Matt O'Connell | Jan 16, 2012
The Sundance Film Festival begins January 19th in Park City, Utah. For years, Sundance has been the premiere showcase of independent films. The widely-renowned festival has been a launching pad for a lot of critically acclaimed and commercially successful films, including Little Miss Sunshine, Precious, and Napoleon Dynamite. In addition to handing out awards for the best films of the festival, it also provides a thriving venue for new movies to be bought & sold.
As one of the top few Film Festivals in the world, Sundance is flooded with celebrities, producers, and media outlets. Most of the films screened there, while still technically “independent” (not produced by a major studio), feature fairly large budgets and big name talent. This year’s line-up is no exception, but does seem to feature some unique, quirky and artistic films. There are dozens of highly anticipated movies participating in the Dramatic Feature Competition at the Festival this year, so we’ll have to just give you a glance of some that stuck out to me:
The Comedy – Starring Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim (of Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!), this film sports an appropriately ironic title (supposedly it’s not really a comedy) as it focuses on Brooklyn Hipsters struggling with pacifying their complacency and boredom. The film is a dry cultural critique of a subculture that comes from a perspective consumed with irony and sarcasm. Essentially this movie intends to elucidate the hollow, pretentious, and insincere elements of the Hipster scene.
The Words – Speaking of A-List. This one stars Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Olivia Wilde, Dennis Quaid, and Zoe Saldana. It’s about a writer who, lacking inspiration, passes someone else’s manuscript off as his own. He subsequently receives mounds of critical acclaim, success, and moral quagmires. This type of story has been done before, but the great supporting cast and the tightly-woven script which brings together multiple narratives are getting people talking.
Middle of Nowhere – This is a story of loss and separation, about a woman who’s husband has been imprisoned for a lengthy sentence. This one doesn’t boast any A-List talent, and appears to have built its reputation on craft alone. The filmmakers sought out a unique, edgy style to portray the heavy emotional hardship that the main character experiences.
Predisposed – Here’s a drama/comedy featuring Jesse Eisenberg, Melissa Leo and Tracy Morgan. This tells the story of a piano prodigy who attempts to help his mother with her drug problem by checking her into rehab, but encounters some difficulty through her drug dealer, played by Tracy Morgan. (Working title: Hard to Watch?) With such an eclectic cast coming under the direction of a first-time director (and a co-director known more for his writing), this one could be very good, very forgettable, or anywhere in between.
John Dies at the End – Imagine a drug that allows the user to drift across dimensions and through time. It’s an interesting concept and the movie looks like it has a cool vibe. The trailer gives a taste of something dark, strange and funny. I’m looking forward to seeing how well these elements are balanced and what the film has to say. It stars a couple of uknown guys, with veteran Paul Giamatti supporting them.
The Surrogate – Here’s a perfect example of a movie which seems to do everything it can to capture that quirky, indie-flick energy. It takes a new angle on the inspirational story of poet and journalist Mark O’Brien, who was paralyzed from the waist down when he got Polio in his childhood. O’Brien was able to accomplish a great deal in his life, but this movie focuses on one particular thing: losing his virginity. I wonder if seeing him accomplish that will be as inspiring as it seeing him achieve intellectual leaps in the documentary about his life, Breathing Lessons. John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, and William H. Macy star.
Are you going to Sundance? Which movies are on your must-see list? What do you think is a front-runner for the Audience Award? Incidentally, Sundance also gets a lot of great documentaries, which we’ll look into separately.
About the Author: Matt hails from Boston and has a background in Film and Writing. As weather phenomena go, he prefers earthquakes to Nor'easters these days, so he's currently residing in the East Bay. He produced a feature film called "Night Sounds" after graduating from Emerson College, which premiered at a film festival in Massachusetts. Matt continues to write screenplays and work in the film community, while working as a freelance copywriter, editor, and part-time member of the Hound.