It's been a decade since I last attended the Sundance Film Festival, where I met Metallica's life coach, boggled over Shane Carruth's Primer and fell fully clothed into an indoor swimming pool. (No comment on which incident was trippiest.) Needless to say, I'm stoked to be returning: Time Out New York will have daily reviews of all the buzzed titles and more. Here are the ten films I'm most excited to see, briefly sketched.
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Richard Linklater's been on fire lately—not just with last year's magnificent Before Midnight, but Bernie, his complex Texas crime comedy (my favorite movie of 2012). His latest, a surprise festival entry, is a project he's been working on in dribs and drabs for 11 years.
Finally: the fierce documentary based on the writings of anticolonial theorist Frantz Fanon we've all been waiting for. Less sarcastically: The last film from archival-footage-shaper Göran Olsson, The Black Power Mixtape 1967–1975, was arresting—a real reclamation of history.
Michael Fassbender wrecked audiences in Shame; there's no telling if he'll be able to do the same thing while encased in a papier-mâché head. (The actor plays a mysterious pop musician.) The potential for joy here is high.
Writer-director Mike Cahill (Another Earth) and frequent collaborator Brit Marling have come to represent the best of what Sundance is: brainy, independent and genre-savvy. Their latest involves eye science and a radical discovery.
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
It just sounds too weird to miss: A lonely Japanese woman becomes obsessed with an American crime movie and heads to wintry Minnesota (can you guess the film?) to get some closure. The star is Babel's Rinko Kikuchi.
Last Days in Vietnam
Miss Saigon aside, little work has been made about the chaotic 1975 episode in which Americans fled in helicopters from the embassy rooftop, an undignified end to a disastrous war. Director Rory Kennedy dives into the moment.
A documentary about critical giant Roger Ebert was inevitable, so it's a relief that it comes from Hoop Dreams director Steve James, a longtime Chicagoan (like his subject) and a filmmaker keen to inspirational challenges.
Love Is Strange
It's definitely a step toward the mainstream for Ira Sachs, a purveyor of rough-hewn intimacy in Keep the Lights On. But you can't improve on his cast, primarily Alfred Molina and John Lithgow as loving partners who encounter headaches after they formally tie the knot.
The Trip to Italy
Let the bickering begin (again): Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's first outing, 2010's The Trip, wasn't just a trove of riotous Michael Caine impressions. It hid an understated vein of loneliness and male immaturity. I expect great things. And scallops.
White Bird in a Blizzard
It's rumored that this missing-mother psychodrama is a return to Mysterious Skin territory for Sundance vet Gregg Araki. Seeing as how I was fine with his Kaboom territory as well, my hopes are sky-high.
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Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf