Oh relax, I’ll keep it short(ish).
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Casey Affleck has appeared in only one movie since the Joaquin Phoenix/I’m Still Here debacle in 2010, and that was the loathsome Tower Heist in 2011. But he’s back now (…good?), starring alongside Rooney Mara and Ben Foster (!!!) in a 1970s-set drama about petty criminals. It’s being billed as “Bonnie & Clyde-esque”, which I’m interpreting as “everyone dies in the end”.
I’m in just for Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie alone, but I am legit curious to see how Shannon Hale’s too-cute-for-its-own-good novel translates to film. Adapted and directed by Jerusha Hess (co-writer of Napoleon Dynamite), Austenland is about a woman going to a Jane Austen theme park searching for her own Mr. Darcy. It’s another twee concept, but maybe Hess’s offbeat comedic sensibility can de-cute it some. And did I mention Bret McKenzie is in it? Because Bret McKenzie is in it.
I mention this only for those of you who are fans of Jesse and Celine and their painstakingly slow, self-involved, navel-gazing relationship. (Lainey: me!)
Don Jon’s Addiction
Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes his directorial debut, working off a script he wrote, with a movie in which he stars as a Lothario trying to grow up. This is basically the film equivalent of JGL staring into a mirror and filming himself staring into the mirror while we watch him filming himself staring into the mirror.
Two indie darlings—Brit Marling and Ellen Page—team up to star in a movie about an infiltrator (Marling, who also co-wrote the script) in an anarchist group. It’s a reunion for last year’s Sundance favorite Sound of Your Voice, with Marling and writer/director Zal Batmanglij, and is also the first of Page’s two entries in the festival.
Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes
Reconcile it now: Jessica Biel has a film at Sundance. The good news is that it stars Kaya Scodelario. The bad news is that Scodelario plays a woman who is obsessed with Jessica Biel. It sounds like a joke, right?
Let’s be honest—we all just want to see how badly Ashton Kutcher sucks as Steve Jobs. But the movie has a pretty loaded cast, Kutcher aside, including Dermot Mulroney, Lesley-Ann Warren, JK Simmons, James Woods, Lukas Haas and Matthew Modine. We all want to bag on Kutcher, but what if it doesn’t suck?
Kill Your Darlings
Filmmakers are really feeling the Beat generation right now. Coming off the heels of Walter Salles’ On the Road is Kill Your Darlings, set in 1944 and revolving around a murder, which features Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg, Ben Foster as William S. Burroughs and Jack Huston as Jack Kerouac. One of these things is not like the other—do we really put Jack Huston on the same plane as Foster and Radcliffe?
The Look of Love
Did you like The Trip? I LOVED The Trip. Michael Winterbottom and Steve Coogan re-team with a fully-scripted project about Paul Raymond, a porn entrepreneur who became a property czar. No more is necessary—Winterbottom/Coogan have earned a free pass for life. Seriously if you haven’t seen The Trip, DO.
Sundance has a porny bent this year, with two prominent porn-themed projects (though they did reject Lindsay Lohan’s awful-looking The Canyons), the aforementioned Look of Love, and Lovelace, which stars Amanda Seyfried as legendary porn star turned anti-porn activist Linda Lovelace. I did not know that Linda Lovelace was composed entirely of oatmeal, but she must have been, otherwise Oatmeal Seyfried wouldn’t be playing her.
Matthew McConaughey will get nominated for an Oscar. It will happen. I missed it this year, so I’m going to go ahead and call it for 2014—Matthew McConaughey will get nominated for an Oscar. Jeff Nichols’ (Take Shelter) film is about a fugitive trying to get back to the woman he loves, and is a strong start to McConaughey’s Oscar year.
The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman
What a pretentious title. Shia LaBeouf plays a guy (with a ridiculous ponytail) who falls for a crime lord’s girlfriend (Evan Rachel Wood). So far this movie is mostly known for being “the one where Shia LaBeouf did LSD”, because he claims he actually took LSD in order to make a drug scene more realistic. Now that’s method. YOUR MOVE, GOSLING.
The Spectacular Now
Shailene Woodley, in her first film role since The Descendants, stars as a nice girl who befriends the borderline alcoholic in her class (Miles Teller). Director James Ponsoldt mined similar drunky territory last year with Smashed, and the result was a spectacular performance from Mary Elizabeth Winstead (who co-stars here). Here’s hoping he can do the same for Woodley before she embarks on a franchise year in 2014 with Divergent and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Chan-wook Park is one of South Korea’s most-admired directors—which if you don’t pay attention to the Asian cinema scene, is really saying a lot—and his English-language debut is anxiously awaited, especially since Park chose not to make an action movie (he’s most well known for his “Vengeance” trilogy, including Oldboy), but to make the Southern Gothic Stoker, which was written by Prison Break’s Wentworth Miller (yes, seriously). Starring Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode (who is already generating buzz), it’s about a girl who becomes obsessed with her mysterious uncle after her dad dies. This is a big year for Korean directors crossing into English-language work, and everyone will be watching to see how Park fares.
The second of Ellen Page’s films this year, Touchy Feely is writer/director Lynn Shelton’s follow-up to Your Sister’s Sister. It’s about a massage therapist who develops a sudden aversion to touch while her dentist brother gains a healing touch. I wasn’t crazy about Sister, and this has that too-twee ring to it, too. But everyone loves Ellen Page (and Dewitt), so I accept that I will probably like this less than the rest of you.
Sundance 2013 is loaded with interesting stuff (genre comedy Hell Baby looks Tucker and Dale excellent), and the market is shaping up to be REALLY active—back to back record box office years are trickling down to the indie market. But more importantly, coming off the multiple nominations for Beasts of the Southern Wild—last year’s breakout Sundance hit—as well as 13 overall nods for festival selections, Sundance has reasserted its award-season relevance after slipping a little in 2012. Carrying that momentum into Park City, it should be a buzzy couple of weeks at Sundance.