When Sundance announced the films in competition for the 2014 festival yesterday, its organizers noted that they were impressed by the caliber of cinematic artistry — mostly due to technology — that freed up filmmakers to experiment with different genres. No category of the festival is more rooted in genre than Park City at Midnight, the late-night section that specializes in horror and the supernatural, and this year’s slate has several potential breakouts. “The Midnight lineup came together in a way that is about the strongest group we’ve ever had, top to bottom,” says Trevor Groth, Sundance’s director of programming. “I think a lot of those films are going to be real hot acquisitions — titles like Dead Snow 2, The Guest, Cooties. I think all of those are going to be big business, because they work on such great, fun genre levels.”
In addition to the Midnight movies, Sundance also announced lineups for its Spotlight, New Frontier, and the inaugural Sundance Kids sections on Thursday. One highlight in the eclectic Spotlight category, which features extraordinary films that may have previously played a festival or two elsewhere, is Locke, the real-time thriller starring Tom Hardy from Eastern Promises writer Steven Knight. “This is Tom Hardy in a car the entire time, speaking on a phone…as his world crumbles around him,” says Groth. “The dimensions of story that they weave into it, both through his performance and the dialog, is truly remarkable. It was one of the more unique watches we had this entire process.”
The New Frontier section welcomes back Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his hitRECord franchise. He launched the collaborative art project at Sundance in 2010, has returned for live shows since, and now has hitRECord on TV, a new kind of variety show that invites anyone with an Internet hook-up to join the fun.
Another interesting entry in that section is The Better Angels, the Abraham Lincoln movie about the women who steered him as a child toward his destiny, starring Jason Clarke, Diane Kruger, Brit Marling, and Wes Bentley. If it seems like an odd fit with New Frontier on paper, Groth explains that isn’t the case. “It’s a very artful approach to telling the story,” he says, pointing out that writer/director A.J. Edwards edited Terrence Malick’s last film, To the Wonder. “New Frontier is a section for ‘art’ and innovative storytelling, and A.J. tells this story in a very lyrical, poetic way. The audience’s expectation for having it in New Frontier will be, I think, the best way of having that film seen. When you read it on paper, it feels very straightforward: It’s Lincoln as a boy. But it ends up being much more meditative and experiential than that.”
Click below for a complete lineup of recently announced films. More categories, including Sundance Premieres, will be unveiled on Monday. The Sundance Film Festival runs Jan. 16-26.
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