MCN Columnists
Ray Pride

By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

On Predicting Sundance Bests

Predicting film festival bests isn’t my game. But I am hopeful for surprises like a couple years back when, toward the end of Sundance, Robert Koehler is urgently telling me to run, don’t think, go directly to an end-of-festival presser for Man On Wire. (Thank you, Bob.) I’d gotten the same pleasure from being at the very first press showing of Once and then gabbling to anyone I hoped would listen. Go! Discover! In the week’s run up to Sundance 2011, I’ve liked posts by programmers and reviewers and filmmakers that aren’t about impressing a 140-character opinion in one sharp tweet of the cheeks. For instance, Toronto’s Cameron Bailey (@cameron_tiff) hits the ground happy: “Sunshine, snow, SUVs, excessive cheer. Hello Park City!” A keen reminder to get out of doors and read those tweets while waiting for the shuttle to get to headquarters for that badge…

This afternoon, Movieline solicited from attendees three films they wouldn’t dream of leaving Sundance without seeing, and sleep-deprived that I am already, fished out three sincere replies. Top of mind is the premiere I’m seeing in six hours about three miles out to the far edge of town at the Temple Theater, Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz‘s The Interrupters. James is a consummate observer and collaborator, and his work with nonfiction ace Kotlowitz holds promise. Its 161-minute running time suggests the Kartemquin crew is going for the same kind of observational, longitudinal work looking at superficially troubled communities, such as Hoop Dreams, to name but one fine film James has made. Braden King‘s earlier work, including Dutch Harbor, builds off rhythmic accretion, a sense of the land, a drenching sonic texture. Why not make a movie like HERE, about a geolocator gone astray in Armenia? (Plus, it’s shot by Lol Crawley, whose credits include Ballast.) Two years ago, one of the co-directors of The Redemption Of General Butt Naked [pictured, top] told me the story at a Sundance event in 2008. My reaction was physical: I leapt up and looked around the room for people to introduce her to, someone who might know someone who could get this amazing story brought to completion. The title is provocative, but the tale, well, if it matches what I heard…

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“With every table in the dining room occupied and me, the only waiter, neglecting the needs of a good fifty patrons, I approached Roth. Holding out Balls as a numbness set into the muscles of my face, I spoke. “Sir, I’ve heard you say that you don’t read fiction anymore, but I’ve just had my first novel published and I’d like to give you a copy.”

“His eyes lifting from his iPhone, he took the book from my hands. He congratulated me. Then, staring at the cover, he said, “Great title. I’m surprised I didn’t think of it myself.”

“These words worked on me like a hit of morphine. Like two hits. It felt as if I was no longer the occupant of my own body. The legs had gone weak, the ears warmed, the eyes watered, the heart rate increased rapidly. Barely able to keep myself upright, I told him, “Thank you.”

“Then Roth, who, the world would learn sixteen days later, was retiring from writing, said, in an even tone, with seeming sincerity, “Yeah, this is great. But I would quit while you’re ahead. Really, it’s an awful field. Just torture. Awful. You write and write, and you have to throw almost all of it away because it’s not any good. I would say just stop now. You don’t want to do this to yourself. That’s my advice to you.”

“I managed, “It’s too late, sir. There’s no turning back. I’m in.”

“Nodding slowly, he said to me, “Well then, good luck.”

“After which I went back to work.”
~ Julian Tepper

“Any form of physical or sexual assault is a very serious matter, potentially a legal matter. But I’m also wondering, what about having some kind of “extreme asshole” clause? I know lots of people who have been abused verbally and psychologically. That’s traumatizing, too. What do we do with that?  It takes a lot of energy to be an asshole. The people I admire most just aren’t interested in things that take away from their ability to make stuff. The people I really respect, and that I’ve met who fit this definition, have a sense of grace about them, because they know that there is no evolving and there is no wisdom without humility. You can’t get better if you behave in a way that shuts people off. You can’t! You don’t have all the ideas necessary to solve something. You don’t! I’m sure if you spoke to Harvey in his heyday and said to him what I just said to you, he would believe that he accomplished all that he had because of the way he behaved.”
~ Steven Soderbergh