"Sure," you say as you sift through all the Sundance Film Festival coverage at Cinematical and elsewhere on the Internets. "This looks like a lot of fun for the people in Park City. But what about me? Which of these should I pay attention to? Which movies are liable to be coming to a theater near me? TELL ME WHAT TO DO!"
There's no need to yell, but we understand your frustration. Sundance screened around 120 feature films, many of which, unfortunately, you'll never hear from again. Since there isn't room in anyone's brain to keep track of all of them -- heck, we're pretty sure even the Sundance programmers didn't watch a few of the movies they scheduled -- we've narrowed it down to these 10 that we think you'll be hearing about this year.
Blue Valentine Our Kevin Kelly loved it, and he wasn't alone -- the rave reviews for Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in this relationship drama far outnumbered the less-than-raves. The Weinstein Company, which has been looking for something to restore its prestige in the indie world, bought the film for a little over $1 million. Given TWC's recent history, this could mean Blue Valentine will never be seen again. On the other hand, if Harvey and Co. really are serious, maybe they'll aggressively push this one.
Buried Who wouldn't want to see Ryan Reynolds buried alive? We can start with the people who paid to see The Proposal. Erik Childress liked (but didn't love) Buried, which got a lot of buzz in Park City, especially after Lionsgate snatched it up for $3.2 million. It could be in theaters as soon as late spring.
Catfish "Sad, honest, creepy, and ultimately hopeful" is how Erik Davis described this documentary about stalking in the age of Facebook. It was one of the most acclaimed films at Sundance, right up until the end ... when some people began to wonder if certain parts of the "documentary" were faked. (Not so, say the filmmakers.) At the moment, no one has bought distribution rights yet, but Paramount has taken the unusual step of setting up a test screening, to see how it goes over with audiences. If it does well, the studio will presumably buy it. If Paramount passes, someone else will pick it up.
Hesher Audiences were divided on this odd, dark comedy starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a shirtless dirtbag who takes over a fractured family's household. But its fans were passionate and vocal; some said the film even brought them to tears. Newmarket paid about $1 million for the film after seeing it go after like gangbusters at a public screening in Salt Lake City, away from the Sundance bubble.
The Kids Are All Right Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are lesbian parents of two teenagers who decide to make contact with the kids' sperm-donor father, played by Mark Ruffalo. Sold already, aren't you? Focus Features paid $4.8 million -- the biggest deal of the festival -- for the comedy-drama, but didn't say when it would release it theatrically. I would suspect they'll hold it for the fall, when it might get some awards consideration.
The Killer Inside Me There's already controversy around this dark drama, based on a pulp novel, for its harrowing depiction of violence against women. Controversy often means higher grosses, too, as do notable names like Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, and director Michael Winterbottom. IFC Films bought it and will release it in late summer or early fall.
The Runaways Kevin Kelly was smitten with this rock 'n' roll biography of the Joan Jett/Cherie Currie grrl band of the late 1970s, which stars Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning. There's no suspense here: Before the festival even began, Apparition had already signed on as distributor. It will be in theaters on March 19.
The Tillman Story Another highly acclaimed documentary -- I didn't talk to anyone who saw it who didn't love it -- this is the story of NFL player Pat Tillman, who joined the Army in 2002 and was killed by "friendly fire" in Afghanistan. The latest word is that The Weinstein Company is circling this one, though no deal has been signed yet. But like Catfish, this doc has too much momentum to just disappear. Plus, it's about war, patriotism, and government cover-ups, topics that don't always make a lot of money but that seem to find their way into theaters anyway.
Twelve This teenage drug thriller, compared to Less Than Zero, was this year's train wreck. (Last year it was The Informers and Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.) Directed by Joel Schumacher, it prompted howls of unintended laughter at the press screening ... so hey, why not pay $2 million for theatrical rights? That's what Hannover House did, before it had even played to a festival audience presumably banking on the teen-friendly cast, which includes Chace Crawford, Emma Stone, 50 Cent and Kiefer Sutherland. Hannover says they'll do a major theatrical roll-out sometime this year.
Winter's Bone If I had to name one film as THE most acclaimed entry at this year's festival, it would be this one, which took home the Grand Jury Prize and earned rave reviews for its lead actress, Jennifer Lawrence. It seems to have been universally loved by everyone who saw it. That would include the people at Roadside Attractions, who plunked down "low to mid six figures" for it -- quite a bargain, if it turns out to be a success like the similarly themed Frozen River did a couple years ago.