The year of the Bummer at Sundance '12

Well, it has started. So, what should we be looking forward to at Sundance this year? Besides, y’know, festival flu, exhaustion, and malnutrition.

Even before the festival officially began, The New York Times had already figured out this year’s Sundance. It’s basically The Year of the Bummer at Park City. “If the Sundance Film Festival is a mirror of America,” writes The Times‘ Brooks Barnes, “this year’s installment depicts an unusually stark image of a broken place filled with broken people.” There are four films about corporate greed and more than a dozen movies about what Brooks terms “moral decay.” I hope you remembered to pack your sense of outrage along with your ear muffs, because it sounds like you’re going to need it to appreciate this year’s lineup. Trevor Groth, director of programming at Sundance, agreed, telling Barnes, that much of Sundance ’12 paints a picture of our “midlife crisis as a country.” Suddenly that Ferrari I saw Sundance driving around in last week makes a lot more sense.

Anthony Breznican from Entertainment Weekly has a similar read on this year’s Sundance lineup. “As Sundance kicks off today,” he writes, “first impressions of some of the movies might suggest it’s more of a depression fest than a film fest.” Are there really festivals devoted entirely to celebrating depression? If so, that seems like a great sponsorship opportunity for the prescription drug industry. In any case, EW says this year’s sullen Sundance mood is best typified by SLEEPWALK WITH ME from stand-up comedian and playwright Mike Birbiglia. He told EW, “The movie is about the concept you can talk about these things you’re ashamed of, and more often than not, you find a deeper connection with people. The one thing you’re most reluctant to tell, that’s where the comedy is.” On that note, I would like to share with readers a lengthy and graphic anecdote about my life as a 30-year-old bedwetter. Well? Was he right? Was it funny? Let’s just move on before I need to grab another absorbent undergarment.

One of the toughest parts of a journalist’s task at Sundance is picking which movies to watch (one of the other toughest parts: convincing the doorman at the Filmmaker’s Lounge to let you in so you can go get some free coffee). There are dozens of films playing in Park City this week, and seeing them all is impossible. Do you pick the ones with big name stars? Or what about the ones with The Times‘ oh-so-relevant themes? Or should you roll the dice and try an unknown? One smart way to approach things is to avoid hype or star power and instead look for talent you recognize. To that end, you might want to check out Cinema Blend‘s Sundance ’12 preview with “5 Returning Successes To Watch.” If you were a fan of Antonio Campos’ AFTERSCHOOL, be on the lookout for his new film, SIMON KILLER, premiering Friday at 3:30pm at the Eccles. If you liked either of actress/writer Brit Marling‘s movies last year, you’re going to want to pencil in the hedge fund flick (moral decay! moral decay!) ARBITRAGE on your calendar. That one snagged one of the big Saturday night slots, 6:30pm at the Eccles.

Of course, there’s a lot more to Sundance than just the movies — one actor once boasted to me that he’d just received a free washer and dryer at a swag lounge (“I hope you’ve got a big suitcase,” was my response). Vanity Fair has a run down of “Nine Things to Look Forward to at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival” that extends beyond the movies, with tips on finding swag and custom cocktails. They also hype the event I would kill my high school chemistry teacher to attend: “TIM & ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE Dinner Party,” which, Julie Miller writes, will feature “‘gourmet dining,’ a ‘luxury hospitality experience,’ and members of the cast, such as Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Will Forte, and Zach Galifianakis.” Now, in fairness, I would kill my high school chemistry teacher for a mediocre sandwich — I hated that lady — but doesn’t that sound like the coolest thing ever? It does.

Finally, let’s get back to the idea of Sundance as a mirror of America (moral decay! moral decay!). If you’re more into make political statements than hobnobbing with the funniest men on the planet, keep your eyes peeled around Sundance for members of the Occupy movement, who will be out in force during the festival. The Park Record reports that they’re going to be paying particular attention to films that deal with corporate greed and malfeasance, like the U.S. Documentary Competition selection WE’RE NOT BROKE. Members of Occupy Park City will likely be out at screenings like those, though they told the The Record they will try not to “disrespect (Sundance) as much as possible.” If you’re feeling active, grab a V FOR VENDETTA mask and join in. But don’t get too excited. Remember: it’s the Year of the Bummer.