The annual week I spend in sleepy Park City, Utah, carousing with the rest of the online film criticism glitterati, eating criminally overpriced pizza, barely sleeping, and consistently worrying about early on-set frostbite is my favorite week of the year. Not just for the pals, the pizza, and the sleep deprivation, but for (shockingly!) the movies. I’ve been lucky enough to see some truly great stuff at Sundance over the past two years – The Freebie, Winter’s Bone, Martha Marcy May Marlene, and Take Shelter all come to mind quite quickly, particularly because those films all stuck with me long enough to make it on to my top ten lists for their respective years. That’s staying power, and that’s the power of Sundance – seeing films in January that stay top-of-mind (and top-of-top-ten-list) for eleven months (and beyond).
So which films from this year’s Sundance will prove to be long-range winners? While I can certainly make some very educated guesses, there’s no way to know for sure until my eyeballs meet Park City’s theater screens. That said, it’s probably safe to assume my ultimate favorite is somewhere on the following list of my ten most anticipated films for this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Robot & Frank
As someone who very nearly had to be hospitalized after Wall-E, I’ve developed a real soft spot for kindly robot stories. But a kindly robot story that is also a buddy comedy, a heist flick, and a glimpse into how we might live in a few short years? Sold.
After my controversial stance (of abject loating) on Brit Marling‘s Another Earth (one of two films she premiered at last year’s Sundance), I am anxious to see what the actress can do in a glossier, bigger budget film. Combined with my ennui over another financial flick from last year, Margin Call, Nicholas Jarecki‘s Arbitrage could shape up to something great, and something that could redeem my disdain for its predecessors.
You either loved Quentin Dupieux‘s Rubber, or you hated it – there was absolutely no in-between when it came to the filmmaker’s tale of a killer tire that also served as commentary on movie-watching in general. But I’d hazard a guess that his latest film, Wrong, might appeal to both camps – Rubberheads and those who didn’t get it or didn’t care to. Hey, at least there’s a dog!
I recently re-watched Josh Radnor‘s directorial debut, Happythankyoumoreplease, which also debuted at Sundance back in 2010. I remember liking the film well enough back then, but a second watch made some of Radnor’s missteps (and there are but a handful and the film is still quite charming) seem more glaring, and I think it’s pretty likely that Radnor has noticed the same things and corrected them for Liberal Arts. The first sign that Radnor was bringing a fresh eye to his sophomore outing? Casting Sundance it-girl Elizabeth Olsen as his romantic lead. And, if rumors hold true, Zac Efron pops up in this one for a small, but memorable role.
Yet another Sundance alumni, Katie Aselton returns to the festival with a very different film than 2009’s sensitive tale of martial and sexual strife, The Freebie. This time around, Aselton cedes writing duties to her husband Mark Duplass (a Sundance darling in his own right) for a thriller about three childhood friends whose getaway weekend turns dark – and fast. The Freebie was terrifying and wrenching in its own way, and Duplass has already his hand at meta-horror with Baghead, so I am anxious to see what the duo can do with a real terror. And, full disclosure, I donated to the film’s wildly successful Kickstarter campaign – that’s how much I wanted to see this film get made.