While the success of films like Little Miss Sunshine, Once and Precious prove that the Sundance Film Festival still holds some pretty serious weight in Hollywood, something about the grandaddy of them all has—shall we say—dulled. Perhaps Sundance lost some edge around the same time it featured heavily in a plotline on Entourage. Sensing this, new festival director John Cooper tried to push this year’s competitive selections back to the festival’s roots, meaning you won’t find Vincent Chase here, just soap opera actors like James Franco!
Huh. Kidding aside—especially since Mr. Franco’s Howl, about beat poet Allen Ginsberg, is already one of the more anticipated films coming in 2010—this year’s indie-rrific slate is actually chock-a-block with ambitious projects. With that in mind, here are three films to keep an eye on. You won’t get to see them in Park City, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss them when they roll through BAM next summer!
How Sundance describes it: A complex portrait of an American marriage, Blue Valentine charts the evolution of a relationship over time. Cast: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel, John Doman.
How we describe it: Do we all realize that the last time Ryan Gosling (also known as The Greatest Actor of His Generation) appeared on screen, it was in Lars and the Real Girl back in 2007? At this point, we’d watch him in anything. So that Blue Valentine, about a couple (Mr. Gosling and the always-excellent Michelle Williams) coming to terms with their crumbling relationship on the cusp of their 10th wedding anniversary, could be ripe with great material is only gravy.
How Sundance describes it: A mysterious, anarchical trickster descends on the lives of a family struggling to deal with a painful loss. Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Rainn Wilson, Devin Brochu, Piper Laurie, John Carroll Lynch.
How we describe it: When Joseph Gordon-Levitt appears, we pay attention. As the titular Hesher, Mr. Gordon-Levitt gets to go all dark and twisty (complete with long, greasy hair and tattoos) to help a 13-year-old boy overcome the death of his mother. Just a couple of tips for whoever picks this one up for distribution: change the title and lose “anarchical trickster” from the plot description. Unless, of course, the goal is to have as few people see it as possible.
How Sundance describes it: A young Hasidic man, seduced by money, power and opportunity, becomes an international Ecstasy smuggler. Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bartha, Danny A. Abeckaser, Ari Graynor, Jason Fuchs.
How we describe it: Directed by Great Neck, New York’s own Kevin Tyler Asch, Holy Rollers sounds like Scarface by way of Boiler Room, which could be a problem until you realize it stars Jesse Eisenberg instead of Giovanni Ribisi. Fresh off Zombieland and with this and David Fincher’s The Social Network due in 2010, expect Mr. Eisenberg to finally step out of Michael Cera’s wispy shadow.