The annual three-ring spectacle that is the Sundance Film Festival is under way, and we all know what THAT means.
Avoid. Park. City.
Seriously. Avoid it like the plague. Avoid it like a rush-hour stretch of Interstate 15 through Utah County. Avoid it like a fellow ward member in the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon.
Mark my words, people: Nothing good can ever come of a trip to Colorado's westernmost city in mid-to-late January.
Not that there's necessarily an ideal time to visit Park City. Nothing personal, because I'm sure there are some awfully nice people who live up that way -- and the womenfolk in our family do seem to enjoy the outlet stores -- but I've just never much cared for the place. It's roughly the same vibe I get off trendy destination spots like Jackson Hole, Moab and Sun Valley.
Money, I fear, has all but ruined Park City.
And at no time is this ruination more pronounced than during Sundance. It hardly seems possible, but each January the state's most pretentious city somehow manages to become just a little bit more so, as all manner of Hollywood types descend upon the wealthy ski town like a swarm of extremely thin and attractive locusts clad all in black.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I've never actually been to Park City during Sundance. Nor am I particularly keen on that favorite Sundance pastime among many locals -- celebrity-watching.
And, as long as we're being totally honest here, I should probably point out that I'm not really even a moviegoer. I suppose, on average, I see one film every couple of years. (Last first-run feature film seen at the mondoplex? "Avatar," which means I'm probably due for another movie night soon.)
In the 35 years that Sundance has been in existence, I've managed to avoid all but one festival screening. That was about 10 years ago, when a much-hipper friend dragged our wives and me down to Peery's Egyptian Theater to see some foreign-made film -- mercifully, the name escapes me -- about a bunch of 30-somethings and their children living in a Swedish commune in the 1970s. It was odd and confusing and just a little bit creepy.
Plus which, it had the added bonus of featuring those annoying subtitles. Look, if I'd wanted to spend the evening reading, I'd have stayed home with a good book.
With the possible exception of church each week, it was easily the longest two hours of my life.
Needless to say, I haven't had the heart to drag myself back to another Sundance screening since. But I will tell you this: If I ever were to catch another Sundance film, there's only one place I'd even consider going.
And that's where my admittedly radical -- but ultimately logical -- proposal comes in. Folks in the know are often bemoaning that Sundance, originally designed to celebrate independent filmmaking, is becoming increasingly, well, mainstream. More stars. Bigger budgets. Too much Hollywood.
So if Robert Redford were smart, he'd up and move the whole shebang to Ogden, permanent-like. Because if there's one place in Utah that has enough blue-collar gravitas to successfully offset the corrupting influences of Tinseltown, it's O-Town.
Don't believe me? Consider the spelling on Utah's two most-famous Egyptian venues. The one here spells it "theater"; the one there uses the infinitely more affected "theatre."
And the elitist attitude of Park City is further evident in a recent Us Weekly article titled "2012 Sundance Film Festival: All the Hotspots!" Among the magazine's recommendations:
"Another NYC hotspot is coming to Sundance this year: Gansevoort, which will host a premiere party for Lay the Favorite, where stars like Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Vince Vaughn are expected to sample cuisine provided by celebrated restaurants STK and Asellina."
Huh? Not only do I not know what a "Gansevoort" is, but for being "celebrated restaurants," the names STK and Asellina sure don't ring any bells with this bumpkin. Besides, if they're such great upscale eateries, how come we don't have one just off the freeway in Layton?
I'll tell you why. Because the Sundance Film Festival, as currently constituted in Park City, has lost touch with the common man. And the only way to truly reconnect with those grassroots roots is to move the festival to Ogden.
They can still keep the "Sundance" moniker, if they must -- although I believe there are far better names out there. And they can certainly continue showing a handful of films at a smaller satellite venue in Park City, for those who prefer their festival with a bit of the ostentatious.
But for the good of the festival, for the good of independent filmmakers, for the good of movie lovers everywhere, it's time for a change. It's time for a new start.
It's time for ... "Ogdance."
Contact Mark Saal, who is ready for his closeup, at 801-625-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.