It’s almost time for the maintenance crews of Park City, Utah to begin wresting their boarded-up town out of the snow and readying it anew for a week of liquor company-sponsored parties and also movies sometimes: The Sundance Film Festival has announced its 2012 competition slate, providing an early glimpse at what movies you’ll be hearing about all next year. It’s like a window into the future!
Last year’s lineup certainly yielded a bumper crop—The Ledge and Terri, of course, but also stuff like Martha Marcy May Marlene, Like Crazy, and Being Elmo. Spotting early contenders for accolades is never an easy task—and some might still argue that the everything at last year’s Sundance was eclipsed by Kevin Smith’s ego anyway—but while we can’t predict what will break out, we can point you to certain films that seem tailored specifically to the particular interests of The A.V. Club readership.
For instance, Save The Date, previously known as “that movie what has Alison Brie and Lizzy Caplan in it” that briefly crashed our servers when it was first rumored. And along those same stars-we-like lines, James Ponsoldt’s Smashed has a cast that includes Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, Octavia Spencer, and Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally, Rick Alverson’s sardonic drama The Comedy stars a very toned-down Tim And Eric in the lead roles, and Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, and New Girl’s Jake Johnson star in a comedy about reporters investigating time travelers called Safety Not Guaranteed. These are things you are expected to see and have an opinion on later, so get to know them now.
Also, while the slate seems sort of heavy on stories about families being torn apart, there are also plenty of movies about sex, including one with William H. Macy and John Hawkes about a “sex surrogate.” And if there’s one thing Sundance audiences have been proven to like, it’s sex and John Hawkes. The full dramatic competition slate is below; you can see the foreign and documentary entries here, which includes a lot of movies about poor people and one about YouTube blogger Chris Crocker that people will probably preemptively make fun of but then rush to see. And of course, as always, our own Noel Murray and Nathan Rabin will be among those people come festival time (though not necessarily at that Chris Crocker movie).
Beasts of the Southern Wild/ U.S.A. (Director: Benh Zeitlin, Screenwriters: Benh Zeitlin, Lucy Alibar) — Waters gonna rise up, wild animals gonna rerun from the grave, and everything south of the levee is goin’ under, in this tale of a six year old named Hushpuppy, who lives with her daddy at the edge of the world. Cast: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry.
The Comedy/ U.S.A. (Director: Rick Alverson, Screenwriters: Rick Alverson, Robert Donne, Colm O'Leary) — Indifferent even to the prospects of inheriting his father's estate, Swanson whiles away his days with a group of aging Brooklyn hipsters, engaging in small acts of recreational cruelty and pacified boredom. Cast: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, Kate Lyn Sheil, Alexia Rassmusen, Gregg Turkington.
The End of Love/ U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Mark Webber) — A young father unravels following the loss of the mother of his child. Cast: Mark Webber, Shannyn Sossamon, Michael Cera, Jason Ritter, Amanda Seyfried, Frankie Shaw.
Filly Brown/ U.S.A. (Directors: Youssef Delara, Michael D. Olmos, Screenwriter: Youssef Delara) — A Hip Hop-driven drama about a Mexican girl who rises to fame and consciousness as she copes with the incarceration of her mother through music. Cast: Lou Diamond Phillips, Gina Rodriguez, Jenni Rivera, Edward James Olmos.
The First Time/ U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jonathan Kasdan) — Two high schoolers meet at a party. Over the course of a weekend, things turn magical, romantic, complicated and funny, as they discover what it's like to fall in love for the first time. Cast: Brittany Robertson, Dylan O'Brien, Craig Roberts, James Frecheville, Victoria Justice.
For Ellen/ U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: So Yong Kim) — A struggling musician takes an overnight long-distance drive in order to fight his estranged wife for custody of their young daughter. Cast: Paul Dano, Jon Heder, Jena Malone, Margarita Levieva, Shay Mandigo.
Hello I Must Be Going/ U.S.A. (Director: Todd Louiso, Screenwriter: Sarah Koskoff) — Divorced, childless, demoralized and condemned to move back in with her parents at the age of 35, Amy Minsky's prospects look bleak – until the unexpected attention of a teenage boy changes everything. Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Blythe Danner, Christopher Abbott, John Rubinstein, Julie White. DAY ONE FILM
Keep the Lights On/ U.S.A. (Director: Ira Sachs, Screenwriters: Ira Sachs, Mauricio Zacharias) —An autobiographically inspired story of a passionate long-term relationship between two men driven by addiction and secrets but bound by love and hopefulness. Cast: Thure Lindhardt, Zachary Booth, Julianne Nicholson, Souleymane Sy Savane, Paprika Steen.
LUV/ U.S.A. (Director: Sheldon Candis, Screenwriters: Sheldon Candis, Justin Wilson) — An orphaned 11-year-old boy is forced to face the unpleasant truth about his beloved uncle during one harrowing day in the streets of Baltimore. Cast: Common, Michael Rainey Jr., Dennis Haysbert, Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton.
Middle Of Nowhere/ U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Ava DuVernay) — When her husband is incarcerated, an African-American woman struggles to maintain her marriage and her identity. Cast: Emayatzy Corinealdi, David Oyelowo, Omari Hardwick, Lorraine Touissant, Edwina Findley.
Nobody Walks/ U.S.A. (Director: Ry Russo-Young, Screenwriters: Lena Dunham, Ry Russo-Young) — Martine, a young artist from New York, is invited into the home of a hip, liberal LA family for a week. Her presence unravels the family’s carefully maintained status quo, and a mess of sexual and emotional entanglements ensues. Cast: John Krasinski, Olivia Thirlby, Rosemarie DeWitt, India Ennenga, Justin Kirk.
Safety Not Guaranteed/ U.S.A. (Director: Colin Trevorrow, Screenwriter: Derek Connolly) — A trio of magazine employees investigate a classified ad seeking a partner for time travel. One employee develops feelings for the paranoid but compelling loner and seeks to discover what he’s really up to. Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson, Karen Soni.
Save the Date/ U.S.A. (Director: Michael Mohan, Screenwriters: Jeffrey Brown, Egan Reich, Michael Mohan) — As her sister Beth prepares to get married, Sarah finds herself caught up in an intense post-breakup rebound. The two fumble through the redefined emotional landscape of modern day relationships, forced to relearn how to love and be loved. Cast: Lizzy Caplan, Alison Brie, Martin Starr, Geoffrey Arend, Mark Webber.
Simon Killer/ France, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Antonio Campos) — A recent college graduate goes to Paris after breaking up with his girlfriend of 5 years. Once there, he falls in love with a young prostitute and their fateful journey begins. Cast: Brady Corbet, Mati Diop, Constance Rousseau, Michael Abiteboul, Solo.
Smashed/ U.S.A. (Director: James Ponsoldt, Screenwriters: Susan Burke, James Ponsoldt) — Kate and Charlie are a young married couple whose bond is built on a mutual love of music, laughter and… drinking. When Kate decides to get sober, her new lifestyle brings troubling issues to the surface and calls into question her relationship with Charlie. Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, Octavia Spencer, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally.
The Surrogate/ U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Ben Lewin) — Mark O'Brien, a 36-year-old poet and journalist with an iron lung, decides he no longer wishes to be a virgin. With the help of his therapist and the guidance of his priest, he contacts a professional sex surrogate to take him on a journey to manhood. Cast: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy.