Last year, I was mildly successful in writing a list of 13 Films You Should Be Excited to See at Sundance 2009. Looking back, I would have changed that title. As for the list, it turned out to be quite prescient. I predicted that the likes of Mystery Team, Adventureland and Moon would be must sees. The only real letdowns were The Informers and Dead Snow (though the latter still maintained some semblance of fun).
This year, I feel unprepared. The 2010 Sundance slate is one of the potentially middling kind. Few films really stick out as obvious winners, and there are question marks all around. In my mind, this makes Sundance Twenty-Ten (as they’re calling it) all the more exciting. There could be more to discover in the end. It makes this list a bitch to write though. Mark my words, there are about 30 potential must sees in the Sundance 2010 line-up. I will likely not get them all. But as any professional blogger slash lover of fine theater seating would do, I’m moving forward. Brace yourself, because here comes my list of the 15 Must See Movies of Sundance 2010. All links below lead to the Sundance B-Side film page, where more information can be found.
Ryan Reynolds buried alive doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing in the world, but I will tell you — I’m hearing nothing but great things from the debut of Rodrigo Cortés. It’s going to be a claustrophobic affair, but one that will rest on the shoulders of Reynolds, who will be trapped in a box for the film’s entire runtime. I’m curious, to say the least.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt struck it hot at last year’s fest with 500 Days of Summer. This year, he brings a deeply dramatic tale about a family struggling to overcome great loss, and a wayward anarchist (Gordon-Levitt) who comes into their lives at the exact right and wrong moment. The film also stars Natalie Portman and Rainn Wilson, which is promising. Nothing like a brooding, gritty story of teen angst to get this party started.
Casino Jack and the United States of Money
Director Alex Gibney won an Oscar for Taxi to the Dark Side, then followed with one of the best docs I’ve seen at Sundance in the past few years, Gonzo. It goes without saying that he will bring the heat with Casino Jack, even if it is about Washington power lobbyist Jack Abramoff. From what I hear, he was kind of a snake. This should be a fun ride.
Welcome to the Rileys
Ridley Scott’s son Jake is bringing his first feature to Park City. It is a drama about a couple in Indiana who are grieving the loss of their daughter. Sounds exciting. What is exciting is the fact that folks like James Ganfolfini, Kristen Stewart and Melissa Leo are involved. Side note: the Twilight girl plays an underage hooker who takes an interest in Tony Soprano. Worth a look, I’m sure.
Night Catches Us
It wouldn’t be my Sundance list with some kind of period piece. This one is set in 1976, stars Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington (two great young talents) and follows the story of a neighborhood where the Black Panthers are thriving. It’s a story of ideology, revolution and loyalty — three things that make for compelling drama. As you can tell by its placement on this list, I’m looking forward to seeing where it all leads.
The Company Men
Another movie about the economic downturn, with another big star at the front. This time its Ben Affleck starring as a hotshot sales exec. who’s been downsized, and must find a way for his family to survive. He’s flanked by two similar stories, with Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper and Kevin Costner. John Wells makes his directorial debut in a movie that takes a look at what happens to Affleck’s Boiler Room character after he gets fired (not really, but close enough).
Obvious choice, I know. The Twilight fever has come to Sundance. In reality, Kristen Stewart has been coming to Sundance with movies long before she was swooning over blingy dudes. This one intrigues me because it takes a group of young actresses (Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Scout Taylor-Compton, Alia Shawkat) and puts them in the roles of iconic, hard-rockin’ gals. It’s a steep hill to climb, but I have a feeling it will be a good watch.
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Louis C.K.: Hilarious
If you need to ask why I would want to see this movie, you clearly have never come face to face with comedian Louis C.K. He’s consistently inappropriate in every way possible. And damn funny at all times. To see his stand-up on the big screen should be a treat. Whether you like “concert films” or not, I think this one might be worth a look.
The Perfect Host
A criminal on the run (Clayne Crawford) shows up randomly at the home of Warwick Wilson (David Hyde Pierce), a consumate host who is preparing for a dinner party. As you might expect from this Park City at Midnight selection, all hell begins to break loose. I’ve long been a fan of David Hyde Pierce and look forward to seeing him in a semi-eccentric thriller. That’s reason enough. Trust me.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
This movie looks ridiculous. Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk play two hillbillies who get caught up in a web of horrific proportions. It’s a send-up of the horror genre from newcomer Eli Craig. It turns the Deliverance framework on its head, looking at a thriller through the eyes of two simple good ole boys who are just caught in the middle. I can’t effing wait.
There’s always room to take a chance at Sundance. And The Taqwacores feels like just the right mix of originality and energy for this year. It’s about kids in America, who are beautiful and full of punk rock. They are also Muslim, which creates an interesting dynamic. It is one of the few politically charged movies I’m interested in this year, as it attempts to look at life and politics through a shifted lens. If it works, it could be special.
I almost tore my Sundance guide apart this year searching for the dark comedy. Last year was magical with Mystery Team, World’s Greatest Dad and Black Dynamite. This year seems light on darkness, and for that matter, comedy. Armless sounds devious, telling the story of a man who leaves his loving wife to go have both of his arms cut off. When she finds out that he’s gone, she goes after him, thinking that he’s left for another woman. She intends to remove his testicles. I can’t wait to see who gets to the knife first.
If the director of Eagle vs. Shark makes another movie, I will see it. That was my thought pattern just after seeing Eagle vs. Shark. This year, it’s happened. Taika Cohen is back with a cast of unknowns, telling us another coming-of-age story that is described as being quirky and charming. Quirky and charming is right up my alley. So are those accents from New Zealand.
The Extra Man
Paul Dano plays a lonely dreamer who fancies himself a character from an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. He moves to the big city and shacks up with a highly eccentric playwright (Kevin Kline) who is also a social escort for wealthy widows. This movie sounds like it could be all over the map, but the talent involved leads me to believe that this movie could be wonderful. And by talent involved, I’m referring to American Splendor writer/director team Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, who once again collaborate.
Jack Goes Boating
Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers his directorial debut, a story love, betrayal and friendship for working class New Yorkers. The story isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, but I am curious to see the “style and grace” of Hoffman as a director that is described by Sundance chief John Cooper. That intrigues me, as Hoffman has long been a talented actor — the move behind the camera will be one worth watching.
For more from Park City, check out our Sundance 2010 homepage.