What a long, strange trip it’s been (Bellamy)

The 2006 Sundance Film Festival followed the same formula that has become its trademark for years. There were a handful of films that everyone was talking about two weeks ago, but when all was said and done, they were mostly forgotten, while more obscure films stole all the thunder-and the festival hardware.

Indie favorites Terry Zwigoff and Michel Gondry brought efforts many considered disappointing, and the respective films starring such A-listers as Jennifer Aniston, Justin Timberlake and Edward Norton, among others, have garnered moderate notoriety at best, though both will likely get wide releases based on star power alone.

And so, the lesson we learn every year and proceed to forget by this time next January rings true again: Don’t believe the hype. Just because a big star is involved, or a talented filmmaker is behind the camera, it doesn’t really mean anything. You can’t argue with history.

You know what the super-hyped, “can’t miss” Sundance film was three years ago? I’ll give you a hint. It had a star-studded cast that included Morgan Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Holly Hunter and Kirsten Dunst. It was written and directed by the man behind “Men In Black;” it was photographed by the visual genius who shot most of the Coen Brothers’ films. Have you figured it out yet? It was the Opening Night film, and it was called “Levity.” Did you ever see it? Exactly. And the reason was that it was flat-out terrible, star power notwithstanding.

This year, movies that no one was talking about-like the Al Gore/global warming documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” the humanistic crime drama “The Aura” and the thrice-victorious documentary “Iraq in Fragments”-are now the ones most likely to be remembered beyond next week.

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