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Live From the Sundance Film Festival

William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 26, 2005; 1:00 PM

The Sundance Film Festival is underway this week in Park City, Utah.

Want to know which films are worthwhile and which ones are getting picked up by the studios?


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Washington Post Style reporter William Booth, who covers Hollywood and pop culture, is at the annual indie film fest and ready to take your questions about the movies building buzz and the celebrity snow bunnies making headlines.

Booth was online Wednesday, Jan. 26, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss the festival.

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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William Booth: Greetings all from snow-covered but strangely tepid Park City. Lots of fine films this year -- good docs, great Kung Fu, some premieres of movies already bought and coming your way. Plus the infamous dirty joke. And Pierce Brosnan in black Speedos. So fire away.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Call me a novice at film festivals, but I wanted to know: Is the Sundance Film Festival open to anyone? Or by invitation only? And how much would it cost to get in and see a few of the flicks?

Thanks!

William Booth: Hello G, yes, the Sundance Film Festival, like the many others around the country, is open to anyone who would like to attend and see the movies (or try to see the movies). You can go to the Sundance Web site for information about ticket sale packages and the like. Though sometimes it seems like everyone at SD is either making, buying, selling or reviewing movies (or going to the parties), actually most of the folks are just movie lovers. So ... come on over.

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Arlington, Va.: Seems a little sad to see established stars like Lisa Kudrow raving about how thrilled they are to be at Sundance, or opening Sundance, or whatever when all they want is the indie film work. Remember "Sideways"? Maybe Giamatti not getting nominated will show these not ready for prime-time indie actors like Buscemi that they aren't good.

William Booth: Well, not so sad, really. Sundance, and other festivals, are increasingly used to launch "little" films. True, some stars slum in indie roles to up the street cred (I'm thinking the lame Ashton and Demi) but others are talented actors drawn to the more character-driven (and sometimes weirder and more wonderful) roles in the small flicks. As for Giamatti -- well, he wasn't "nom-ed" for an Oscar, but he is now certainly on the map.

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Washington, D.C.: I've heard a rumor that, notwithstanding its egalitarian facade, the Sundance Committee will not consider entering into the festival any film that does not include SAG actors -- ergo virtually assuring that truly "independent" films (i.e., not "Garden State" or "Sideways" or the plethora of films made by Hollywood insiders with generous funding) will not make the cut. Is there merit to this rumor?

William Booth: Nope. There are plenty of SAGers. But a lot -- most -- of the actors in these films are not SAG, and many of them in the more humble works actually kinda work for free.

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Washington, D.C.: Have you seen or heard anything on the new Noah Baumbach film "The Squid and the Whale?" It's been screened twice, yet no one seems to have reviewed it yet. Help a Baumbach fan out!

William Booth: Good buzz on "The Squid." I haven't seen it yet. I was checking out another movie Sunday night called "The Motel." Anyhows -- you know Baumbach has teamed up w/ Wes Anderson as a producer for "Squid" and so he is in it. The movie is about an intellectual Brooklyn family and a divorce, stars Jeff Daniels and the talented Laura Linney. I think it'll get bought (if it hasn't already).

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Philadelphia, Pa.: What has the reception been like for Paul Provenza's "The Aristocrats?"

William Booth: Good. Long lines. Tough ticket to score.

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'The Aristocrats?': Please, please, please share a snippet from "the joke." Our office has been abuzz since reading your story.

William Booth: Ahhh, the joke. Are there any minors in the chat?

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Lake Orion, Mich.: The other day there was a big piece on "The Aristocrats." What were your thoughts on the film and the reaction, and what about distribution?

William Booth: Okay, I can't tell you the joke. The joke always begins w/ the same setup. A guy walks into a talent agent. Then he/she describes the absolutely filthy sexual acts committed by said family. Then the punch line: So whata ya call this act? The Aristocrats. The thing is: the middle part. Each comic does it his way. Its about timing, style and pushing the outer edges. But: I hear if you Google around now, you can start to find some versions, such as the one done by the "South Park" guys.

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Washington, D.C.: Are you getting over to Slamdance at all? Seems like some of those screenings might be more interesting than the bigger, more well-funded ones at Sundance. L.A. Times Calendar section had a good article last week, but I haven't seen much coverage since.

William Booth: My bad. Last year, I caught a Slamdance film or two. This year, I've been swamped. But I agree, each year the Slamdance stuff gets better and better. To explain: Slamdance is a kind of cousin-fest that runs during Sundance. When it originally began, the Sundance people referred to it as a parasite festival. But everyone seems to now accept it. It shows the stuff that didn't get into Sundance. The films often are done on a real shoestring budget, but there can be some little gems.

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Aristocrats: A Google search on "Aristocrats" and "South Park" (the cartoon) will turn up a version of the joke. Probably best NOT to listen at work.

William Booth: There you go. But be warned.

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Capitol Heights, Md.: Hi William!
So, what's happening? (out there)

William Booth: Hi Cap! I saw "Kung Fu Hustle" the other day. Directed by Stephen Chow. It is hilarious. It is a parody. The kung fu masters include a cigarette-chomping landlady in hair curlers. Man, can she fight. Its a comedy, with "Matrix"-style special effects. It never takes itself too seriously. And the audience laughed for 99 minutes.

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Los Angeles, Calif.: What have you heard about the Sundance movie about Enron?

William Booth: Okay, this is going to be a completely Sundance-like response. But I was riding in one of the shuttles the other day and struck up a conservation w/ a couple of fellow film-geeks, who opined that the movie was well-made, thorough, intelligent but kind of encyclopedic and dense. Is it so? I don't know. I do know Magnolia has picked it up as distributor, so it'll get released and we can all know.

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Germantown, Md.: So, did you see "Mirrormask"? What did you think and when will it be released?

William Booth: Nope, but I did see a press screening last night of the psychological thriller "Hard Candy," which was just bought by Lions Gate. Whoa, nelly! It features an A-plus honor student who is 14 and a slick fashion photographer. They meet in a chat room. Is he a pedophile? Mmmm. Is she little miss goody-two-shoes? Or a scapel-wielding ... Don't want to spoil it. But I'll tell ya, chilling.

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Rockville, Md. : So what's the best movie you've seen at Sundance so far? And is there one film that everyone seems to be buzzing about (besides "The Aristocrats")?

William Booth: I really like "Kung Fu Hustle." It was just so imaginative (and I usually am not a big fan of Hong Kong kung fu in Chinese w/ subtitles). Also good: "Hustle & Flow" about a pimp turned rapper that just got bought. "Murderball," the documentary about paraplegics in wheelchairs who play not basket but RUGBY. "Inside Deep Throat" was a fine doc, too, about the impact of that early porn release and effects it had on its characters. Good buzz, too, for "The Dying Gaul" by Craig Lucas. I also quite like "The Motel," which I'm going to write about. It's a coming-of-age story (a la "Stand By Me") of a 14-yr old Chinese American kid living in a fleabag motel.

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Arlington, Va.: Have you heard anything about the "Strangers With Candy" movie? I'm eager to know how it is.

William Booth: It's on my wish list. I hear it is funny. It stars, as you know, Stephen Colbert of the Jon Stewart show. The film is based on the original TV show.

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Gaithersburg, MD: I saw that the Humane Society of the U.S. ran ads at the Sundance Festival calling on producers to reconsider filming in New Mexico because that state has legal cockfights. Is Sundance becoming a forum for debate on social issues because of the influence of Hollywood producers?

William Booth: Sundance is becoming a forum for a lot of things. "Celebrity Gifting Houses" hawk their products. VW offers free rides in their cars. Beer and booze sellers sponsor parties. I haven't heard much about the New Mexico cockfighting angle, tho it does not surprise me. Maybe somebody here will do a documentary about those pugilist chickens and the lives they lead.

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William Booth: Alas, thanks for the questions. I have to wrap this up a bit early to get out and do my day job. For info on the movies discussed, check out Sundance Film Festival.

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