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Advance buzz at Sundance? Experts reveal their favorites

Published January 13, 2012 11:40 am

Picking titles • Some of the Internet's leading movie watchers spill out what they're eager to see.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Buzz, the ever-elusive quality that makes or breaks a movie at the Sundance Film Festival, means different things to different people.

For Sara Maria Vizcarrondo, who writes for BoxOffice magazine, it's rating movies based on their marketability, and whether they will score a deal from distributors. (Her top three picks in that regard are the tech-filled drama "Robot and Frank" starring Frank Langella, the comedy "Bachelorette" with Kirsten Dunst and the closing-night film "The Words" with Bradley Cooper.)

For Carrie Rickey, longtime film critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer, it's about proximity. The three Sundance titles she's most interested in (if she were coming, which she's not) are Mark Webber's drama "The End of Love," Don Argott's documentary "The Atomic States of America" and Rick Alverson's absurdist film "The Comedy" — because they were all made by Philly filmmakers.

In search of buzz about this year's Sundance entrants, TheTribune asked some of the Internet's prominent movie writers and Hollywood observers to pick the three titles that have them most excited for the trip to Park City.

Jeffrey Wells • Writer/creator, Hollywood Elsewhere (http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com)

"Bachelorette" (Premieres) • "Because it might be 'Bridesmaids 2.' At the very least, the success or failure of this women's ensemble wedding thingie will lead people to say that (a) 'Bridesmaids' might have been a fluke or (b) 'Bridesmaids' uncorked a whole new genre and it's off the races."

"Lay The Favorite" (Premieres) • "[Director Stephen] Frears went horribly off-track with 'Tamara Drewe,' but he's never failed with any sort of criminal enterprise film, and the cast — Rebecca Hall, Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Vince Vaughn — indicates a quality-level thing."

"Shadow Dancer" (Premieres) • "[Director James] Marsh ('Man on Wire,' 'Project Nim,' 'Red Riding') is a smart, thoughtful, down-to-it British filmmaker, and this 'heart-wrenching thriller' with Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough and Gillian Anderson sounds like good, tough pulp."

David Poland • Editor/writer/founder, MovieCityNews.com.

"Smashed"(U.S. Dramatic) • "Not the freshest premise, but when I see Nick Offerman's name attached — a very funny man who is very serious about living sober — I have faith that the film will touch on some powerful truths about getting lost in a bottle."

"The Queen of Versailles" (U.S. Documentary) • "Huge Lauren Greenfield fan, and I have a feeling that this movie will be one of the very best at getting at the heart of America's dysfunction over money in this era."

"Red Lights"(Premieres) • "Rodrigo Cortes is red hot amongst the geeks, but 'Buried' was a bit of a stunt. Really looking forward to seeing if he is The Next Guy, working with some more [bucks] and a high-profile cast."

Jen Yamato • Senior editor, Movieline (http://www.Movieline.com)

"L" (World Cinema Dramatic) • "Something strange and wonderfully mad is happening in Greece; Babis Makridis's absurdist tale 'L' is the latest must-see in the burgeoning Greek New Wave jump-started by Giorgos Lanthimos' films 'Dogtooth' and 'Alps' (both also written by 'L' scribe Efthimis Filippou)."

"V/H/S" (Park City at Midnight) • "Found footage horror, done anthology-style, by indie directors like Adam Wingard, Ti West, and Joe Swanberg? Revolving around this generation's beloved bygone media of choice — the noble VHS tape — no less? I'm so there."

"Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap" (Documentary Premieres) • "Ice-T, the one and only O.G./gangsta rapper-turned-"Law & Order" detective, makes his directorial debut with a documentary that promises to go deep into the roots of hip hop with legends and trailblazers like Dr. Dre, Grandmaster Caz, Afrika Bambaataa, Nas, Snoop, Eminem, Mos Def, Run DMC, KRS-One, Ice Cube, and Eminem."

Omar Moore • Editor, The Popcorn Reel (popcornreel.com).

"Wuthering Heights" (Spotlight) • "I'm curious to see just how much [director Andrea] Arnold, who's such a talented and distinctive director, stages Bronte's classic and reshapes it in her own unique language. I think that her sensitivities and the resolute, uncompromising and spirited women at the center of her films ('Red Road,' "Fish Tank') should inform this new film well."

"Red Lights" (Premieres) • "I'm excited to see just how Elizabeth 'Lizzie' Olsen progresses here after her excellent work in 'Martha Marcy May Marlene.' She was magnetic and indelible in Sean Durkin's film, and at such a young age has a very good command of the big screen and the space she's allowed to inhabit. Of course, she's just started, but it seems as if she's been acting on the big screen for decades. Her confidence, self-possession and awareness are astounding. The cast she is surrounded with in [director Rodrigo] Cortes' film (Robert De Niro, Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Joely Richardson, Toby Jones) is a formidable one. I'm looking to see how she fares up against these fine actors."

"Red Hook Summer"(Premieres) • "It has been several years since [Spike] Lee directed a feature film, and longer since he took on a project that was very personal to him. I look forward to a film that I think will have richness and strength to it, one that brings us vividly back to a Brooklyn that the director knows well. I also think that style, music, the diverse strands of a neighborhood and complex, well-drawn, thought-provoking characters are things Mr. Lee is so very skilled at cultivating. The film's title alone seems to promise some of the flavors audiences have experienced in Mr. Lee's earlier work."

Peter Knegt • Senior editor, IndieWire (http://www.Indiewire.com)

"Keep the Lights On" (U.S. Dramatic) • "Ira Sachs ('The Delta,' 'Forty Shades of Blue') returns to Sundance with what could be this year's 'Weekend' — a decade-long love story between two men struggling with addiction and sexual compulsion."

"Bachelorette" (Premieres) • "A promising cast including Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan headline a sort of indie 'Bridesmaids' in this comedy about three friends from high school reuniting to throw their frenemy's bachelorette party."

"How to Survive a Plague" (U.S. Documentrary) • "Chronicling the history of two of the most influential HIV/AIDS activists groups — ACT UP and TAG — David France's 'How To Survive a Plague' could be a powerful depiction of the largely unsung heroes of the onset of HIV/AIDS."

Ray Pride • Film editor, Newcity (newcityfilm.com); news editor, MovieCityNews.com; contributing editor, Filmmaker magazine.

"I'm looking forward to seeing what filmmakers are doing with the new, low-to-the-ground technologies, such as the video-capable Canon range of DSLRs: stuff that expands a visual/emotional grammar, like 2011's over-the-swoon 'Like Crazy,' more than stuff that doesn't, like the fevered 'I'll Melt With You.' What films might expand our idea of what can be done with modest means?"

"Nobody Walks" (U.S. Dramatic) • by Ry Russo-Young.

"For Ellen" (U.S. Dramatic) • by So Yong-Kim.

"Simon Killer" (U.S. Dramatic) • by Antonio Campos.

"I don't know the format of any of these films, but prior work by the filmmakers holds promise."

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