Movies

The Five Best Movies I Saw at Sundance 2012

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John Hawkes hires Helen Hunt as a sex surrogate; Rosemarie DeWitt, Emily Blunt, and Mark Duplass face off in a love triangle.

I headed to Park City this year to check out the Sundance Film Festival's latest crop. Here are the five most interesting movies I saw out there. Luckily they've all been acquired and will be coming to a theater (or television network) near you.

1. Beasts of the Southern Wild (director: Benh Zeitlin)

Words are inadequate when it comes to describing this visceral tale set in a Louisiana bayou ravaged by poverty and flooding. The first five minutes alone will dazzle you and make you want to go to there, as Liz Lemon would say. People laugh and whoop and rave with alluring abandon. They punch fish in the face. They eat every meal like it's their last. And the star, Quvenzhane Wallis — who was six-years old when the film was shot — is one firecracker of an actress.

2. The Surrogate (director: Ben Lewin)

Real-life poet Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes), a polio patient, lives his life vertically, his inert body encased in a life-sustaining capsule. One day he makes it his mission to lose his virginity and hires a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) to help him with the deed. Hawkes glows with humor and wiseassery and should definitely be generating Oscar chatter come this time next year.

3. Chasing Ice (director: Jeff Orlowski)

Talk about the power of images. In this awe-inspiring documentary, director Jeff Orlowski follows National Geographic photographer James Balog as he implements his Extreme Ice Survey: twenty-seven time-lapse cameras staked at glaciers around the world, snapping shots every half-hour. In essence, Balog provides solid evidence that glaciers are melting at alarming rates. Watching the calving of an epic glacier is like watching a scene from a Roland Emmerich flick, minus CGI.

4. Searching for Sugar Man (director: Malik Bendjelloul)

Don't be surprised if you find yourself cheering and gushing with fan love by the end of this feel-good documentary. It tracks a music journalist and South African record-store owner as they investigate the life of an obscure '70s singer named Rodriguez. Curious to know what led to his death, they end up encountering a delightful series of twists and turns.

5. Your Sister's Sister (director: Lynn Shelton)

Lynn Shelton, who directed Humpday, turns out yet another pitch-perfect film about the humor in relationship drama. Iris (Emily Blunt) is best friends with Jack (Mark Duplass), who drunkenly hooks up with Iris' lesbian sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) — without realizing Iris is in love with him. If it sounds melodramatic, rest assured it doesn't play that way.