Tourism For Weirdos: The Sundance Film Festival Day One

Hello everybody! How are you doing? Ha ha just kidding I know we’re all doing terrible because everything sucks right now. But in the midst of the nightmare engulfing our country day by day, the Sundance Film Festival is going on and I attended some of it last week! As a spiritual palate cleanser, I would like to now share my experience and my opinion on the movies I saw with the rest of you.

I saw eight movies so I’m going to break this up by day, starting (naturally) with Day One.


For some stupid reason I booked FIVE movies for my first day. I was exhausted by my travels and wanted to have brunch with my brother and sister-in-law so I skipped the first movie of the day, Dayveon. I felt like a bit of a failure missing my very first movie, and I did really want to know if Dayveon ended up joining that gang, but alas. We ate our delicious brunch and then headed to the Grand Theatre for our first movie…

Their Finest

This movie was directed by Lone Scherfig, who you probably know from having directed An Education. She attended the screening to do a Q&A and the most important thing I learned was that her first name is pronounced “Lohn-uh” and not “loan” as I had previously assumed.

The movie itself is about a plucky young Welsh lady named Catrin (Gemma Arterton) who gets a job writing female-friendly scripts for propaganda clips that get played in between movies during World War II. She ends up getting recruited to write the female dialogue for a feature film based on the story of a pair of twin sisters who stole their drunk dad’s boat to go and rescue soldiers at Dunkirk. Her cowriters are some old white dude who doesn’t get much screen time, and Finnick from the Hunger Games who has the world’s biggest crush on her. But sorry, Finnick! She’s married to the creepy half-faced guy from Boardwalk Empire who is a pretentious artist and is very salty about his woman being the breadwinner in the family. Anyway, the movie has your typical London in World War II scenes of people hiding from bombs in tube stations plus a lot of delightful period-typical sexism, but the story of the making of the movie-within-the-movie is very fun, especially because one of the main actors is played by Bill Nighy. Ultimately the movie is too heterosexual for my tastes and not as empowering to women as I think it thinks it is, but it’s worth watching!

After the movie ended, my brother and I attempted to get a quick lunch at the McDonald’s across the street from the theater, but there were only two people working there for some reason and people had been waiting 20 minutes for their burgers so I ate a Clif bar and bought some popcorn and we headed right back in for movie #2…

The Little Hours

This was one of the movies I was most excited to see, since it was advertised as a raunchy comedy about nuns played by Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie and Kate Micucci. It ended up being that, plus so much more! As we learned from the director (Jeff Baena) at the Q&A after the movie, it was based in part on a couple of stories from The Decameron. See, back in the day (we’re talking 14th Century) not everybody who was a nun actually wanted to be a nun, so convents were packed with women who were not all that jazzed about Jesus.

The basic plot of the movie is that Aubrey Plaza and her nun buddies habitually verbally abuse and eventually physically attack the convent’s groundskeeper (for daring to speak to/look at them) and he quits. Meanwhile, Dave Franco is a servant at nobleman Nick Offerman’s castle who is boning his wife, Doris from Looking. When his boss finds out about said boning, Dave has to run away and ends up running into John C. Reilly who is the resident priest at the convent. He takes him on as the new groundskeeper and they pretend he’s deaf and mute so the misandrist nuns won’t attack him. It goes ok for like five minutes but then a lot of ridiculous, hilarious shit happens involving horny nuns, a random lesbian visitor (played by Jemima Kirke) and a coven of witches.

I can’t recommend this movie enough. It is absurd and amazing and love is forever fan love you Aubrey Plaza. Special shoutout to Doris from Looking (Lauren Weedman) for actually being funnier than Nick Offerman as his sarcastic, long-suffering wife. Also, she was the only member of the cast to appear for the Q&A. See, Sundance tickets are fucking expensive so I had to buy the Salt Lake City-only package. Most of the movies I saw had already premiered in Park City so not all of the cast and crew ended up making the trip to SLC for subsequent screenings. Anyhow, this was the only Q&A I attended in which I actually asked a question, which was “How many actual nuns were involved in the making of this movie?” I was surprised to learn that the answer was 13! Apparently a bunch of Italian nuns, only one of whom spoke English, were involved in filming, and I have to assume that they did not know what exactly they were participating in.

Once the Q&A ended, my brother and I immediately got back in line (and were joined by my sister-in-law) for movie #3…

The Big Sick

This was a very good movie! We all of course love Kumail Nanjiani from his stint as a relationship counselor on Gabe and Max Need Help, and I guess apparently that Silicon Valley show he’s on is supposed to be good. But anyway, this movie is based on the real life story of Kumail and his wife Emily Gordon. Kumail and Emily wrote the script together, Kumail plays himself, and Zoe Kazan plays Emily which I have to imagine was somewhat awkward for all parties, but they did a good job! The story is basically that Kumail and Emily meet at a show, hook up, start dating for real, and then break up when Emily learns that Kumail hasn’t told his family about her and in fact has been meeting with Pakistani women his parents want him to marry the entire time they’ve been together. Then Emily gets super sick and put into a medically-induced coma and Kumail realizes he’s been a complete shithead and spends the time she’s under getting to know her parents, Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, and trying to help with her recovery.

I was not expecting the main female character to be in a coma for the majority of the movie, but it was still great (if a little long, in the way that all Judd Apatow-produced movies are). It also contains the best 9/11 joke I have ever heard.

The Q&A for this one was actually jam-packed! Director Michael Showalter was there, plus Judd Apatow (who produced), Kumail, the real life Emily, another member of the cast whose name I forget, Ray Romano and Holly Hunter. Holly Hunter has the same winter boots as me and may also be the tiniest adult human I have ever seen in my life.

Possibly my favorite moment of the entire festival came during this Q&A when an attractive and muscular Asian man stood up and basically talked for two minutes about how glad he was that the Pakistani parents weren’t made into villains in that “I am disguising my deep and fascinating thoughts about this movie as a question so I can impress everyone” way and instead of answering Kumail said “I actually have a question for you: what’s your workout routine?”

The Q&A was very fun and entertaining, but unfortunately it went on so long that I ended up missing my midnight movie, Ingrid Goes West. I’m sorry for failing you, Aubrey Plaza! I promise to see this one when it comes to theaters!

About catweazle

Catweazle is an 11th century wizard trying to make his way through the modern world while living in a disused water tower with his pet toad.
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13 Responses to Tourism For Weirdos: The Sundance Film Festival Day One

  1. flanny says:

    Maybe Holly Hunter is just standing farther upstage than the rest of them so she looks smaller?

  2. collin0truckasaurus says:

    I am very excited about Kumail Nanjiani’s movie because I find him great in everything he does (especially that workout question story!!!).
    The nun one looks great too!

  3. FRQ says:

    Forgive me if I mentioned this before, but when I first moved to America, I lived in SLC because my dad found work there. We ended up liking it, and even though we left after a couple of years, we went back every winter to ski and see friends. It’s been several years since I’ve been back, and I’m super jealous reading your post, especially since I never got to do anything Sundance related, other than oggle at brouchures.

    • catweazle says:

      I liked SLC a lot! There was the issue of many establishments being closed on Sundays for Mormon reasons but otherwise it is a cool little city. And my brother took me on a ride through Emigration Canyon and it was sooooo pretty!

      • catweazle says:

        Oh also just for funsies I looked up apartment prices there the other day and it is so much cheaper than Chicago I wanted to cry.

        • Sota says:

          That’s just torture. Don’t let yourself ever google apt prices anywhere else unless it’s NYC or San Fran cause those will make you feel good.

  4. hotspur says:

    Whoaaa… I am very excited to learn they made a movie of The Decameron — especially with that cast. I read part of it in high school. We had to read one chapter (the class was basically a Lit Sampler) and I got so swept up in its Three’s Company-like vision of Bubonic Plague times that I went on to read more voluntarily. I am not bragging: I am basically a moron who impressed himself decades ago by reading three additional chapters of a book. But I was really entertained and shocked that it is not much more famous. How is The Decameron not brought up constantly at parties?? You guys, please treat yourself to reading [possibly at most 4 chapters of] The Decameron, and then let’s see this movie as a family.

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