Park Violation City, UT

Or Things You Shouldn't Do With Clay

Here in Utah, the crossroads of the west, January signals a few special events that are very near and dear to our hearts. The “inversion”, or what happens when smog gets trapped in the whirling cesspool of the Salt Lake Valley, comes to infect the air that we breathe and turns the office into a symphony of hacking, mucousy coughing. It also signals the coming of one of the most revered film festivals in the world, the Sundance Film Festival. Because of these two things, January is also the month where local news stops to focus on either inversion or celebrity sightings. When Jessica Biel coming out of a Park City Starbucks tops the murderous rampage of a nun in an Ogden orphanage for handicapped children, you know it is January in Utah.

Robert Redford started the Sundance Film Festival in 1978 in order to bring independent pretentious filmmakers to his newfound home in Park City. It has since become a way to bring pretentious movie studios, production companies, and A-list actors to Park City. The festival has transformed this sleepy Wasatch Mountain town, which was founded on silver mining and legalized prostitution, into a town way too hip to actually be considered a part of the state of Utah. I have actually heard it in a news report referred to as being located in Colorado, as if its coolness required that it be airlifted 285 miles to the East where the alcohol content in beer was the same as the rest of the known world.

As a general rule, despite all of the things put in place to draw me there, I tend to stay away from the Park City on a Hill. It is for the same reason that I tended to stay away from the pretty, popular girls in high school. During the winter months, it is obviously a prime destination for those who enjoy skiing. It even inspired the pun that graced our state’s license plates for 15 years “The Greatest Snow On Earth”. You heard us. Screw you, Nepal. I have been a Utah resident the whole of the 29 years of my life and I have been skiing a total of zero times. I know that that is kind of like a resident of Hawaii never seeing the ocean or a resident of New Jersey never smelling Axe body spray. Something about the mixture of expensive equipment, expensive fares, and expensive reconstructive surgery discouraged me from it.

One thing that did get me to go to Park City when I was younger is the world-renowned Factory Outlet Stores. Before the days of Wal-mart, Kohls, and Kohl-mart, this sprawling conglomerate was the Mecca of back-to-school shopping moms. It is essentially an outdoor mall with mostly famous, brand name stores. Here’s the kicker: the stores feature products with factory defects. This meant buying form-fitting Hammer pants, belts with mis-weaved braids, and Reebok Pumps that filled your shoes with nitrous-oxide. All worthwhile sacrifices to put your children in fashionable clothing.

If it is good enough for Dominique Wilkins, it is good enough for me.

Even with all of the hoopla that descends on Park City during the Sundance Film Festival, I have rarely attended the much-publicized event, despite the fact that I love “film” almost as much as I love “movies”. Much like the skiing and outlet shopping, this too is due to my perpetual state of poverty. A ticket to a Sundance movie floats somewhere between the cost of a topless revue in Vegas and a pair of non-defective Reebok Pumps. But I have been to Sundance a couple of times, experienced the mayhem, and vowed to never return.

The first time I went was when I was around 14 years old. My sister, seeing the cinematic aspirations that I had in my future, invited me to the event and my parents scrounged up the money for the ticket. It was to see a movie called Colin Fitz. It was a great comedy about two security guards assigned to guard the grave of a rock star on the anniversary of his death. It won several film festival awards, but was never picked up by a movie studio. So, as is the fate with most festival movies, it remains in a celluloid warehouse somewhere in Des Moines. It was at this screening, though, that I had my first celebrity sighting outside of a stadium fireworks show. (I love you Andy Williams!) Of course, this pre-dated the huge thronging of celebrities at Sundance, so we kind of had to settle for what we could get. That settling rested squarely on the shoulders of one Tony Danza. You heard me right, Mr. Tony Danza, or Tony Micelli, as I still like to call him. Who’s the boss? You are, my Italian-American friend, you are.

My next and last experience at Sundance came the following year when I went again with my sister to see a series of animated shorts. We were pretty excited because of a Wallace and Gromit short that was going to be featured. This was, of course, before Wallace and Grommit were popular and cool, or before the Park City effect, as I like to call it. Because the short we wanted to see was only half an hour, there were about 5 other short animated films that were grouped with it. The Sundance Film Festival is known for its independent films with one-word titles that explore horrific sexual metaphors. This year, there was Tub (about a man who impregnates a bathroom fixture). Two years ago, there was Teeth (about a girl whose hoo-hah has dentition). Many years earlier, when I was in attendance, there was Achilles.

As the curtain opened up to begin the short animated film segments, the word “Achilles” came across the screen. We all know the story about the Grecian warrior. Mother dips his whole person into the magic river, with exception of his heel. He goes on to win many battles and fight in the Trojan War. All of that is pretty well depicted by the speechless clay animation figures on the screen in front of us. It took all of 2 minutes. And then began the horror. Apparently, what they don’t teach you in those Mythology 101 books is that Achilles not only enjoyed homosexual behavior in his later years, but he enjoyed it a lot. For the next 13 minutes, my 15 year-old eyes, along with those of the entire audience, were exposed to the most graphic homoerotic claymation pornography that has ever been put on film. Still with no words, and only haunting sounds, the plaster was twisted into all sorts of unholy positions that my hands were only somewhat successful at shielding. The credits rolled at one climactic point and the sound of constant gasping by the audience was replaced with ashamed and violated weeping. Wallace and Gromit would never be the same to me again.

I’ve been reluctant to make my way up to the Gomorrah of Utah ever since that day. I will occasionally go there with my wife for a one-week salary brunch on Main Street or to purchase defective Abercrombie and Fitch clothes for my children. But, in general, I don’t like to talk about my experience with Park City very much. I will say that writing about it here has lifted this burden I have been carrying for sometime. I still shy away from my kids playing with Play-Doh and the sight of Brad Pitt with a sword makes me curl into a fetal position. But I feel that I am on the road to recovery. That road is going back down Parley’s Canyon and into the Salt Lake Valley where I can breathe a little easier. Well, metaphorically speaking. With the inversion in the air, it is technically recommended that you not breathe while outdoors. That can do some real damage.

To Catch A Clay Animator - New on NBC Dateline


melissa said...

I think I warned you after Achilles was over, that if you ever talked about that little cartoon, Mom would never let us go to the movies together again. Now you've done it!

the b in subtle said...

"a resident of New Jersey never smelling Axe body spray". brilliant. i have a friend who has attended Sundance for quite some time because she's in the movie business. now i'm pretty sure i may never join her. thanks for the warning...

Dimond24 said...

As a current resident of Ogden I would like to set the record straight. The nun was off her medication at the time. That is all.


Nathan said...

I am a Sundance Geek. One year we saw kirsten dunst and jake gyllenhaal. It was between spider-man 1 and 2. I went up to kristen and said. "MJ Peter Parker is Spider-man." She just turned and walked away.