In 2007, I was living in Ithaca, NY, and after a few years of success, my online business endeavors had all begun to fail. At the time, Pajiba was producing negative revenue — it was being supported by my other online ventures — and with my wife pregnant, and my time in Ithaca (where Mrs. Pajiba-hyphenate was attending law school) about to end, I didn’t anticipate that this site would last through the year.
So, with the last bit of my savings, I decided to do an idiotically irresponsible thing considering my precarious future I decided that, with what was probably my last year as an online writer, I’d fulfill a lifelong dream of going to the Sundance Film Festival (a festival, ironically, that would ban me four years later). I spent an exorbitant amount of money, bought my wife and I the fancy passes that didn’t require us to wait in lines, reserved ourselves a nice hotel room, and endeavored to go out with a goddamn bang.
It was an amazing week. It was my first film festival experience, and it could not have been more magical. The things that feels like exhausting work now — giving up sleep to endure four to five movies a day, sitting through insufferable Q&As with movie stars, and rushing from one movie theater to another — felt like huge blessings.
But what really made that festival special, at least for me, were two little movies that flipped my world. The first was Keri Russell’s Waitress (with Nathan Fillion), and seeing that in a theater only a few months removed from writer/director Adrienne Shelly’s murder was both indelible and bittersweet. The movie got a standing ovation, and there wasn’t a goddamn dry eye in the house.
The other was a movie called Rocket Science from director Jeffrey Blitz, starring a then unknown actress by the name of Anna Kendrick, who hailed from Maine (a state, at the time, I’d never been to in my life, and I had no idea I’d move there permanently the next year). Goddamn, y’all: That movie rocked my soul. It was about this high school kid with a terrible stuttering problem who had decided, inexplicably, to join the debate team in order to help rid himself of that stutter. It didn’t work, but it didn’t work in a spectacularly wistful fashion. There was a Clem Snide song that ended the movie that just blew the doors off my heart. I loved it. I loved it so much, in fact, that I did something that seems insane to me now: With hundreds of movies to choose from during that festival, I returned and watched Rocket Science a second time. Watching the same movie twice at a film festival is practically unheard of.
I have no idea how many movies I saw that week — at least 25 — but the only three I still remember are Waitress, John Cusack’s Grace is Gone and Rocket Science. In fact, I was so enamored with that experience that I became determined to make this site successful so that I could come back the next year. I had to! And I did! And the year after! And the year after! And then they banned me, which was fine because, by that time, I was watching movies as press, and watching movies as press — being shuttled from movie theater to press tent and back again like sheep for 18 hours a day and trying to write reviews while sitting on the floor while awaiting another movie in a city where the temperatures hover around 20 degrees — is about as fun as you might imagine. (And I’ve never quite duplicated that feeling of walking out of Rocket Science, although I came close with Brothers Bloom in Boston and Boyhood in Austin.)
But Rocket Science? That movie changed my life, which is why I’m devoting entirely too much personal context to an otherwise insignificant trade news item: Deadline is reporting that Anna Kendrick is reteaming with her Rocket Science director for Table 19, “about a group of strangers who are marooned at the misfits table at a destination wedding.” The movie, which begins shooting next week, will also star Craig Robinson, Lisa Kudrow, Stephen Merchant, Tony Revolori, June Squibb, Wyatt Russell and Amanda Crew.
Chances are, Table 19 will debut at next year’s Sundance Festival. I’ll probably wait and see it at SXSW, instead.
And if you don’t know how farming subsidies could inspire all this commotion then you don’t know life and there’s nothing to be said about it. Suitcases end marriages and farming subsidies launch cataclysms. — Rocket Science