Posted on Thursday, January 21st, 2010 by Peter Sciretta
Since I’m in Park City, a day before the 2010 Sundance Film Festival officially begins, I thought I’d do a round-up of the films I’m most looking forward to this year at the festival. Attending Sundance, you have to put a list together of the movies you want to see the most. Sometimes you’re lucky and you pick something that becomes the buzz of the fest — Super Size Me, Little Miss Sunshine, Rocket Science, or (500) Days of Summer. And sometimes your choices are just dead wrong, for example, last year The Informers was on the top of my must see list. But by the end of the fest, the film was my most hated movie of the year.
So these predictions are in now way definitive. They are very subjective, films that caught my interest. I usually stick to more narrative films (over documentaries) and often see more English language films. I have my little sub genres which I always feel drawn to, for instance, I usually love coming of age stories. And if they are set in the 1970’s or 1980’s, all the better. Minimalistic one-room thrillers also interest me.
This year doesn’t have many obvious breakout choices, but had a lot of solid looking films. If you’ve been actively reading the site over the last month, then you’ve probably checked out a bunch of the Sundance photo and trailer previews and you might recognize a bunch of these films. The following 18 selections are also in no particular order. Lets take a look at my choices for this year’s festival (and it might be fun to revisit this list at the conclusion of the festival, to see how right or wrong I was).
The Pitch: A documentary film about “a handful of lottery winners as they navigate their newly found riches and a couple of extremely determined hopefuls. The winners’ lives are undoubtedly changed forever but not necessarily in the ways we may expect. Life becomes complicated as attorneys, hired security guards, jealous friends, scheming family members, and desperate pleas for help from strangers pepper their new existence.”
Why: The film is directed by Jeffrey Blitz, who helmed one of my favorite documentaries Spellbound, and also directed the feature film Rocket Science, which won him the Sundance Film Festival Directing Award in 2007. Both films are solid, with Rocket Science being a must watch (Up in the Air‘s Anna Kendrick provides an amazing performance). Also, I’ve always found the story of working class people who hit it rich and somehow lose everything interesting.
The Pitch: “After the tragic loss of his Mother, 13-year-old T.J., Along with his pill popping father (Wilson), are forced to live with his elderly Grandmother. A young man with with a troubled past named Hesher (Levitt) assumes the role as both mentor and tormentor, leading T.J into troubles he could never have imagined. A young grocery clerk named Nicole (Portman) steps in to protect T.J from a vicious attack, and becomes the object of T.J’s fantasies. And Hesher moves into Grandma’s home, although uninvited, he is somehow accepted.”
Who: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rainn Wilson, and Natalie Portman
Why: Last year, we featured a beautiful zombie short film titled I Love Sarah Jane. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out right now. It was screened at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, and many regional film festivals around the world. And aside from being awesome, it is notable for featuring Mia Wasikowska, who has gone on to become Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Writer/director Spencer Susser has been working in commercials and music videos. Susser has been developing Hesher for the last four years, as well as a feature film adaptation of Sarah Jane (which I hope someday gets made).
The Pitch: “Clive and Elsa are young, brilliant, and ambitious. The new animal species they engineered has made them rebel superstars of the scientific world. In secret, they introduce human DNA into the experiment.”
Who: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chaneac, David Hewlett.
Why: Written and directed by Vincenzo Natali, the mind behind the film Cube. The film is executive produced by Guillermo del Toro, who has an awesome track record thus far. The images look very freaky. Partly inspired by a real scientific experiment where in a mouse was created that had a human ear on it’s back. Twitch called the film “a genre mash of science fiction and a young parenting drama,” and said “The center-piece of the picture, the combination of ‘girl-in-suit,’ make-up, and Greg Nicotero prosthetics takes the uncanny valley, razes it to the ground and rebuilds its central creature into something simply wonderful” but warns that “fans of balls out monster movies will be a bit baffled by the films deliberate pacing.”
The Pitch: A young Hasidic man named Sam who is seduced by money, power and opportunity, and becomes an international Ecstasy smuggler. Sam struggles to choose between his strong religious background and the seductive pull of the outside world.
Who: Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland, Adventureland), Justin Bartha, Danny A. Abeckaser, Ari Graynor, and Jason Fuchs.
Why: This original script written by Antonio Macia was actually inspired by real events in the late 1990’s when Hasidim were recruited as mules to smuggle drugs from Europe into the United States. Also, I’m on an Eisenberg kick, and at this point, I’m interested in seeing any movie he does.
The Pitch: Spike Jonze‘s 30-minute short film titled I’m Here has been described as a “robot love story”. Not much else is known.
Who: British actor Andrew Garfield (Boy A, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Social Network)
Why: I’ll see any movie directed by Spike Jonze, especially a movie about robot love.
The Pitch: Skateland is a coming-of-age story which takes place in the early 1980s in small-town East Texas. Dramatic events force a 19-year-old skating rink manager named Ritchie (played by Deadgirl‘s Shiloh Fernandez) to look at his life in a very new way. Ritchie is on the verge of having his life change when the skate park he works at closes down and with it his carefree life of hanging with his friends. With responsibilities suddenly thrust upon him, he spends the rest of the summer transitioning into an adult.
Who: Ashley Greene (Twilight), Heath Freeman, Taylor Handley, AJ Buckley, and Haley Ramm. Anthony Burns makes his feature film directorial debut
Why: I’m a sucker for coming-of-age stories, and growing up in the 1980’s makes this all the more appealing.