Sundance head pasha Robert Redford, actor Matt Dillon and tons of stars turned out last night for the premiere of Jonathan Demme’s concert film about rocker Neil Young.
Young, his wife, Pegi, a boatload of friends and musicians and son Ben were the guests of honor as Demme introduced them from the podium.
Young sported a fedora and waved to the crowd, but he apparently felt the film could speak for itself.
“Heart of Gold” was filmed over two days in August 2005 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. It was done not long after Young had surgery to repair a brain aneurysm.
Obviously, it was a project started in the face of mortality and maybe just to leave something for perpetuity. But as with the Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense,” Demme — with cinematographer Ellen Kuras — has made a lasting, sensational film that makes you feel like you’re sitting in a concert.
The first half of “Heart of Gold” is Young and his band performing his most recent album, “Prairie Wind,” in sequence. It’s a lovely set, and all is well and good.
But the second half of the film is what will draw the most raves. Young presents some of his great hits like “Heart of Gold,” “The Needle and the Damage Done,” “Comes a Time” and “One of These Days.”
The film, of course, got a standing ovation, but it should also be noted that just as the lights went down, someone in the Eccles Theater shouted “We love you, Neil!” And when the movie was over, I do believe the same person shouted, “Thank you, Neil!”
OK, the documentary “God Grew Tired of Us” has been turning even the most stone-faced screening audiences into Weeping Willies.
But last night, after what seemed like a charged show, a total stranger opened his checkbook and wrote out a $25,000 check to the foundation started by one of the movie’s real-life stars. I think that’s a first.
“God Grew Tired of Us” is a remarkable film about displaced Sudanese in Kenyan camps called “The Lost Boys.” Forced out of Sudan in the late 1980s, thousands of Sudanese walked through their country and through Ethiopia to Kenya. It took them five years.
By then, many of them were dead or worse, by the looks of things. Like the Rwanda genocide of 1994, the Lost Boys (and Lost Girls) are one of those international horrors.
Directors Chris Quinn and Tom Walker have made a remarkable film that will likely win an award here and go on to tremendous popularity. They went to Sudan and chose three young men who’d been assigned new homes in the United States by Job Corps.
They then followed Panther, Daniel and John as they first traveled to the West, saw TV, learned about electricity and other fundamentals in our lives — things they had not heard of, ever. And this was in 2001.
You can check out the details of this movie and how to donate to save the Sudanese at www.godgrewtiredofus.com. More to come on this subject as the movie begins to get notice.
So far John, who’s raising the money, has collected $90,000 (apart from the new donation). By the way, Nicole Kidman does a great job narrating the film, and Brad Pitt is listed as executive producer. But when I asked them, none of the three principals in the film had ever heard of any of them. They have more important things on their minds.
The first official Internet talk show was taped on Sunday night, right here in Park City, Utah.
“Amazon Fishbowl with Bill Maher” is sponsored by United Parcel Service and was recorded in front of a live audience composed of invited guests at the Sundance Film Festival.
The guests on the first episode were authors Stephen King, Armistead Maupin and rocker Rob Thomas.
The show also included a regular feature in which a celebrity with a product pays a surprise visit to the home of someone who’s ordered their item.
For the first show, comedian/actor/director Paul Reiser hand-delivered a DVD of his film, “The Thing About My Folks,” to an unsuspecting woman.
The taped segment looked a lot like an Ed McMahon piece from Publishers Clearing House. I’m told none other than Bruce Springsteen has already taped such a piece, and other celebs are being lined up as we speak.
The taping of the show took place in a converted yoga center being used for Sundance parties. On the prior night, Entertainment Weekly had thrown its big bash there, though you’d never have known it from the looks of the place.
As talk shows go, “Fishbowl” — which is about 30 minutes long — is nothing groundbreaking. It’s just pleasant chitchat and good music. Bill Maher is supposed to stay away from politics, but that’s impossible, and he threw in a couple of good jabs. But freed from his usual shtick, Maher proved to be a quick-witted host.
Nevertheless, he almost got into trouble twice. With King, he raised the ire of the famed commercial novelist by asking him about his days as a heavy drinker. King actually stopped him by asking, “Why are we getting into this?”
With Maupin, who was promoting his Sundance movie, “The Night Listener,” Maher crossed into unfriendly territory when it seemed like he was making anti-gay jokes at the writer’s expense.
At least we know “Fishbowl” won’t be boring.
The best element of the show was live music, performed acoustic-style by Thomas. The double-Grammy nominee did “Lonely No More” and “Fall On Me” from his solo album “Something to Be,” with no augmentation.
He sang and played the guitar and was, as usual, stunning in his simplicity. In his generation of rock and pop stars, Thomas continues to stand out as a leader when it comes to composition and performance. It’s fascinating to watch him because he’s such a throwback to “classic” rockers.
The “Fishbowl” pilot was recorded live to tape and will start playing on Amazon.com for free sometime soon. The series of 12 episodes begins on June 1.
And that will kick open the door for Internet series everywhere, so be warned: We are about to be flooded with a whole new genre of chitchat.
Sundance Movie of the Day: 'Half Nelson'
Ryan Gosling is so mesmerizing as a Brooklyn high school history teacher who freebases coke that you can pretty much forgive the weaknesses of director Ryan Fleck’s “Half Nelson.” Gosling has been good before, but this is a homerun for the 25-year-old.
Equally good are his co-stars Anthony Mackie (who just keeps getting better and better) and 16-year-old Shareeka Epps. Nearly every feature film this year has a wise-beyond-her-years child, but Epps may win the award for poise and articulation. She’s a true find in her first acting job.
Fleck apparently found Epps in Brooklyn, but since then her mother has been smart enough to move the two of them to upstate New York so Epps can get an education. We’re going to be seeing more of her, though; that is, if she doesn’t decide to run a studio instead.
“Half Nelson” had both fans and detractors yesterday, but I found it quite moving. The acting and the writing are superb. The question is, as with “Sherrybaby” and some of these other films with great work, can they play to audiences in anything other than art houses?
I think the answer is no. But for distributors, the money will be in DVD sales. Still, Gosling et al. in “Half Nelson” and Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Sherrybaby” should at least get the chance to reap some awards from these gems. They deserve them.
Well, it was only a rumor, but it seems that the late life of soul singer Marvin Gaye is headed to the big screen.
Jesse L. Martin, star of “Law & Order” and “Rent,” will definitely play Marvin in a biopic called “Sexual Healing.”
Here’s the deal, as I get it: Since Motown won’t license the rights to Gaye’s famous records, this movie will concentrate on his last two years, when Gaye recorded for Columbia Records.
This should be quite a production, as it will have to explain why Marvin’s father shot and killed him. That’s an ugly, ugly story dealing with drugs and incest.
I wish the producers luck, but it’s too bad we’ll never see Marvin in his heyday or making his landmark album “What’s Going On?”
More off-the-beaten-path news: The word from Entertainment Weekly’s big party is that the magazine is going into the TV business. They’ve made a deal with “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” producer Mark Davies for a show derived from one of the magazine’s regular features.
This is for a network, I am told, not syndication. You’d presume it’s for a Time Warner network like the WB, but you never know…
Actress Anne Heche and husband, Coley Laffoon, have been making the rounds at Sundance parties. Anne just wrapped up a stint on “Nip/Tuck” and completed an indie feature of her own with Christian Slater. I have to say, she looks fantastic, almost no different than when she was 20 and winning an Emmy award on the soap “Another World.”
Broadway insiders are still talking about her rave-reviewed performance in “The Twentieth Century” a couple of seasons ago with Alec Baldwin. My prediction is that big things are still ahead for Heche: a series or a run at movies is in her future…
Sundance sales news: Mark Gill’s Warner Independent, rolling in the dough thanks to those penguins, picked up Michel Gondry’s latest, “The Science of Sleep,” for $6 million. It has no big stars, but Gondry did make “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” He also made “Human Nature,” but no one’s talking about that…
And Universal Pictures is said to be hot on the trail of “The Illusionist,” starring Edward Norton as a famous magician at the turn of the 20th century. Whoever gets this pretty much has cinched Best Actor and Supporting Actors in Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti. The latter is sensational, which is no criticism of the former…
Finally, amid more movie premieres on Sunday came Premiere magazine’s annual party, this year at the Claim Jumper on Main Street.
And who should show up but Al and Tipper Gore (Al was vice president, you’ll recall, a role now being played by Dick Cheney). They chatted for a while with Premiere editor Peter Herbst, publisher Paul Turcotte and producer Trudie Styler, whose “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” is still getting big buzz all over town…