I’m as good as the next guy at spotting the likely hot tickets at an upcoming Sundance festival, but I’m effing brilliant at missing at least one or two of these films when I actually hit the festival and try to cover it. Old story. Let’s just focus for now on the Sundance 2012 competition films that have that certain “yeah, this might be something” factor. Here’s the whole kit ‘n’ kaboodle so far.
U.S. Dramatic Competition (6 picks):
The First Time (Director/screenwriter: Jonathan Kasdan) — Two high schoolers meet at a party, discover what it’s like to fall in love for the first time, etc. Original! If Jon (son of Lawrence) is anything like his brother Jake Kasdan (Bad Teacher), this might be hellish. But a little voice is telling me he’s different…maybe. Cast: Brittany Robertson, Dylan O’Brien, Craig Roberts, James Frecheville, Victoria Justice.
For Ellen (Director/ screenwriter: So Yong Kim) — Beware of any child-custody-battle drama…unless Paul Dano is starring. Then it’s probably okay. Cast: Dano, Jon Heder, Jena Malone, Margarita Levieva, Shay Mandigo.
Hello I Must Be Going (Director: Todd Louiso / Screenwriter: Sarah Koskoff) — Divorced, childless, demoralized and condemned to move back in with her parents at the age of 35, Amy Minsky’s prospects look bleak…until the unexpected attention of a teenage boy changes everything. Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Blythe Danner, Christopher Abbott, John Rubinstein, Julie White.
Nobody Walks (Director: Ry Russo-Young / Screenwriters: Lena Dunham, Ry Russo-Young) — Martine, a young artist from New York, is invited into the home of a hip, liberal LA family for a week. Her presence unravels the family’s carefully maintained status quo, and a mess of sexual and emotional entanglements ensues. Cast: John Krasinski, Olivia Thirlby, Rosemarie DeWitt, India Ennenga, Justin Kirk.
Save the Date (Director: Michael Mohan / Screenwriters: Jeffrey Brown, Egan Reich, Michael Mohan) — As her sister Beth prepares to get married, Sarah finds herself caught up in an intense post-breakup rebound. The two fumble through the redefined emotional landscape of modern day relationships, forced to relearn how to love and be loved. Cast: Lizzy Caplan, Alison Brie, Martin Starr, Geoffrey Arend, Mark Webber.
Simon Killer (Director/screenwriter: Antonio Campos) — A recent college graduate goes to Paris after breaking up with his girlfriend of 5 years. Once there, he falls in love with a young prostitute and their fateful journey begins. Cast: Brady Corbet, Mati Diop, Constance Rousseau, Michael Abiteboul, Solo.
U.S. Documentary Competition (3 picks):
The House I Live In (Director: Eugene Jarecki) — For over 40 years, the War on Drugs has accounted for 45 million arrests, made America the world’s largest jailer and damaged poor communities at home and abroad. Yet, drugs are cheaper, purer and more available today than ever. Where did we go wrong and what is the path toward healing?
The Invisible War (Director: Kirby Dick) — An investigative and powerfully emotional examination of the epidemic of rape of soldiers within the U.S. military, the institutions that cover up its existence and the profound personal and social consequences that arise from it.
ME at the ZOO (Directors: Chris Moukarbel, Valerie Veatch) — With 270 million hits to date, Chris Crocker, an uncanny young video blogger from small town Tennessee, is considered the Internet’s first rebel folk hero and at the same time one of its most controversial personalities.
World Cinema Dramatic Competition (5 picks):
L (Director: Babis Makridis / Screenwriters: Efthymis Filippou, Babis Makridis) — A man who lives in his car gets caught up in the undeclared war between motorcycle riders and car drivers. Cast: Aris Servetalis, Makis Papadimitriou, Lefteris Mathaios, Nota Tserniafski, Stavros Raptis.
My Brother the Devil (Director/screenwriter: Sally El Hosaini) — A pair of British Arab brothers trying to get by in gangland London learn the extraordinary courage it takes to be yourself. Cast: James Floyd, Sa√Ød Taghmaoui, Fady Elsayed.
Wish You Were Here (Director: Kieran Darcy-Smith / Screenwriters: Felicity Price, Kieran Darcy-Smith) — Four friends embark on a carefree holiday, but only three return home. Who knows what happened on that fateful night? Cast: Joel Edgerton, Teresa Palmer, Felicity Price, Antony Starr.
Wrong (Directo/screenwriter: Quentin Dupieux) — Dolph searches for his lost dog, but through encounters with a nympho pizza-delivery girl, a jogging neighbor seeking the absolute, and a mysterious righter of wrongs, he may eventually lose his mind… and his identity. Cast: Jack Plotnick, Eric Judor, Alexis Dziena, Steve Little, William Fichtner.
Young & Wild (Director: Marialy Rivas / Screenwriters: Marialy Rivas, Camila Guti√©rrez, Pedro Peirano) — 17-year-old Daniela, raised in the bosom of a strict Evangelical family and recently unmasked as a fornicator by her shocked parents, struggles to find her own path to spiritual harmony. Cast: Alicia Rodr√≠guez, Aline Kuppenheim, Mar√≠a Gracia Omegna, Felipe Pinto.
Best HE Comment So Far: “You know, I like all sorts of cinema, but it feels more and more with every passing year there’s increasingly become a ‘Sundance template’ for the kind of movies Redford and Co. choose to showcase at this festival.
“Long gone are the days of an El Mariachi, Reservoir Dogs, or especially a sex, lies, and videotape — of which only the VHS aspect feels dated in this incredibly fresh-feeling flick that’s now over 20 (!) years old — debuting at Park City.
“I’ve never been, so it’s probably bullshit of me to assume this, but doesn’t every Sundance film kinda feel like Tiny Furniture?”