Sundance 2013: Our Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of the Festival

January 14, 2013

Sundance Film Festival

It's almost time! Kicking off this week in snowy Park City, Utah is the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, where both Ethan and I are headed for 10 days to see fresh new indie films non-stop. To clue everyone in on some of the movies we've taken an interest in, here's our pick of the Top 10 films we're excited for, ones we're keeping an eye on and will be seeing at the earliest opportunity. Alex has chosen five he's interested in, and Ethan has also chosen another five he's excited to see from the extensive and fresh 119-film line-up this year. You never know how any of these will turn out, but I'm hoping some of ’em are as good as they sound.

This is my (Alex's) seventh year returning to Sundance, and Ethan's third year back. We're both very excited and happy to be attending Sundance as press again, as there seems to be something particularly enticing about this year's set of films. From Upstream Color to Before Midnight and everything inbetween, even Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut and the S-VHS sequel, there's a lot we're anxious to see and even more we hope to discover. For now, here's our list of Top 10 most anticipated pre-festival Sundance films.

Alex's Top 5 Sundance 2013 Pre-Fest Picks:

Upstream Color
Upstream Color
Directed by Shane Carruth

In 2004, a then-unknown filmmaker premiered his time-travel feature Primer at the festival, winning the Grand Jury Prize and Alfred P. Sloan Prize. Now nine years later, Shane Carruth is back with his second feature, a mysterious film called Upstream Color that seems to focus on a tense relationship. As with Primer, Carruth stars again as the lead, along with Amy Seimetz as Kris. The guide doesn't shed much light on what's going on, besides to say that "the two search urgently for a place of safety within each other as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of their wrecked lives." My fascination with this young filmmaker's Primer follow up is more than enough to make it one of my most anticipated of the fest. I'm looking forward to seeing it, even if I disliking it in the end, I'm sure there will be much to discuss.

The Way, Way Back
The Way, Way Back
Directed by Nat Faxon & Jim Rash

This one snuck its way onto the 2013 line-up and earns a spot on here because it sounds fun, but sweet, and you can't go wrong with an indie set at a water park. It "tells the story of 14-year-old Duncan's awkward, funny, and sometimes painful summer vacation with his mother, Pam, her overbearing boyfriend, Trent, and his daughter, Steph. Although Duncan has a tough time fitting in and finding his place, he does find an unlikely ally and mentor in Owen, a carefree employee at the local water park where Duncan gets a job." Best of all, it stars great folks like Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph and Liam James. I'm expecting this to be one of the highlights, if it turns out great.

The Spectacular Now
The Spectacular Now
Directed by James Ponsoldt

This sounds like it could be the real gem, for many reasons. First, I totally loved director James Ponsoldt's last film, Smashed, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead from Sundance last year. Second, it stars two up-and-coming actors in what could be strong coming-of-age roles: Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) and Miles Teller (Footloose). Third, it seems to be set in the 80s as a teen romance: "But after being dumped by his girlfriend, Sutter gets drunk and wakes up on a lawn with Aimee Finicky hovering over him. Not a member of the cool crowd, she’s different: the 'nice girl' who reads science fiction and doesn’t have a boyfriend. She does have dreams, while Sutter lives in a world of impressive self-delusion. And yet they’re drawn to each other." And top it all off, the the rest of the cast kicks ass: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kyle Chandler, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bob Odenkirk. Easily one of my most anticipated.

Breathe In
Breathe In
Directed by Drake Doremus

This is the latest film from one of my other favorite up-and-coming directors, Drake Doremus, whose last Sundance film Like Crazy from 2011 two years ago went on to win Grand Jury Prize and was one of my favorite films of the whole year. If he can make something even half as good as Like Crazy, and I believe he has, I think we're all in for a treat. Guy Pearce and Felicity Jones (of Like Crazy) star, with Amy Ryan and Mackenzie Davis, in this seemingly intimate romantic drama involving a a foreign exchange student in a small upstate New York town. "She challenges the dynamics of her host family's relationships and alters their lives forever." Sounds fun. "Doremus conceives a grander story of love and heartache, only heightened by his lead character’s symphonic avocation, while maintaining his keen eye for intimate performance."

Directed by Joshua Michael Stern

But of course this made the list; I'm an Apple and Steve Jobs fanboy! iPhone 5 in my pocket. Plus, I just really want to see this story as a Sundance Film Festival indie film. There's already so much buzz. The first major feature since Steve Jobs' death, starring Ashton Kutcher who looks remarkably similar to him (in his younger years), about Jobs' earliest years developing Apple Computer with Steve Wozniak, played by Josh Gad. While this isn't the Aaron Sorkin version, this could still be an outstanding cinematic look at the innovator, and if done right could be one of my favorites of the year. While I'm not that familiar with the director, I'm looking forward to seeing Kutcher's take on Jobs and how the story plays out, how much they show or don't show of his life, and if this is an invigorating, intellectual biopic worthy of Jobs' legacy.

Close calls: C.O.G., S-VHS, Fruitvale, Touchy Feely and Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman.

Ethan's Top 5 Sundance 2013 Pre-Fest Picks:

Sound City
Sound City
Directed by Dave Grohl

In my opinion, the Foo Fighters are one of the last great straight-up rock and roll bands out there. I'm not talking about alternative, grunge, or any subgenre, but just rock music. Therefore, when I heard the band's frontman and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl was directing and producing the feature documentary Sound City about the infamous recording studio in Van Nuys, California, I was pumped. Then when I found out the film was going to be at Sundance this year, I really flipped out. This is easily my most anticipated documentary at the festival featuring musicians like Stevie Nicks, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Trent Reznor, Rick Springfield and Paul McCartney. We'll definitely review the film from the fest and are hoping to talk with Grohl, but in the meantime, watch the trailer right here.

In a World
In a World
Directed by Lake Bell

With a job of covering film news, one becomes quite familiar with voice overs in movie trailers, especially from the late, great Don LaFontaine. Now actress Lake Bell is getting behind the camera for her feature directorial debut, and in front of the camera as Carol Solomon, a struggling vocal coach and daughter of the reigning king of movie trailer voice-over artists. When Carol decides to venture out on her own to be a voiceover star, she becomes entangled in a web of dysfunction, sexism, unmitigated ego, and pride. This one sounds like it has the potential for some great inside baseball jokes from the entertainment industry with a cast that also includes Demetri Martin, Michaela Watkins, Ken Marino and Rob Corddry.

A.C.O.D. (Adult Child of Divorce)
A.C.O.D. (Adult Child of Divorce)
Directed by Stuart Zicherman

Another film festival, another directorial debut, this time from Stuart Zicherman, who co-created the Bad Robot romantic drama series "Six Degrees" and co-wrote Elektra (though we'll try not to hold that against him). This film is a far cry from comic book fare as it follows Adam Scott as Carter, a man who has spent much of his life mediating fights between his acrimoniously divorced, ill-behaved mother and father and taking on the role of designated authority figure to his carefree younger brother, Trey. In the film, Carter resolves to negotiate a truce between his parents, a process that nearly unhinges him. Scott's presences certainly sold me on this project, but the supporting cast also includes Richard Jenkins, Catherine O'Hara, Amy Poehler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Clark Duke, so there you go.

Ass Backwards
Ass Backwards
Directed by Chris Nelson

Apparently I have a penchant for the feature directorial debuts this year (though it's not hard to find them at festivals like Sundance) as this comedy marks the debut of commercial helmer Chris Nelson. This road trip comedy follows Kate and Chloe (Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael, who also wrote the film, seen above), best friends since tying for last in a childhood hometown beauty pageant, now grown up and living in NYC. And when the two receive an invitation to a milestone anniversary for the all but forgotten pageant, they decided to head home and try to win the crown this time. Wilson and Raphael have appeared in a variety of big comedies, and I can't wait to see what they do leading a comedy like this.

Before Midnight
Before Midnight
Directed by Richard Linklater

You probably could have guessed this. After appearing at #13 on the list of my 13 Most Anticipated Films of 2013, Before Midnight is easily the film I'm most excited to see at Sundance. After premiering in January of 1995, the character driven and well-written and acted romance Before Sunrise had an unlikely sequel, Before Sunset, arrive nine years later reuniting the electrifying duo of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy with director Richard Linklater. Now here we are, another nine years later and we have a third film featuring the charming couple, always separated by time and their own lives. This time the film finds them in Greece, catching up on each other's lives, responsibilities and more that comes with being in their 40s.

For more Sundance 2013 previews articles around the web, check out:'s 15 Movies People Will Be Talking About, JoBlo's Sundance 2013 Preview, Twitch's Sundance 2013 Preview, and finally from Film School Rejects: Rob's 10 Most Anticipated Films, Kate's 10 Most Anticipated Films and Allison's 10 Most Anticipated Films. Plenty of intriguing films on the 2013 line-up to watch.

You can follow our Sundance 2013 coverage and updates in this category. The festival kicks off January 17th and runs to the 27th, with films premiering for 10 days. Cannot wait for this year's Sundance to begin!

Find more posts: Indies, Sundance 13



I would add Don Jon's Addiction.

lykathea on Jan 14, 2013


I haven't been able to watch Smashed yet and I have wanted to since last sundance festival, do any of you know if it was released in theaters or still is or out on DVD?

Zade_92 on Jan 14, 2013


Smashed hits Blu-Ray and DVD on March 12th. It got a limited release last year, but never went really wide.

Ethan Anderton on Jan 14, 2013


Hmm, I don't see a "smash hit" in this line-up, besides jOBS, but cult-followers will flock to it regardless of how good/bad it is, hehe.

David Banner on Jan 14, 2013


Yea I mean, honestly it's hard to predict early. For example, I didn't even know what Beasts of the Southern Wild was until mid-way through the festival last year. I caught it after hearing buzz at the fest, and was blown away. The buzz only truly really begins once the fest is underway!

Alex Billington on Jan 15, 2013


Will Bob $tencil have time for Sundance this year?

David Banner on Jan 16, 2013

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