Sundance 2013: ScreenAnarchy Raises the Curtain with Our Top 20 Picks of the Fest
Today is the big day, as Sundance 2013 kicks off tonight in frigid Park City, Utah. We've already taken you through the catalog with our three-part series providing a look at the four competition slates, the dramatic and documentary premieres, and the Midnight, Next, Spotlight, and New Frontiers sections. I hope you caught our Slamdance Preview as well. Now we turn our attention to the rest of the gang who will be reporting from the frontline of indie cinema's biggest snowball fight. Be sure to check back for more news, reviews, and interviews, plus follow along on twitter: @ScreenAnarchy | @EricDSnider | @ChaseWhale | @AlexKoehne | @RylandAldrich
Here are a few words from each of our global voices at the fest, along with their top picks:
Hello! My name is Eric D. Snider. This is my 14th Sundance (!), but the first one I've covered for ScreenAnarchy. I used to work for a newspaper in Utah (back when newspapers were a thing), so my first few Sundances were as a local. Since then I've covered the fest for various online outlets, including Cinematical (RIP), Film.com, Movies.com, and a podcast I co-host called Movie B.S. with Bayer and Snider. I always look forward to coming to Park City, seeing a couple dozen new films, and complaining about the cold. Some movies I'm especially interested to see this year:
Written and directed by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon -- of Reno 911 and The State -- this is probably a better horror spoof than A Haunted House (which I haven't seen, but come on). Look at the cast! Rob Corddry, Leslie Bibb, Paul Scheer, Keegan Michael Key, Rob Huebel -- all funny people. The comedies that play in Sundance's Midnight section tend to be either brilliant or awful, so here's hoping it's the former.
IN A WORLD...
Lake Bell wrote, directed, and stars in this comedy about a young woman who wants to be a voice-over star, and whose father is the legendary voice of movie trailers (hence the title). Love the premise, love Lake Bell (who's hilarious on Childrens Hospital), eager to see how it turns out.
Korean director Park Chan-Wook blew everybody's minds with Oldboy at Sundance 2005, and has made millions of eager moviegoers squirm with Joint Security Area, Lady Vengeance, and his segment in Three ... Extremes. Stoker is his English-language debut, and it stars Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska as a mother and daughter whose lives are disrupted by the arrival of an Uncle Charlie. I don't know more than that, and I don't want to.
Shane Carruth's first film, the micro-budget sci-fi thriller Primer, won top prizes at Sundance in 2004. Now, at last, comes his sophomore effort, a surreal-looking piece that promises to show more of the sharp-minded filmmaker's unique vision.
This year marks my fourth year attending Sundance, but it still feels like my first - the excitement never fades. It's like Christmas after Christmas. Since leaving GATW and coming on board ScreenAnarchy, festival life has gotten a lot cozier; it helps that my editors know what the hell they're doing. This year I'm going to bring you more content than I have the last three combined and I hope you enjoy every word I have to say. Comin' at ya is my slightly condensed four most anticipated. You can check out a more expanded five at ChaseWhale.com.
THE SPECTACULAR NOW
Based on the novel by Tim Tharp, The Spectacular Now is an unconventional high school love story directed by James Ponsoldt, who co-wrote and directed Smashed. Miles Teller (Rabbit Hole) takes the lead with Shailene Woodley (The Descendants), Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Kyle Chandler rounding out the stellar cast. I want to see this spectacular-sounding movie right now.
Highly acclaimed author David Sedaris has been a stickler (and rightfully so) about who he wants to adapt his short stories into film. He has shot down many prolific directors, been fickle about a few, and for the first time in history, he gave someone his full blessing. That someone is Kyle Patrick Alvarez, who won the Someone to Watch award at the 2010 Independent Spirit Awards for his first feature, Easier with Practice (at only 26!). Adapted from a story in the novel Naked, C.O.G. follows a young man who, while working on an apple farm, learns about the upsets life so conveniently hands out. Adapting a Sedaris short story into a feature is unquestionably difficult, but don't worry your pretty little head, Alvarez is no stranger to tailoring short stories. Easier with Practice was originally an essay written by Davy Rothbart for GQ Magazine. In Kyle I trust.
DON JON'S ADDICTION
Joseph Gordon-Levitt started acting as a child and has risen to become one of the most prolific and successful actors working today. Considering the long history of child actors who fade away, this is already an incredible accomplishment. But this boy wonder is a go-getter and continues to expand his flourishing career in all sorts of diverse and artful directions. His directorial debut, Don Jon's Addiction, is about the times of a Rico Suave unsatisfied with his current, very gifted sex life. So, like anyone who can get any lady he wants, he seeks out a new challenge. Gordon-Levitt also wrote the film, and stars alongside Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, and Tony Danza.
Please, God, let this year be the triumphant return of writer/director David Gordon Green. Green made his mark at Sundance in 2003 with All the Real Girls, where he took home the Grand Jury and Special Jury awards in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. He then returned in 2007 with the compelling feature, Snow Angels. Then... we'll just say his career took a bit of a misguided nosedive. His latest stars Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch and is adapted from the Icelandic feature film Either Way, about bickering friends who bond through humor and filthy bantering. Sundance claims Green "gets back to his independent roots" with this film, so the world will now be a better place.
This is my very first Sundance festival actually, and I'm feeling pretty spoiled already. As a virgin attendee, it's a little overwhelming to be going as a reviewer/journalist after spending years pining for the opportunity to attend just as a viewer. That said, I'm all revved up and ready to go. Luckily my assignment docket also includes a lot of the films I am most excited to see.
WE ARE WHAT WE ARE
Jim Mickle's English-language take on Jorge Michel Grau's amazing urban cannibals film stands at the top of my list.
I'm just as excited for this biopic starring Amanda Seyfried as the troubled porno star Linda Lovelace. I read the book Ordeal, on which the film is partially based, years ago, and while it made me arch an eyebrow as far as the validity to some of the wild claims Miss Lovelace made, it sure as hell is going to make for some prime and titillating drama on the screen.
Next is Fruitvale, about the day in the life of a young man in Oakland's Fruitvale district and his struggle amidst a rough urban environment. This is going to be particularly interesting to me because I actually grew up and went to school in the Fruitvale area myself and many times I find movies about "da hood" to miss the mark. This looks very promising, though, and I'm really anxious to see what elements of my old stomping grounds writer/director Ryan Coogler brings to the screen.
I think it really is the "Year of Matthew McConaughey," with an incredibly strong run with The Lincoln Lawyer / Killer Joe / Magic Mike / The Paperboy. Now he's back in Mud as a convict being tracked by bounty hunters who, with the help of two boys, attempts to reconnect with a lost love. From the tiny glimpses I've seen, this new film from Jeff Nichols looks part Stand By Me and part Cool Hand Luke. Those being two of my favorite movies, color me really thrilled to get a chance to see this early.
This will be my fifth time at Sundance, but the first time exclusively in the capacity of a ScreenAnarchy representative. I'm looking forward to focusing entirely on my journalistic responsibilities and not having the many distractions that my previous commitments have inundated me with. Since I prefer to watch movies knowing as little as possible before hand, it's hard to elaborate much on what I'm looking forward to seeing. However, in a few days, I'll have a lot more to say - I promise.
This year, more than any other, I am excited to see the work of many friends and colleagues up on the big screen. To that end, one of my most anticipated films is Afternoon Delight, specifically for that reason. The film takes place in my Los Angeles neighborhood and sounds like an interesting story set around a milieu I know all too well.
Another film with friends involved is Wrong Cops, the latest from French director Quentin Dupieux. This one promises to be weird, dark, funny, and unique.
I enjoyed Linklater's previous "Before" movies and I can't help but look forward to his latest installment. Already it's making me nostalgic for my film school days, just thinking about it.
Who doesn't like a good midnight movie, and Calvin Lee Reeder's follow-up to The Oregonian looks it will pack in the chills.
This year marks my fifth Sundance, my fourth writing for ScreenAnarchy, and my second as ScreenAnarchy's Festivals Editor. Sundance is my favorite festival of the year for one simple reason: Sundance is the festival of discovery. There is no other festival that you go into with as many unknowns, and walk out with as many surprise favorites. Undoubtedly, at least a couple of the films I know nothing about now will be on my 2013 Top 10 in a year's time. Might they be a few of these?
AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS
I've heard nothing but ecstatic whispers about David Lowery's Rooney Mara/Casey Affleck outlaw pic. Let's hope this one can live up to the clandestine hype.
I fell hook, line, and sinker for Drake Doremus's Sundance 2011 smash hit Like Crazy, so why wouldn't I be excited to see him reteam with Felicity Jones in this Guy Pearce/Amy Ryan love triangler.
Another VHS, only one year later?! Hell yeah! And with Gareth Evans directing one of the segments?! .......!!!!! ‹Head bounces vertically down wall and explodes›
WE STEAL SECRETS: THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS
Sundance is always packed with incredible docs. Shut Up and Play the Hits, Senna, and Restrepo each premiered at Sundance and each made my Top 5 in their respective years. Alex Gibney's exploration of one of the most interesting news stories in recent memory has a damn good chance of joining them.
Keep your sets tuned to ScreenAnarchy for all the Sundance news and reviews, just as soon as our frozen fingers can type!