It has been a blur.

Every festival is different.  They are affected by where they take place, what's available during programming, who's doing the programming, what message they want to send, and by the crowds that show up to watch the films.  There are dozens, if not hundreds of variables, that make each festival around the world different, and that make an individual festival different from year to year.

This year, Jeff Cooper stepped up as the director of the festival, and I'd say he should feel confident that what he and his amazing team presented to audiences and journalists from around the world was a solid, eclectic look at what is going on in independent cinema at this particular moment, and what we can expect moving forward.  It was nine years ago that I first came to Sundance, and it's changed a lot in that time, as would be expected.  Even so, it's still unmistakably Sundance.

For example, that crazy spot in the Albertson's/Yarrow parking lot that always turns to knee-deep puddles of ice cold slush?  Still there.  Still dangerous.  Still infuriating.

The volunteers?  Always amazing.

The people working in the press office who have to listen to a staggering amount of whining and poor behavior all week?  Absolutely brilliant, as expected.

Spending a week in the dark, mainlining movies while chatting with film freaks just like yourself from all over the world between the films?  Sublime.

I've seen a lot of old friends here this week, as well as friends I've been accumulating over the last year as I've been out at more festivals.  There are a lot of younger writers here this year, and it's been good to meet as many of them as possible.  I think there are bright spots out there, young writers who seem genuinely hungry and who have both insight and real chops.  It's encouraging, because I think there are definitely any number of terrible outlets out there, taking up space online and in press lines, who contribute nothing to any conversation, and it's easy to get discouraged about that.  Then you meet guys like, for example, the folks at Gordon And The Whale, and you realize it'll all be okay.

I've seen a ton of movies this week, and even though I'm leaving tonight to go home, I'm still going to try to sneak in screenings of "Nowhere Boy," "The Killer Inside Me," and "Life 2.0" before I leave.  Just yesterday, I had an emotionally draining line-up that sort of floored me, and part of what I love about a festival like this is that even as I'm still reeling from the one-two punch of "Blue Valentine" and "The Kids Are All Right," I've still got to jump back in and watch more.  It sounds like I dodged a bullet last night by skipping "The Violent Kind," and that's one of those things that starts to happen more and more over the course of the week.  Sometimes you listen, and other times, you see "Skateland."

I'll have more Sundance reviews for you all weekend long, and then next week, we're back on our regular schedule.  That means we'll have a Morning Read on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and on Tuesday, it's the DVD & Games Forecast, while on Thursday, it's the Motion/Captured Must-See Project.

I'm also introducing  new semi-regular feature here over the weekend involving our good friends over at Cinematical, so check back for that.

Right now, though, I just want to pack, shower, see my three films, and then head home.  Toshi told me on the phone tonight that he's got three surprises for me, and as long as all three are hugs, I'm going to be a very, very happy man.  Because the one thing that's changed completely between my first Sundance and this one is that now, I have a family to go home to.

Sounds good to me.