Beasts of the Southern Wild, Keep the Lights On, Middle of Nowhere, Safety Not Guaranteed, Smashed, The Sessions (then known as “The Surrogate”), How to Survive a Plague, The Invisible War, and Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present are all 2013 awards season contenders. All of these titles have been nominated for the Gotham Awards and/or the Spirit Awards, and will likely pop up again in the coming weeks, as North American critics, guilds, and academies start announcing their nominees and/or winners.
Now, what do all of the above movies have in common besides their being "in the running" this awards season? The answer is: They are all American productions (or co-productions) screened at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. But what about non-US films? Those tend to be less lucky, as US-based critics, guilds, and academies are generally biased toward homemade — or at least English-language-made — fare.
Anyhow, I’m pointing this out because Sundance 2013 selections in the four key categories — both U.S. and World, both Dramatic and Documentary — were announced earlier today, November 28, 2012. As usual, particularly in the last decade or so, small movies with Big Names have been favored. Hence, at the low-budget, indie-oriented Sundance Film Festival we have movies featuring the likes of Daniel Radcliffe, Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Jessica Biel, Kristen Bell, Shailene Woodley, Octavia Spencer, Ellen Page, and Megan Mullally.
Also as usual, expect most of the Sundance 2013 movies to have been forgotten even before the festival’s closing night gala. A handful of the Sundance entries, however, will be remembered later next year, once the North American awards season kicks off with the announcement of the Gotham Award nominations.
Sundance 2013 U.S. Dramatic competition highlights: ’Kill Your Darlings,’ ’Fruitvale Station,’ ’Austenland’
Surely there’ll be surprises at Sundance 2013, along the lines of Beasts of the Southern Wild and Middle of Nowhere earlier this year. Yet, the presence of, for instance, Daniel Radcliffe as Beat Generation gay poet Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings makes the John Krokidas-directed drama one of the festival’s hottest tickets. Besides Radcliffe, the extensive Kill Your Darlings cast also features Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster, Michael C. Hall, Elizabeth Olsen, Kyra Sedgwick, David Cross, and Jack Huston (grandson of The African Queen director John Huston).
This year’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Octavia Spencer (The Help) has an important role in Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, about the last day in the life of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), a 22-year-old black man shot dead by Bay Area Rapid Transit (white) police officer Johannes Mehserle.
In Jerusha Hess’ Anglo-American Austenland, a woman obsessed with Pride and Prejudice’s Mr. Darcy — as played by Colin Firth on the BBC production — discovers the real thing (more or less) while on a trip to an English resort. The Austenland cast includes Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Bret McKenzie, Jennifer Coolidge, Georgia King, and James Callis. Ah, minor detail: one of Austenland’s producers is Stephenie Meyer. Heard of her? No? Heard of the Twilight movies starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner?
Addendum: Fruitvale Station was initially known as Fruitvale.
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Image of Kill Your Darlings’ Daniel Radcliffe as gay poet Allen Ginsberg: Sony Pictures Classics.