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2013 Sundance Wrap-Up! (including our top 10)

And so another edition of the Sundance Film Festival is over and done with. Once again, I was lucky enough to attend for JoBlo.com (my fourth time), and I had an absolute blast. I ended up reviewing twenty-nine movies; as opposed to the twenty I did last year, which should give you an idea of how many films that were well worth seeing. Heck, even at twenty-nine, I missed one biggie- FRUITVALE, which won the Grand Jury and Audience Awards, right after being bought by The Weinstein Company. Hopefully, I’ll get to catch up with it somewhere down the line, but I’m sure the Weinsteins will put it out sooner rather than later.

Otherwise, tons of films that I saw, including THE WAY, WAY BACK, THE SPECTACULAR NOW, KILL YOUR DARLINGS, PRINCE AVALANCHE, LOVELACE, THE LOOK OF LOVE, and more- walked away with good distribution deals, so you can reasonably expect them to start trickling out within the next few months. Of course- they weren’t all winners- as at every fest, I saw a few clunkers, including the insipid AUSTENLAND (produced by Stephanie Meyer of TWILIGHT- natch), THE LIFEGUARD and the atrocious SWEETWATER. Still, the good far outweighed the bad.

The following is a list of my personal top ten from Sundance, along with notes about their distribution deals, so you can have an idea if/when you’ll be seeing them soon. I’ve also included links to all my reviews below. I hope you find a good selection of films to look forward to.

C.O.G, MAGIC, MAGIC, THE LIFEGUARD, BREATHE IN, IN FEAR, AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS, KILL YOUR DARLINGS, A.C.O.D, JOBS, UPSTREAM COLOR, SWEETWATER, ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW, THE SPECTACULAR NOW, LOVELACE, HELL BABY, THE WAY, WAY BACK, PRINCE AVALANCHE, THE NECESSARY DEATH OF CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN, THE LOOK OF LOVE, BEFORE MIDNIGHT, THE EAST, STOKER, EMANUEL AND THE TRUTH ABOUT FISHES, S-VHS, DON JON’S ADDICTION, MUD, AUSTENLAND, CRYSTAL FAIRY WHO IS DAYANI CRISTAL

1- THE EAST

Zat Batmanglij’s THE EAST was the Sundance entry that really took me by surprise. Walking in, I expected something like the director’s previous collaboration with writer-star Brit Marling, THE SOUND OF MY VOICE. That was an intriguing art film, but THE EAST is a pretty large-canvas thriller- the type that would make its late producer, Tony Scott, proud. THE EAST is the rare film that totally gets its audience to side with the “bad guys” and against the agents in charge of taking them down- and it’s a 120 minute thrill-ride that I honestly can’t wait to see again. This was an “in-house” Fox Searchlight production, so it’ll get a good theatrical release at some point this year. Hopefully it’ll be big enough that people will check it out. It deserves to be a big cross-over hit. READ MY REVIEW HERE!

2- THE SPECTACULAR NOW

Following up on SMASHED, which was a breakout hit at last year’s edition of Sundance, director James Ponsoldt is back with THE SPECTACULAR NOW. Like his last film, it’s about alcoholism, although I’d wager this is a far less somber, more mainstream friendly film. Miles Teller plays the hero, Sutter Keely, like an alcoholic Ferris Bueller, and it’s truly a star-making part. He gets able support for Shailene Woodley, as the girl he falls for. Upstart A24 picked this one up for a (presumed) wide release. I imagine this would make great summer counter-programming. If you enjoyed PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, this is for you. READ MY REVIEW HERE!

3- UPSTREAM COLOR

Shane Carruth’s long-awaited follow up to PRIMER, I’d expect this to polarize audiences when Carruth, who’s self-distributing on a variety of platforms, opens the movie this April. I loved it, but it’s certainly an acquired taste. Having never seen PRIMER, I can’t say whether this is more or less confusing, but to me- being confused is beside the point. Carruth’s film is something you just have to surrender to, and it’s guaranteed, even if you hate it, to provoke conversation. READ MY REVIEW HERE

4- BEFORE MIDNIGHT

Richard Linklater’s long-awaited follow-up to BEFORE SUNRISE and BEOFRE SUNSET picks up with Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) nine years after their reunion in SUNSET. If you think everything’s all roses for them- you don’t know this series. Watching these two is like catching up with old friends, and I’m eager for a fourth film- even if we’ll likely have to wait another nine years. Sony Classics picked this one up- so it’ll get a good art-house release, likely this summer. READ MY REVIEW HERE!

5- EMANUEL AND THE TRUTH ABOUT FISHES

EMANUEL AND THE TRUTH ABOUT FISHES, to me anyways, was this year’s WINTER’S BONE or MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE. It introduced me to Kaya Scodelario, a hypnotically beautiful young actress, who plays the title role. Scodelario’s going to be a star- no doubt about it, but even overlooking her, this is still a breathtaking film, with standout work from everyone from Aneurin Barnard, Alfred Molina, and even Jessica Biel. See it- but again, it’s an acquired taste. READ MY REVIEW HERE!

6- MUD

Jeff Nichols is three-for-three with MUD, which follows his stunning work with SHOTGUN STORIES and TAKE SHELTER. MUD is a more accessible movie than either of those, with yet another amazing performance from comeback kid Matthew McConaughey. This has a little of everything- it’s a coming of age drama, an ode to a dying way of life, a romance, and it’s even got a little action. I loved it- but the way to see it is on the big-screen. Roadside Attractions is putting it out in April, on a variety of platforms. I suppose VOD is acceptable, but I’d encourage people to see this in theaters. READ MY REVIEW HERE!

7- DON JON'S ADDICTION

DON JON’S ADDICTION is the feature directing debut of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Like I said in my review, it’s unfair that this guy is so immediately good at everything, with DON JON having the polish of a film directed by a veteran. While the thought of Levitt playing a contemporary Don Juan may rub some the wrong way, that’s not really what this is. Think of it as a more upbeat version of SHAME. Given Levitt’s stature, Relativity Media picked it up, and will be opening it wide at some point this year. READ MY REVIEW HERE!

8- S-VHS

Even if you didn’t like VHS, I’d recommend checking out S-VHS, which is an improvement over its predecessor in every way imaginable. Another anthology film, the directors, including Eduardo Sanchez (LOVELY MOLLY & BLAIR WITCH PROJECT), Gareth Evans (THE RAID) and Jason Eisener (HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN) have made the best anthology movie I’ve ever seen. It’s amazing- with Evans’ centerpiece story being the forty-minute standout. Magnolia is putting this out on VOD and limited theatrical (the real way to see it) - likely this fall. This would make a great midnight movie. READ MY REVIEW HERE!

9- STOKER

STOKER, directed by Park Chan-Wook, is a heavily anticipated genre exercise that doesn’t disappoint. If anyone thought Park’s style would be watered down by an American studio, think again as this is his most extreme film since SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE. Everyone, from Mia Wasikowska to Nicole Kidman is great, but the standout is Matthew Goode as the mysterious Uncle Charlie. This is slick, stylish, and often brilliant. Fox Searchlight is putting it out wide in March. READ MY REVIEW HERE!

10 - The Look of Love

Michael Winterbottom’s THE LOOK OF LOVE, which is very much in the style of his 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE, didn’t immediately captivate me, but looking back- there were few films I had more fun with than this debauched look at the life of sixties Soho porn king Paul Raymond. Steve Coogan gives another brilliant performance, with standout work from Imogen Poots as his troubled, coke-addled daughter. Lots of bad behavior on display in this one, but I loved it. In the UK, this will get a wide release, while IFC Films picked up the North American rights, meaning limited theatrical and VOD. Either way is a good way to see this. Also- Anna Friel (and many more) goes topless. Yup. READ MY REVIEW HERE!

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