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The Sundance Diaries, Part 3: Beasts, Imposters and Surrogates

Quvenzhane Wallis in 'Beasts of the Southern Wild"

We interrupt our regularily scheduled coverage of virginity to bring you this special dispatch: I’ve been going to, and writing about, my experiences at the Sundance Film Festival many of the last 11 years. This is part 3 of 3 of this year’s Sundance Diaries. Read Part 1 here. Read Part 2 here.

If you want some background entertainment, you can read Sundance Diaries archived from 2001 to 2008  here. The 2010 Diaries are here, here, here and here.

Sundance is over.

The Brita™ water filter tent is coming down, the giant fog machine and bean bag installation is being removed from New Frontiers, and the jacked-up-price menus have been put away until next January. As I scrub my re-entry stamps off my hands and moisturize like crazy, I wanted to answer a bunch of questions that you, my loyal readers, have sent in.

Is it still hard to get drunk in Park City? [H.T.] If you mean are they still measuring shots out with those weird Mormon bottle toppers so as not exceed exactly one ounce per pour, then yes. But it's only hard to get drunk if you're actually paying for those drinks. When they're free, thanks to whatever liquor sponsor is working the party, you can belly up for two shots at a time as long as you're standing. My drink of choice this year was whiskey mixed with hot lemonade or hot apple cider, introduced to me in bulk at a party sponsored by some delicious whiskey. The fact that I have no idea what brand it was means the promotion failed miserably: Don't expect drunk film people to remember what your label said in a dark party late at night. Give us complimentary bottles to take home.

Please find some non AIDS/Sexual Abuse/Anti-Gay [films] to share! Hopefully not centered on 30-something quirky white folk in the Northwest. [P. J.] Have I got two films for you!

"Beasts of the Southern Wild" is a dramatic feature about a little girl living on an island of magical realism in the Delta on "the other side of the levee." I can't say much more about this that will sound coherent, so suffice it to say it delivers epic floods, fantastical shacks, prehistoric aurochs that emerge from melted polar ice caps, and one little girl named Hush Puppy who just wants to spend time with her dad. It's the most wildly creative film I saw at the Festival this year and one of the most buzzworthy. Not a single quirky white single 30-something to be found. It just won the U.S. Dramatic Jury Award and it was totally worth standing in line for 1 1/2 hours to watch it the night before I left. It's headed for a theatrical release, but there's no telling whether a non-Sundance-movie-drunk audience will get as hyper-excited as we all did.

"The Imposter" tells the true story of a con artist who pretended to be a teenager who had gone missing from his working-class Texas family three years earlier. Even though he really didn't look anything like the kid, and spoke with a French accent, the family inexplicably welcomed him back as their long-lost son. Did they just not realize they were being conned? Or were they trying to hide an even bigger secret? The documentary mixes present-day interviews with all the players, along with dreamy, beautifully shot re-enactments of the bizarre events. So what really happened? Our guess, it turns out, is as good as the filmmakers' in the best examination of subjective truth since maybe Rashomon. A&E

Keep in mind that the movies one person can see at Sundance make up only the tip of their personal iceberg. There are amazing films I really wanted to see that my schedule didn't permit, and others I barely heard about until they won awards. Films like the standing-ovation-garnering documentary "Slavery By Another Name," the highly divisive feature film "Compliance," and a special screening of Julie Dash's 1991 film "Daughters of the Dust" all remained on my to-see list unchecked.

Another film high on my list, "The Surrogate," was super controversial going into the festival but emerged an audience favorite and won the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award. It's the true story of a poet confined to an iron lung and the sex surrogate he hires in order to have sex for the first time. Aside from my (ahem) professional interest in the storyline, I also heard over and over again how fabulous and sensitive the film and the performances were. It stars the astoundingly talented John Hawkes (Winter's Bone) and Helen Hunt (in need of a role worthy of her) and it should be a very interesting theatrical release!

Are Uggs still in???? [S.H.] I think it's gone from fashion trend to wardrobe staple, which is totally alarming. In terms of fashion trends, there was nothing as obvious as the lumberjack beards that made their unfortunate appearances in 2002. I did see a lot of vintage Sorrels and those giant tubes of knitted material people use as scarves. Both were actually rather cute. I know, I'm in a good mood. Sorry.

Just ‘cause YOU can’t be having no hot-tub shenanigans, would you deny us reportage on ANY hot-tub shenanigans?? I mean, you have created this devoted audience and now that you’re hitched, our needs just get cast aside along with your scandalous hot-tub ways?? Have we meant nothing to you? She gets the ring and now we’re bupkus... [A. M.] I am VERY worried about you!  Drinking Vodka and NOT BEING INTERESTED IN A HOT TUB is not like you!  I'm calling an intervention via Craig's List. [S. H.] Isn't it time to stop living vicariously through me and find your own hot tubs to jump into? Even my own husband is disappointed that I have no hot tub stories to share. In the words of the immortal William Shatner on Saturday Night Live: Get a life, people.

I am disappointed that you missed the Gene Simmons-Stan Lee event.  It would have ended up in the Hot Tub and you know it!  [Also from S. H., prolific question asker] True. Being part of a Lee/Simmons sandwich would have been tempting. Let's say a prayer of thanks I wasn't put into that situation.

And with that image seared on your eyeballs, I leave you until next year...Happy movie-going!