SUNDANCE 2008

Alex's Sundance 08 Pre-Fest Picks and Peeks

by
December 4, 2007

Sundance 08

With the Sundance 2008 official line-up announced (part 1 and part 2), and the fest only 46 more days away, I'm already starting to pack and prepare. After looking over the complete list and doing some extensive research, I've come up with 42 of my picks for Sundance 08. I love Sundance more than any other annual event, any other big trips, any other movie outtings, and I'm really looking forward to many of the films that will be debuting this year. Disclaimer: These are all just my personal picks! If there's something missing that you think I should really see, leave a comment below, but don't go off yelling at me for leaving something off.

I've got that "feeling" that my favorites of the fest might be Be Kind Rewind, Choke, or Death in Love, but I'm trying not to get too hyped so as to ruin the experience of any film. Don't forget to keep your eye on Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?, the very last one in this list. I've got a feeling it will be the most talked about movie at Sundance and will head in and come out with lots and lots of buzz.

August
August
(Spectrum)
Director: Austin Chick
Actors: Josh Hartnett, Adam Scott, Naomie Harris
An aggressive young dot-com entrepreneur struggles to keep his head above water as the bottom falls out of the market in August of 2001.

Baghead
Baghead
(Spectrum)
Director: Mark & Jay Duplass
Actors: Steve Zissis, Ross Partridge, Greta Gerwig
As previously done in their last film The Puffy Chair, the Duplass Brothers explore the minutiae of relationship dynamics in this in-depth study of a group of desperate actor friends. And a bag. And a head.

Be Kind Rewind
Be Kind Rewind
(Premieres)
Director: Michel Gondry
Actors: Jack Black, Mos Def, Mia Farrow, Danny Glover
When a man whose body accidentally becomes magnetized unintentionally erases every tape in his friend's video store, the pair set out to remake the lost films, including Back to the Future, The Lion King and RoboCop.

Birds of America
(Spectrum)
Director: Craig Lucas
Actors: Matthew Perry, Ginnifer Goodwin, Ben Foster
Three siblings couldn’t be more different, or more neurotic. But when they find themselves converging at the family manse, they become surprisingly indispensable to one another.

Blind Date
Blind Date
(Spectrum)
Director: Stanley Tucci
Actors: Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Thijs Romer
A married couple has suffered a tragedy, and now the only way they can relate to one another is by meeting as different characters through a series of personal ads. A remake of the original work by the late Dutch director Theo van Gogh.

Bottle Shock
Bottle Shock
(Spectrum)
Director: Randall Miller
Actors: Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Chris Pine, Rachael Taylor, Freddy Rodríguez, Eliza Dushku
The story of the early days of California wine making featuring the now infamous, blind Paris wine tasting of 1976 that has come to be known as "Judgment of Paris."

The Brøken
The Brøken
(Midnight)
Director: Sean Ellis
Actors: Lena Heady, Richard Jenkins, Asier Newman
On a busy London street a woman sees herself driving by in her own car. Stunned, she trails the mystery woman as events take an eerie turn into a living nightmare.

Captain Abu Raed
Captain Abu Raed
(World Dramatic Competition)
Director: Amin Matalqa
Actors: Nadim Sawalha, Hussein Al-Sous, Rana Sultan
An aging airport janitor who is mistaken for an airline pilot by a group of poor neighborhood children weaves fantastical stories to offer hope for a sad, and sometimes unchangeable, reality.

Choke
Choke
(Dramatic Competition)
Director: Clark Gregg
Actors: Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, Kelly MacDonald, Brad Henke
An adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's (Fight Club) novel, Choke is the sardonic story about mother and son relationship, fear of aging, sexual addiction, and the dark side of historical theme parks.

Chronic Town
Chronic Town
(Spectrum)
Director: Tom Hines
Actors: JR Bourne, Emily Wagner, Dan Butler
A bittersweet slice-of-life comedy about a cab driver with substance abuse problems who weathers a cold Alaskan winter with his cadre of friends and lovers.

The Deal
The Deal
(Premieres)
Director: Steven Schachter
Actors: William H. Macy, Meg Ryan, LL Cool J
A long-time Hollywood producer on the verge of suicide cons a major studio into financing a $100-million film based on a non-existent script, starring a black action star who has converted to Judaism.

Death in Love
Death in Love
(Premieres)
Director: Boaz Yakin
Actors: Josh Lucas, Jacqueline Bisset, Adam Brody, Lukas Haas
A self-assured but neurotic 40-year-old bachelor attempts to make sense of his complicated life as he negotiates his sexual relationships in the shadow of his mother’s concentration camp experience.

Diminished Capacity
Diminished Capacity
(Premieres)
Director: Terry Kinney
Actors: Matthew Broderick, Alan Alda, Virginia Madsen, Dylan Baker
Learning that his senile uncle harbors a priceless baseball card, Cooper embarks on a road trip intent on selling it to save money for his uncle's later years. He and his friends become entangled in the oddball world of baseball memorabilia and love.

Downloading Nancy
Downloading Nancy
(Dramatic Competition)
Director: Johan Renck
Actors: Maria Bello, Jason Patric, Rufus Sewell, Amy Brenneman
The tale of an unhappy wife whose online search for someone to put her out of her misery results in a torturous love affair.

The Escapist
The Escapist
(Premieres)
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Actors: Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes, Seu Jorge, Damian Lewis
A convict twelve years into a life sentence is determined to make peace with his sick daughter. He develops an ingenious escape plan, recruiting a band of misfits to put it into action.

Funny Games
Funny Games
(Midnight)
Director: Michael Haneke
Actors: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet, Devon Gearhart
A family settles into its vacation home, which happens to be the next stop for a pair of young, articulate, white-gloved serial killers on an excursion through the neighborhood.

Good Dick
Good Dick
(Dramatic Competition)
Director: Marianna Palka
Actors: Jason Ritter, Marianna Palka, Tom Arnold, Mark Webber
The tale of a lonely girl drawn from her isolated life and solitary apartment by a doting young video store clerk who strives to capture her affections.

The Great Buck Howard
The Great Buck Howard
(Premieres)
Director: Sean McGinly
Actors: Colin Hanks, John Malkovich, Emily Blunt, Tom Hanks, Steve Zahn
When a law school dropout answers an advertisement to be a personal assistant he unknowingly signs on to work for a belligerent has-been magician struggling to resurrect his career. This leads to a journey across the country staging the comeback of a lifetime.

Hell Ride
Hell Ride
(Midnight)
Director: Larry Bishop
Actors: Larry Bishop, Dennis Hopper, Michael Madsen
Quentin Tarantino presents this bloody, sexy tale of motorcycle revenge. It's a modern-day take on 1960s motorcycle flicks, with bikers who hit the road to avenge the death of one of their "old ladies" at the hands of a rival motorcycle gang.

Henry Poole is Here
Henry Poole is Here
(Premieres)
Director: Mark Pellington
Actors: Luke Wilson, Radha Mitchell, Cheryl Hines, Adriana Barraza
Henry Poole abandons his fiancée and family business to spend what he believes are his remaining days alone. The discovery of a "miracle" by a nosy neighbor ruptures his solitude and restores his faith in life.

I Always Wanted to be a Gangster
I Always Wanted to be a Gangster
(World Dramatic Competition)
Director: Samuel Benchetrit
Actors: Sergi López, Jean Rochefort, Alain Bashung, Anna Mouglalis
Told in four vignettes, this existential comedy relates the exploits of four aspiring criminals who hope to improve their lot, but find that they might not have what it takes for a life of crime.

In Bruges
In Bruges
(Premieres)
Director: Martin McDonagh
Actors: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Clémence Poésy
Two London hit men are ordered to take a forced vacation in Bruges, Belgium. This is the suspenseful, twisted tale of how their time in exile goes awry.

The Last Word
The Last Word
(Dramatic Competition)
Director: Geoff Haley
Actors: Winona Ryder, Wes Bentley, Ray Romano
An off-beat romantic comedy about a solitary writer who makes his living composing other people's suicide notes. After meeting the sister of a recently deceased client, he finds his reclusive life and secret career upended by an unusual romance.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
(Dramatic Competition)
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Actors: Jon Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Sienna Miller, Mena Suvari, Nick Nolte
Based on Michael Chabon's novel, the film chronicles the defining summer of a recent college graduate who crosses his gangster father and explores love, sexuality, and the enigmas surrounding his life and his city.

Otto; Or, Up With Dead People
Otto; Or, Up With Dead People
(Midnight)
Director: Bruce LaBruce
Actors: Jey Crisfar, Katharina Klewinghaus, Susanne Sachsse
A lonely gay zombie searches for love and meaning in contemporary Berlin.

Perro Come Perro
Perro Come Perro (Dog Eat Dog)
(World Dramatic Competition)
Director: Carlos Moren
Actors: Marlon Moreno, Oscar Borda, Alvaro Rodríguez
In the crime world of Colombia, there is an unwritten code. When Víctor and Eusebio, two hoods who bungle a shake-down job, break that code, they unwittingly sign their own death sentence.

Phoebe in Wonderland
Phoebe in Wonderland
(Dramatic Competition)
Director: Daniel Barnz
Actors: Elle Fanning, Felicity Huffman, Patricia Clarkson, Bill Pullman, Campbell Scott
Confounded by her clashes with the seemingly rule-obsessed world, a little girl takes her already dysfunctional family down the rabbit hole when she seeks enlightenment from her unconventional drama teacher.

Pretty Bird
Pretty Bird
(Dramatic Competition)
Director: Paul Schneider
Actors: Billy Crudup, Paul Giamatti, Kristen Wiig
A comic tale of three would-be entrepreneurs who set out to invent a rocket belt. The clash of their mismatched personalities soon dissolves the business into a morass of recriminations, retaliations, kidnapping, and murder in this parable of American dreams and delusions.

Red
Red
(Spectrum)
Director: Trygve Diesen
Actors: Brian Cox, Tom Sizemore, Kim Dickens
An older, reclusive man's best friend and inspiration for living is his 14-year-old dog named "Red." When three troublesome teens kill the dog for no good reason, the grieving man sets out for justice and redemption by whatever means available to him.

Sleep Dealer
Sleep Dealer
(Dramatic Competition)
Director: Alex Rivera
Actors: Luis Fernando Peña, Leonor Varela, Jacob Vargas
Set in a near-future, militarized world marked by closed borders, virtual labor and a global digital network that joins minds and experiences, three strangers risk their lives to connect with each other and break the barriers of technology.

Sleepwalking
Sleepwalking
(Premieres)
Director: Bill Maher
Actors: Nick Stahl, AnnaSophia Robb, Charlize Theron, Dennis Hopper, Woody Harrelson
A young man ill equipped to raise his abandoned niece is forced to take responsibility when faced with the prospect of losing her to a foster home.

Smart People
Smart People
(Premieres)
Director: Noam Murro
Actors: Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church, Ellen Page
An acerbic and self-absorbed literature professor has alienated his son and turned his daughter into an overachieving, friendless teen. When his brother unexpectedly shows up at his door, the man is forced is to confront his own life.

Sugar
Sugar
(Dramatic Competition)
Director: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
Actors: Algenis Perez Soto
Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who last teamed up for Half Nelson, chronicle the journey of Dominican baseball star Miguel "Sugar" Santos recruited from his native country to play in the U.S. minor leagues.

Sunshine Cleaning
Sunshine Cleaning
(Dramatic Competition)
Director: Christine Jeffs
Actors: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Steve Zahn, Alan Arkin
Struck by financial hardship, an ambitious mother and her unmotivated sister become entrepreneurs in the field of biohazard removal and crime scene clean-up.

Timecrimes (Los Cronocrímenes)
Timecrimes (Los Cronocrímenes)
(Midnight)
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Actors: Karra Elejalde, Candela Fernández, Bárbara Goenaga
A man accidentally travels back to the past, only to meet himself there. He also encounters a series of mysteries--pieces of an unpredictable jigsaw puzzle of terror, drama, and supsense--that all lead to an unthinkable crime.

Towelhead
Towelhead
(Premieres)
Director: Alan Ball
Actors: Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, Toni Collette, Summer Bishil
The life of a 13-year-old Arab-American girl is illuminated as she navigates her way through the confusing and frightening path of adolescence and sexual awakening.

Transsiberian
Transsiberian
(Premieres)
Director: Brad Anderson
Actors: Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, Kate Mara, Thomas Kretschmann, Ben Kingsley
A Trans-Siberian train journey from China to Moscow becomes a thrilling chase of deception and murder when an American couple encounters a mysterious pair of fellow travelers.

The Visitor
The Visitor
(Premieres)
Director: Tom McCarthy
Actors: Richard Jenkins, Hiam Abbass, Haaz Sleiman, Danai Gurira
A college professor becomes embroiled in the lives of a young immigrant couple he discovers squatting in his Manhattan apartment. Confronted with adversity, these strangers become inextricably bound together.

The Wackness
The Wackness
(Dramatic Competition)
Director: Jonathan Levine
Actors: Josh Peck, Ben Kingsley, Famke Janssen, Olivia Thirlby, Mary Kate Olsen, Method Man
During a sweltering New York summer, a troubled teenage drug dealer trades pot for therapy sessions with a drug-addled psychiatrist, and in the process falls for the doctor's daughter.

The Wave
The Wave
(World Dramatic Competition)
Director: Dennis Gansel
Actors: Juergen Vogel, Frederick Lau, Max Riemelt, Jennifer Ulrich
A high school teacher's unusual experiment to demonstrate to his students what life is like under a dictatorship spins horribly out of control when he forms a social unit with a life of its own.

What Just Happened?
What Just Happened?
(Premieres)
Director: Barry Levinson
Actors: Robert DeNiro, Bruce Willis, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener, Stanley Tucci, John Turturro
A comedy about a desperate movie producer who is trying to survive a crazed director, a shameless actor, a clueless executive, a battered agent, and above all a broken second marriage while struggling to maintain a shred of dignity.

Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?
Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?
(Spectrum Documentary)
Director: Morgan Spurlock
Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock explores every nook and cranny of the Middle East on a quest to find the world's most wanted man. The rumor is he found him, but everyone on the film is keeping tight-lipped.

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  • http://rowthree.com Marina
    Excellent lineup Alex. I have to admit I'm a bit jealous but I look forward to your coverage. There's more than one movie on you list that's on my "to see" list.
  • http://movieguyreviews4u.blogspot.com Ryan
    Cool line-up, haven't heard of a lot of them but no I really want to see them like Downloading Nancy and the Deal sounds hilarious! But I am DYING to see FUNNY GAMES. I love Watts....but Be Kind, Rewind looks funny and Smart People sounds good too.
  • Jessica
    How can you not think Sunshine Cleaning will be one of your faves?
  • http://www.myspace.com/mysteriesofpittsburgh franQ
    I wouldn't put too much faith in Rawson Marshall Thurber's adaptation of THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH. How he ever got his hands on this property is a "mystery" to me! If you're a fan of the Michael Chabon novel you'll be saddened to learn that 85% of the original story has been CHANGED... RMT has completely CUT gay Arthur Lecomte (the catalyst for ALL of the action in the book), reduced Phlox Lombardi to Art Bechstein's "sometimes girlfriend," and turned Cleveland Arning into Art's bisexual lover, along with Jane Bellwether, who's barely in the book! I've read the screenplay and it's not bad... Just not the MOP fans have loved and been waiting to see on screen for almost 20 years. Don't trust my opinion? Email me for a copy of the script: bechstein[at]yahoo[dot]com

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