Saturday, August 11, 2007


My wife Debby, my daughter Robin and I visited the new Sundance Theatre in Madison for Deb's birthday.
This is the first of a chain of upscale theatres issuing from Robert Redford's Sundance Group. This is not the first effort by Redford to create a string of art cinemas. I gather some of the past efforts have been badly managed. A new, experienced management team seems to have sorted that out. The focus of these cinemas is going to be to give exposure to the sorts of indie films which have been featured at his annual film fest in Utah.
“Anything which helps new and interesting voices in the cultural realm reach more people can only enrich the experience of artists, audiences and communities and this makes the effort worth it,” said Robert Redford."
The cinema in Madison is tastefully done. I teased the ladies at the concession stand because they had popcorn: the stand looks a lot more like a Starbucks than a Star Cinema. Gourmet coffee, exotic natural sodas, delicious (to look at. I gained a pound just ogling) pastries. The hallway leading to the six theatres is lined with birch saplings. It felt like a scene from Macbeth.
When purchasing your ticket, you are asked to select your seats from a touch-screen computer monitor. No more staring into the dark of a half-filled theatre looking for three seats in a row!

What to make of this new effort? This is the part of being in a postmodern society that I truly appreciate. Technology and these new venues have made it possible for artists to distribute their work without having to "strike it rich" by signing with a major distributor. This in turn has resulted in a mixed bag of art, to be sure. One must pick and choose, and sometimes the experience can be not so nice. On the other hand, one is often richly rewarded for the effort. Out of the Sundance Film Fest we've recently seen Primer, Memento, and a few years ago The Spitfire Grill. As we left Sundance on Thursday, Deb commented, "This is great! Now I have a place to come to watch good movies! It's about time...!" Next week we hope to see Into Great Silence.

Thursday we saw the comedy Waitress, and enjoyed it. It is another of those movies that does not back down from telling a painful, graphic story but which ends well. I guess after a lifetime of exposure to movies which denigrate traditional moral values, I'm often surprised by this new trend of having characters making, eventually, the RIGHT choice in their lives(See The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knock'd Up, or go back to Tender Mercies with Robert Duvall to see what I mean) .
(And then contrast with Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby, or Minghella's The English Patient , two achingly well-done movies that'll break your heart. )

Andy Griffith plays Old Joe in the movie:

Old Joe: Are you with child?
Jenna: Shush!
Old Joe: I saw that look on a woman's face before. Her name was Anette. I made sweet sweet love to her all through the summer of 1948, and she had that look on her face all through the fall.


Anonymous said...

We've been there, too.

Coupla comments --

1 -- It's too damned expensive. We wound up paying $11 on a weekend night. There's a basic charge for the movie, and then a stupid extra fee that varies, depending on the day of the week.

2 -- It's a beautiful facility, etc. But I find it ironic that a place that was created to promote indie films has to charge an arm and a leg, so you can enjoy lots of extra stuff that's UNRELATED to watching the movie -- such as having Wifi, etc. They may be driving people away who would benefit from these movies, because they're too expensive.

3 -- We'll probably be going to Westgate, which has art films but they don't charge an arm and a leg.

Sundance has been getting a lot of negative publicity locally about its price. So it's just not me.

Bruce Gee said...

Good points, Neil.

We did go to a matinee, so the cost was comparable to a Marcus experience.

With the allergies in my family, Westgate isn't a good solution--old, musty place.

As for the facility being expensive: it is interesting that the film festival itself started out as a really cool, hippy scene, but before long Hollywood discovered it and it became Limosville. I understand they've lately started distributing buttons (That's what Libs do BETHST!) saying "It's about the films!" But they can't help themselves. And Madison is a Glam Wannabe, let's face it.

UserDifficulty said...

Just to clarify -

Memento was not a Sundance film. It was independantly released, but it never appeared at Sundance.

Bruce Gee said...

Memento not at Sundance?
According to Wikipedia (which has been known to be wrong), it was shown in 2003. See this:

I'll be happy to correct this if you can show me where it is incorrect.

Thanks for the input!

UserDifficulty said...

Okay, my mistake. I should follow up on what I say before I say it.

Memento was in the January, 2001 Sundance festival. As far as I can find out, it was not in the 2003 Sundance, but rather the Palm Springs International Film Fest.

Unknown said...