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

by Oliver Lyttelton
January 10, 2012 12:20 PM
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"Filly Brown"
Synopsis: A young Latina rap star is offered a shot at the big time by a sleazy producer, but has to choose between potential fame, and abandoning her friends.
What You Need To Know: It's been seven years since "Hustle & Flow" premiered at Sundance, a little hip-hop drama that ended up winning an Oscar, plus a nomination for star Terrence Howard, launching his career and that of director Craig Brewer. Now, another film with an MC as its central character is heading to Utah, and even before its premiere, we're already hearing a lot of buzz, particularly about lead Gina Rodriguez, who leads a cast that also includes Lou Diamond Phillips and Edward James Olmos (who doubles up as executive producer). Marking the second team-up of FX artist-turned-helmer Youssef Delara and Olmos' son Michael D. Olmos, the pair's credits to date aren't hugely impressive, but this feels like the kind of picture that traditionally catches fire at Sundance.
When? Sundance - 20th, 21st, 24th & 27th (Park City), 22nd (SLC)

"For A Good Time Call"
Synopsis: Two college acquaintances move in together only for one girl to discover that the other has a secret job...
What You Need To Know: Sounding not unlike recent TV hit "2 Broke Girls," but with more of the oldest profession added into the mix, this comedy, co-written by and starring Lauren Anne Miller (aka Mrs. Seth Rogen), and directed by acclaimed shorts director Jamie Travis, seems to fit firmly into the filthy-but-fun zeitgeist of the moment. Furthermore, it gives a much-needed showcase to Ari Graynor, who's been stealing the show in everything from "The Sopranos" to "The Sitter" of late, and the supporting cast is both wide-ranging and kind of fascinating, from comedic indie darlings like Mark Webber and Justin Long, to "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" mastermind Nia Vardalos (with Rogen making a cameo). Despite the, hm, tough subject matter, this could be the breakout comedy of the festival.
When? Sundance - 22nd, 23rd (Park City), 29th (SLC), 29th (SLC)

"For Ellen"
Synopsis: A young musician returns home to divorce his wife, but realizes that doing so will mean he'll lose custody of his daughter.
What You Need To Know: So Yong Kim won a Sundance Special Jury Prize first time out for her debut "In Between Days," and only made more of an impression with follow-up "Treeless Mountain." Third time around, she's working with bigger names, casting Paul Dano in the lead, with Jena Malone and, intriguingly, "Napoleon Dynamite" star Jon Heder in a straight role, in support. On the page, it sounds like Sundance-by-numbers -- a twentysomething returns to a small town? Surely not! But Kim's shown herself to be a sensitive and personal filmmaker in the past, and has compared her new project to the likes of "Five Easy Pieces," which is music to our ears. Dano’s set to have a good year, with “Being Flynn” and “He Loves Me” on the way as well, so he may finally be about to emerge from the long shadow cast by his fine turn as Eli Sunday.
When? Sundance - 21st, 23rd, 26th, 27th (Park City), 24th (Sundance Resort) and 25th (SLC).

"The Fourth Dimension"
Synopsis: Anthology film including chapters from the U.S., Poland, and Russia, most notably featuring an experimental film from Harmony Korine focusing on a terrible motivational speaker. 
What You Need To Know: It's three years since Harmony Korine's outsider-art-esque "Trash Humpers," and, though the director's been busy with a whole series of shorts since, it's been a while since anything hit the big screen. He's making what seems to be his most mainstream effort to date, the comedy "Spring Breakers," with Emma Roberts, Vanessa Hudgens and James Franco later this year, but we don't think that'll be ready before the end of 2012. Instead, the helmer's next project is a short starring Val Kilmer as a dreadful motivational speaker, shot in Nashville and bound by a Dogme-style manifesto, as part of an anthology film funded by Vice Films and Grolsch FilmWorks. There's been no word on any of the other segments yet, but the team-up of Korine & Kilmer is more than enough to get us into theaters on its own.
When? The finished film will premiere at film festivals in 2012 sponsored by the lager in each of the directors' respective home countries: The San Francisco Film Festival in the U.S., the Beat Film Festival in Russia and Mlodzi i Film in Poland. 

Synopsis: In 1950s, male-dominated New York State, a group of teenage girls form the Foxfire gang.
What You Need To Know: Do we really need another adaptation of Joyce Carol Oate's "Foxfire," only fifteen years after the last take (which provided Angelina Jolie's first film role)? Well, considering that version wasn't very good, we'd be inclined to say yes, particularly as the remake marks the English-language debut of Laurent Cantet, whose last film, "The Class," won the Palme D'Or in 2008. He's promising to be more faithful than the original, sticking to the 1950s setting and going with a cast of total unknowns. So it seems he's playing to the strengths he established on "The Class," with hopefully the more thoughtful qualities of his work in the superb "Time Out" along for the ride too.    
When? Cannes quite likely, considering his Palme D'Or success. Toronto is also possible.

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  • 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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