The weather outside might be frightful, but in Park City, Utah, folks have just finished warming up to a couple dozen films a day at the annual Sundance Film Festival. Among the heavy contenders this year were some familiar faces, as well as some up-and-comers. Without giving too much away, here are the big winner films of the 2013 Sundance Films Festival you may want to check out.
Don Jon’s Addiction
The big comedy talk was Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut and spot-on performance in “Don Jon’s Addiction,” an upbeat picture also written by one of Hollywood’s most seen faces as of late.
The film surrounds Gordon-Levitt’s character, a grimy porn enthusiast who finds his soft fantasy addiction is affecting his hard reality. Of course, the comedy arises when he takes interest in a female character, played by Scarlett Johansson, who struggles with the exact opposite, an addiction to romantic comedies.
The film also stars Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum and the boss, Tony Danza. It scored well with the Sundance panel and was sold instantly for $4 million with an expected summer 2013 release. Well done, Joe.
The big kahuna of this year’s festival was Ryan Coogler’s screenplay and full-length directorial debut about a 22-year-old Bay Area boy who spends the last day of 2008 coming into the crosshairs of both his closest friends and enemies. The film took home the big honors of both the Grand Jury and Audience Awards in the U.S. Dramatic Competition.
“Fruitvale” follows the events of New Year's Eve leading up to the shooting of Oscar Grant, played by “Friday Night Lights” star Michael B. Jordan. The film also stars Octavia Spencer, Kevin Durand and Chad Michael Murray. Anybody who has seen it says it’s powerful and its climax point is too intense to prepare for, so put it on your to-see list.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Winner for best in cinematography, this rendition of man on the run gets a nod for its incredible cross-country visuals and cinematic genius. In the tale of a man fleeing from jail to find his wife and meet his new daughter, the storytelling is as good as its visuals.
The film stars Casey Affleck and Ben Foster, along with “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” star Rooney Mara. It was both written and directed by David Lowery, a multi-talented guy who is also a producer on another highly regarded film in the festival this year, “Upstream Color.”
Part three of the “Before Sunrise” trilogy written and directed by Richard Linklater, the film tells the story of a couple together in Greece nine years since we met them in the original Oscar-nominated film in 2004.
Starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, who both helped co-write the feature along with the first two films, “Before Midnight” has the two reprise their roles as Celine and Jesse in the beautiful city of Messinia. It might be in your best interest to check out the first two films, both worthy of your time, before heading into the third chapter.
The Way, Way Back
This coming-of-age comedy showcases a young boy maturing into manhood through the arms of a park’s manager. The film stars Liam James as the young boy with a little help from his comedic friends Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell and Rob Corddry. This film took home a lot of laughs at this year’s festival, probably more than Steve Carell is used to getting for some of his films. The film was written and directed by both Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, and also stars the lovely Amanda Peet, Toni Collette and AnnaSophia Robb.
Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl takes us on a rock ‘n roller coaster back to the days before auto-tune in this documentary about the longtime history behind the walls of Los Angeles recording studio, Sound City. Hidden in the valley of L.A., Sound City Studios has been a recording monument for incredible albums like Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” and other great acts along the way.
The documentary talks with hall-of-famers about their experiences with the studio, including the likes of Tom Petty, Neil Young and ex-Nirvana drummer and director himself, Dave Grohl.
The follow-up film from the director of “Primer” takes you through a meaning of life, science fiction romance with a plot almost too complex to really encapsulate. Like “Primer,” the film doesn’t fall into the normal wheelhouse of the everyday moviegoer, but it's specifically made for festivals like Sundance.
Starring the film’s director and writer, Shane Carruth, as well as Andrew Sensenig and Amy Seimetz, the cast will take you on a trip of life and illusion. The film was incredibly well-received at the festival, despite its potentially ill fate at the box office.
The Spectacular Now
This coming-of-age romantic drama was runner-up to “Fruitvale” in recognition as one of the festival’s best films, telling the story of a devil-may-care teen living an alcohol-abusive life before taking the advice of a young lady to confront his fears and find his estranged father.
The film was directed by James Pondsoldt, whose previous film “Smashed” was said to be a hard film for him to top. The polls all claim, however, it’s been done beautifully by the intelligently realistic director.
The film stars Miles Teller (“Project X”) and Shailene Woodley (“The Descendants”) as the film’s two teens, of course accompanied by the ultimate father figure, Kyle Chandler. The script was adapted from its book by the team that did “500 Days of Summer.”
This was the shaggy-haired tale everybody craved, as Michael Cera showed up to Sundance starring in two films this year. Written and directed by Sebastian Silva, the film tells the story of three semi-adolescent guys in a drug-induced trip of self-discovery in Chile with the likes of a consistently naked girl, played by Gaby Hoffmann.
The film showcases Cera as a bit of a hippie prick who is entangled in a story with a free-spirited Hoffmann, who just might teach him a thing or two about life, love and naked chicks. The festival honored the film with the directing award for a drama.
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Matthew McConaughey is back with another film that thankfully doesn’t scream girlfriend-movie-flop. Although "Mud" wasn’t awarded much recognition at the festival, it has received generally positive reviews. McConaughey is teamed up with “Tree of Life” youngster Tye Sheridan on this fugitive adventure story about two young boys who help an escaped criminal evade the law and find his lady love.
The film was written and directed by Jeff Nichols and will appear in theaters beginning April of this year.