Recently, in an act of great condescension that my ridiculous cousin won’t stop babbling about, the “esteemed” Lady Catherine de Bourgh invited me, Elizabeth Bennet, along with a full table of Churchills and Dashwoods, to her estate at Rosings Park for the weekend. The party was quite tedious really until one of them went and got themselves decapitated in the water closet late Friday evening. Then, I must admit, the discourse became a great deal livelier.
The fineness of the cutlery at Rosings matches the grandeur of the fireplaces, or so my cousin has told me on more than one occasion.
On Saturday, during a four-course dinner, Lady Catherine’s still-headed company attempted to work out who was responsible for Mr. Thorpe’s topless state. (For anything less than four courses wouldn’t be stylish enough for such a scandalous discussion.) Though insipid comments on the exemplary potatoes and silly romantic sentiments abounded, we eventually achieved enough common sense between us to come to a correct conclusion on why and how Mr. Thorpe managed to become considerably shorter.
One learns far too much about some characters after only one weekend in their company.
Some creatures do not improve upon closer acquaintance. Rather, intimate association may only prove them quite murderous.
I received an award for Best Actress and Mr. Collins obtained one for Best Actor. Certainly, he deserves ample recognition for his many efforts to provide the ladies with elegant “unrehearsed” complements but why I should be given an award for simply being myself is beyond me. Still, I suppose it is a small kind of accomplishment.
The Sundance Film Festival, which takes place in Utah every January, draws around 45,000 attendees from dozens of countries. Jason and I have been joining the other 15,000 local goers for almost a decade now. It’s such a unique, and conveniently close, experience why would any Utah resident with a love for cinema not go? We’ve heard a number of reasons from acquaintances through the years and now you get to hear them too. (Lucky you!)
Weak Excuse for Skipping Sundance #1: It’s impossible to get tickets.
While going to Sundance isn’t as simple as heading over to the neighborhood movie theater, it’s easier than impossible. Plus, one ticket prerequisite was removed this year. In the past, residents had to register in the fall to be eligible to get tickets in December. This time, that step was eliminated. We only had to get online at a specific time and wait in an electronic queue for an hour and a half to purchase tickets and then go to Salt Lake City during a particular slot to pick them up. So, yes it requires some effort but it’s not climbing Everest. Besides, all the nonnatives have to acquire flights, pay for outrageously expensive hotels, etc. so stop whining.
Hint to our friends: Jason and I have performed all of the ticket acquiring tasks for our pals attending Sundance for many years now. Traditionally, the gratitude for such services has been dismally underwhelming and, consequently, we may not continue to be so kind. Still, you could probably convince us to get tickets for you because we are suckers.
Weak Excuse for Skipping Sundance #2: You have to arrive at screenings early.
You do have to arrive 45 minutes early to every show if you want to be guaranteed a seat. This time, we discovered that coming an hour early actually procures a much better spot but waiting at least 45 minutes is really nonnegotiable. What? You can’t handle sitting around for 45 minutes reading a book or chatting with friends? Come on, you’ve waited longer to get the latest iPhone and an iPhone doesn’t come with Viggo Mortensen. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Viggo and most of the rest of the Captain Fantastic cast came to our screening.
Weak Excuse for Skipping Sundance #3: Tickets are way too expensive.
Folks, they only cost about $20. While that is double what you’d pay to see a regular movie, does a regular movie come with Viggo Mortensen? That’s what I thought.
Weak Excuse for Skipping Sundance #4: There are too many film options. Picking between them is too hard.
Yes, it’s true; the Sundance Film Festival is a little like a cinematic version of Russian roulette. Without the opinions of friends or critics to rely on, you don’t know if you are going to get banged up at a screening or not. The uncertainty sure is exciting though.
Sundance may sound like a hassle. It is. However, all the bother is definitely worth it, as was proven again by the incredible shows and Q&As we caught this year.
Love and Friendship, our first Sundance flick of 2016, is based on Jane Austen’s Lady Susan epistolary novel. It was quite clever and full of laughs. Plus, there was a Q&A with the director, music director, and producers at the end.
Directly following Love and Friendship, we got in line again and waited for our next movie, Captain Fantastic, a superb show featuring Viggo Mortensen, one of my favorite actors. Viggo showed up for the screening along with the majority of the cast and my heart nearly stopped.
It’s hard to get good photos in dark theaters but a bad picture of Sonita is better than none at all.
A few days later, we watched Sonita, a documentary about an Afghan girl who, after fleeing to Iran as a refugee, dreamt of becoming a rapper. It unexpectedly tumbles into the common Afghan practice of selling young girls as brides with or without their consent. This tradition, in which families treat their females with no more consideration than horses being auctioned to the highest bidder, was heartbreaking to witness. The film was terrific and won the festival’s Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the World Cinema Documentary category. It was followed by a Q&A with the director and Sonita herself.
Our next show made me cry a lot. I had a headache the rest of the night from my waterworks during Gleason, a documentary about Steve Gleason, a former NFL defensive back that was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 34. Since Jason and I have had some personal experience with ALS, a disease that steadily steals all voluntary muscle control, this film was difficult but rewarding to watch. It had a Q&A afterward in which we got to meet Steve’s courageous wife.
Our last show, Sophie and the Rising Sun, was also excellent. It takes place in the Deep South at the outbreak of World War II. The culture of the small town it portrays is full of interwoven layers of bigotry that are both intriguing and appalling. It was our only film not followed by a Q&A.
We definitely won Sundance’s cinematic roulette this time. That doesn’t always happen but if every Sundance show was breathtakingly amazing, discovering masterpieces wouldn’t be so exciting now would it? If you’re a local and you love movies, why the heck haven’t you been to Sundance?
Jason and I enjoy an adventure as much as Captain Kirk, only he likes to hook up with green babes and we like to hook up with dogs.* When our friends Meggie and Ben asked if we’d be interested in trying dog sledding with them, we didn’t have to think twice. Any day is a good day to explore strange new worlds or just attempt something new.
Cloud is the newest and youngest member of the team. She was darling.
As soon as the sleds came out, the barking started.
Pawsatch operates near Park City. They have a couple teams of dogs. Our group of four rode with their Beatfeet Sled Dogs in two different sleighs. Due to the snow that had accumulated in the days immediately preceding our ride, we were not able to mush into the “wild” but instead looped around a large golf course situated in a wooded dell. It wasn’t exactly the wilderness but it was serene enough to almost count.
Ben took the majority of these pictures. I didn’t bring my fanciest camera so I only got a few.
The excitement was off the ground!
The dogs were incredibly energetic and, according to their owner, their metabolisms match. But, beyond that, they didn’t fit any of the stereotypes for racing canines. They were short haired breeds not puffy huskies. (Short haired sled dogs are generally faster but don’t do as well in cold climates, like Alaska, for obvious reasons.) These pups were also very friendly and loved being petted and cuddled. What sweet creatures!
The more weight in a sled, the more dogs have to be added to the tow rope and the less control the driver has. Apparently, Mahana requires eight cows and we require nine dogs.
Our sled was slim but cozy.
Dog sledding has a bit of a bad rep and, frankly, some of it is deserved. Apparently, sledders that care more about winning races than the health of their dogs are not terribly uncommon. However, the owner of these particular pooches, Bino, a 20-year racing veteran, has won vet awards for his excellent treatment of his animals on multiple occasions.
Getting the dogs to stop seemed a lot trickier than getting them to start.
Before sledding, the pack was too anxious to be interested in much petting. Afterwards, that’s all they were interested in.
I should also address the other mistreated elephant in the room. Having dogs pull a sled may sound cruel but it’s no different than having a horse tow a cart. Besides, it was quite obvious that these canines love mushing. As soon as the process for attaching them to the tug line began, their barking and wagging became nearly unmanageable. Many of them started jumping three or four feet in the air on all four paws in anticipation. I’ve never seen dogs do that before.
The pups were sociable and eager for attention.
We hung out with the dogs for quite a while after sledding because they were simply too cute.
Sledding with Pawsatch was slick. We really enjoyed interacting with the dogs and asking lots of questions. Perhaps Kirk was a little hasty with his no-dogs-just-babes policy.
*Yes, that just happened. I made a Star Trek reference in a post about dog mushing. I’m a nerd so just go with it.