Artys 2009: Staff Choice 

BEST CLEAN & LOCAL FILM FEST
FourSite Film Festival
Maybe the presence of Sundance has led us to assume that film festivals are all about “edgy”—and often not-appropriate-for-allaudiences—fare. This Ogden-based indie-film showcase takes a different view, summarized by the slogan, “It’s all in good taste.” But, you needn’t assume that such a focus invites nothing but mawkish or amateurish efforts. And while a few features generally come from out of state, most of the offerings are from Utah filmmakers, including this year’s compelling documentaries about Bataan Death March survivors and drug addicts in Utah County. There’s room for more than one kind of film festival. FoursiteFilmFest.com

BEST NEW FILM FESTIVAL
Salt Lake City Film Festival
From the hipster romantic comedy of Breaking Upward to the awful fabulousness of Troll 2, the Salt Lake City Film Festival could be a beloved institution in the making. Festival directors Chris Bradshaw and Matt Whittaker put on the first annual festival this August. Hosting movies at the Tower Theatre, the Main Library, and the U. of U. Fort Douglas Post Theatre, the Salt Lake City Film Festival reminds locals that film festivals do not need glittery Hollywood stars to promote great independent films. SaltLakeCityFilmFestival.com

BEST POLITICAL FILM SERIES
SLC Film Center
The “War on Drug Policy” film series featured Waiting to Inhale, a movie that highlights the federal government’s merciless enforcement of marijuana laws, even in states that have recognized that patients need it. The film series didn’t stop there: Lockdown explored Draconian drug law penalties, and American Drug War revealed why the war on drugs is the longest war in American history, yet can never be won. Sponsored also by the ACLU of Utah and the High Road for Human Rights, the “War on Drug Policy” proved that it takes several films to explain all the outrageous consequences of prohibition policies. SLCFilmCenter.org

BEST FILMS FOR THE MONEY
Friday Night Flicks, Films at the Library, Sundance Outdoor Film Series
Everywhere you turn in Salt Lake City—especially during the warm nights of summer—someone is screening film for the public, for free. Take the Friday Night Flicks series, which highlights a different Salt Lake City park each week during its summer stint. Then there’s the Sundance Outdoor Film Series down at the Gallivan. Or, for year-round fun, there are the multiple film series housed at the Main Library including science films, foreign films and even senior movie afternoons. SLCEvents.com/Friday_Night_Flicks; SLPL.Lib.UT.US; Sundance.org

BEST IMPORTED WORK OF GENIUS
Susan Marshall’s Cloudless Suite
Ririe-Woodbury Artistic Director Charlotte Boye Christensen decided to integrate New York-based MacArthur Genuis Grant recipient Susan Marshall’s Cloudless Suite into the company’s Surfaces program because she felt Marshall’s unadorned choreography was rooted in a searing, unpretentious sense of truth that would leave both the performers and the audience feeling naked. Marshall’s choreography—which is composed of everyday gestures, such as pecks on the cheek—wowed Utah audiences and helped create a memorable finish for Ririe-Woodbury’s 45th season. SusanMarshallAndCompany.org

BEST BICHES
Ballet West’s Les Biches
Ballet West’s brilliant production of a trio of ballets from the legendary repertoire of the Ballet Russes (a company that flourished 100 years ago and paved the way for contemporary dance) caught the eye of Dance Magazine and The New York Times. The most daring work of all was Bronislava Nijinska’s Les Biches, which depicts a flirtatious, wildly entertaining Jazz Age “drawing room party,” where flappers in feathered head dresses and beefy athletes in staunch poses breach the social mores of the day, one innocently suggestive duet a time. BalletWest.org

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BEST LOCAL CULT MOVIE
Delightful Water Universe
Local film maker Trent Harris has been talking about making a political film about Bigfoot since 2000. Like any mad obsessive, he can’t let go of his dreams, and last November finally premiered Delightful Water Universe. It’s vintage Harris, a rowdy epic about a reporter called Vicious, played by X96´s Bill Allred, running around Salt Lake City trying to save the world from Bigfoot. In Harris’ world, the idiots run the asylum and the intelligent are brain-washed by TV. Which sounds about right. Harris is currently deep into Internet TV, so Delightful may be his last celluloid epic. As swan songs go, it’s pure unadulterated Harris. delightfulwateruniverse.com

BEST UN-CHOREOGRAPHY
Movement Forum’s Zodiac Tattoo
Founded in 2003 by Graham Brown and now co-directed with Danell Hathaway, Movement Forum performances are unlike any other in town. In fact, since they focus on total improvisation, Movement Forum performances aren’t even like other Movement Forum performances. Any foundation such a performance might have is a general theme—like their most recent Zodiac Tattoo—and perhaps basic movement phrasing designed for the dancers to play off of. For all the chaos that can, and often will, ensue, the energy and beauty produced by this dynamic group is downright thrilling to behold. ThePickleCompany.org/MovementForum

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BEST TIDAL WAVES AND GOAT BUMS
Ballet West’s The Tempest
Wow. Just, wow. Audiences of Ballet West’s The Tempest know what we mean. We got swept up in the storm and blown away by the set. Rich fabrics, thoughtful details and extraordinary backdrops combined with ballet made for quite the production. Audience members could almost believe the billowing, diaphanous sea would drown the dancers. And those satyrs, with their crazy, amazing, springy legs and little goat bums almost brought us to tears. Those tears rolled down our cheek when I saw Iris’ golden peacock costume. Bravo. BalletWest.org

BEST HUNGER FOR DANCE
My Turkey Sandwich’s Open Faced—With a side of M.A.Y.O.
It’s not such a leap to tie food and movement together. Dancers probably think about food all the time, especially when it comes to the calorie-burning creativity of modern-dance company My Turkey Sandwich founders Aaron Wood and Sarah Donohue. This summer’s Open Faced, With a Side of M.A.Y.O. featured local dancers and unique collaborative efforts and performances that brought together dance, theater and film elements. Only by attending did one learn that M.A.Y.O. stood for Movement, Activists, Yielding, Oeuvre. Oddly, this stuff sticks with you. So, if dance be the food of love, serve it up. MyTurkeySandwich.org

BEST REASON TO SET YOUR ALARM SUNDAY MORNING
Another Language’s Interplay: AnARTomy
One generally doesn’t set one’s alarm on Sunday morning in order to see a multi-media performance. However, this year—due to a time difference with collaborators in Wales—Another Language Performing Arts Company staged one of its signature InterPlay performances during the morning time slot many Utahans reserve for church. AnARTomy explored the human body and mind, and employed sophisticated technology to simultaneously weave together a performance composed of live music, dance, poetry and drawing (among other artistic media) as it happened in real time in various spots across the globe. The end result was more invigorating than a gallon of coffee. AnotherLanguage.org

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BEST THEATRICAL COMER
Jesse Pepe
Just who is this versatile actor who seems to have found a home at Salt Lake Acting Company this past year? He’s appeared in three SLAC productions including Saturday’s Voyeur ’09, as Nick in Dark Play, or Stories For Boys, and as Michael Granger in Six Years. He’s also been cast as Eugene in Brighton Beach Memoirs in Cedar City’s Neil Simon Festival and Bagshot in Weber State’s The Beaux Stratagem. Pretty remarkable credits, considering that Pepe has only just finished his freshman year as a musical-theater major at Weber State University. Pepe’s become a rising star, showcasing a wide range of performing skills, from teen angst to comedy to slap-dash musical. SaltLakeActingCompany.org

BEST NEW LITTLE THEATER COMPANY IN UTAH
Dark Horse Theatre Company
Even with the recession shutting down many an arts organization, Dark Horse opened and staged the ribald musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City this summer. Founders and local actors Daniel Simons, Ginger Bess, Ali Bennett and Jon Copier pulled off the nearly impossible feat with the help of 30 volunteers. And, in the end, it was all good: They managed to sell-out a number of performances, they paid every performer a stipend and they’ve scheduled two future productions. Sex definitely sells, but a sexy show in the face of adversity deserves a standing ovation. DarkHorseTheatreCompany.org

BEST ALUMNI SHOWCASE
Grand Theatre’s Musical of Musicals: The Musical!
If one local production this year is any indication, Weber State University’s musical theater program may be about to claim a monopoly on producing the state’s next ridiculously talented generation of singin’, dancin’ stage performers. The show itself was an affectionate send-up of five beloved musical theater composers, decidedly pitched at an in-the-know audience. But, even those unfamiliar with Sondheim or Rodgers & Hammerstein could recognize talented cast young cast members like Michael Hernandez, Becca Lemon, Megan Rees and Kyle Olsen—every one of ’em a current or onetime WSU student. Whatever you’re putting in the water in Ogden, spread the wealth a little. The-Grand.org

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