When the Sundance Film Festival is happening, it can be nearly impossible to keep track of the films worth looking out for-- even when you're actually there. But now that the dust has settled and Park City has gone back to being a pleasant mountain town, we can finally get a look at the films that made the biggest impact at the festival this year, and how audiences will be able to get a look at them in the coming year.
Not every film sold, of course, and there are plenty of films that earned attention-- like the Kathryn Hahn vehicle Afternoon Delight or Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael's Ass Backwards-- likely to find distribution in the coming weeks. But for now this is your best guide for how to see the festival's most talked-about films, with links to our own reviews when available. Most of them don't have set release dates, but you can generally expect a Sundance film with strong buzz to come out before the end of that calendar year. And a few of these, like Fruitvale and Ain't Them Bodies Saints, will probably be at least trying to be part of the awards conversation at the end of the year.
If you want to know more about this year's festival, you can click here to catch up with all of our coverage, or put your questions in the comments!
Ain't Them Bodies Saints?Distributor: IFC Films
The Lowdown: Directed by David Lowery-- a Sundance MVP who also co-edited Upstream Color and co-wrote Pit Stop-- and starring Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara and Ben Foster, it's a lyrical Texas crime story with a huge, huge influence from Terrence Malick. Cinematographer Bradford Young won a Sundance jury prize for his work here, and Foster's supporting performance was also a festival highlight.
How You Can See It: IFC has a strong video-on-demand program, so while a theatrical release will likely be a focus, you'll probably be able to catch this on VOD as well-- and probably closer to to the end-of-year awards season.
Austenland?Distributor:Sony Pictures Classics
The Lowdown: Directed by Jerusha Hess, who co-wrote Napoleon Dynamite with her husband Jared, and produced by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer, it's got an odd assembly of talent behind the scenes matches onscreen by the likes of Jennifer Coolidge, Keri Russell and James Callis in the cast. Russell stars as a Jane Austen-obsessed woman who travels to a retreat where she can act our her Regency fantasies.
How You Can See It: Sony paid a hefty $4 million for the rights, and Sony Pictures Classics will release domestically, though without a lot of critical buzz it's unclear how bright the film's future will be.
Before Midnight?Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
The Lowdown: Hugely anticipated before the festival by fans of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, it miraculously lived up to the hype and earned across-the-board raves-- including mine. Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke have done it again.
How You Can See It: It took a while for Sony to close this deal, so presumably they paid a high price and promised a prime release for the film. I'd imagine summer-- that's when Before Sunset came out, after all-- and with plenty of promotion.
Blackfish?Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
The Lowdown: A stirring and sometimes disturbing documentary about killer whales kept in parks like Sea World, it's the kind of movie that could inspire you to never go to Sea World again. That kind of controversy made it a popular option at the festival, and could garner a lot of interesting conversations upon release.
How You Can See It: Magnolia's strength in VOD probably means it will mostly be seen there, but if a controversy erupts, who knows what kind of theatrical release could happen.
Concussion?Distributor:Radius/The Weinstein Company
The Lowdown: Character actress Robin Weigert stars as a lesbian housewife who decides to become an escort after being knocked in the head by her son's baseball. Reviews were mixed but trended positive, with a lot of praise for Weigert's performance.
How You Can See It: Radius plans an early fall 2013 release, with both theatrical and VOD presences likely.
Cutie and the Boxer?Distributor: Radius/The Weinstein Company
The Lowdown: Winner of the U.S. Documentary Directing Prize, and story of an unlikely romance between painter Ushio Shinohara and his assistant Noriko. It was one of the best-received docs at the festival among critics.
How You Can See It: Radius is the video-on-demand platform for the Weinstein Company, so while a limited theatrical release is possible, most people will probably catch this on VOD. The company has scheduled a 2013 release.
Don Jon's Addiction Distributor: Relativity Media
The Lowdown: It's Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut, which probably would have been enough to earn it massive buzz. But he also stars as a New Jersey guido obsessed with porn, who winds up in a relationship with a woman (Scarlett Johansson) with her own media obsessions and weird ideas about relationships. It was also a huge hit among festival audiences (myself not included).
How You Can See It: Relativity made a huge $25 million commitment to market the film's planned summer release, so not only will it be in theaters, but you won't be able to avoid it.
The East Distributor:Fox Searchlight
The Lowdown: Director Zal Batmanglij and co-writer/star Brit Marling returned to Sundance two years after their debut Sound of My Voice was a major festival success. Starring Marling as a corporate spy infiltrating an environmentalist terror group, it features some of the best performances from Alexander Skarsgard and Ellen Page we've seen, plus tense direction from Batmanglij. I loved it.
How You Can See It: Fox Searchlight had the film before the festival, but they haven't yet confirmed a 2013 release date.
Fruitvale Distributor:The Weinstein Company
The Lowdown: Winner of both the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award, it's a gripping drama based on the true story of a 22-year-old man shot by police at a San Francisco train station in 2009. It made me shake with anger and sadness, and I wasn't alone.
How You Can See It: Expect a major theatrical release and awards season push later this year, with a particular focus on Michael B. Jordan's lead performance.
JOBS Distributor:Open Road Films
The Lowdown: The Sundance Closing Night spot tropically goes to films that are truly awful, but this one was just mediocre, a biopic about Steve Jobs as bland and ineffective as he was magnetic. Read more about it here.
How You Can See It: In theaters April 19.
Kill Your Darlings Distributor:Sony Pictures Classics
The Lowdown: Daniel Radcliffe grows up and plays a young, sexually confused Allen Ginsberg caught up in a murder committed by a classmate and serious crush object, Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan). Well-received by critics and audiences, it also has a feel-good story behind the scenes, after director John Krokidas spent many, many years trying to get it made. I was deeply impressed by both Radcliffe and his charismatic co-star DeHaan.
How You Can See It: Sony Pictures Classics hasn't announced a release date, but expect it sometime this year.
The Look of Love?Distributor: IFC Films
The Lowdown: The fourth collaboration between director Michael Winterbottom and actor Steve Coogan, with Coogan playing London's famous "King of Soho" Paul Raymond, who built a series of gentleman's clubs and was essentially their answer to Hugh Hefner. The film was pretty poorly received by critics at the festival.
How You Can See It: There's no release date in mind yet, but given the poor reviews and Raymond's low profile in the U.S., I would assume it could make its way out before the awards season hubbub-- and given IFC's strength in VOD, probably to your cable provider as well.
Lovelace?Distributor:Radius/The Weinstein Company
The Lowdown: The second pornography biopic to premiere at the fest, it stars Amanda Seyfried as the titular, legendary porn star, who went on to write a memoir about how an abusive relationship with her husband (Peter Sarsgaard) led her into the industry. It's a pretty rote biopic, but the star were clearly enough to sell it.
How You Can See It: Radius generally focuses on VOD release, but the star power ought to ensure it a hefty theatrical presence too.
Prince Avalanche?Distributor:Magnolia Pictures
The Lowdown: David Gordon Green's return to low-fi indie filmmaking after studio debacles like The Sitter and Your Highness, but he's brought stars Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch along with him. Based on an Icelandic film, it's a little less accessible that Green's studio movies, but very well-received by fans happy to see him back in top form, myself included.
How You Can See It: Magnolia, like many of the distributors active at Sundance, does well with VOD releases, so expect it there along with a potentially limited theatrical release.
The Spectacular Now?Distributor:A24 Films
The Lowdown: Stars Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley received a special jury prize for their performances as two high schoolers who fall in love and confront both the usual and the impossible challenges of growing up. It was a festival favorite among many critics, myself included. I also had the chance to interview Teller and director James Ponsoldt.
How You Can See It: A24 may be a new distributor, but they won a bidding war for this much-loved film for a reason, and should garner a lot of attention when they release it this summer (we're hearing it will be late July).
The Lowdown: The English-language debut of legendary Korean director Park Chan-wook, it's a lurid and gothic coming-of-age tale about a girl (Mia Wasikowska) both enamored by and suspicious of an uncle (Matthew Goode) who shows up after her father's mysterious death. Nicole Kidman also co-stars. It got hugely mixed response at the festival, but Matt Patches and I went nuts for it.
How You Can See It: Coming to theaters on March 1.
Toy's House Distributor:CBS Films
The Lowdown: A coming-of-age story about three teenage boys trying to live on their own, with supporting performances from TV stars like Alison Brie and Nick Offerman. Nearly everyone who caught it at the festival adored it.
How You Can See It: At the moment CBS Films only has comedies Last Vegas and The To Do List, plus The Last Exorcism Part II, scheduled for 2013. They'll probably be happy to give a prime theatrical release to a potential critical darling like this one.
Upstream Color Distributor:Self-distributed
The Lowdown: The hugely anticipated return of Primer mastermind Shane Carruth, it lived up to expectations by presenting a mind-boggling, beautiful and fascinating romance about what happens when you fall in love after being injected with a worm. Or something like that. I'm still figuring it out, but you can read my initial thoughts here.
How You Can See It: Carruth is self-distributing the film, with a release planned for this spring.
The Way, Way Back Distributor:Fox Searchlight
The Lowdown: A coming-of-age story from the writers of The Descendants, making their directorial debut, with a huge cast that includes Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney, Amanda Peet and Rob Corddry. It received a huge standing ovation at its premiere.
How You Can See It: Sold for an eye-popping $10 million, it's clearly a favorite at Fox Searchlight, and should get a splashy summer release to prove it.