2012 Sundance Film Festival

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.

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Despite how it might sound via Twitter feed and Facebook post, film festival-going for film journalists is not easy. It is fun, but it’s not easy. Each festival has its own unique addition to the crush of films, interviews, events, sleeping, writing, eating, sleeping, writing, eating all over again, more films, more interviews, more events, and attempting to spend some time with fellow journalist pals you might see but once a year that add up to a festival experience. SXSW and Fantastic Fest have all the temptations of Austin – why write when you can eat BBQ? The Los Angeles Film Festival has the caveat of taking place in the downtown Los Angeles hellmouth. AFI FEST? Passes only. Tribeca? City living. Cannes? Parlez-vous Français? The Sundance Film Festival‘s unique challenge is an obvious one – it takes place in a ski town in Utah in the middle of January. It’s cold. It can be really cold. More than that, Sundance is a lot of work. A lot of films, a lot of interview opportunities, a lot of events to attend. It’s a pretty daunting combination, but it’s one I’ve overcome (happily, and with apparent success) before, and it’s one you can, too. I am a self-confessed cold intolerant (the medical term! Living in Los Angeles for a decade has made me soft!) workaholic (quite clearly) who loves Sundance more than any other festival, and I am about to tell you what I pack to make sure that I can survive […]

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It’s the year of Lizzy Caplan. Such a bold proclamation is based entirely on the fact that the Party Down and Mean Girls star has two films world premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, an exciting feat for any actress, but doubly so for an up-and-coming comedic gem like Caplan whose two lady-centric films are bowing in a post-Bridesmaids world. Last year’s big it-girls, Elizabeth Olsen and Brit Marling, faced a somewhat similar situation – both came to the festival with two films to hype (Olsen had Martha Marcy May Marlene and Silent House, Marling turned up with Sound of My Voice and Another Earth). But even Olsen and Marling didn’t have the same challenge Caplan has to deal with this year when it comes to her work in Save the Date and Bachelorette – two films, two starring roles, two projects both about weddings. Madness! How the heck will we ever tell these two films apart? Well, with this handy comparison of every relevant bit of information (and even some not-so-relevant bits) on each film, we will. Consider them Lizzy Caplan Sundance Film Festival Flash Cards. Study up and get your best wedding outfit/snowsuit prepped (hint: use fur).

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It’s about time more lady-centric comedies popped up in theaters, and the success of Bridesmaids (and what appears to be an insatiable demand for a sequel) should usher in a bit of a golden age for the mini-genre. If that’s so, it’s no shock that such a female-driven sex comedy would show its goods at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Carrie Preston‘s That’s What She Said will surely be the butt of many jokes around Park City come next week, so it’s fitting that we’re getting the film’s first trailer to warm up the Michael Scott in all of us. The film stars Anne Heche as DeeDee (Heche was at last year’s Sundance with Cedar Rapids) and Marcia DeBonis as her best friend Bebe (you might recognize DeBonis as Jennifer Garner’s put-upon assistant from 13 Going On 30). Both unlucky in love, DeeDee is trying to heal herself up with bad habits (lots of smoking), while hopeless romantic Bebe thinks she might have finally met her match. A pretty standard plot, right? Well, that’s probably why Maeby Fünke herself, Alia Shawkat, gets tossed in with her own messed up notions about love. Shawkat’s Clementine is a sex addict, and it looks as if her boundary-pushing just might force DeeDee and Bebe to rethink their own choices. Plus, you know, sex and cigarettes. That’s What She Said will have its World Premiere at Sundance on Friday, January 20, with three additional screenings throughout the festival. Check out the film’s official trailer […]

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The story of the West Memphis Three (Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley) has already been, quite famously, immortalized in filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s Paradise Lost trilogy (which wrapped up this year after the Three were finally freed from prison), but Berligner and Sinofsky were not the only filmmakers captivated by the unbelievable story of the men, the murders, and the miscarriage of justice surrounding them. Peter Jackson and his wife and producing partner Fran Walsh have long been supporters of Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley, so it’s no surprise that the pair have helped produce a new documentary about the men and their case. West of Memphis is an investigative documentary by the Academy Award-nominated Amy Berg that “tells the untold story behind an extraordinary and desperate fight to bring the truth to light.” The film picks up with the official police investigation in 1993, covering the story “from the inside.” Filled with new information and new evidence, West of Memphis is a timely and welcome addition to this year’s Sundance Film Festival. West of Memphis will have its World Premiere at Sundance on Friday, January 20, with four additional screenings throughout the festival. Check out the film’s official trailer after the break, along with screening information for Sundance. See you there!

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It’s really about time that the Sundance Film Festival honored perennial indie it-girl Parker Posey with some kind of, well, some kind of something! Wait, what? Posey has appeared in over a dozen Sundance films? Including one this year? Sorry, but for the star of Party Girl (a film I will defend until the day I die, falafels and rain-soaked books forever, amen), we really need to do something much, much bigger. An awards-hosting gig? Yes, yes, that will do just fine. Terrible and bizarre reporting gimmick aside, the Sundance Institute has today announced that Posey will serve as of host of this year’s Sundance Film Festival Awards Ceremony. The ceremony will take place on its traditional day – the last Saturday of the festival (this year, that’s January 28) at 7PM and will be available via live-stream to those not able to attend the festival. As ever, the Awards will be followed by the Closing Night Party, which is basically a good excuse for everyone still in attendance at the festival to get roaringly drunk and talk to each other (it’s also a bad excuse for everyone to get roaringly drunk and talk to each other). In addition to the announcement that Parker will host, the full list of the festival’s six juries has also been revealed. Names that will not surprise you – Fenton Bailey, Shari Berman, Cliff Martinez, Anthony Mackie, Cliff Martinez, Lynn Shelton, Mike Judge, and Dee Rees. Names that might surprise you – Justin Lin […]

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With the 2012 Sundance Film Festival kicking off in, oh my, God, is that right? just one month, it’s time that the fest announce its straggler titles – four more picks joining the already-phenomenal line-up of films that, for whatever reason, weren’t quite ready to be announced when the listing of 117 other feature-length films were released. These four titles join three different sections – there’s one Premiere, two Spotlights (films that have shown at other festivals that the Sundance crew can’t help but share come January), and one Park City at Midnight title. At least one of these films made me stand up and cheer upon reading of its addition. I won’t tease you – it’s John Dies at the End. Don Coscarelli‘s take on David Wong‘s novel will have its World Premiere at the festival, and I cannot even remotely wait. Also joining the fest? Philip Dorling and Ron Nyswaner‘s Predisposed, starring Jesse Eisenberg, Melissa Leo, and Tracy Morgan, along with the North American premiere of Sean Penn fright wig drama This Must Be the Place and Norway’s own Oslo, August 31st. Check out the full listing details of all four additions after the break.

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This is my Christmas. Over the next couple of months, we’re going to real cozy with some of the titles listed here – the twenty-six films that make up the upcoming Sundance Film Festival‘s in-competition programming. There are some expected titles here – like Mark Webber‘s The End of Love, Ry Russo-Young‘s Nobody Walks, Colin Trevorrow‘s Safety Not Guaranteed, and James Ponsoldt‘s Smashed, to name a very slim few – and there are already a couple of surprises, most of which consist of films that I’ve just yet to hear of (like Ben Lewin‘s The Surrogate, which sounds fantastic). But the full list of these in competition titles is worth poring over, so I’ll set you to it in just a moment, after a couple of necessary bits of ‘dance info. This is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg, as a total of 110 feature-length films were picked for the festival, coming from 31 countries and 44 first-time filmmakers. No less than 88 films at the festival will be world premieres. More programming announcements will be arriving soon, with picks for the Spotlight, Park City at Midnight, NEXT <=> and New Frontier sections due to be announced tomorrow, December 1, with films in the Premieres and Documentary Premieres sections getting announced on Monday, December 5. This year’s festival runs from January 19 through 29 in Park City, Utah. Should the press-credential-givers be so kind (hi, press-credential-givers, we love you), your own Allison Loring and I will be there […]

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