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Sundance unplugged?

Posted 11:36am on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2011

The best word to describe this year’s Sundance Film Festival might be subdued: Subdued movies, subdued crowds, subdued everything.

Blame it on the lingering effects of the recession, which had a leveling impact on the independent film community. There are fewer fancy dinners and cocktail receptions to honor the films, probably because a number of the companies that regularly hosted them (New Line Cinema, Miramax, Picturehouse Films) are now out of business. Those "swag bags" that used to get handed out at the end of parties -- and that were sometimes worth as much as a decent used car -- are a thing of the past. Thus far there have been no reports of all-night bidding wars among distributors.

Even Main Street, a notoriously unnavigable strip that becomes gridlocked with partygoers and hangers-on during the opening weekend has been generally stress-free.

That’s not to say this festival has been without excitement. The first big acquisition of the festival was Margin Call, a drama starring Kevin Spacey and Zachary Quinto, and centered around the financial meltdown of 2008, which Roadside Attractions picked up on Sunday morning. Reviews after Friday’s press screening -- which I missed -- were mostly favorable; it’s expected to be released later this year.

The biggest buzz, meanwhile, has settled on Like Crazy, a romantic drama starring Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones, which set the Sundance Twitter-verse on fire at its world premiere on Saturday afternoon. (I’m hoping to see it on Tuesday morning.) A deal for the film is expected to be announced later today.

And even in a subdued year, Sundance still has its share of elbow-to-elbow parties where you can’t yourself think. I only lasted about fifteen minutes at the party for the British film Submarine on Saturday night, at the makeshift “Playboy Lounge” on Main Street, where female bartenders in retro Playboy bunny efforts served drinks. A tad more entertaining was the Friday night party sponsored by jeans company 7 for All Mankind, where writer-director Jason Reitman (here as a member of the dramatic competition jury) could be seen rocking it on the dance floor.

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