And now M-Z:
Martha Marcy May Marlene
The first of two films in this section about cults: this one follows a young girl escaping from the community that brainwashed her, and trying to reintegrate herself back into normal life, and to cope with what has happened to her. Things don't run so smoothly, and soon her obsessive paranoia is putting her own family at risk. Really looking forward to seeing the direction this one will go.
I love a good historical epic journey set against a sprawling landmass where the earth itself is as much a character as the people travelling on it (The Way Back, Australia, even Gone With The Wind). This time out it's 1845 and three families (including amongst Michelle Williams and Paul Dano) enlist the help of a scout to guide them across the Oregon Trail. There's wagons! A very murky clip shows a preview of the film below.
The only documentary on my list (and a rarity for this culturemouse) I love the vision behind this film: using the Odyssey of Homer to tell nine migration stories about postwar Britain, and exploring a range of emotions and ideas with beautiful landscapes and the words of some of the greatest lyricists. The Sundance site explains it a lot more eloquently than I have, but I'm intrigued by the sheer beauty of the images, and of course, I'm a complete sucker for anything that has a minute relation to Greek literature and mythos.
ICE! Yes, I'm totally addicted to ice. And it's my favourite icy setting as well: Alaska. A small community is shattered when a young boy dies in a tragic accident - except there's more to his death than mere fate, as best friends Qalli and Aivaaq now harbour a terrible, guilty secret. On first read it reminded me a little of a brilliant book I read a few years ago called The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney, which also centres around a murder mystery in the remote frozen wilderness but also has tones of Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park. Watch a tiny clip:
My second cult film sees two people follow a bizarre set of instructions to infiltrate an underground organisation led by the mysterious Maggie (played by Brit Marling, who also co-wrote and produced the film just as she has with Another Earth which I previewed in my A-L section! This girl is sure going to have a busy Sundance). The reason the couple have joined the cult is not clear: are they secretly scouring for information or are they longing for a family? This would make a great double header with Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene.
I've been a fan of Michael Shannon ever since his brilliant nuanced performance in Revolutionary Road, and here he's playing a very interesting character indeed: a man who could be a prophet, but could also be crazy and dangerous to his family. Night terrors have predicted a catastrophic storm coming to his town, and he sets about building a shelter to save his family. But who will lose out in the end?
I have a horrible feeling this film will upset greatly, perhaps to the tune of Muriel's Wedding (I hide from it). A boy who is orphaned, bullied, undermined, feels alone and insecure... oh no, no, it's not going to do my mascara any good at all. John C Reilly plays the scary Vice Principal who takes alienated school boy Terri under his wing, and gives him the hope and confidence he needs to take charge of his own life. Less schmaltz more balling your fists into your mouth so you don't make animal noises while you cry.
AND HERE IT IS. The film that always turns up at Sundance that I've never heard of before, and suddenly it's my new obsession. I want to know everything I can about it, I want to know what everyone else thinks about it, and I want to know when in God's name I'm gonna be able to watch it. You may remember similar squeeing noises I made last year about The Romantics (which still has no official release date, God damn it). This year it's to.get.her which has already captured my imagination (and compulsive grabby hands) with its clever play-on-words title, and the story has enticed me even further. A group of teenage girls (yup, I'm already a fan) escape the pressures of school, boyfriends and social standings for some fun at the beach. But games turn nasty, and then someone dies. It's like my dream combo of Pretty Little Liars and Picnic at Hanging Rock! I can't waaaaaait for this to come out, and I'm hoping for a good reception at Sundance more than anything to help its distribution and publicity. Whilst there's no clips of the film yet (do you think I'd be talking to you now if there were?! Well, probably) - director Erica Dunton has spoken about her film's inclusion within the NEXT category at the festival:
Readers, you'll be the first to know when the trailer comes out for to.get.her.
The Troll Hunter
Finally, I'll end on a bit of a silly one: this mockumentary style film from Norway (the Norwegian sense of humour is fabulous, I'll tell you now) tells the story of a group of teenagers who start putting a film together when a number of dead bears are found slain in nearby woods. At first they think it's creepy old resident Hans and start to follow him, but this soon takes them on a wild adventure where the childhood stories they thought were folklore are anything but... I think the trailer speaks for itself here:
Others to keep your eyes and ears on hold for are: fine French Canadian cinema in The Salesman; an unbelievable premature remake for The Silent House; forgetting Richard Ayoade is in The IT Crowd with his debut film Submarine; a tale of teenage runaways in depression hit Cuba awaits in A Ticket To Paradise; and Paddy Considine's first time out as a director is Tyrannosaur starring Peter Mullan and Olivia Coleman and shot in my very own Leeds!
The Sundance Festival 2011 kicks off TONIGHT. Keep checking back to culturemouse for the films that are causing the most headlines, and for freshly uploaded reviews of the films I'm most looking forward to.