle. In her case, it was a unilateral case of reprehensible behavior. The fact is, to use random numbers, she was the 201st person in a 200 seat theater. She was late and “someone” didn’t save her a seat. Funny how she didn’t ID that “someone” and ask them why they hadn’t saved her seat. The odds of that saved seat being right next to your original seat are astronomical and she sounds exactly like the sort of person (a certain Hollywood Reporter critic comes to mind) that needs to be smacked across the face with a fresh mackerel.

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