Twenty Enticing Titles at Sundance 2013

Tyler Ross stars in David Andalman's Milkshake. Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

Tyler Ross stars in David Andalman’s Milkshake. Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

Every film festival presents a formidable challenge for journalists and cinephiles. Just how many movies can one cram into such a tight schedule? Why are so many enticing titles scheduled to screen at the same time? And most importantly, why hasn’t cloning been perfected yet? I’m sure many visitors to the 2013 Sundance Film Festival will be asking themselves the same questions. Luckily, they have an embarrassment of riches in store for them. With the festival just days away (it runs from January 17th through the 27th), here are twenty selections that caught my eye.

Afternoon Delight

Jill Soloway’s comedy about a restless housewife (Kathryn Hahn) who befriends a stripper (Juno Temple) has a fine ensemble led by Josh Radnor and Jane Lynch.

After Tiller

America apparently has only four remaining physicians who perform third-trimester abortions. Documentarians Martha Shane and Lana Wilson tell their story.

American Promise

This sprawling documentary chronicles the differing educations of two African-American boys–one goes to public school, the other opts for private school. What makes this picture doubly intriguing is the fact that these boys are the actual sons of filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson.

Austenland

Why is this satirical jab at Jane Austen included on this list? Because Jennifer Coolidge is in it. ’Nuff said.

Before Midnight

Richard Linklater’s beguiling romantic interludes between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy continue in this hotly anticipated third installment to the series. I absolutely love how this trio reassembles under the radar at nine-year intervals to explore these wonderful characters with fresh eyes. What a treat!

Citizen Koch

Carl Deal and Tia Lessin, the directing duo behind 2009’s extraordinary New Orleans documentary, “Trouble the Water,” sink their teeth into the unrestricted corporate election spending that assured Scott Walker’s governorship in Wisconsin.

Computer Chess

One of the most influential trailblazers in microbudget filmmaking, Andrew Bujalski (“Mutual Appreciation”), centers his observant lens on a group of ’80s-era tech heads as they attempt to construct an unbeatable chess program.

Dirty Wars

I’ll admit that I’m a bit biased to this title, particularly since it stars my cousin, Jeremy Scahill. He’s the bestselling author of “Blackwater” and one of the most fearless investigative journalists in America. Now he guides viewers through the galvanizing warfare that our country is discreetly engaged in around the globe.

Don Jon’s Addiction

There is perhaps no thirtysomething actor in America with more arresting versatility than Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Now he tries his hand at writing/directing while starring opposite Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore. Yes please.

Google and the World Brain

British documentarian Ben Lewis questions the methods of Google, arguing that it may be (among other things) committing a mind-boggling heist. As a daily Google user, I can’t help but be curious.

Kill Your Darlings

Daniel Radcliffe takes yet another giant leap outside his comfort zone by tackling the tricky role of Allen Ginsburg. Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster and Elisabeth Olsen provide their A-grade support.

The Look of Love

Anytime director Michael Winterbottom and funnyman Steve Coogan team up, moviegoers can expect cinematic sparks to fly. In their latest collaboration, Coogan dives into the role of Paul Raymond, the controversial “King of Soho.”

May in the Summer

Cherien Dabis did a lovely job with her 2009 debut feature, “Amreeka.” For her sophomore effort, she’s stepping in front of the camera, starring alongside Hiam Abbas, Alexander Siddig and Alia Shawkat.

Milkshake

On the heels of his marvelous performances in “The Wise Kids” and “Nate & Margaret,” Tyler Ross takes a 180 degree turn from his previous film roles in David Andalman’s dark comedy. He plays the basketball-loving great-great grandson of Al Jolson who yearns to fit in with his black schoolmates.

Pit Stop

Yen Tan, the Austin-based director of “Ciao,” explores the plight of gay men in small-town America. Co-starring the luminous actress Amy Seimetz and co-written by David Lowery, whose star-studded directorial effort, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” is also competing at this year’s festival.

Prince Avalanche

David Gordon Green has gone from being one of America’s most interesting directors to one of its least interesting. But that doesn’t mean I’m any less excited for his latest film, especially since it promises a much-needed return to form (stars Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch are icing on the cake).

The Spectacular Now

An unlikely romance blooms between two gifted young actors, Miles Teller (“Rabbit Hole”) and Shailene Woodley (“The Descendants”).

Stoker

Park Chan-Wook, the mad genius behind “Oldboy,” directs Mia Wasikowska in the sordid tale of a troubled girl seduced by the dark mind of her sinister “Uncle Charlie.” Has Chan-Wook intentionally borrowed a key name from Hitchcock’s 1943 masterpiece, “Shadow of a Doubt”? I certainly hope so.

Touchy Feely

After delivering a knockout, Oscar-caliber performance (with minimal preparation) in “Your Sister’s Sister,” Rosemarie DeWitt reteams with director Lynn Shelton for this picture about a massage therapist who becomes repulsed by bodily contact. This also marks a reunion for “Juno” co-stars Ellen Page and Allison Janney. Chicago’s Music Box Theatre will host a screening of the film, with Shelton in attendance, on January 31st.

Upstream Color

The long-awaited second feature of Shane Carruth–who won the festival’s Grand Jury Prize for his unforgettable 2004 effort, “Primer”–stars one of my favorite actresses, Amy Seimetz, who you may also remember spotting in my blurb on “Pit Stop.” Carruth co-edited “Color” with David Lowery, who also co-wrote “Pit Stop.” Boy does that guy get around.

Rosemarie DeWitt stars in Lynn Shelton's Touchy Feely. Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

Rosemarie DeWitt stars in Lynn Shelton’s Touchy Feely. Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

For the complete festival schedule, visit the official Sundance site.

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