Is it 2007 all over again?  Just two years ago, the indie haven that is the Sundance Film Festival had its most significant representation at the grand old lady herself, the Oscars.  "Little Miss Sunshine," "An Inconvenient Truth," "Half Nelson" and "The Illusionist" all rang up significant nominations in what was a very competitive year.  2010's show may not duplicate that success, but the writing is on the wall that a number of audience favorites could be major players during next year's award season.

"Push: Based on a novel by Sapphire"
Many in the media looked at the cast and prejudged this film before seeing it, only to rave about it afterward.  And that makes the double win of the Audience and Grand Jury dramatic awards is significant.  Especially considering the competition in that category with "Humpday" and "Adam" (more on that one later).  No one is claiming Mo'Nique is a lock to get an Oscar nod in the best supporting actress category next year for her stunning performance as a monster mother (no one is this early in the game), but the Special Jury Prize winner for Acting definitely makes her a player.  The producers and director Lee Daniels have held off on lining up a distributor until now and based on the festival awards it may have been their best strategy.  They are going to need a mini-major or studio to come on board who will work this title into the crossover hit it can be.  Searchlight might be booked, but Focus? Paramount? Miramax? Lionsgate?  Who is going to step up to the plate?  For more on "Push," read my review.

"An Education"
Carey Mulligan. Remember that name.  If Sony Pictures Classics has their way, moviegoers will fall in love with the, as HitFix's own Daniel Fienberg noted, "Emily Mortimer crossed with Ellen Page crossed with Katie Holmes" british newcomer.  This classy coming-of-age drama could push Mulligan into the Best Actress race (although Sally Hawkins failure to get nominated this year isn't a good sign for British ingenues) and at the minimum reward Nick Hornby ("About a Boy") for an Oscar nod for best adapted screenplay.

"Adam"
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what Fox Searchlight was thinking when they acquired this one.  A romantic drama about an autistic man (Hugh Dancy) who falls for his upstairs neighbor (Rose Byrne), this well received flick has the potential to push Dancy into next year's best actor race.  And if you have to ask why, just rent "Tropic Thunder"...

"The Cove"
Already pegged as a potential smash as the "dolphins are the new Penguins" movie, this Audience Award winner could easily sneak into the always bizarrely selected best documentary field...as does...

"We Live in Public"
Hailed as a significant artistic achievement by many critics, this documentary follows the life of dot-com entrepreneur Josh Harris whose online experiments were years ahead of its time. Certainly on the short list for next year's documentary competition.

And this isn't even taking into account two other crowd-pleasers: Searchlight's "500 Days of Summer" and the Jim Carrey/Ewan McGregor flick "I Love You Phillip Morris" (a film that will be better received away from Park City). 

Needless to say, Sundance has made the kickoff to next year's award's season that much more intriguing.  And that's always a good thing.