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Sundance 2011: What I want to see (until I'm sidetracked by other movies I want to see)

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Already I don’t know what to see first. Every year I pore over the Sundance Film Festival catalog and make all kinds of notes and schedules. And every year I never follow the path I set out for myself, diverted by equally alluring alternatives. This much is set: I’m eager to see Project Nim tonight (that’s Nim himself on the left, looking anthropomorphically cute), about the famous 1970s experiment in which a chimpanzee was raised like a human child, and taught to communicate via sign language. It’s not just the subject that interests me, but the match of subject and filmmaker: This one’s from James Marsh, who made Man On Wire, about aerialist Philippe Petit’s heart-stopping stroll in the air between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

The festival really kicks into gear tomorrow, and while my energy is high, I plan to hustle over to an 8:30 a.m. screening of Pariah, by Dee Rees, about a teen girl trying to live life on her own terms, both as a butch lesbian and as a good daughter in a conservative family. Sounds gritty, authentic, fresh. And if I’m timing things right, I’ll have plenty of time to see Martha Marcy May Marlene by Sean Durkin, the first contender up in the Dramatic Competition. The program book says it’s about, um, a girl who escapes from a cult (where she was called Marcy May) and returns home (to where she’s called Martha). I don’t know yet who Marlene is; I’ll let you know. 

As a fan of Miranda July’s previous film, Me and You and Everyone We Know, I’ll certainly be at The Future, her new project. The program guide (what else do I have to go by?) says that the movie is narrated by a cat. Okay, sure, why not. And after that? Well, with a break for fiber bars and raw almonds (the official critic-on-the-run snack of the Sundance Film Festival), I hope to get to The Salesman — or Le Vendeur, since this is a French-Canadian film (and first feature) by Sebastien Pilote. This salesman sells cars. The program book says “astonishingly assured” and “emotionally crushing.” Sounds like a good day’s viewing.

Saturday? Win Win, probably, starring Paul Giamatti as a high-school wrestling coach and written and directed by Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor). And then Like Crazy, a love story by Drake Doremus, who made Douchebag. And then Terri, no doubt, because it’s made by Azazel Jacobs, and after Momma’s Man, I’ll follow that filmmaker anywhere.

Sunday brings Higher Ground, directed by Vera Farmiga, and Red State, by Kevin Smith. Smith, as you know, is (likely) one of EW.com’s most faithful, caffeinated comment-board posters, and I wouldn’t miss his newest movie for anything. More soon. Gotta eat some almonds.

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