Sundance 2012: Warming up

Posted by on Jan 19, 2012 in News & Reviews | No Comments

I arrived in Park City last night for my eighth Sundance Festival since 2001, and my first since 2009 (credit my esteemed colleague Kyle Smith’s recent blessed event for keeping him home).

While Park City doesn’t seem to have changed much — it was a gorgeous sight this morning with a couple of inches of overnight snow, even with jet lag — the festival has, of course, evolved during my three-year absence. The old press lounge at festival headquarters (the Park City Marriott, where I’m staying a fourth or fifth time) has been replaced by an industry-only lounge, and there are some new combination public/press and industry screenings provoking some grumbling this year. In fairness, the press has grumbled at virtually every film festival I’ve attended over the past 30 years.

Before I head out to Robert Redford’s opening press conference up at the Egyptian theater — and tonight’s first opener at the Eccles Theater (aka that big high school auditorium), the documentary “The Queen of Versailles” — whose subjects are suing the festival for defamation — a quick look at some films Im looking forward to, or at least I think may be newsworthy in one way or another:

“Bachelorette” — As far as I can tell, the loudest advance buzz surrounds this “Bridesmaids”-style comedy that debuting writer-director Leslye Headland adapted from her raunchy off-Broadway play set in New York City. Will Ferrell co-produced one of many films looking for distribution at the festival. The cast includes Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan and James Marsden.

“Lay the Favorite” — I’m a big fan of veteran director Stephen Frears and of Rebecca Hall, cast as “an adventurous young woman who gets involved with a group of geeky older men who have found a way to work the sportsbook system in Las Vegas.” With Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Vince Vaughn.

“2 Days in New York” — Director/star Julie Delpy (“Before Sunrise/Sunset”) intriguingly joins with Chris Rock in this romantic comedy.

“Red Hook Summer” — Spike Lee’s first feature in several years returns to Brooklyn for a small film about a man and his visiting grandson.

“Liberal Arts” — Last year’s Queen of Sundance, Elizabeth Olsen, as a 19-year-old college student who puts a thirty something guy (Josh Radnor, who also directed) under her spell. With Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney and my beloved Elizabeth Reasor.

“Red Lights” — Liz Olsen also plays Sigourney Weaver’s assistant, helping her investigate a world-renowned psychic who pay be a fraud. Cillian Murphy and Robert (Paycheck) DeNiro co-star.

“Nobody Walks” — A Sundance fish-out-of-water story about a young NYC artist (Olivia Thirlby) who spends a week with a “hip, liberal L.A. family” that includes (of course) John Krasinski.

“Predisposed” — Jesse Eisenberg as a musical prodigy and Melissa Leo as his drug-addict mom in what sure sounds like Oscar bait.

“Me @ the Zoo” — Documentary on You Tube fame whore-turned-porn star Chris Rocker.

“The Surrogate” — Sundance sensation John Hawkes (“Winter’s Bone,” “Marcy May”) as a poet with polio who decides to lose his virginity at 38 to a hired surrogate (Helen Hunt). With William H. Macy.

“Arbitrage” — Richard Gere as a hedge fund king trying to unload his company before his fraud is discovery. Susan Sarandon plays his wife in what may be this year’s “Margin Call.’

By Lou Lumenick

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