I'm back home parked before my faithful G5, four days of Sundance experiences swirling inside my mind. Here's what I've been up to since my last post:
I reached Lisa's house Friday afternoon, and we clicked like old friends. That's one of the best things about blogging—if two bloggers click online and via email, if they enjoy each other's perspectives and attitudes, that sympatico sense seems to translate effortlessly into real-life friendship. Lisa's little boys were delightful—it was been like being around my own five-year-old, only twice as noisy since Oliver and Max are twins. They remind me a lot of Ben. Lisa's husband and brother-in-law—both tall, handsome drinks of water—wrangled the kids so Lisa could join me for Sundance festivities. (Thanks, guys!)
My film festival experience kicked off with a party hosted by Wordplay director Patrick Creadon and producer Christine O'Malley's families (Patrick and Christine are married and have two little girls in addition to a bouncing baby documentary). This gathering was pretty mellow, and offered a chance for the crossword people and the filmmakers' relatives to mingle and get to know each other—we'd be seeing a lot of one another over the next few days. Patrick took the opportunity to thank a lot of people—everyone from the kin who had funded the movie to my crossword-constructing friend Vic Fleming, who helped arrange for Bill Clinton's participation in the movie; once the Clinton interview had been scheduled, Jon Stewart was suddenly so much more interested in appearing in Wordplay himself.
(Here's a promotional button for the movie. Buttons were also available with a pencil or a marker—but the cool kids solve crosswords with a glue stick.)
Many of the "stars" of Wordplay—NYT puzzle editor Will Shortz and several top crossword competitors—shared a spacious condo in Deer Valley (affectionately termed the Puzzle Palace). Lisa and I hung out there a few evenings, and had a wonderful time. Board games, blogging, wordplay, camaraderie, great food, and heavy drinking (well, if you count the milk we had when Stella baked blondies). We played a song-lyrics board game called Encore, and there was so much laughter you'd think we were all trashed out of our respective gourds. But nope, we were just high on witty banter. The kitchen table was often laden with laptops, and you know what? No one looked at you funny if you wanted to blog or do crosswords online. My tribe, my peeps.
Saturday morning, we went to the Wordplay world premiere. The movie had sold out well in advance of the festival, and a few hundred people lined up in the hope of getting into the screening from the waiting-list line. The process was inexplicable and chaotic, but eventually our entire contingent (except Lisa, alas, and the 200 people in line behind her) did get in to see the premiere (some of us at the last minute). The movie was fantastic, the crowd loved it, you'll laugh and you'll cry, omigod Jon Stewart was so funny (he may have to go on the freebie list), damn, Bill Clinton looks good these days (all right, he's back on the freebie list), yadda yadda yadda. Your faithful correspondent pops up on screen briefly a few times (and my name's listed in the credits in the "Also Featuring" category), and I'm the only one in the movie who curtsies. (Yes, I know that's a little odd. No, I don't know what I was thinking. And no, I don't regret looking a tad silly since it kept me in the movie! Someday, I'll meet Bill Clinton or Jon Stewart, and he'll think, "She looks familiar...where do I know her from?" And I'll curtsy, and it'll click: "Oh, right! We're in the same movie! Do you have time to join me for coffee?") I'm so glad I made the trip to Sundance to see the movie here—we crossword insiders did a lot of nudging and whispering ("Hey, there I am!" "Look, there you are again!" "Ooh, foreshadowing!"). I'm sure I'll see the movie many more times with other people, but the nudging and whispering won't be quite the same when the friends I'm seeing the movie with aren't, you know, in the movie.
That afternoon, Will did a well-attended book signing at Dolly's Bookstore on Main Street. None of our group needed Will's autograph, and generally we've done all the NYT crosswords so we don't need to buy the books, so instead we just held up the line by taking pictures. Here's a picture of me with Will (the mustachioed man in the center) and another Also Featured Wordplay cast member, Byron Walden.
After the book signing, Tyler Hinman, Stella Daily, and I did a little window shopping down Main Street. This bit of furry apparel caught our collective eye. The tag read, "For the man who has everything." Valentine's Day is coming up soon, ladies and gay men. You'll want to order your beau's fur thong this week.
Sunday, there was a post-premiere brunch at a restaurant that was a looong walk uphill. Good food, NPR puzzles with Will, good chats. CNN came to the party to interview the movie's crossword-solving stars. The CNN "entertainment anchor" Brooke Anderson was a hot blonde who absolutely stood out as "not one of us." (Way hotter in person than in that link.) I have no idea if CNN ever aired any of the footage, though...
Monday, Lisa and I met up with the gang at another Wordplay screening at the beautiful but cold Sundance Resort. I loved the movie even more the second time around. I've gotta say, I'm impressed with the structure of the film, the clever ways the filmmakers, the editor Doug Blush, and the graphics pro Brian Oakes pieced the threads together into a coherent whole that sort of followed the structure of a crossword puzzle. Great music in it, too.
You know who else liked the movie on Monday? Glenn Close. She approached the Wordplay/puzzlers group for conversation and photos (the movie star sought out our group, not vice versa!). She's absolutely stunning, and she's shorter than me. Who knew? Here's a picture. From left to right: Brian, Marie, Wordplay producer and director Christine O'Malley and Patrick Creadon (he looked blissfully happy for days on end), Glenn Close, crossword constructor Merl Reagle, and crossword-tournament stars Ellen Ripstein, Tyler Hinman, and Al Sanders.
Monday night, I accompanied fellow members of the crossword mafia (Ellen, Stella, Dean, Al, Tyler, Trip, and Brian) to a club called Zoom for a party held by the publicists trying to sell Wordplay and a few other films. People were turned away at the door if they weren't on the guest list—and the crossword geeks, of course, made the cut. There was no velvet rope, but it was pretty damn cool to be ushered into a private party. One woman actually grabbed Dean's coat in a futile attempt to ride his coattails into the party. (She was rebuffed.) The folks at the door did let a few outsiders in—we met Saturday Night Live comedian Rachel Dratch (actually, I merely passed her on the stairs) and documentarian Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me). He's kinda hot in person, and we had a nice little chat and posed for a picture. I also found out that the editor of Wordplay, Doug, and I have some mutual friends. Small world. And either after I left Zoom or when I was upstairs, other famous people showed up at the party—their pictures are here.
My Sundance experience is now behind me. I've been ruined for all subsequent film festivals now—how could anything compare? Just...seeing movies? That I'm not in? Without parties with Hollywood insiders? I don't know about that. Anyway, you'll get a chance to see Wordplay yourselves later this year. Several distributors have been clamoring to buy the rights to the movie, so it's practically assured of having a theatrical release. And the Sundance audiences have loved the movie, so we're hoping Wordplay will find an enthusiastic audience, sell a zillion tickets, get great reviews, and win fabulous awards. Move over, March of the Penguins. Let the black-and-white seabirds make way for the black-and-white squares of Wordplay.