Robert Redford opened the Sundance Film Festival last night with a bang. He told the audience assembled at the Eccles Auditorium, where Brett Morgen’s “Chicago 10” was about to screen, that we were owed an apology from the Bush Administration for everything that has happened since Sept. 11, 2001.
“Six years ago, we held off [saying anything negative about the administration]. But considering what’s happened, I think we’re owed an apology,” Redford declared.
He also said he wasn’t going to explain or defend how Sundance works anymore. After all these years, it should be obvious. He’s right: the festival is already packed and there’s a buzz in the air.
But Redford is conscious of the criticisms about too many parties, celebrities, gift suites, lounges and corporate involvement. He’s asking the serious attendees to wear a large button with the saying “Focus on Film.”
To that end, he introduced the opening night offering “Chicago 10” a documentary directed by Brett Morgen and co-produced by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter.
It’s the story of the 1968 Chicago trial of Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Bobby Seale et al that made the late William Kunstler a star attorney.
“Chicago 10” is not actually a documentary. Morgen recreates moments from the trial with actors like Liev Schreiber and Nick Nolte voicing animated characters who’ve been computer generated to look like the original defendants.
It’s the same kind of animation that was used in Richard Linklater’s film "A Scanner Darkly." You either like it or you don’t. I wasn’t crazy about it.
A lot of “Chicago 10” is interesting stuff, using the Chicago riots and demonstrations of 1968 as a backdrop for the trial. For the young people in the audience who knew nothing of the trial or its tribulations, the movie seemed to explain a few things they hadn’t understood.
But for those of us a little older, “Chicago 10” seemed a tad unfinished. For one thing, there’s mention of the Martin Luther King assassination, but nothing about Robert Kennedy two months later.
You see Lyndon Johnson announcing a step up in troops to Vietnam, but not the famous clip of him announcing that he wouldn’t run for president.
There’s also no mention of the SDS per se, the Detroit, Newark or Watts riots or the Columbia University protests. These were seminal moments of the late '60s, so their absence is jarring.
There’s also no real explanation of Bobby Seale, or what the Black Panthers meant in the scheme of things. As an adjunct you should read the freshly published "Conspiracy in the Streets," edited by Jon Wiener, with an afterward by Hayden.
Hayden, who came to Sundance with his wife and their young son, told the audience after the screening that he liked the movie a lot. He mentioned that director Morgen had been born one month after the trial ended.
But “Chicago 10,” at least to many of us, felt a little like it was made by someone who was technically smart enough to write a script from the trial transcripts but didn’t have a true understanding of the time when the film took place.
"Chicago 10" might also benefit from a narration (I was thinking Susan Sarandon) that would tie together disparate moments and archive film clips. It would also be better with more run through the edit bay, to get about 10 minutes out of it.
In the end, though, the movie raises some very important questions: if the current war in Iraq is so much like Vietnam, then where are the Haydens and Rubins of this generation? Why is there no dissident movement in the U.S. among young people? What causes complacency and apathy?
"Chicago 10: only starts to ask these questions, but they’re almost more interesting at this point.
The word from Switzerland is that Randy Jackson, the younger brother of Michael, has been hospitalized with a heart attack.
Some Jackson insiders say that Randy, who worked as Michael’s manager and adviser during his child molestation trial, is just “exhausted.”
Randy Jackson is relatively young at 46 years old, but has spent most of the last couple of years caught up in his older brother’s strange world.
Meanwhile, Michael remains at the MGM Signature in Las Vegas, where some kind of deal is being negotiated for him to perform in Sin City on a regular basis.
There’s talk that the newly named Planet Hollywood Hotel, formerly the Aladdin, wants him, but many obstacles remain, including insurance.
Jackson did finally meet with his parents recently, the first time he’s seen them since leaving the U.S. in June 2005. I’m told the meeting in Vegas went well mostly because the omnipresent Grace Rwaramba, Jackson’s children’s nanny, has been away in Utah.
And over at the Mickey Fine Pharmacy in Beverly Hills, a source there says the $100,000 that Jackson recently paid up was mostly for the cream he uses to whiten his skin, as well as a raft of other prescriptions.