A noted film critic arrives for what he expects to be just another Sundance Film Festival. 2,544 words. Part Two tomorrow. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.
“Are you going to Shoot Mom?”
Ryan pulled off his headset and glanced up from his airline seat. A guy in a blue Cubs cap hovered over him.
A stewardess came forward, looking alarmed.
“Shoot Mom — are you going to the screening?” the Chicago baseball fan repeated.
“Sir, you’ll have to sit down,” the stewardess commanded. “The warning light is on.”
The guy retreated back down the aisle. Ryan Cromwell settled back into his seat. He turned to the woman next to him who’d been watching the incident unfold.
“Sorry about that. Occupational hazard,” he said.
“You must be in a dangerous profession,” she said. “Homeland Security?”
Ryan smiled: “No, more dangerous. I’m a film critic.”
He was one of Hollywood’s chief film critics, headed to Salt Lake City from L.A. for the Sundance Film Festival. His reviews of independent film could make or break the pictures as well as launch or end careers. They were especially important at an indie film festival like Sundance where the discovery of new talent was the paramount focus. Ryan’s film reviews at previous fests had helped catapult first-time filmmakers such as Gina Prince Bythewood (Love & Basketball), Kevin Smith (Clerks), Justin Lowe (Better Luck Tomorrow), Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs) and many other rookies. January was his favorite time of year because he was reviewing films that were not just vampire, zombie, special-effects and franchise movies that were critic-proof and, in Ryan’s view, brain resistant.