The 2013 Sundance Film Festival will kick off in Park City, Utah this Thursday on the 17th and will run through the 24th. Like every year, there’s quite a promising line-up of independent films from all over the world. There are usually a few outstanding films out of the line-up that receive a fair amount of buzz that eventually leads to a distribution deal, critical acclaim, and even awards contention throughout the remainder of the year. Who knows what will end up being this year’s equivalent to Beasts of the Southern Wild (a film to premiere at Sundance to go on to receive Oscar nominations). This year marks a return for a lot of talented directors who have been at the festival in the past and debuts of promising young talents who are just getting their start. I decided to pick out the 15 most anticipated films that I personally think will receive the most buzz at this year’s festival. I’m sure we’ll be reading about these films beyond Sundance.
1. A.C.O.D. (directed by Stu Zicherman)
A.C.O.D. is an acronym for Adult Child Of Divorce. Stu Zicherman’s directorial debut centers on a man (Parks and Rec’s Adam Scott) who is trying to cope with his parent’s bitter divorce years earlier after participating in a study for divorced children. He attempts to bring them back together on good terms before his brother’s wedding. The script for the film, co-written by Zicherman and The Daily Show writer-producer Ben Karlin, was once on the black list. There’s no doubt in my mind that Adam Scott is a talented comedic actor. Even though the actor has been mainly a supporting player throughout most of his acting career thus far, he recently proved that he has the chops to be just as great in a leading role as displayed in last year’s Friends With Kids. Richard Jenkins, Catherine O’Hara, Amy Poehler, Jane Lynch, Clark Duke, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead all join Adam Scott in a film that is sure to be humorous with a bit of heart.
2. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (directed by David Lowery)
Writer-director David Lowery is no stranger to the film festival circuit. His 2009 debut feature St. Nick made the festival rounds and his short film The Pioneers won the Short Film Grand Jury Prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. His latest film is his biggest project yet. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a 70’s-set Texas crime drama is sure to capture attention at the festival. The film stars the always impressive Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara as a young outlaw couple named Bob and Ruth who go on a crime spree only to have their journey come to an end by the authorities. Four years later, they’re reunited when Bob escapes from prison. Judging from the story, this film could be in the same vein (and perhaps even as riveting) as Bonnie and Clyde and Badlands.
3. Before Midnight (directed by Richard Linklater)
I was completely taken by surprise when it was announced that the production was wrapped. Just a little bit before the news broke, a third “Before” film was just an idea being tossed around. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have officially reunited with director Richard Linklater for the long anticipated sequel to 2004’s Before Sunset. The third “Before” film is set to follow another reunion between Celine and Jesse, but this time in Greece. It’ll be interesting to find out what Celine and Jesse have both been up to since their time together in France. This is by far one of the most anticipated films to premiere at this year’s festival.
4. Breathe In (directed by Drake Doremus)
The last time writer-director Drake Doremus was at Sundance, he was premiering his long distance romance drama Like Crazy which went on to win the festival’s prestigious Grand Jury Prize. This year, he returns to Sundance with his new film titled Breathe In. The film centers on a New York City music teacher (Guy Pearce) who is immediately drawn to a British foreign exchange student (Felicity Jones). Apparently the film completed production before Like Crazy was even in theaters. Who knows why it has taken so long for Doremus to finish the film but it’s great to see him back with another feature. Drake Doremus is a promising young filmmaker who seems to be getting better and better with each film he makes. I certainly hope that this film shows his progression.
5. Don Jon’s Addiction (directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has officially become one of those actors who decide to step behind the camera. While some actors have discovered that it’s not their niche (most recent example being Dustin Hoffman for his directorial debut Quartet), some actors found success directing. Joseph Gordon-Levitt tends to choose interesting projects to act in, so it doesn’t make me think twice about the potential of his directorial debut titled Don Jon’s Addiction. The film centers on a modern day Don Juan who learns some life lessons when he tries to change his ways. I’m guessing it’s going to be a comedic version of Steve McQueen’s sex addict drama Shame. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars alongside Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Rob Brown, and Tony Danza.
6. The East (directed by Zal Batmanglij)
Two years ago, writer-actress Brit Marling made an impressive debut in Another Earth (which she also co-wrote with director Mike Cahill). Her next feature, she teamed with director Zal Batmanglij for the dramatic thriller Sound of My Voice. Brit Marling has since then reunited with Batmanglij for a thriller titled The East, which is set to premiere at Sundance. Marling appears in the film as a contract worker who must infiltrate an anarchist group, but soon finds herself falling for its leader (presumably Alexander Skarsgaard). The film also stars Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, Shiloh Fernandez, and Patricia Clarkson.
7. Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes (directed by Francesca Gregorini)
Francesca Gregorini’s follow-up to her 2009 directorial debut Tanner Hall is a coming-of-age tale that stars Kaya Scodelario in a role that is sure to capture attention. Last seen in Wuthering Heights, Scodelario stars as a troubled young woman whom becomes obsessed with her neighbor who resembles her dead mother. This film has the potential to be a strange one and that’s never a bad thing. Also, it should be noted that the film looks gorgeously shot. The film also stars Jessica Biel, Alfred Molina, Frances O’Connor, Sam Jaeger, and Anne Ramsay.
8. Kill Your Darlings (directed by John Krokidas)
John Krokidas directorial debut focuses on the early years of the famed Beat generation that consisted of Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, William Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac. Krokidas has assembled a great cast that includes Daniel Radcliffe as Ginsberg, Dane DeHaan as Carr, Ben Foster as Burroughs, and Jack Huston as Kerouac. The film is essentially a crime story that centers on Allen Ginsberg arriving to Columbia University in New York who makes friends with Carr, Burroughs, and Kerouac. Their lives are shattered when an older man in love with Carr is found dead. The rest of the cast includes Elizabeth Olsen, Michael C. Hall, David Cross, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Kyra Sedgwick.
9. Mud (directed by Jeff Nichols)
It’s true, Matthew McConaughey has been on a huge comeback streak after a few great performances in films such as Killer Joe, Magic Mike, Bernie, and The Paperboy (he was the only actor who gave a good performance in the entire film). The next film he’s starring in is Jeff Nichols’ Mud. The film tells the story of two teenage boys who help a fugitive (McConaughey) escape the law and bounty hunters so he can reunite with his soul mate named Jupiter (Reese Witherspoon). I was completely blown away by Jeff Nichols’ psychological thriller Take Shelter. The writer-director expressively knows how to formulate tension within the frame. I have high hopes that this will be another great film from the writer-director. Oh, and Take Shelter star Michael Shannon appears in the film as well.
10. The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman (directed by Fredrik Bond)
You have to give credit to Shia LaBeouf for wanting to distance himself from the blockbusters so he can take part in more obscure projects. Okay, he might not always be the most impressive actor but has shown glimpses of talent (more recently in Lawless). In The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, LaBeouf stars as a young man who falls in love with a Romanian beauty (Evan Rachel Wood) while traveling abroad. He soon finds himself tangled with her dark past so he can win her heart. The rest of the cast includes Mad Mikkelsen, Melissa Leo, Rupert Grint (a.k.a Ronald Weasley), and Til Schweiger.
11. Prince Avalanche (directed by David Gordon Green)
David Gordon Green is unpredictable when it comes to his projects. Although he is mainly known for directing adolescent comedies such as Pineapple Express, The Sitter, and Your Highness, I personally think he’s been most impressive with his more dramatic efforts such as All The Real Girls and Snow Angels. His latest film titled Prince Avalanche is a remake of the Icelandic film Either Way. The film stars Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch two highway road workers in the 1980’s who have misadventures as they spend their summer away from the lives they left behind. Most were predicting that David Gordon Green was going to start production on the long gestating Suspiria remake. Just a few months back, it was reported that he secretly wrapped production on this low budget independent feature that is said to be a character study. It seems as if David Gordon Green has made a much needed return to his roots as a dramatic filmmaker.
12. The Spectacular Now (directed by James Ponsoldt)
Writer-director James Ponsoldt’s film Smashed received much deserved acclaim when it premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. Smashed was an impressive effort and solidified the fact that Ponsoldt is a director to watch. This year, Ponsoldt returns to Sundance with his next film titled The Spectacular Now. The film is an adaptation of Tim Tharp’s award winning coming-of-age novel that follows a teenage girl who convinces an alcoholic high school senior that his philosophy of living only for the moment may not be all it’s cracked up to be. The film stars The Descendant’s star Shailene Woodley and Rabbit Hole’s Miles Teller as the two young leads. The impressive cast includes Smashed star Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kyle Chandler, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Bob Odenkirk. (500) Days of Summer writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber wrote the screenplay for the film that further convinces me that this could be a spectacular film.
13. Touchy Feely (directed by Lynn Shelton)
Writer-director Lynn Shelton’s last feature Your Sister’s Sister is easily one of the best films from last year. The film, which premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, featured impressive performances by Emily Blunt and Rosemarie Dewitt. It thrills me to discover that Lynn Shelton’s next feature titled Touchy Feely is premiering at this year’s festival. Lynn Shelton reunites with Your Sister’s Sister actress Rosemarie DeWitt in a film that is sure to be just as good, if not better than her last. DeWitt stars as a massage therapist who is unable to do her job when she suddenly develops an opposition to bodily contact. The rest of the cast includes Josh Pais, Scoot McNairy, Ellen Page, Allison Janney, and Ron Livingston. If this film is just as good as Your Sister’s Sister, we’re in for a treat.
14. Very Good Girls (directed by Naomi Foner)
Now that the Twilight series is over with, Dakota Fanning has now made a return to work where she can showcase her talent as an actress. She stars alongside the beautiful and extremely talented Elizabeth Olsen in Oscar nominated screenwriter Naomi Foner’s directorial debut Very Good Girls. The story follows two best friends named Lilly (Dakota Fanning) and Gerry (Elizabeth Olsen) as they spend their last summer together before they go off to college. They both meet and fall in love with a young man named David. As Lilly begins a secret relationship with David, Gerry becomes a bit more obsessive. Considering the talent involved, Very Good Girls can actually turn out to be a very good film. The rest of the cast includes Ellen Barkin, Richard Dreyfuss, Boyd Holbrook, and Demi Moore.
15. The Way, Way Back (directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash)
Nat Faxon and Jim Rash are best known for their work in comedy and television. Nat Faxon plays the title character Ben in the FOX comedy Ben and Kate while Jim Rash is best known as Dean Pelton in the NBC comedy series Community. Did you know that they’re also Oscar winners? Both Faxon and Rash, along with Alexander Payne, wrote the Oscar winning screenplay for The Descendants. Now that they’ve won Oscars, they got the green light for another script they’ve collaborated on titled The Way, Way Back. Their new film tells the story of an awkward 14-year-old named Duncan (Liam James) who is having a tough time fitting in socially. During the summer, he finds a job at the local water park where he befriends a carefree employee named Owen (Sam Rockwell) who mentors Duncan so he can find his place. Toni Colette stars as Duncan’s mother named Pam and Steve Carrell stars as Pam’s boyfriend Trent. Both Faxon and Rash have already proven that they’re talented screenwriters, so I’m excited to discover how talented they are as directors. The Way, Way Back has the potential to be a breakout hit (in the same vein as 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine).
There are a lot of other promising films that are premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. There was just simply not enough time to list them out. Honorable mentions include Upstream Color, In Fear, Magic Magic, The Crystal Fairy, In A World, The Lifeguard, jOBS, Two Mothers, and Lovelace. What films from this year’s Sundance Film Festival are you looking forward to the most? Let us know in the comment section below!