I love Park City, Utah. I first went to the town about eight years ago. I was moaning to my husband that I really missed skiing, a sport I love. I complained (I may even have whined), that every time I planned to go skiing with a friend, they dipped out (you would not believe the number of people who are afraid of a bit of cold), and I was left high and dry. I should add, my husband does not ski – he has a knee issue, and truth be told probably would not ski if he had perfect knees. Finally he said, “Well, why don't you just pick and place, go there, and ski!!!” So, I said, “You know what? I WILL.”
I decided upon Park City. I did not want to stay in a swanky hotel ($$$ eeek!) and I did not want to rent an apartment. I wanted something friendly. That’s when I discovered The Old Town Guest House in Park City, and its amazing owner/innkeeper, Deb Lovci.
I wrote to Deb - that's her, above - and told her I was traveling alone to ski (for the first time in about 10 years), and she said, “No problem – leave it to me.” I had a great time, skiing with an instructor picked out by Deb. And the inn is the perfect home from home. I have come to absolutely love Deb – a great outdoorswoman and all-around good person. I came back again, year after year.
You’re getting the picture. I have fallen in love with Park City – and I haven't even told you about the bookstore yet. Sue, the manager of Dolly’s Bookstore in Park City, had become so used to me charging through the door (dressed up like the Michelin man in my winter togs), that a few years ago she said it might be an idea to do an event when I came to town to ski. Yes, I have done a bookstore event in my skiwear! Did I mention that I love Park City? I have made some lovely friends along the way, and - not naming names, because I probably shouldn’t - one of my best skiing pals is a leading lawyer with the US Justice Department, and spends most of her time jetting around the world interviewing dissidents, defecting spies and the like, while liaising with international law enforcement. I’ve come across some interesting people among the thriller-writing community, but ladies and gentlemen, what my friend has to do every single day of the week would give you enough material for a lifetime of blockbusters.
Which brings me to the Sundance Film Festival.
I decided that it was time my husband – who had encouraged me to take that first trip to Park City – had a glimpse of the wonderful experiences I’d had over the years. I booked The Old Town Guest House for the second week of the Sundance Film Festival (by which time most of the real movie stars have departed the city), which coincided with my husband’s birthday. I organized everything except getting into the actual films. To give you a bit of background, my husband LOVES movies – indies, foreign, mainstream – and is a real film buff, which you would expect from a graduate of the film program at Boston University.
But then the angst began. Advisory #1 for anyone going to the Sundance Film Festival who is not an actual movie star or other VIP – the website is a bloody mess. John finally procured our Sundance passes after much cursing, and then had to linger over the computer on a given day and at a specific time to reserve seats for the certain number of movies we were allowed with the pass we’d selected. Here's how bad the website was - we overheard a kid talking about it, saying, “Dude, they need a new
And here’s how we got to grips with the really poor system of getting into films at Sundance. Breakfast at Deb’s Old Town Guesthouse is “family style.” Eight people sitting around the table, chatting over good coffee and a bang-up breakfast. Judy and Art from Boston, by way of New York, told us about the Sundance e-list, so we got onto that straightaway. John did battle with the website again, and we started to make real progress.
We decided that some movies getting a lot of attention would probably come to our local “indie” theater (I ached to see Dark Horse, and White God, but will have to wait), so instead we concentrated on productions that we might never have the opportunity to see again. The short programs were particularly interesting. A documentary about the artworks salvaged from a former asylum in England was fascinating – an innovative doctor there in the 1920’s-50’s had set up an arts studio for patients, and their creations were amazing. Over 5000 works are now housed at the Wellcome Museum in London. I lived not far from that hospital when I was in my twenties, so it was almost surreal watching the movie. Another short film, this one from Greece, told the story of a single mother giving up her daughter – a girl of about five years of age – and followed them on their last morning together before the woman walked away from her child. I'm still aching after that one. A documentary about D. H. Lawrence in Sardinia was just gorgeous.
You’ll be hearing about a movie called James White. OK, so it needs a bit of editing - yes, we get it, the twenty-something young man is in a downward spiral, in and out of bars, getting into a fights, and into bed with anyone. His estranged father has just died. His mother is battling stage 4 cancer. Then she is admitted into the hospital, and the movie just takes off. Cynthia Nixon – formerly of Sex In The City – turns in an Oscar-worthy performance as the dying woman. Christopher Abbot carries the movie as James White, and you can almost smell the grief and confusion in the man as it vaporized off the screen.
Next morning at the breakfast table, as Deb topped up everyone’s coffee, we continued to exchange our retelling of the films we’d seen, then planning our day’s viewing. John said, “You know, it really gets the creative juices going – being here.”
I could go on and on, but I won’t because you could read the reviews anywhere by Googling “Sundance 2015” I would imagine. But here’s a funny observation:
I’m used to skiing in Park City. When you ski, you work up an appetite, so when you go out to dinner people are really eating. But Sundance brings a different crowd to Park City. For his celebratory birthday meal, I took John to Zoom, Robert Redford’s restaurant.
I noticed the inappropriately dressed out-of-towners at the table next to us. Sorry, but they might as well have had visas with “Hollywood” stamped on their bare shoulders. They ordered lunch, proceeded to take a bite out of each dish, and then left the lot. I almost leaned across and said, “Can I have your fries?” When the waiter asked if they had enjoyed their meal, they were effusive in their compliments. Then they walked out, and the food was left to be thrown away. I wanted to yell after them, “You cannot leave the table until you've finished everything on your plate!”
I sort of wish I had.
Until next time ...