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Report from Sundance: Winding It Down

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By Monday of the Sundance Film Festival the crowds on Main Street tend to thin out, creating a far nicer experience for those who stay behind to close out things. By then the well-brewed buzz makes it easier to choose films, and getting a ticket is actually possible.

The Spectacular Now proved worthy of must-see status. An insightful and emotionally complex coming-of-age story, it features a break-out performance by Miles Teller and another stellar turn by Shailene Woodley of The Descendants fame. Renowned Korean director Chan-wook Park’s English-language debut Stoker also lived up to expectations. The riff on Hitchcock’s classic Shadow of a Doubt soars on the back of Matthew Goode’s scene-stealing performance as Mia Wasikowska’s mysterious uncle with a wide smile that hides dark secrets. Magic, Magic, director Sebastián Silva’s second film at Sundance (the other is Crystal Fairy), also turned out to be a winner. An intelligent psychological thriller with the flavor of early Polanski, it features Juno Temple as a young girl whose mental deterioration ruins an idyllic vacation in the wilds of southern Chile.

Of course Sundance is as much about the films you don’t see as it is about the ones you do, and if the rumor mill is to be believed these features are also gems: Prince Avalanche; The Way, Way Back; Metro Manila; Escape From Tomorrow; The East; Inequality for All and History of the Eagles Part 1.

The Parties

Although the bulk of partygoers had departed, there were still a few notable extracurricular events for those who remained. New York nightlife impresario Nur Khan created a pop-up club—Nur Khan presents NK with Mint and the Branding Bee—hosting première after-parties for The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, Very Good Girls and Jobs. The Charlie Countryman party saw the likes of Shia Labeouf, Emile Hirsch and Freida Pinto, while Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen and Jake Gyllenhaal attended the Very Good Girls event and star Ashton Kutcher slated to attend Friday’s get-together for Jobs. A perennial favorite is ChefDance—a five-night roster of meals from celebrity chefs. Sponsored by WishClouds this year, Tuesday’s dinner featured a five-course meal prepared by celebrity chef Marcel Vigneron.

But sometimes it’s nice to forego the guest list and have a relaxed dinner with friends. For Sundance veterans, High West Distillery & Saloon (703 Park Ave.; 435-649-8300) is the best place to escape the festival madness. Featuring artisanal whiskies and savory cuts of elk, High West doesn’t take reservations but is well worth the wait. At least Sam Rockwell must have thought so, since he was spotted at the saloon bar sipping one of its signature variations on the Manhattan while he waited for his table—just like everyone else.

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