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Sundance buzz: Watch for these cool movies

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Lisa Kudrow, Happy Endings

ity, Utah, event is still the place where unknowns rub shoulders with A-listers, where stars are born overnight, and where indie and art-house hits-to-be get their first major exposure. Last year, Sundance brought us such successes as Super Size Me, Garden State, Napoleon Dynamite, and Open Water. The 2005 edition, which runs Jan. 20-30, has already generated advance buzz for a handful of titles. Here are the ones Entertainment Weekly’s writers and editors are most looking forward to seeing.

Happy Endings The Sundance opening-night feature is a trilogy of comic tales from filmmaker Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex, Bounce). Word is that it contains strong performances from Lisa Kudrow, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Tom Arnold. (Yes, that Tom Arnold.)

Thumbsucker Music video director Mike Mills adapts Walter Kirn’s novel about a high school boy with the unusual addiction suggested by the title. The cast includes Keanu Reeves, Vincent D’Onofrio, Benjamin Bratt, and Tilda Swinton.

Wolf Creek Sundance has been a good place to discover low-budget horror films that seem to have come out of nowhere (think The Blair Witch Project and Open Water). This one comes from Australia and tells a based-in-fact story of three stranded travelers who meet a seemingly friendly local with questionable intentions.

Loverboy Still riding a wave of acclaim from their work in last year’s Sundance entry The Woodsman, Kevin Bacon and wife Kyra Sedgwick return with this drama, the first theatrical release directed by Bacon. Sedgwick plays a woman desperate to have a child. After a succession of partners, she finally conceives, then smothers the child with motherly love.

The Aristocrats From comic Paul Provenza and magician/funny guy Penn Jillette comes this documentary about the brotherhood of professional comedians, focusing on one legendary joke that’s so filthy that most comics have told it only to each other — until now.

The Ballad of Jack and Rose If anyone can coax increasingly reluctant leading man Daniel Day-Lewis back in front of the camera, it’s his wife, writer/director Rebecca Miller (Personal Velocity). Here, he plays an environmental idealist and recluse whose idyllic life with his daughter is disrupted by the arrival of his girlfriend (Catherine Keener) and her sons.

Inside Deep Throat In this documentary, filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (Party Monster) probe the history and legacy of what may be the most profitable movie of all time, the low-budget porn flick that helped introduce hardcore to suburbanites. Produced by Hollywood mogul Brian Grazer (A Beautiful Mind), the documentary will be only the second NC-17 film Universal has ever released.

The Jacket Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley star in this much-anticipated sci-fi thriller about a traumatized Gulf War vet who tries an experimental serum that sends him tripping through time.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room Writer/director Alex Gibney’s documentary offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the notorious corporate meltdown.

Strangers With Candy Amy Sedaris’ cult-fave Comedy Central sitcom returns as a feature, with Sedaris once again playing middle-aged ex-con and high schooler Jerri Blank. This time, though, she has some high-profile guest stars, including Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker, Allison Janney, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

What Is It? Aptly scheduled for the festival’s midnight-movie section, this experimental film was 10 years in the making, with a cast consisting largely of actors with Down syndrome. It’s written and directed by Crispin Glover, who weirded you out in River’s Edge, Wild at Heart, Willard, and Charlie’s Angels.

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