Below you’ll find bios on the best darn Sundance team in town.

Movie Reviewer: Michael Mejia

 

Michael Mejia is the author of a novel, Forgetfulness (Fiction Collective 2). He teaches Creative Writing at the University of Utah.

Two Things I’m Looking Forward To at Sundance 2016: The return of former Sundance stars Todd Solondz (Wiener-Dog) and Whit Stillman (Love & Friendship), as well as new work from Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Cemetery of Splendor) and Werner Herzog (LO AND BEHOLD Reveries of the Connected World).

Josh Fox’s (Gasland) new documentary examining how communities around the world are responding to the effects of climate change, How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change.

One Thing I’m Going to Miss (On Purpose): Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper. I mean, what do we really expect Gloria to “reveal”? Maybe where the commercials will be inserted when this airs on CNN.

 

Movie Reviewer: Richard Bonaduce

 

President of the Utah Film Critics Association, Marvel Unlimited member, and Film Critic for The Standard Examiner and Salt Lake Magazine, Rich also hosts “Critical Mass” (a movie-review show), TALK 365 (a services-centered talk show), and is Video Coordinator for WGU, where also he’s enrolled in their MBA program. You can see him Friday mornings on “Good Day Utah” on KSTU-Fox13 for on-air film reviews.

Two Things I’m Looking Forward To at Sundance 2016: Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words. A sharply edited and energetic celebration of Zappa through his public persona, allowing us to witness his shifting relationship with audiences.

Being a film critic and a drummer, I love documentaries about musicians, especially the docs that get behind the creative process; and there’s no one more creative than Zappa!

Michael Jackson’s Journey From Motown to Off The Wall. Director Spike Lee assembles a wealth of archival footage, interviews with contemporary talents and family members, and Michael’s own words and image to create this insightful chronicle of the star’s early rise to fame.

I’m sure you’re sensing a theme, but yes I’m excited for this one too, especially with Lee at the helm; I’m sure he’ll do the subject matter justice. There is a world of wonderful music from Jackson before he was a household name, and I think much of it dwarfs anything from “Thriller” onward.

But I’m not looking forward to: Navigating all this stuff in the wintertime. The winter is for snowboarding, not bar-hopping. Why the hell can’t we have SUN-dance in the summer?  Why doesn’t that make more sense? Anyone?!

 

Movie Reviewer: Jaime Winston

 

Jaime Winston once wrote for Salt Lake magazine and edited SLmag.com full-time, and then he left to do similar work at Weber State University. But once he was out, we pulled him back in (after he pestered the editor for freelance work). Look for his stories in upcoming issues of the magazine and his film reviews on SLmag.com during the Sundance Film Festival. In his free time, he reads big stacks of comic books, hikes Utah’s trails and tracks down copies of silent horror films. If he’s not catching a film at the Rose Wagner during the fest, you may find him across the street at Gracie’s enjoying a burger and a pint of pale ale.

What to see:

The Bad Kids: Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe (the latter deserves a Sundance award for coolest director name) are bringing their documentary about a high school in a patch of the Mojave Desert to Sundance. What makes this high school unique? Educators at the school actually believe they can help at-risk kids, who are dealing with abuse, addiction and more, succeed with empathy, teaching life skills and just giving a damn.

The film follows the daily lives of three of these “bad” kids and their principal. Bring tissues to dry your eyes.

Slam! I bet you didn’t expect a Slamdance film in this blog. This horror film directed by Adam Rifkin (Detroit Rock City) and starring/written by Penn Jillette (Penn and Teller) is opening this year’s Slamdance Film Festival. It’s about a crazed movie buff who kidnaps his favorite actress and forces her to star in his own twisted film. I’m anticipating a bloody good mix of witty dialogue, mystery and scares—and hopefully Penn’s sleight of hand.

What to miss:

How to Let Go of the World (And Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change)

While acknowledging we may be unable to slow climate change, Oscar-nominated director Josh Fox’s Sundance film focuses on the survival spirit of cultures around the world (my understanding based on the trailer).Did Fox admit defeat in the climate change fight, given the fact he travelled to 12 countries on six continents to make the film and will be taking it on a world tour? Otherwise, he would have gone green and pitched it to Netflix.

And with that attitude, shouldn’t the film be titled “You’re All Doomed, And So Are These People?” I have a feeling his excellent “Gasland” films on fracking did more good than “How to Let Go” will. Maybe my assumptions are wrong, and I hope they are. Either way, audiences will think it must be important given the subject matter, and it will win a bunch of documentary awards and get standing ovations.

Celebrity Watcher: Stuart Graves

 

Stuart, an avid traveler, runner and music and movie afficianado, will be Salt Lake magazine’s celebrity correspondent. He’s traveled the world to run marathons and climb mountains, but, he says, Nepal and Australia are his favorite spots.

Two things I’m looking forward to: I’m looking forward to meeting a new round of film stars in 2016, and hopefully I’ll get to revisit with my pal from the last coule years, Molly Shannon. Also, I’m looking forward to the possibility of finally seeing my Sundance white whale,  James Franco. If you need me, I’ll be practicing so that I don’t sound scary if and when I do meet him.

One thing I’m not looking forward to: The possibility of a celebrity shut out.  I don’t want to walk away from this Sundance with only a half dozen souvenir water bottles to show for it.

Photographer: Natalie Simpson

 

Educated in the Fine Arts program at BYU, Natalie has 16 years experience in photography. She lives in Salt Lake with her two sons and the world’s best looking dog. She has been a breakfast cereal guru for 35 years and counting.

 

Videographer: Mike Hansen

 

Mike is a native of Northern Arizona and currently works at a lifestyle and fine art photographer.  His business Brushfire Photography has taken him around the world to document weddings and events.

 

Sundance Culture Reporter: Christie Marcy  

 

Christie Marcy is the associate editor at Salt Lake magazine and though she has lived in Salt Lake for eight years she has not once stepped foot into a Sundance related event. Until now.

For the next two weeks she’ll report on cultural happenings at the festival. What’s the worst that could happen?