December 2nd, 2011 By Jason Gargano | Movies |

Friday Movie Roundup: Sundance Lineup Edition

51098590John Cusack and Todd Louiso in 'High Fidelity'
I haven't done an exhaustive study, but it seems for the first time since I've been writing the words that appear in this space, there are no new movies opening in theaters this week. Zero.

But that's not to say there aren't plenty of worthwhile options currently residing in local theaters.

As I pointed out last week, there have been an uncommon number of strong movies released of late, including four last week: The Descendants, Hugo, The Muppets and My Week with Marilyn. That quartet follows the recently released Martha Marcy May Marlene and Like Crazy, which means a half-dozen movies in the last three weeks have garnered an A- or better from CityBeat's typically stingy crew of critics.

So, believe it or not, now is not the time to be bitching about the lack of fruitful cinematic options (hell, I still haven't seen MMMM or Hugo).

In other movie news, the Sundance Film Festival announced its 2012 competition films this week. The festival will feature 110 full-length features (culled from 4,042 submissions) representing 31 different countries. Eighty-eight will be world premieres.

John Cooper — who took over as director of the festival in 2010, and who has attempted to move Sundance away from its more overblown elements of recent years and back to its indie roots — is, despite various challenges, enthusiastic about this year's slate.

In these challenging economic times, filmmakers have had to be more resourceful and truly independent in their approaches to filmmaking,” Cooper says.

“Looking at this year’s submissions, the result is more fully realized visions and stronger stories; we are proud to see the Festival emerging as a key indicator of the health and creativity of our filmmaking community. The overall quality of the films in the 2012 Competition section will make for an exciting Festival and a remarkable year ahead for independent film audiences everywhere.”

If last year's offerings are any indication, he's not just blowing smoke. Check this list of 2010 competition films, all of which had some sort of Cincinnati release: Another Earth, Higher Ground, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Like Crazy, Take Shelter, Terri, Beats, Rhymes and Life, Buck and Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times. Then there were the myriad out-of-competition films that made their way to our often-neglected Midwestern market: The Guard, Cedar Rapids, The Devil's Double, Project Nim, Senna, Margin Call, My Idiot Brother, Red State, Win Win and The Interrupters. That's a pretty impressive output for any festival, let alone one whose reputation is supposedly diminished.

As usual, the competition films will feature a number of first-time directors (26, to be exact) scattered amid more familiar faces (actor-turned-director Mark Webber, Kirby Dick, Ira Sachs, Quentin Dupieux, Eugene Jarecki, actor-turned-director Mads Matthiesen and Antonio Campos). And, as usual, there will be a cavalcade of notable actors trekking to the otherwise sleepy, typically snow-laden ski-resort town of Park City, Utah, in January: Michael Cera, Amanda Seyfried, Shannon Sossamon, Jason Ritter, Lou Diamond Phillips, Jon Heder, Paul Dano, Lizzy Caplan, Alison Brie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, John Krasinski, Olivia Thirlby, Rosemarie DeWitt, Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass. And that's just the actors appearing in the competition films.

Perhaps of most interest to Cincinnatians is the inclusion of local native (and SCPA grad) Todd Lousio's Hello I Must Be Going in the Dramatic Competition. The film, Louiso's third full-length effort after Love Liza and The Marc Pease Experience, is described this way: Divorced, childless, demoralized and condemned to move back in with her parents at the age of 35, Amy Minsky's prospects look bleak — until the unexpected attention of a teenage boy changes everything.” The cast includes Melanie Lynskey, Blythe Danner, Christopher Abbott, John Rubenstein and Julie White.

Perhaps tellingly, the film is slated to open the festival on Jan. 19. Might Hello I Must Be Going finally move Louiso beyond his best-known acting role — as the sheepish record-store clerk Dick in High Fidelity — and into the realm of noteworthy filmmakers? We'll find out in seven weeks.

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