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Sundance Picks & More: The Playlist's Most Anticipated Indie Films Of 2012

Features
by Oliver Lyttelton
January 10, 2012 12:20 PM
15 Comments
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"The Comedy"
Synopsis: A privileged hipster hangs out with his vapid pals in Williamsburg, as they gradually test their limits.  
What You Need To Know: Satirizing hipsters might seem like shooting really trendy, ironic fish in a barrel, but in the hands of filmmaker Rick Alverson ("New Jerusalem"), we wouldn't expect "The Comedy" to focus on easy targets and low-hanging fruit. Featuring a dramatic debut from Tim Heidecker in the lead, along with his partner Eric Wareheim (their other movie, in their more recognizable guises, "Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie," also bows at Sundance) and an acting role from LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy, the film adds up to an intriguing mix of Brooklyn icons that should deliver something more knowing and self-reflexive than it might initially seem. The Sundance brochure makes it sounds more like "Dogtooth" than "Greenberg," which is something that we're certainly on board for.
When? Sundance - 21st, 23rd, 26th & 28th (Park City) 24th (Sundance Resort), 27th, (SLC)

"Comes A Bright Day"
Synopsis: Two young people fall in love after being taken hostage during the robbery of a jewelery store.     
What You Need To Know: Imogen Poots had a pretty good 2011, between a supporting turn in "Jane Eyre" and a lead in "Fright Night." Craig Roberts had a pretty good 2011 too, thanks to his lead role in Richard Ayoade's "Submarine." And now, two of the brightest talents to come out of the U.K. in the last twelve months have been paired up, in an intriguingly genre-hopping picture, from debut writer-director Simon Aboud. The pair are backed up by Kevin McKidd ("Rome," "Grey's Anatomy") and veteran Timothy Spall, while costumes come from famed designed Paul Smith, so if nothing else, it'll be the best-dressed film since "A Single Man." Blending thriller, heist and romance, it's an odd little mix, but the casting has us interested enough to want to see how it all turns out.
When? May make a sales appearance in Berlin, but otherwise it'll likely turn up later in the year.

"Computer Chess"
Synopsis: The story follows computer programmers in the 1980s as they test artificial intelligence... through chess tournaments.
What You Need To Know: Probably one of the most talented directors to be part of that dreadful m-word American film movement (m*mbl*c*re), Andrew Bujalski has been sorely missed since we last saw him in 2009 with the fantastic and criminally underseen "Beeswax." Thankfully his new film, a period piece if you will, not only succeeded in its crowd-sourcing endeavor but completed shooting late last summer and is likely to crop up any day now. While the "Funny Ha Ha" filmmaker will be keeping it real by using people he knows as opposed to trained actors for the main roles (a gaggle of folk including a "former comp sci student turned treehouse-dwelling chocolatier"), this film will mark his move away from celluloid and flatbed editing -- instead, the digital cameras of the era will be used. It sounds like an interesting prospect and quite a bizarre world, especially considering how far we've come technologically since then. Smartly, Bujalski has insisted that he will not include any wink-wink 1980s references, but his camera will be watching these characters like a hawk and there will be plenty of humor despite the lack of Suncoast Video references.
When? We'd put cold hard cash on a SXSW premiere.

"The Door"
Synopsis: A young Hungarian writer hires a housekeeper, an eccentric, fiercely private woman, and begins a relationship that changes both their lives. 
What You Need To Know: Now that she's got her Oscar in the bag, Helen Mirren seems to be taking parts in, well, whatever the hell she feels like -- from commercial projects like "Red" and "Arthur" to more offbeat fare like "The Tempest" and David Mamet's HBO Phil Spector movie that will air later in 2012. But "The Door" promises to be one of her most challenging, fascinating roles to date. Based on the excellent novel by Hungarian writer Magda Szabo, and helmed by one of the country's top directors in Istvan Szabo (no relation -- the director of "Sunshine," "Taking Sides" and "Being Julia"), she'll play the maddening, mysterious housekeeper in what could turn out to be a film that gets her further awards buzz. Szabo's somewhat underrated these days, but the combination of him and Mirren should be an interesting one.
When? Szabo's been a Cannes favorite in the past, but less so recently; Toronto may be more likely.

"The End of Love"
Synopsis: An out-of-work actor is forced to become a single father when his son's mother suddenly passes away.  
What You Need To Know: Having stolen the show repeatedly in Edgar Wright's "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World," Mark Webber steps back behind the camera to follow-up his debut "Explicit Ills," which won three awards at SXSW, including the Narrative Feature Audience Award. This time, he's starring as well, alongside his own two-year-old son and a cast of famous pals that includes Shannyn Sossamon, Michael Cera, Jason Ritter and Amanda Seyfried. It could just be the kind of man-child-grows-up narrative we've seen many times before, but in Webber's hands we're expecting something much rawer and more honest, and it could really elevate him into the big leagues.
When? Sundance - 21st, 23rd, 25th & 27th (Park City), 22nd (Sundance Resort), 24th (SLC).

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15 Comments

  • Arthur | January 30, 2012 7:08 AMReply

    Just a note: the wonderful Melanie Lynskey can be seen in a LEADING role in a wonderful indie film called "Helena From The Wedding." It's on Netflix.

  • JoJo | January 30, 2012 7:37 AM

    If by "wonderful," you actually mean "incredibly boring and filled with lackluster performances," then I completely agree with you.

  • Graham | January 25, 2012 1:20 PMReply

    i'm a bit late, but exciting list. although disappointing that gondry seems to be the only one interested in any significant non-white casting.

  • Uncle Titt | January 17, 2012 8:28 PMReply

    No. You're not the only group of people who loved LCD Soundsystem and thought of them as the seminal band of 00's. In fact, there was an entire arena of people chronicled in the documentary that are likely to agree with you.

  • Travis Hopson | January 15, 2012 4:02 PMReply

    I won't get to Sundance until Monday so I'm praying it's in time to see Liberal Arts. Fingers crossed!

  • Pierre | January 11, 2012 9:33 PMReply

    Wow that's a great list already sans all the World Cinema that should be oncoming. I don't think 2012 will disappoint.

  • Jake | January 11, 2012 1:42 PMReply

    if you're interested in TRUE indies coming this year check out "There Are No Goodbyes".

  • Albert | January 11, 2012 12:42 AMReply

    Yeah, just a word of caution everybody, try not to take a shit, throw it in to a bag, pour some barium liquid on it, light it on fire and throw it in to the nearest beard-and-glasses stricken trust-fund rented apartment brownstone, it might just explode in to the Sundance Film Festival.

  • FILM INDUSTRY INSIDER | January 10, 2012 7:13 PMReply

    Saw two cuts of Safety Not Guaranteed. Jake Johnson is a show stealer. But the film isn't that good. Guess if you're in the Sundance 'club' though you can get in!

  • Rod Blackhurst | January 10, 2012 7:12 PMReply

    Great list of films!

  • aaaa | January 10, 2012 3:08 PMReply

    hard to buy the "anticipated" part since this, plus the other list pieces, are pretty much trying to list every single movie with an announced release in 2012

  • Rachel | January 10, 2012 5:53 PM

    Are you knew here? They do this every year and it's great exposure for a lot of movies.

  • Edward Davis | January 10, 2012 2:09 PMReply

    Nice work Oli and Chris! This piece rules.

  • HombreGato | January 10, 2012 1:43 PMReply

    This will probably be the most useful list of anything I find this year. 2012 is stacked with films by iconic directors but on top of all of that you know the indies are gonna stealth their way to acclaim.

  • James | January 10, 2012 1:17 PMReply

    Colin Firth's "The Railway Man" isn't a dark little indie. We're talking mainstream tearjerker a la 'The King's Speech'.

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