The most rewarding part of a film festival is going into movie completely blind and walking out slack-jawed. This happened to me last year at Sundance with two films: Beasts of the Southern Wild and Smashed. If you follow me on Twitter, then you already know how loud I’ve been about both films. These two floored me and I’ve championed them since first rushing out of the theater to tweet my first reactions.
I’m hoping a heavy number of films will give me that same exhilarating feeling this year, but there are some I’m already eagerly anticipating. Here’s five.
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 (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Fast Times at Ridgemont High), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Smashed), and Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) rounding out the stellar cast. I want to see this spectacular-sounding movie right now.
It’s been nine years since filmmaker Shane Carruth blew the roof off independent cinema with his first feature, a super low-budget time travel movie, called Primer. Premiering at Sundance in 2003, Carruth deservingly took home the Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic Competition and the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize for Best Writing and Directing. Then he disappeared and a lot of movie geeks (myself included) wept.
Well, the auteur is back in Park City with his sophomore feature, Upstream Color. I could tell you the complexed plot synopsis from Sundance’s website, but it’ll make you go cross-eyed. Just know only a fool with would miss this. Carruth also stars in the film, along with indie darling Amy Seimetz, and up-and-comer Frank Mosley (keep a sharp eye on this guy).
Highly acclaimed author David Sedaris has been a stickler (and rightfully so) about who he wants to adapt his short stories into a 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. Here’s what will knock you off your couch: Alvarez was 26 when he made that film. When I was 26, I was still trying to figure out which cereal was my favorite and how many creative excuses I could come up with to not go to work.
The essay Alvarez adapted is taken from the novel Naked, and is of the same name, C.O.G.. The film 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 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. In a few weeks, I’ll be seeing his directorial debut, Don Jon’s Addiction, 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. Levitt also wrote the film, and and stars alongside Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, and Rob Brown.
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. His career took a misguided nosedive when he started making appalling major studio stoner comedies, which confused everyone, everywhere. I was worried The Sitter would be the end of Green’s once-promising career, but it appears that he’s remembered how to make a notable film again, an adjective his last three weren’t.
Starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, Prince Avalanche 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.