Nathan Rabin @ Sundance '09: Day Four
- Day Eight wraps up an exceptionally good Sundance with a late-breaking entry to round out the Top Five list
- Documentaries on Pussy Riot, FAME Studios and Sound City highlight an all-music Day Seven at Sundance
- Day Six at Sundance tackles the Beltway Sniper killings and a second go-around for Michael Cera and Sebastían Silva
- Day Five at Sundance is all about the perplexing, overwhelming, heart-stoppingly beautiful Upstream Color
- Before Midnight, a Terrence Malick homage and Lake Bell's directorial debut top a great Day Four at Sundance
I would like to apologize to you, dear reader for the unconscionably late nature of this post. The truth is I got completely blitzed at the premiere party for Big Fan and if I'd posted a Sundance Day 4 entry upon stumbling back to my hotel room I suspect it would read something like WOO HOO! BIG FAN ROOLZ! I've also been having trouble posting to the site. Lastly, my dog ate my homework.
At the Big Fan party someone kept putting buckets of Stella Artois and bottles of Mormon vodka on our table and I felt it was my solemn journalistic obligation to get completely wasted to celebrate my friends' phenomenal achievement. As the night went on someone kept pouring vodka into my cranberry juice. Come to think of it, that someone was me.
It was a euphoric evening and like many such magical nights it led to a wicked hangover and an overwhelming sense of remorse. I am officially resigning from my unofficial position as the A.V Club's party correspondent. In the grand tradition of epic hangovers I am also pledging never to indulge in the deplorable practice of drinking alcohol, a vow I plan to honor for at least the next eight hours or so.
I have never prouder of a film I had absolutely nothing to do with than I was of Big Fan. My friends and former and present co-workers have made a goddamned masterpiece, a bleakly funny character study graced with a revelatory performance by Patton Oswalt. It could certainly be argued that I shouldn't be writing about Big Fan because of the Texas-sized conflict of interest but I want to at least get something out of the drunken debauchery of last night.
Yesterday began with me rolling out of bed at eleven and checking the internet to see that you fine folks voted overwhelmingly for me to go to the Def Jam brunch instead of seeing movies. So I cabbed it over to the Def Jam House O' Hype and devoured a gourmet brunch of eggs, bacon, pears with Gorgonzola and walnuts and potatoes with black beans. I then headed upstairs, where I received a free massage. It was awesome.
Downstairs someone pointed out the presence of world-class douchebag and Girls Gone Wild anti-Christ Joe Francis. I was tempted to go over to Mr. Francis and tell him what a thoroughly deplorable human being he is but I worried the exchange would go thusly:
"I just wanted to say that I think you're the lowest form of human scum and that you have single-handedly made the world a worst place."
"Has anyone ever told you you're sexy when you're angry?"
(bashfully) "Well, I dunno."
"No, you totally are, bro. You've got this sort of animal magnetism. It's fierce."
"Well do I like to think I have a certain swagger."
"You so do. You're a fucking rock star, you sexy, sexy bitch."
"I tell you what. I'll give you some booty shorts and three shots of tequila if you show me your schlong. I bet it's a thing of beauty."
"I have been told it's aesthetically pleasing."
"C'mon, bro. I'll throw in a fourth shot if you cup your balls while showing me your schlong. I promise it'll piss off mommy and daddy."
"Well I do have a lot of unresolved issues from my childhood."
After several more minutes of negotiation and insincere compliments I'd end up appearing in Guys Gone Wild: Sundance Cockstar Edition filled with shame but a pair of booty shorts richer. So it's probably for the best that I merely hated Mr. Francis from a distance.
Later that evening I was introduced to the seamy underbelly of Sundance when a woman tried to sell Noel a ticket to a public screening for forty dollars. Zut alors! Who knew ticket scalping existed in this snowy paradise. I was finally, conclusively robbed of my innocence.
The Big Fan screening was the first public screening I've attended and I have to say, seeing a film on a huge screen with an overflowing crowd of civilians makes a huge difference. It was neat seeing such a scruffily intimate film on such a giant screen.
Later that night I headed to the Big Fan party. For a few moments there it looked like even the cast and crew of Big Fan wouldn't get into the Big Fan party. But everything turned out A.O.K, death-like hangover aside, and I spent several bleary hours catching up with old friends, dancing and consuming borderline toxic amounts of alcohol. I spotted Saturday Night Live's Bill Hader and heard reports that Paris Hilton and Martin Starr were also in attendance, although presumably not together. It was a night I will never forget even if I'm having a difficult time remembering it today.
But enough of my self-indulgent foolishness: on to the movies!
The Carter: The Carter is Li'l Wayne's Don't Look Back, a rambling, casual look at what it's like to be in the eye of a pop-culture hurricane. Like Dylan in Don't Look Back, Wayne is a superstar, a pop icon and a wealthy, wealthy man but he's also at heart just an arrogant, self-absorbed twenty-something all too convinced of his own genius. In The Carter, Li'l Wayne exists in a bubble of rapturous narcissism, acting out his lyrics like me and Peter Ruen did with "Good Morning Sunshine" back in the sixth grade and smoking joints when not drowning in a river of potent cough syrup that will probably kill him sooner rather than later.
Also like Don't Look Back, The Carter deals extensively with its subject's prickly, sometimes antagonistic relationship with the press. In a particularly riveting scene, Wayne grows so angered by a pair of earnest, utterly benign questions about his place in the great spectrum of New Orleans music and whether there is jazz in his poetry that he abruptly ends the interview and heaps scorn and disdain on the baffled, humiliated scribe. Wayne's publicist regularly intervenes in Wayne's interviews when the rapper makes a particularly bone-headed or self-incriminating remark: her job is obviously not to protect Wayne from reporters but to protect Wayne from himself.
When asked what he'd do if he ruled the world, Wayne answers that he'd put cocaine back in Coca-Cola, legalize pot first and second and eliminate alimony and child support. This last comment is particularly callous since earlier in the film Wayne's impossibly adorable, delightful daughter says that the greatest gift her father has ever given her is spending time with her. I got the sense that that's a gift she doesn't receive too often. The Carter could use a little more context but as an impressionist portrait of a self-destructive workaholic/drug addict it's consistently fascinating.
Paper Heart: Going in, I worried that Paper Heart would be unbearably twee. I couldn't have been more wrong, for the quasi-documentary is bearably twee, but just barely: a still from the film should accompany the dictionary entry for twee. The film follows comedian-actress Charlyne Yi as she travels the country asking people about the nature of love. For Yi, you see, does not believe in love, at least for the purposes of the film. That is until she meets and falls in love with the adorably coltish Michael Cera.
The film then turns into a precious twist on Sherman's March as the filmmakers document the mating rituals of the geeky and creative. Paper Heart feels like it was made by, for and about twelve-year-old Belle & Sebastian obsessives. The obnoxiously adorable Yi looks and acts like a gawky middle schooler, then again, so does Cera. They, like the film, seem to exist in a pre-adolescent state where sex is yucky and holding hands and exchanging friendship bracelets qualify as the ultimate forms of intimacy.
The score sounds like it was created in a magical forest by pixies playing instruments coated in enchanted dust. Paper Heart has the curious, contradictory quality of being simultaneously sweet and earnest and creepy and exploitative. Unlike Noel, I was half-charmed, half-irritated by it. It's the kind of ragingly divisive quirkfest that you either love or hate, though I paradoxically came down solidly in the middle.