Don't Slam Sundance
BY Gregg Araki
January 05 2009 12:00 AM ET
The Best of the FestA few reasons to dust off the snowshoes and head to Utah
Although there's still talk of a potential boycott of the Sundance Film Festival, programmers have chosen many gay films for the festival's 2009 lineup. One of the year's most high-profile gay movies will debut at the festival: I Love You Phillip Morris , the true story of imprisoned con artist Steven Jay Russell (Jim Carrey), whose love for cellmate Phillip (Ewan McGregor) led him to pull off four (fleetingly) successful jailbreaks. Will the film take the lowbrow road and make a running joke of gays and prison sex? It's directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the screenwriters of cult favorite Bad Santa, so here's hoping it'll be a smart, acerbic comedy instead.
If the thought of Carrey in a same-sex clinch doesn't quite set gay hearts aflutter, there's Dare , the story of a nerdy high school kid whose lust for his bad-boy classmate finds unexpected reciprocation. Director Adam Salky adapted the story from his short film (part of Boys Life 5); then the bad boy was O.C. hunk Michael Cassidy, and now it's Friday Night Lights star Zach Gilford.
The other high-profile gay movie of the festival is La Mission , starring Benjamin Bratt in a film written and directed by his brother Peter. The former Law & Order detective plays a macho Latino father living in San Francisco's Mission district who can't accept his teenage son's homosexuality.
There are plenty of gay names behind the camera at this year's festival, including the director Adam Elliot (who thanked his partner on-screen while accepting a short-film Oscar in 2004). His comedy Mary and Max is the festival's unconventional opening-night premiere: a Claymation comedy voiced by Toni Collette and Philip Seymour Hoffman and narrated by Barry Humphries (a.k.a. Dame Edna). For those in the mood for something darker, there's The Informers , directed by Gregor Jordan and adapted from Bret Easton Ellis's novel about a decadent Los Angeles crowd of intersecting people (including Winona Ryder, Billy Bob Thornton, and Brad Renfro in his final role), one of whom may be a vampire.
Director R.J. Cutler was granted unparalleled access for his behind-the-scenes documentary The September Issue , which chronicles the yearlong effort required by the Vogue staff (and its iconic editor Anna Wintour) to assemble the September issue, considered the "fall fashion bible" of the industry. Discerning festivalgoers should seek out the shorts program for Jenni Olson's 575 Castro St. , which plays the audiotape Harvey Milk recorded to be made available in the event of his assassination, and Julian Breece's sure-to-be-controversial The Young and Evil , about a gay black teenager who attempts to seduce an HIV-positive man into infecting him with the virus.
Finally, there's Humpday , described as "a farcical comedy about straight male bonding gone a little too far." How far remains to be seen, but we're reserving our hopes in that arena for Rudo and Cursi , which reteams Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna as soccer rivals. Sadly, the potential for an Y Tu Mamá También reenactment may be tempered by the fact that the two play brothers -- then again, it is Sundance. -- Kyle Buchanan