Thursday, 19 January 2012

Sundance 2012 Picks: A-L

Mi God, is it that time of year again? I know I'm beginning to sound like a broken record each time, but I seriously can't believe how quickly this festival comes around! It is the cheese to my mouse; the peanut butter to my trap (not that I set traps.. how deeply confusing would that be?) I LOVE Sundance and all the brilliant things it delivers year after year.

In 2011 we got Like Crazy (picking up Grand Jury and Best Actress prizes) which I loved like crazy; Another Earth (winner of the Special Jury prize) which stunned me to tears a few times; Take Shelter which was one of my favourite films of last year and shunted Michael Shannon up my most beloved actors list; Senna (winner of the World Cinema Audience Award for a Documentary) which made me struggle to breathe in the last 15 minutes; Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene (which secured the Best Director prize) gracing me with its presence next month, and the adventurous madcap mythbuster that was Trollhunter.

So what can we expect this year? Well apart from the eclectic quirky selection as always, there's an even bigger treat this year for us British peeps. Sundance is coming to London! Yes, it truly is! On April 27-29th, the O2 arena - something of a forum for film gatherings at the moment - becomes Park City and will be showing 14 of the biggest, brightest and most talked about films from this year's festival in America. Tickets are on sale now and you can read all about the event, which will also host panels and a Music Section (yawn), here. SO EXCITING. I better start rallying around to see who has a spare 70 quid and wants to come with...

Here are culturemouse's top picks from the 2012 line up.

28 Hotel Rooms
A mosaic film! I love films like this as they allow your imagination to run: about the characters lives and the other faces they put on for the world that you don't necessarily get to see in the small moments you are with them. 28 Hotel Rooms looks set to do just that, with a man (Chris Messina) and a woman (Marin Ireland) embarking upon an affair which will see them through 28 different hotel rooms. This will be the only times they see each other, as he is in a relationship and she is married, so we as the audience will get to see how they develop through little snapshots of their intimacy. Chris Messina's name jumped out at me immediately - he's been great in Damages, Six Feet Under, Julie & Julia, and of course, Like Crazy. A face you'll recognise when you see it (and it ain't bad to stare at, either). Marin Ireland has had turns in HBO'S Mildred Pierce and Rachel Getting Married. But probably the biggest surprise for me is the director - it's only crazy ghost Dr Charles Montgomery from American Horror Story! Bringing the romance this time, this is Matt Ross's debut film.

About The Pink Sky
World Dramatic Competition
A high school coming of age story... but no bawdy humour, no dance sequences, no Prom drama... in fact it's in black and white and Japanese! Keiichi Kobayashi's promising debut follows a girl, Izumi, who spends most of her life rating newspapers good or bad, depending on the ratio of positive and negative stories in them. When she finds a wallet containing 300 Yen, instead of handing it in she 'lends' a substantial amount of it to an old friend with money troubles. When the owner finds out - a fellow student - he asks Izumi to do something to repay him: to console an ill friend in the hospital with a newspaper made up entirely of good news stories. This is the first film for most of the young cast too, who have been blessed with a script that looks to be a thing of quiet beauty. I adore Japanese cinema, and the more it gets away from melodrama and hits a subtle poignancy the better.

Hot on the success of Bridesmaids (although they were probably well into production by the time that was released and surprisingly became the biggest comedy of 2011) this is the first of two wedding centric films at Sundance this year powered by a feisty female ensemble cast (and both featuring Lizzy Caplan, incidentally, who also popped up in New Girl this week). Bachelorette is on paper, very similar to Bridesmaids, with three single girls asked to don a dress and bouquet for one of their former classmates who's getting married… the only problem being they used to call her ‘pig face’ and bitch about her behind her back and now they’re mortified she’s getting hitched before they are. The acid tongue bachelorettes are led by Kirsten Dunst (who loves a good indie) with Isla Fisher, aforementioned Lizzy Caplan and bride-to-be Rebel Wilson. Leslye Headland’s debut film is based on her play of the same name which ran off Broadway last year. The New York Times called it “witheringly funny as it is bitterly sad."

Black Rock
Three friends, attempting to reconcile after some recent squabbles, take a short break on a remote island off the cost of Maine. And of course there’s something crazy after them… From The League duo of Kate Aselton (who also stars) and Mark Duplass (Baghead, Cyrus) this is my first horror pick of Sundance. As long as it’s done well, and the suspense plus revelation is brilliantly done, this should be an enjoyable – and hopefully scary – hunt/chase thriller, with the added spice that these girls aren’t exactly feeling amicable toward one another. The cast is solid (Aselton joined by Kate Bosworth and Lake Bell) and the setting perfect. Is it a who or a what after them? They're in for a Bad Day, whatever the score.

Celeste and Jesse Forever
Expect a lot of laughs by the calibre of this anti rom-com at Sundance, but also a lot of heartache, too. Celeste and Jesse are the perfect couple, childhood sweethearts, role models for the rest of their friends, and soul mates for one another. But after several years of marriage the two have decided they want to get a divorce. But should that really have to ruin everything? This is the first script from Will McCormack and Rashida Jones and it’s attracted a stellar cast: Emma Roberts, Elijah Wood, Eric Christian Olsen, Chris Messina (hello again) and Andy Samberg playing Jesse (and is probably best known for all his SNL antics, including Natalie’s infamous rap) and Rashida Jones herself playing Celeste. I foresee something that is going to make me cry.

Craig Zobel’s drama about a waitress in a fast food restaurant who is accused of stealing from a customer’s purse is set to test all your preconceptions and powers of judgement. Becky is the young girl who defiantly maintains her innocence, and Sandra is her manager, torn between her responsibilities in the line of work and her own personal feelings towards the girl, who isn’t exactly passionate about her job. Because the truth is unclear and characters motives unrevealed, this has all the makings of second guessing the viewer until you damn well respect it (or make a face). Dreama Walker (Becky) was one of Blair’s minions on Gossip Girl and you’ll soon know her very well as the roommate to The Bitch in Apartment 23. And Ann Dowd (Sandra) is a very familiar culturemouse face indeed – Natalie’s mother in Garden State! Clap clap.

The First Time
US Dramatic Competition
No not the ‘novel’ I wrote when I was 17 (HA HA HA HA HA [in joke] this looks like a tweeny romance, but it’s at Sundance so we’ve got to expect better, right? Well it’s the fledgling romance between him from Teen Wolf and her from The Secret Circle… ahem. Dylan O’Brien and Britt Robertson play Dave and Aubrey (wow, gotta love anything in it where the main girl is called Aubrey) who are both feeling a bit lonely and misunderstood when they meet at a mutual friend’s party and over the course of a weekend start to fall in love…well the love you have when you’re 16, anyway. Great to see Craig Roberts (Submarine) also in the cast, and why I have a little faith in this one? Its writer/director Jon Kasdan had a little stint on Freaks and Geeks. So yes, I think we can expect something better.

For a Good Time, Call
This is not the kind of film that should interest me at all, but yet I’m writing about it anyway. Two college frenemies find themselves living together in New York, and after one of them makes a startling discovery about the other in the bedroom, the two girls decide to go into business to boost their financial woes… by setting up a phone sex line. It’s no surprise the CV for the majority of cast and crew for this one is filled with juvenile comedy (even Seth Rogen’s in it) but this comes from first time writers Lauren Miller (who also stars) and Katie Ann Naylon, and director Jamie Travis, so I do hold out some promise (oh okay, and Justin Long’s in it). Plus one of the stars of the film, Katie, is played by Ari Graynor who was the delightfully funny Caroline in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. But boy do I hate the title!

John Dies at the End
Argh dang, spoiler. Sorry folks, this ain’t your average horror movie. Have you seen who’s directing this? Don Coscarelli’s first film in ten years since Bubba Ho Tep. And any film with both Pale Face from Pans Labyrinth and Mr Krabbs from Spongebob deserves to be seen! Based on the novel which was based on the popular web serial – both created by’s David Wong, it sees humanity under threat from a drug referred to as ‘soy sauce’ where users travel through different times and dimensions and not all of them come back human. Trying to save the day are slouchers Dave (named after the author) and John (who dies at the end), but seriously, don’t hold out much hope for the survival of the universe. With bit characters called Jennifer Lopez and Morgan Freeman, a demon called Shitload and a place called Shit Narnia this could be the biggest cult film everyone is dying to see coming out of Sundance. Did I mention Paul Giamatti is also in this?

Liberal Arts
One of the most recent Sundance offerings that I’ve been desperate to see was 2010’s happythankyoumoreplease which still, criminally, hasn’t been given a release date for the UK despite winning the Audience Award for best film and coming out in America last March. Director, Writer and star of that film Josh Radnor is now back at Sundance with another multi –tasked special with Liberal Arts. He plays a single man in his 30’s, uninspired by life but excited at the prospect of speaking at his former professor’s leaving do on his old campus. It’s here he meets Zibby (Sundance dahling Elizabeth Olsen) who awakens in him a new verve for life and the possibility of a real connection. Also starring Zac Efron and Allison Janney, this is my perfect blend of quirky indie angst. Hopefully they’ll even release it over here this time.

Also worth looking out for:

Beasts of the Southern Wild (US Dramatic Competition) -
surreal fantasy coming of age/saving the world cinema from a new talent
Corpo Celeste (Spotlight) - I previewed this last year for Directors Fortnight at Cannes - now the Italian Love Like Poison shows at Sundance
Excision (Midnight) -
a weird teenager, a lot of insanity and gore galore... and starring AnnaLynne McCord!
Kid-Thing (NEXT) -
a young mischievous girl finds a woman trapped in a well, but doesn't understand how to help
L (World Dramatic) -
a film about transporting yourself, in all kinds, with help from the writer of Dogtooth

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