Sundance Turns the Big 3-0 by Trace De La Torre

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Los Angeles — With Sundance Film Fest just hours from lighting up screens — there’s something more perceptibly INDIE about this year’s line-up than usual (hitting the big 3-0 maybe?) — surely adding to all the merrymaking that marks the annual film festivities.

Here’s my Top 10 film picks that will everyone buzzing in 2014:

1.) Cooties

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Directors: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Cast: Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill, Jack McBrayer
THE BUZZ: Already bought by UPI for territories including the U.K. & Germany — ‘Cooties’ is pegged as the breakout hit of the midnight section — plot centers around a mysterious virus that breaks out in a remote elementary school transforming students into freak zombies…

dear white people  2.) Dear White People  
Director: Justin Simien
Cast: Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson, Teyonah Parris, Dennis Haysbert
THE BUZZ: A satire centered around four Black students attending an Ivy League College in the midst of a riot caused by a popular ‘African American’ themed party on campus.

3.) Frank     frank
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal
THE BUZZ: A quirky bio-pic comedy starring Fassbender as mysterious 80’s pop singer Chris Sievey/Frank Sidebottom promises to be draw — even if I never heard of him.

4.) God’s Pocket     God's Pocket
Director: John Slattery
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, Christina Hendricks, John Turturro
THE BUZZ: Wow — WHAT A CAST — based on the 1983 novel by National Book Award Winning author — Pete Dexter — this drama stars Hoffman as a man whose son dies in a supposed accident in the gritty blue-collar neighborhood of ‘God’s Pocket’.

5.) Laggies      Laggies
Director: Lynn Shelton
Cast: Keira Knightley, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sam Rockwell
THE BUZZ: A bit more commercial fare — this dark Dramedy stars Keira Knightley as a commitment-phobe who runs off to hang out with a 16-year old friend to stall on her decision after her boyfriend’s marriage proposal. Sounds quirky.

6.) Life Itself     Life Itself
Director: Steve James
THE BUZZ: A heartrending documentary shot during the last four months of Roger Ebert’s life. Bring the tissue.

Get the 1st look here: http://youtu.be/O6IRCBbGKCo

7.) Love Is Strange     Love is Strange
Director: Ira Sachs
Cast: John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei
THE BUZZ: Touching Dramedy about the consequences a gay couple — played by Lithgow & Molina — face when they tie the knot after 38 years together. Shot in Manhattan & Brooklyn also stars Marisa Tomei. Bring the tissue, chocolates, and Gummi Bears.

8.) The Skeleton Twins

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Director: Craig Johnson
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell
THE BUZZ: Estranged sibling twins cheat death on the same day without knowing it — karmic forces bring them back together to do some bitter-sweet soul-searching — especially about their love lives.

Click HERE: http://youtu.be/AnfPH8_e-jc to hear filmmaker Craig Johnson talk about his film ‘Skeleton Twins‘ premiering in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

9.) Song One     song one
Director: Kate Barker-Froyland
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Johnny Flynn, Mary Steenburgen
THE BUZZ: A touching drama set against the Brooklyn music scene sees Anne Hathaway play a woman who’s been estranged from her family but returns home after her brother suffers an accident that leaves in a coma — grasping to fill in the void left by time — she retraces her brother’s life as an aspiring musician and tracks down his favorite musician to vicariously make up for lost time through music. Definitely bring the tissue.

10.) Wish I Was Here   wish i were here
Director: Zach Braff
Cast: Braff, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad, Joey King
THE BUZZ: Braff’s much touted Kickstarter-funded Dramedy sees him playing a middle-aged husband, father, failed thesp, faced with the daunting task of home-schooling his kids.

Sundance Film Fest runs Jan. 16-26 in Park City, Utah — GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!

12 Years a Slave — Irrefutable MUST-SEE Film of the Year by Trace De La Torre

12 NEW YORK 1841  Ever since it first hit screens at Telluride & Toronto Film Fests last month, the hype surrounding 12 Years a Slave reached soaring heights.  Don’t expect the hype to cool anytime soon — it looks poised to run the distance through the awards season — walking away with more than one statue.

BAFTA KILTED STEVE  Directed by illustrious Brit/Dutch London-born visual artist — Sir Steve McQueenKnighted OBE AND CBE by the Queen — winner of the Camera d’Or at Cannes 2008 for his film Hunger, about the 1981 Irish hunger strike as a first-time Director — the Turner Prize in 1999 (a prestigious annual prize awarded to British visual artists under the age of 50 representing ALL media) — and a 2009 BAFTA for Hunger amongst many other awards — it’s irrefutable that THIS is the movie you need to see this year.

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Brad Pitt — 12 Years a Slave is a historical drama based on the 1853 autobiography by Solomon Northup, a free black man living in upstate Saratoga Springs, New York who is lured to Washington, D.C., kidnapped, and sold into slavery in 1841.

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The film takes us on an emotional odyssey where Ejiofor plays Solomon Northup, and faces cruelty from slave owner baddie played by Michael Fassbender.  The story takes a fateful turn in the 12th year of his capture when Solomon has a chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) that forever alters his life.

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SPOILER: McQueen boldly shows us the injustice of slavery by depicting disturbingly violent scenes — such as when Solomon is beaten 15 times with a bat before being whipped by his captors.

Slaves are shown being hanged, murdered, lashed — including by each other, on their masters’ orders.

Poignant line by Solomon: “I don’t want to survive. I want to LIVE.”

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Reviews so far have been unanimously positive with one astounding message: 12 Years a Slave will be a movie to tango with come award season.  Buzzfeed’s Adam Vary called it “most emotionally powerful film I have seen in a decade,” in his initial reaction. “The Oscar race has been pronounced over, six months before the ceremony itself,” writes the Guardian‘s Catherine Shoard. Entertainment Weekly‘s Owen Gleiberman says it’s a “landmark of cruelty and transcendence.”

12 Years a Slave, adapted by John Ridley from Northup’s memoir, and also starring Quvenzhane’ Wallis from “Beast of the Southern Wild”; Paul Dano; Sarah Paulson;  Alfre Woodard; Paul Giamatti; and Lupita Nyong’o — opens in US theatres on Oct 18th — bring a tissue.

Here’s a look at the bone-chilling Trailer:

Or watch the full movie here:  12 Years a Slave FULL MOVIE link