PARK CITY - The 2013 Sundance Film Festival is only hours away from kicking off with four premieres tonight: the documentary mystery "Who is Dayani Cristal?", U.S. dramatic competition entry "May in the Summer," "Crystal Fairy" with Michael Cera and the music doc "Twenty Feet from Stardom" (oh yeah, and "Shorts Program 1"). The early buzz is all about James Franco and his two sex movies ("Interior.Leather.Bar." and "Kink"), but by Saturday night the conversation will likely have shifted to the "big surprise" and hot acquisition targets. With that in mind, here are 10 predictions for the next week of festival going in Park City.
The "excuse me, I need a moment before I can stand up" festival
There are going to be some hot and bothered audiences in Park City this weekend. From "Interior.Leather.Bar" to "Kink" to a rumored sex scene with Daniel Radcliffe in "Kill Your Darlings" to Amanda Seyfried as Linda "Lovelance," Sundance is ready for quite an erotic ride.
The return of the Oscar mojo
After a very down showing in 2012 (at least among narrative films), Sundance roared back in the Academy's good graces with best picture, best director and best actress nods (among others) for festival favorite "Beasts of the Southern Wild" last week. This year buzz is already swirling around "Ain't Them Bodies Saints," "Before Midnight" and "The Spectacular Now," just to name a few. And, as it has been since the late '90s, the documentary competition will continue to rack up the Oscar pedigree of the festival.
Get ready twitter and Facebook. Anyone you know near Park City, Utah will soon be tweeting for their life over the fear of germs and catching the nasty flu that's going around. The city has already told attendees to use hand sanitizer as much as possible over concerns those East Coast visitors will bring the epidemic their way. Of course, a nasty Sundance flu bug is a right of passage every other year or so, but 2013 appears to be causing higher anxiety than usual.
The year the party died
This is my ninth Sundance in a row. I began at the height of the celebrity gifting suites and ambush marketing and have seen the festival slowly push all the party crashers out of town. This year there is less buzz for the party scene than I can ever remember. The big weekend performers are just DJ's such as Avicii and Afrojack. The days of Beyonce performing at ESPN parties and Beastie Boys giving mini-concerts seem long, long gone.
New buyers make a mark at the table and some old ones are quiet
Familiar faces return with Bob and Jeanne Berney behind a newly invigorated "Picturehouse" and A24 has already made noise with "Ginger and Rosa" and the upcoming "Spring Breakers." Expect both to be major players in the acquisition market this year. Don't expect Summit Entertainment (too big a slate in 2013) or The Weinstein Company (if Harvey can control himself) to jump headfirst into the acquisition game, however.
Strong premieres past the first weekend
Like it's cousin in the Great White North, TIFF, Sundance has a reputation of debuting much weaker films past the first weekend and Monday night. This year should see a marked improvement with potential acquisition targets "A.C.O.D." starring Adam Scott and Amy Poehler premiering on Wednesday, "Very Good Girls" with Dakota Fanning and Elisabeth Olsen on Tuesday and - fingers crossed - "Lovelace" with Seyfried, things could be looking up midweek. (And yes, closing night film "Jobs" was purposely not included. We'll believe Ashton Kutcher can pull of playing the Apple genius when we see it.)
It will feel like old home week at times
Impressively, this year's festival features the return of previous narrative alums Drake Doremus, Zal Batmanglij, Richard Linkletter, Sarah Polley, Michael Winterbottom, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, David Gordon Green, Jane Campion, Lynn Shelton and Shane Carruth. What's even more exciting is that both Carruth and Shelton's films, "Upstream Color" and "Touchy Feely" respectively, will be competing in the U.S. dramatic competition. It's rare that any previous filmmaker make the competition cut, but two? That's superb. The more former filmmakers who screen in this category the more prestigious it will end up being.
Controversy will heat up the documentary categories...again
Anita Hill, Dick Cheney, third trimester abortion doctors, S&M, the Wisconsin recall election, covert U.S. military operations, hate crimes and the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Yep, just another year of button-pushing Sundance docs. Wouldn't have it any others way.
Second year in a row with no secret screening
The HitFix team has scoured the schedule, but we cannot find any hint of where a "secret screening" could take place this year. If that is the case, it would mark the second year in a row without one. That's pretty surprising considering the fact Steven Soderbergh's "The Girlfriend Experience," "Exit Through the Gift Shop" and "Red State" (yeah, that wasn't much of a secret, but still…) all created quite a ruckus over the previous three years. Are filmmakers less interested in the publicity burst? Has the festival just found itself too booked with confirmed films? We're hoping we're wrong on this one.
What are you expecting out of this year's 2013 Sundance Film Festival? Share your thoughts below.
For continuing updates from Sundance follow Gregory Ellwood @HitFixGregory on Twitter.