Sundance Diary: Opening night... the sequel

The other half of the Sundance tag team on Madsden-phobia and Mary And Max.

by Tony Sullivan

Despite having passed Arthur C. Clarke's utopian vision of space travel we must note that Air travel is, increasingly, little more than a series of human rights abuses.

Packed into the tiny space laughingly termed a "seat" I have a strange desire to cluck and ovulate.

Harried staff now attempt to coerce you into purchasing a meal or a drink. Failure to do so is rewarded with a double round of Peanuts (50 cents, apparently) the packets carry a warning note that the contents may contain peanuts (in the same way the aircraft may contain passengers).

Not only cramped conditions but your seat, which may be used as a flotation device in the unikely event of a water landing, has become more board like, this presumably aids it's bouyancy but not it's friendliness to one's buttocks.

I wait in vain for the baggage carousel to regurgitate my bagged life, but it turns out this is not because said bag is enjoing the Hawaiian surf but did in fact arrive on an earlier flight. This proves conclusively that time travel is possible or that paying the extra $15 for hold luggage has benefits. I shall try paying $30 on the return trip and maybe they'll launder it for me too.

Sitting waiting for Team EFF I eavesdrop a fellow setting up a production deal for director Nancy Shyer. I already don't want to see it. The fellow holding a sign at the baggage claim which read "Madsden" provides a challenging guessing game which is resolved when Virginia came into view as opposed to Michael (for which I am grateful, as he scares me).

Heading for Park City, we retrieve our press credentials and make a beeline for New Frontier, Sundance's arts-cum-technology showcase. Then onto the opening press conference with Geoffrey Gilmore and Robert Redford in attendance (full story here). A nod to this particular year being the festival's 25th birthday and then a question and answer session. Despite the privations of the economy, Redford was optimistic and said that "art always finds a way".

Opening night film is Mary and Max, a "clayography" animated feature concerning the curious friendship between two lonely individuals. When the story starts, Mary is an eight-year-old Australian school girl who randomly chooses a name from the New York phone book to write and ask "where do babies come from?". The recipient of the letter is Max, a middle-aged New Yorker who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome. Thus the two become pen pals as Mary grows and Max deals (or fails to deal) with his affliction.

Told with affection for its ill-matched couple and featuring a wonderful voice cast, especially comparative newcomer, eight-year-old Bethany Whitmore, playing the younger incarnation of Mary. A little more adult in tone than traditional animated fare with a touch of the Bob Godfrey's about it.

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