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

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by Oliver Lyttelton
January 10, 2012 12:20 PM
15 Comments
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"Nobody Walks"
Synopsis: A 23-year old artist arrives in LA to stay in a family's pool house as she finishes her movie, but her presence brings out warring impulses in everyone around her.    
What You Need To Know: Like some kind of lo-fi indie dream team, "Nobody Walks" is penned by Ry Russo-Young, whose last film "You Won't Miss Me" played Sundance three years ago, and Lena Dunham, who went supernova after her film "Tiny Furniture" debuted in 2010. With Dunham busy on her Judd Apatow-produced HBO series "Girls," Russo-Young takes the helm, and has definitely upgraded in terms of the kind of cast she's been able to attract, with John Krasinski, Olivia Thirlby, Rosemarie DeWitt and Dylan McDermott among the players. From what we can tell, it seems to be closer to the director's more dramatic-leaning work than Dunham's hipster Woody Allen vibe, but we're certainly curious to see how the combination works out.
When? Sundance: 22nd, 23rd, 25th, 27th (Park City), 24th (SLC), 26th (Sundance Resort).

"The Perks of Being A Wallflower"
Synopsis: A high school freshman struggles to get over the suicide of his best friend
What You Need To Know: If you're going to make an adaptation of one of the most beloved cult novels of the last fifteen years or so, it's always going to reassure fans to know that the project has the backing of the original author. But Stephen Chblosky doesn't just approve of the adaptation of his bildungsroman "The Perks of Being A Wallflower," he's written and directed it as well, thanks to the backing of John Malkovich's Mr. Mudd company (who were also behind "Juno"). And he's managed to attract a solid cast too, with Logan Lerman taking the central role, Emma Watson looking to break out beyond Hermione as female lead Sam, and Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Kate Walsh, Paul Rudd, Nina Dobrev and Johnny Simmons also involved. Of course, being an author doesn't help you be a filmmaker, but Chlobsky's got some experience on screen, adapting "Rent" for Chris Columbus and creating and producing the cult post-apocalyptic TV show "Jericho," so if anyone can translate the book, it's likely to be him.
When? Summit will release the film this year.

"Predisposed"
Synopsis: A young musical prodigy tries to take his drug-addicted mother to rehab on the day of his audition for a prestigious music school.  
What You Need To Know: Given that they can only have been swamped with offers of late, it has to be a good sign that "Predisposed," the feature directorial debut of art director Philip Dorling and "Philadelphia" screenwriter Ron Ryswaner, was able to attract last year's Oscar-winner Melissa Leo, and last year's Oscar-nominee Jesse Eisenberg, to its two lead roles. An extension of the pair's short, which played Sundance back in 2009 (and also starred Leo), it seems like the kind of quirky, family-driven fare that always goes down well at the festival. And with "30 Rock" star Tracy Morgan, and Isiah 'Sheeeeet' Whitlock Jr from "The Wire" in support, playing Leo's drug dealers who tag along for the ride, it should deliver the laughs as well.
When? Sundance - 27th, 28th, (Park City), 29th (SLC)

"Quartet"
Synopsis: Four opera singers in a retirement home decide to hold one last concert.  
What You Need To Know: Nearly 35 years after he was replaced midway through "Straight Time," Dustin Hoffman finally makes his full directorial debut, with an adaptation of the stage play by Ronald Harwood ("The Pianist"). And despite being one of the key actors of American cinema in the second half of the 20th century, he's gone across the pond, utilizing a who's-who of elderly British character actors, with Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins and Billy Connolly as the four opera singers, and featuring Michael Gambon and the youthful Sheridan Smith also among the cast. It's like the Hogwarts common room got their own movie, and it'll be interesting to see how capable Hoffman turns out to be behind the camera. It's certainly been a long enough time coming -- let's hope the wait was worthwhile.    .
When? The London Film Festival would be a perfect venue, perhaps with a Toronto premiere beforehand.

"Red Lights"
Synopsis: A pair of paranormal debunkers come up against a legendary blind psychic, who's been missing for 30 years.
What You Need To Know: Rodrigo Cortes made a splash two years ago with set-in-a-coffin thriller "Buried," although the film failed to be the sleeper hit that some had predicted, thanks to mixed reviews outside Park City. He's back again with a more expansive kind of thriller this time around, that boasts a pretty starry cast: Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Elizabeth Olsen, Toby Jones, and, perhaps most excitingly, Robert De Niro, who, after years of coasting, has more intriguing projects on his 2012 slate. If it manages to be something more than a bog-standard supernatural thriller and Cortes can reign in his hyperactive style, this could be a lot of fun.
When? Sundance - 20th, 21st, 25th, 28th (Park City), 21st (SLC), 24th (Ogden)

"Safety Not Guaranteed"
Synopsis: A group of newspaper reporters are sent to investigate a classified ad placed by a man who is recruiting companions for a trip back in time.
What You Need To Know: It was only a matter of time before someone adapted an internet meme; we're just glad that the first is one that looks as promising as "Safety Not Guaranteed." Based on the Danish classified ad that went viral back in 2006, the film marks the directorial debut of Colin Trevorrow, from a script by Derek Connolly, who's assembled an impressive cast -- Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass and Jake Johnson lead, with Jeff Garlin, Kristen Bell, Mary-Lynn Rajskub and Lynn Shelton in support. Duplass is also producing the film, with his brother Jay, and while the premise could be overwhelmed with quirk, it's also pretty irresistible, and there's more than enough comic talent on board to pull it off, assuming Trevorrow has the chops.  
When? Sundance - 22nd, 24th, 26th and 28th (Park City), 27th (SLC).

"Save The Date"
Synopsis: Twentysomething Sarah breaks her boyfriend's heart, and takes up with a new infatuation, while her sister Beth plans her wedding and offers unwanted advice.
What You Need To Know: The plot description might be a little vague, but Michael Mohan, who debuted at the festival two years back with the low-budget "One Too Many Mornings," has a couple of secret weapons that separate his indie rom-com from the competition: namely his on-the-verge-of-breaking-out stars Lizzy Caplan and Alison Brie. The duo have won fans in recent years with TV roles both comedic and dramatic ("Party Down" and "True Blood" for Caplan, "Community" and "Mad Men" for Brie), and while they'll play support in other films in 2012, the chance to see them lead is a tantalizing one, especially with comedy faves Martin Starr ("Freaks and Geeks"), Geoffrey Arend ("(500) Days Of Summer") and Mark Webber ("Scott Pilgrim") playing the men in their lives. And with a script co-written by playwright Egan Reich and, crucially, cult graphic novelist Jeffrey Brown, this could be a funny, mature relationship movie.
When? Sundance - 22nd, 24th, 27th and 28th (Park City), 25th (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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