I’ve done some reading, heard some things, tossed some stuff around and finalized my essential Sundance 2010 must-see list. It comes to 26 films. Divide this by nine days, add the two or three surprises that always pop up, and then subtract five or six due to conflicting schedules, fatigue and occasional evening parties and I may see 23 or 24 films…but more likely 20.

Tommy Lee Jones, Ben Affleck in John Wells’ Company Men.

If a film shows at a major venue (Library, Egyptian, Eccles, Prospector) during the first three or four days, it’s a hot prospect and at least a pretty good film. (Probably.) If it hasn’t been slated to show within this window, caveat emptor. It’s really that simple, and this is the festival programmers talking, not me. They always frontload the festival with sexy/interesting good stuff so that the buyers can get their business done and leave by Tuesday. Same deal every year

In no particular order…

1. Chris MorrisFour Lions. HE comment: British-made swarthy-terrorist comedy. This year’s In The Loop?. First public showing: Saturday, 1.23, 5:30 pm, Egyptian. Good slot!

2. Eric Mendelsohn‘s 3 Backyards. HE comment: Said to be a good script. If Edie Falco is in it, then it must be half-decent. First public showing: Sunday, 1.24, 8 pm, Racquet Club.

3. Joel Schumacher‘s Twelve. HE comment : Upper East Side of Manhattan, high school dropout, drug deals, murder, “chilling chronicle.” First public showing: Friday, 1.29, 6:15 pm, Eccles.

4. John WellsCompany Men. HE comment: The definitive Land of Mamet angst-ridden white guy movie of Sundance ’10. Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Maria Bello, Rosemary DeWitt. Produced by Wells, Claire Rudnick Polstein and Paula Weinstein. First public showing: Friday, 1.22, 9:30 pm, Eccles.

5. Rodrigo Garcia‘s Mother & Child. HE comment: High calibre woman’s film that doesn’t play like a “woman’s film.” First 65% to 70% is excellent, at times sublime — the last 30% isn’t as good. First Park City public showing: Monday, 1.25, 8:00 pm, Racquet Club.

6. Amir Bar-Lev‘s The Tillman Story. HE comment: Go to the thing I wrote four days ago. First Park City public showing: Tuesday, 1.26, 8:30 pm, Park City Library. (A Tuesday night showing is a little outside the realm of buyer coolness. Are Sundance programmers hinting at something?)

7. Adam Green‘s Frozen. HE comment: This year’s Open Water, only with snow, height and freezing winds? First Park City public showing: Sunday, 1.24, midnight, Egyptian…forget it! Second showing on Tuesday, 1.26, 11:30 am, Prospector.

8. Michael Winterbottom‘s The Killer Inside Me. HE comment: Same old Jim Thompson femme fatale noir stuff? I’m just asking. But any film costarring Kate Hudson is cursed aforethought. Casey Affleck is too kiddy-faced to play a Robert Mitchumtype. First Park City public showing: Sunday, 1.24, 9:30 pm, Eccles.

3 Backyards

9. Ryan Piers WilliamsDry Land. HE comment: Same old back-from-Iraq, PTSD story about a guy looking to weave his way back into society and maybe meet a nice girl, etc.? Maybe not. Ryan O’Nan, America Ferrera, Jason Ritter, Wilmer Valderrama, Melissa Leo. First Park City public showing: Sunday, 1.24, 2:15 pm, Eccles.

10. Floria Sigismondi‘s The Runaways. HE comment: Everybody’s hot to see it and wants to attend the Joan Jett concert, etc., but I smell trouble. Maybe. First Park City public showing: Sunday, 1.24, 6:30 pm, Eccles.

11. Vincenzo Natali‘s Splice. HE comment: I go to Sundance to forget about CG weird-life-form movies, not see more of ’em. Forget it — unless the word is extraordinary. Part of the Park City at Midnight series. In a pig’s eye.

12. Jake Scott‘s Welcome to the Rileys. HE comment: James Gandolfini + Kristen Stewart = sold. First Park City public showing: Saturday, 1.23, 2:15 pm, Racquet Club.

13. Gaspar Noe‘s Enter The Void. HE comment: Mind-bender played at Cannes in a slightly longer unfinished form. First Park City public showing: Friday, 1.22, 8:30 pm, Park City Library.

13. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman‘s Catfish. HE comment: A doc about social networking and online intrigues? Maybe but most likely later. First Park City public showing: Friday, 1.22, 11:30 am, Park City Library.

14. Jason Spingarn-Koff’s Life 2.0. HE comment: A doc about online fantasy living and online intrigues that’ll be showing directly after Catfish? Are they kidding? Not a chance. Okay, maybe. First Park City public showing: Friday, 1.22, 2:30 pm, Park City Library.

15. Spencer Susher‘s Hesher. HE comment: Creepo. But with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Rainn Wilson, Devin Brochu, Piper Laurie and John Carroll Lynch costarring, it has to be worth a shot. First Park City public showing: Fri, 1.22, 3:15 pm, Eccles.

16. Drake DoremusDouchebag. HE comment: No info, no nothin’, great title. First Park City public showing: Friday, 1.22, 8 pm, Racquet Club.

17. Adrian Grenier‘s Teenage Paparazzo. HE comment: I’m getting a slightly icky and insubstantial feeling from this. And yet Grenier’s last doc, which dealt with a search for his absentee father, was quite good. Honestly? If every last teenage paparazzo on the planet earth was to suddenly die, I would not go into grief spasms. First Park City public showing: Friday, 1.22, 5:15 pm, Racquet Club.

Michelle Williams, Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine

18. Davis Guggenheim‘s WAITING FOR SUPERMAN. HE comment: Nothing except that Guggenheim did well with An Inconvenient Truth so whatever. First Park City public showing: Friday, 1.22, 5:30 pm, Prospector Square.

19. Nicole Holofcener‘s Please Give. HE comment: Another Holofcener film means another film about anxious, ambitious, highly educated upper-middle-classers with issues, blah blah. Give Holofcener credit for trying to operate on a more aspirational realm than Nancy Meyers. First Park City public showing: Friday, 1.22, 6:15 pm, Eccles.

20. Aaron Schneider‘s Get Low. HE comment: Missed it in Toronto, very well spoken of, a definite must-see, an allegedly great Robert Duvall performance. First Park City public showing: Saturday, 1.23, 3:15 pm, Eccles.

21. Jay and Mark Duplass‘s Cyrus (a.k.a. Don’t Fuck My Mom). HE comment: Any Duplass flick gets an advance wave-through. First Park City public showing: Saturday, 1.23, 6:15 pm, Eccles Theatre (2)

22. Phillip Seymour Hoffman‘s Jack Goes Boating. HE comment: Respect must be paid to Philly. First Park City public showing: Saturday, 1.23, 9:15 pm, Eccles.

23. Derek Cianfrance‘s Blue Valentine. HE comment: Relationship drama of some mild interest because of Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, but I’m not holding my breath. I don’t know why I just said that. First Park City public showing: Sunday, 1.24, 3:15 pm, Eccles.

24. Josh Radnor‘s Happythankyoumoreplease. HE comment: “Six New Yorkers negotiating love, friendship and gratitude when they’re too old to be precocious and not yet fully adults.” I smell a mumblecore movie. If so, why don’t the notes just say “mumblecore movie” instead of futzing around? First Park City public showing: Friday,1,22, 12:15 pm 12:15 pm, Eccles.

25. Kevin Tyler Asch‘s Holy Rollers. HE comment: Young Hasidic guy (Jesse Eisenberg) becomes an international ecstasy smuggler. Down with that. First Park City public showing: Monday, 1.25, 3:30 pm, Eccles

26. Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman‘s Howl. HE comment: Allen Ginsberg, 1950s obscenity trial, horn-rimmed glasses, the horror of the Eisenhower era, etc. strong>James Franco, David Strathairn, Jon Hamm, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeff Daniels. First Park City public showing: Friday, 1.21, 6:00 pm, Eccles — one of the first essential screenings.