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Sundance Film Fest 2009 Predictions

Based on pure speculation and educated guesses, in anticipation of the 25th Sundance Film Festival, I’ve assembled a lengthy list of films that might be announced in next week’s press releases for selection announcements in everything from the Competition categories to the Premieres and the fringe Park City at Midnight.

Based on pure speculation and educated guesses, in anticipation of the 25th Sundance Film Festival, I’ve assembled a lengthy list of films that might be announced in next week’s press releases for selection announcements in everything from the Competition categories to the Premieres and the fringe Park City at Midnight section.

 

Adventureland
This is perhaps the first film out of the gates in terms of early marketing, and a quick premiere before its March 27th release should help word of mouth campaigns. Written and helmed by Greg Mottola, the 1987-set story follows an uptight recent college grad (Jesse Eisenberg) who is forced to take a degrading minimum-wage job at the local amusement park when he realizes he can’t afford his dream European tour. The experience helps him to loosen up a bit as he finds first love, forms new friendships and emerges with a newfound sense of maturity just in time to enter the real world in the fall. Reynolds will play an aspiring rock star and the icon of cool to all the kids working at the park. Stewart will play the romantic lead, a tomboy who also works at the park.
Rights: Miramax Films

» All Good Things

Not sure what their plans are with The Weinstein Company, but I’m sure that Andrew Jarecki would love to return to the festival where he was catapulted into fame with his crazy docu portrait called Capturing the Friedmans (2003). Written by Marcus Hinchey, Marc Smerling and Jarecki, set in the 1980s, story centers on the scion of a New York real estate dynasty (Ryan Gosling) who falls for a beautiful girl from the wrong side of the tracks (Kirsten Dunst). But the fairy tale ends when the girl disappears. As a down-and-out detective stumbles on info that may lead to the truth, the political stakes get higher and people close to the case end up dead.
Rights: The Weinstein Company

 

» Casino Jack

We should be seeing an Alex Gibney docu-film for a second year in a row. Backed by Participant Productions and Magnolia Pictures, formerly titled “Burning Down the House”, this is about the murky world of political lobbying, this is a subject that has caused huge controversy in the US since political lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sent to prison after being convicted on a series of criminal felony counts relating to his lobbying activities.
Rights: Magnolia Pictures

 

» Cold Souls

Part of the Annenberg Film Fellows program of 07’, Sophie Barthes‘ debut is set in the midst of an existential crisis, a famous American actor (Paul Giamatti) stumbles upon a Soul Storage, a private lab offering New Yorkers a relief from the burden of their souls.

Rights: Available

 

» Cracks

Killer Films and John Wells Productions might be looking to kick start Jordan Scott’s year with the great placement of her feature film debut. Starring the sultry Eva Green. Written for the screen by Caroline Ip and Ben Court, this is based on the novel by Sheila Kohler, this is about a group of girls at a boarding school in England in the 1930s who become caught up in the web of a charismatic teacher.
Rights: Available 

 

» Don McKay

Jake Goldberger’s wacky directing debut stars Thomas Haden Church, Melissa Leo and nurse Elisabeth Shue in a tale about a man haunted by a tragedy that forced him to flee his hometown 25 years earlier who returns when he finds his long-lost love is dying — and is then caught in a web of confusion, deceit and murder.

Rights: Available

» Don’t Let Me Drown

Recipient of the Sundance/NHK Int. Filmmakers Award back in 06’, Cruz Angeles will be looking to premiere his feature film directorial debut this coming January. Co-written with Maria Topete, in a post-September 11th world overflowing with fear and hate, two Latino teens discover that sometimes the only thing that can keep them from drowning is love.
Rights: Available

 

» Dream of the Romans

Rom com filled with Sundance acting alumni could be the best platform for newbie director John Hindman to commence his career. Jeff Daniels plays a reclusive author of a landmark book that redefined spirituality for a generation. Lauren Graham is a struggling single mom and Lou Taylor Pucci a young man fresh out of rehab. Like many others, they seek out the author because they’re convinced he has all the answers — but he just wants to be left alone.
Rights: Available

 
» The Exploding Girl

Director Bradley Rust Gray’s connection commences all the way back in Y2K when he presented his short film (Hitch). This year we might see feature his latest pic starring Mark Rendall.

Rights: Available

 

» Everybody’s Fine

Synonymous with Sundance is the occasional road-movie. Perhaps a long-shot prediction, but I’d like to see recent Sundance alumni in De Niro, Melissa Leo and Snow Angel’s pairing of Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale in this road movie of a different sort. A remake of Giuseppe Tornatore‘s “Stanno tutti bene”, this comes from the filmmaker behind (Nanny McPhee and Waking Ned) centers around a widowed man who, realizing that his wife was his only real connection with his children sets off on a cross-country Greyhound busride from New York to Las Vegas to reunite with each of his children.
Rights: Miramax

 

» Fighting

Dito Montiel’s big entrance debut at Sundance came with A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints in 2006, he may return in the Midnight in Park City section with what may be Rogue Pictures last release as the indie horror arm of Universal Pictures. With an April slated release, perhaps this might be the ideal launching pad for a story about high-stakes underground street fights. Channing Tatum stars as Sean Arthur, a young man who scrapes up a living hustling counterfeit merchandise in NYC. With family tragedy in his past and his father keeping him at a distance, this outsider has little to motivate him. A chance encounter with veteran street-fighting coach Harvey Boarden (Terrence Howard) leads to a whole new career for Sean. The ensuing bouts get tough, especially with the criminal element horning in, so Sean gets tougher. He will fight to win, not only the prize money but also the unexpected new relationships that are strengthening him.
Rights: Rogue Pictures

 

» Giallo

Park City might see a midnight screening of a contemporary classic horror filmmaker. I’d love to see Dario Argento paint a town in white into red.  European horror film Emmanuelle Seigner will take the role of a flight attendant who pairs with the detective Adrien Brody) on a race against time to save her sister, a super model (Elsa Pataky), from a serial killer who has snatched her.

Rights: Available

 

» The Good Heart

Winner of Sundance/NHK award in 2007, Iceland’s Dagur Kári was able to set Paul Dano in the role of a young homeless man named Lucas who is taken under the wing of Jacques (Brian Cox), a bar owner from his fifth heart attack. Knowing his days are numbered, Jacques decides to train Lucas to take over his bar.
Rights: Available

 

» The Goods: The Don Ready Story
There might be an outside chance we might see the Neal Brennan’s directorial debut before its eventual theater release in April. Written by Rick Stempson and Andy Stock, who is Don Ready? Salesman? Lover? Song Stylist? Semi-professional dolphin trainer? Ready is all of the above, except for a dolphin trainer. When he’s asked to help save an ailing local car dealership from bankruptcy, Ready and his ragtag crew descend on the town of Temecula like a pack of coyotes on a basket full of burgers. Selling, drinking, selling and going to strip clubs is their stock and trade. And they do it well. What Don doesn’t expect is to fall in love and find his soul (cue heartfelt piano).
Rights: Paramount Vantage

 

» Grey Gardens

I’ve seen HBO telefilm projects make quick appearances at the festival before spilling out on the airwaves, I’m guessing we might see Michael Sucsy’s directorial debut which is a remake on the notorious two eccentric relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy who made headlines when the health department threatened to raid their flea- and raccoon-infested East Hampton, N.Y., estate. Drew Barrymore will play Little Edie, and Lange will play her mother, Big Edie Bouvier Beale, the socialite cousin and aunt, respectively, of Kennedy Onassis. The Edies made headlines around the world when Jackie O herself materialized to rescue her family from public disgrace. The film will cover 40 years. Kennedy Onassis will be a character in the film, as will Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn, who bought the crumbling mansion from Little Edie after her mother’s death. Jeanne Tripplehorn will play Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
Rights: HBO Films

 

» Happy Tears

Mitchell Lichtenstein made a big splash in 07 with his hate it or love it horror comedy Teeth, I expect to see him back with an indie pic starring Demi Moore, Parker Posey, Rip Torn, Ellen Barkin. Written by Lichtenstein, this follows a woman (Posey), prone to self-aggrandizement, who returns to her Wisconsin home and must deal with her bitter sister and her father, who suffers from a rare form of dementia. Moore plays the sister, fed up with dealing with the hateful father.

Rights: Available

  

» Harmony and Me

The Sundance Institute supported Bob Byington with some dollars earlier this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see this comedy up for grabs starring longtime indie vet actor Kevin Corrigan and Great World of Sound’s Pat Healy.
Rights: Available

 

» Howl

I’m not sure how far directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (The Times of Harvey Milk) are into filming (are they in post-prod?), but this project supported by the Sundance Institute could technically make the cut. Based on Allen Ginsberg’s beatnik book of poetry Howl, this focuses on the obscenity trial launched to censor Ginsberg’s groundbreaking book-length poem. Among the real-life characters featured in the film are prosecuting attorney Ralph McIntosh (David Strathairn), Judge Clayton Horn (Alan Alda), prosecution witness Professor David Kirk (Jeff Daniels), radio personality and prosecution witness Gail Potter (M-L Parker) and literary critic and defense witness Luther Nichols (Paul Rudd).

Rights: Available

 

» The Informers

How should Senator films begin the new year? By releasing this picture in the context of a film festival and in the limelight of Mickey Rourke’s re-birth and Oscar nom (yes it will happen). With a cast of players who’ve had their fair share of problems in real life, the Gregor Jordan-directed project is based on the Bret Easton Ellis 1995 novel, this is a collection of connected short stories set in 1983 Los Angeles and featuring movie execs, rock stars, a vampire and other morally challenged characters in tales highlighted by sex, drugs and violence.

Rights: Senator 

 

» The Marc Pease Experience
Todd Louiso’s first film (Love Liza) premiered at the fest back in 2002, his latest feature should be primed for a preem here. Jacob Koskoff and Louiso penned the screenplay that has Jason Schwartzman play Marc Pease, a man 10 years out of high school and still living in the past when he was the star in his high school’s musicals. During the course of one day, as Pease’s former teacher/mentor Mr. Gribble (Ben Stiller) oversees the opening night of another show, Pease finally exorcises his demons and realizes there’s more to life than Broadway artistry.

Rights: Paramount Vantage

 

» Mammoth 

It’s getting released amongst the Scandinavian countries in the third weke of January, we logically Lukas Moodysson will be looking to add some international film sales interest for the film which tells the story of a successful New York couple Leo (G-G-Bernal) and Ellen (Michelle Williams), their eight-year old daughter Jackie and their Filipino nanny Gloria. On a business trip to Thailand Leo realizes that he wants to change his life. His decision sets in motion a highly intense and dramatic chain of events.

Rights: Available

 

» Margaret

We’ve been waiting a collective four, or five years now for this picture to come out. You Can Count on Me took the world by storm in 2000 in Park City, nine years later we should finally get to be seeing Kenneth Lonergan’s sophomore feature. What should ideally be picked as a Premieres selection, the re-worked film should still revolve around a New York teenager, her actress mother and the girl who tries to make amends for her complicity in a terrible traffic accident. 

Rights: Fox Searchlight Pictures 

 

» The Messenger

ContentFilm Int. might strongly consider preeming and selling this drama at a place like Sundance – screenwriter Oren Moverman’s directing debut (Married Life, I’m Not There, Jesus’ Son) is just the type of film that would play well in a chilly atmosphere. Starring Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson, co-written by Alessandro Camon and Moverman, Foster plays a young Army officer who is forced to work with a partner he can’t stand in the least desirable job in the military. His life becomes even more complicated when he falls in love with a soldier’s widow.

Rights: Available

 

» The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
Perhaps this is the sort of film that will preem at a much larger film fest, but proper visibility might be what this drama needs. Based on Rebecca Miller‘s novel of the same title, Miller helms the story that centers on Pippa Lee is a 50-year-old wife (Robin Wright Penn) and mother whose husband has an affair (mirroring Pippa’s own adventures with a married man when she was a young woman). She also has to reconcile her own past with her pill-addicted mother.
Rights: Available

» Serious Moonlight
It would just make sense if Cheryl Hines’ debut based on a screenplay by Adrienne Shelly would find a spot in this year’s line-up. After the emotional preem of Waitress, this sees a high-powered attorney who duct-tapes her adulterous husband to a toilet, just before burglars break in.
Rights: Available

» Shit Year
Wild Tigers I Have Known was set in the Frontier category a couple of years back, Cam Archer’s latest might belong to a fringe section yet again. The beautifully titled Shit Year tells the tale of Linda, now in middle age, suffers from an obsessive-compulsive urge to pull out her own hair, one strand at a time. Shame has lead her to a life of loneliness and doubt. A friendship with a boy at work, also somewhat of an outsider, finally propels her down a path toward self-acceptance.
Rights: Available 

» Untitled David Barker Project

Parts and Labor’s Lars Knudsen and Jay Van Hoy are the hottest pair of indie producers in the biz right now, perhaps that kind of clout will score them a place for a project I know nothing about and a filmmaker I’ve never heard of. David Barker’s thriller might be a good fit in the Midnight section.
Rights: Available

 

» Untitled Nicole Holofcener project

Not sure if SPC will feel the need to premiere it early but, Nicole Holofcener’s last film in Friends with Money last opened the fest back in 2006. This will center on a set of neighbors in the New York building, including a woman (Catherine Keener) who lives next door to a cantankerous elderly woman. It explores the interactions between Keener’s character, who owns the woman’s apartment, the woman and her two granddaughters, in what’s described as an examination of “life, death and real estate.”

Rights: Sony Pictures Classics

» Untitled Rufus Wainwright documentary
Sam Mendes directed this a while back (I believe before Revolutionary Road), and I think it may be a lighter docu fair for the Documentary Spectrum or Premieres program. This follows singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright’s re-creation of Judy Garland’s 1961 Carnegie Hall performance.
Rights: Focus Features

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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