Sundance Rundown 2011

For a look at the shortlist of Sundance (potential) standouts, click here.

Thursday is the opening day of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. We gather here today to take a look at some of the most intriguing films of the festival this year. And also, last year’s festival showing Tucker and Dale vs. Evil STILL ISN’T IN THEATERS. I hate everyone.

An African Election (in competition)

Entered in the “foreign documentary” competition, this is Jarreth Merz’s doc about the 2008 presidential elections in Ghana. Promising an examination of the political machinery behind a struggling third-world democracy, I’m sure An African Election is some heavy shit, but it also seems like the kind of perspective those of who don’t struggle with democracy need to keep in mind.

Another Happy Day (in competition)

I’m sorry to foist Kate Bosworth on you, but this comes from first-time writer/director Sam Levinson and boasts a cast including Ellen Barkin, Ellen Burstyn, Thomas Haden Church, Jeffrey DeMunn (The Walking Dead) and Demi Moore. The action revolves around a crazy family wedding. Doesn’t sound like much special but there’s some buzz for this heading into the festival that has my curiosity piqued.

Cedar Rapids

Starring The Office’s Ed Helms and directed by Miguel Arteta (veteran of TV shows like Freaks & Geeks, Six Feet Under and The Office and 2009’s Youth in Revolt), I fear Cedar Rapids may rely too much on hick-out-of-water humor with Helms as the bumbling yet kind hick. Cast members John C. Reilly and Anne Heche promise a bit of an edge, though, and this is being billed as “the next Juno”—which I find hard to believe—but I’m willing to give Helms a shot as a comic leading man.

The Guard (in competition)

Did you like In Bruges? I loved In Bruges. So funny. What dialogue! The Guard comes from In Bruges’ writer/director Martin McDonagh’s brother, John Michael McDonagh (he wrote the screenplay for Ned Kelly). So it’s almost like In Bruges? I doubt it, but I’m still curious. Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle square off as an Irish police officer and FBI agent, respectively. Seconded by Mark Strong and Fionnula Flanagan (Lost, The Others), I’m mostly including this on the chance that John Michael is capable of delivering the same rapid-fire wit as his brother.

Here (in competition)

Um, Ben Foster. He stars in this very probably depressing tale about a US cartographer who’s working in Armenia to create a better satellite map of that country. While there he forms a relationship with an Armenian ex-pat and photographer, “Gadarine” (Lubna Azabal, Body of Lies). I’m assuming this ends terribly and will depress us all, but um, Ben Foster.

Hobo with a Shotgun

Yes. It is exactly what it sounds like. It’s about a hobo—played by Rutger Hauer—with a shotgun, serving up double-barreled justice. It’s playing as part of Sundance’s “Park City @ Midnight” series, which is known for showcasing horror, genre and otherwise whacky movies. I suspect Hobo with a Shotgun, like Snakes on a Plane, emerged from the pitch meeting completely unchanged.  “See, there’s this hobo, and he has a shotgun…”

Miss Representation (in competition)

Jennifer Siebel Newsom (wife of former San Francisco mayor and current Lieutenant Governor of California Gavin Newsom), directs this documentary about how the media’s portrayals of women under-represents women in positions of power and how this affects the generation of girls growing up now. I suspect this doc will play differently on the coasts than it does in the middle of the country, but really, at the end of the day, so many girls are growing up to be useless twats that there has to be a problem somewhere. Might as well see if the media is making it worse.

My Idiot Brother

I didn’t pick this as a short-list standout because Paul Rudd is riding a recent string of disappointments (Dinner for Schmucks and How Do You Know) and I’m not convinced of his ability to sell on his own. It has a helluva funny cast—Rudd is joined by Elizabeth Banks, Rashida Jones, Zooey Deschanel, Steve Coogan, Emily Mortimer, Adam Scott and Hugh Dancy—but no one is a brand-name in that group. Still, the story sounds funny enough (after being released from jail on pot charges, “Ned” crashes with each of his three sisters and wreaks havoc in their lives) that I will make an effort to see this in theaters.

Sing Your Song (in competition)

Everyone knows Harry Belafonte as a singer, songwriter and actor, but I think we’re kind of forgetting his huge contributions to the civil rights movement. At least, the younger generations are. Susanne Rosstock (who worked on the excellent Incident at Oglala), directs her first documentary and examines Belafonte’s life and work with civil rights.

Win Win

Newly-minted Golden Globe winner Paul Giamatti stars as a down-on-his-luck lawyer/high school wrestling coach who attempts to profit from a star student athlete, at least until the kid’s broke-ass mother shows up. Amy Ryan, Melanie Lynskey and Jeffrey Tambor costar. Giamatti has fallen into a habit of playing dumpy losers, but really, no one does it better and he can funny when he wants to be. This reminds me a bit of last year’s Cyrus, probably a bit too dry and pathetic for mass audiences, but it will appeal to the art-house crowd.

One thought on “Sundance Rundown 2011

  1. Becky

    Not really into posting- must say I totally agree about Ben Foster. Do you have an email address where i can send comments. Thanks!

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