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The Buzz from Park City, 1/23/99

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire January 22, 1999 at 2:0AM

Park City Buzz: "Spaceman" Altman Kicks Off Sundance in Salt Lake
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Park City Buzz: "Spaceman" Altman Kicks Off Sundance in Salt Lake

Compiled by Eugene Hernandez




>>"Spaceman" Altman Kicks Off Sundance in Salt Lake



Robert Altman's Cookie's Fortune, Sundance's opening night film, unspooled at the majestic Abravanel Theater, a stone's throw from the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City. Robert Redford welcomed everyone, "particularly the half of the audience that are the filmmakers... Of the films you will see here, some will be thrilling, some appalling. They're our stories. Their questions are our questions." In singing praise of "the unsung heroes," this year's Sundance staff, Redford thanked co-directors Nicole Guillemet and Geoffrey Gilmore, who he said was "wearing a bulletproof vest back there."


"There is no better way to start an independent film festival," continued Gilmore in his introduction of Altman who, before bringing a large portion of his cast on stage (including Charles Dutton, Liv Tyler, and Lyle Lovett) expounded on "America's premier festival" and on film festivals, in general. "Without them, you could only read the ads that are bought. Festival hold art together. Without festivals we'd be on a spaceship with scary monsters -- which most of us are on, anyway."


Altman considered himself a "Judah's goat, a leader" presenting his film at Sundance to "help get attention for the reason for the festival, for the filmmakers whose names you don't know."


"Cookie's Fortune" held the audience's attention for most of its two hours, the ensemble comedy meandered mercilessly for its first 30 minutes, but kicked in with a healthy plot twist and lots of screwballish laughs of small town Southern life. But sometimes the movie was predictable -- an 11-year-old girl sitting next to BUZZ spoke out at one point, "I knew that would happen."


Starving partygoers stormed into the Marriott Hotel for the Opening Night Party, a big band played Chattanooga Choo-choo and other swing hits, while guests stuffed grilled vegetables, sushi, and spicy curried chicken morsels. The ever-unpopular cash bar returned this year, much to the chagrin of the filmmakers.


>>Rejected by Sundance, Some Filmmaker Grouse, While Others Create Opportunities


The statistics have never been heartening. This year: a record 850 American dramatic feature submissions; 114 films selected. Leaving hundreds, think of it, hundreds of directors, hundreds of actors, hundreds of producers, hundreds of gaffers, left to look elsewhere to further their careers. Recently, indieWIRE posted the question -- "What next?" -- on our site discussion board: "Hell yeah I was rejected at Sundance, posted Frank Pavich, "Did it hurt, no, not really. Sorry, but I made a documentary about an underground music scene in NY; is that supposed to compete with the massively budgeted films that were also submitted? I guess not."


Yes, some filmmakers are downright bitter, to the point of absurdity. Witness the post by Joseph Tartaglia, who wrote, "Yeah yeah yeah. Fu*k them anyway what do they know? It's a political bogus clique. I don't even think they watch most of the entries. I would love to know just how many of those $20 and up checks they cash and never even watch the tape." Tartablia continued, "Who wants a group of no-can-do artsy film critics to like their work anyway ??" Clearly most filmmakers do.


And, if the continuing explosion of Park City alternative festivals is any indication, filmmakers are taking matters into their own hands -- moving from whining online to creating new outlets for exposure. Beyond the now well-established Slamdance, there are numerous alternative outlets: Slamdunk (449 Main Street), No Dance (Radisson Hotel), Soul Dance (1509 Park Avenue #405), and the roaming RV fests: Dances with Films , and Lap Dance .