Peter Travers just got back from the Sundance Film Festival, and he’s filled with hope. But he won’t be sending you to the theaters just yet, because there’s nothing good to see right now (Ahem, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters). “That’s what happens at the beginning of the year: there’s crap. So it’s great for me to go to Sundance, where crap is at a minimum,” he says. Here are Travers’ top five picks from Sundance, which also serve as five reasons why 2013 might not disappoint:
In his directorial debut, Sound City, Dave Grohl writes a love letter to the historic Sound City Studios. “It’s the ugliest-ass place you’ve ever seen, and Dave Grohl’s in love with it,” Travers says. Grohl’s documentary focuses on the importance of a human component when recording music. “It kind of gives the finger to digital,” Travers says.
Daniel Radcliffe plays a young (and non-magical) Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings, which follows Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac as they solve a murder case and blaze literary trails. “I have never seen a Daniel Radcliffe performance like this. This spun my head around,” Travers says.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed, and starred in Don Jon’s Addiction, a film about a man who can get any woman he wants — including a character played by Scarlett Johansson — and yet he always finds himself returning to online pornos. Don Jon’s Addiction lets Gordon-Levitt cast off the restraints of a conventional blockbuster: “It’s not that kind of big screen movie where he can’t take risks. There’s that risk of failure in it,” says Travers.
Director David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints succeeds even though it doesn’t play by any of Hollywood’s rules — or perhaps because it doesn’t. “It moves at a pace that Hollywood would hate. You look at it and you get lost in it,” Travers says. The movie tells the story of two outlaws, played by Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck.
“Of course, there’s big money stuff too,” Travers says of the festival. The Way, Way Back, which sold for more than most indies do, is a comedy starring Steve Carell and Toni Collette, and it has the same humorous vibe as a previous Sundance hit with those same actors: Little Miss Sunshine.