The seven Sundance films with buzz -- Salma Hayek's directorial debut, Oliver Stone's Castro documentary, and Macaulay Culkin's bad-boy role lead the pack at Robert Redford's annual shindig

By Missy Schwartz
January 16, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST
Salma Hayek: James Devaney/

What’s the one place where celebs dare to attend premieres in down parkas and clunky waterproof boots? Sundance, of course, Robert Redford’s annual snowy, star-studded film festival in Park City, Utah. With the fest just underway (it runs Jan. 16-26), we offer you a peek at some of this year’s most anticipated movies, ranked roughly in order of buzz.

1) PARTY MONSTER No more Richie Rich for Macaulay Culkin, who, now a mature man of 23, stars as notorious New York club kid-turned-murderer Michael Alig. Based on Alig buddy James St. James’ book ”Disco Bloodbath,” ”Monster” was directed by first-time feature helmers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, both of whom know a little something about notoriety: They produced HBO’s ”Monica in Black and White.”

2) UNITED STATES OF LELAND Okay, it’s official: Ryan Gosling (”Murder by Numbers,” ”The Believer”) is the go-to guy for playing psychologically disturbed characters. Here he stars as a teenager imprisoned for killing a child; behind bars, he develops an important relationship with a teacher (Don Cheadle).

3) THE SINGING DETECTIVE Robert Downey Jr. makes a smash-bang-boom comeback as ailing crime novelist Dan Dark in this rich, multigenre remake of the hit 1986 TV miniseries written (like this one) by Dennis Potter. Mel Gibson (also a producer) stars as the doctor who helps Dan work through the Dark-ness of his paranoid hallucinations.

4) OFF THE MAP A quiet family drama directed by Campbell Scott, still hot from his acclaimed turn in ”Roger Dodger,” in which newcomer Valentina d’Angelis plays a girl coming of age in New Mexico with her oddball earth mother (Joan Allen) and depressive pop (Sam Elliott).

5) CONFIDENCE ”Glengarry Glen Ross” director James Foley orchestrates a mighty ensemble cast (Edward Burns, Rachel Weisz, Dustin Hoffman, Andy Garcia) in this speedily paced pic about a pack of con artists planning a big-time swindle.

6) LOVE AND DIANE Documentarian Jennifer Dworkin spent five years with Diane, a recovering crack addict and mother struggling to get her post-rehab life on track. At last fall’s New York Film Festival, the moving, gritty documentary got rave reviews.

7) COMANDANTE Oliver Stone tries on his journalist’s hat in this documentary shot for HBO that chronicles the filmmaker’s three days’ worth of conversations with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

SPECIAL MENTION: TWO DIRECTORIAL DEBUTS Scott isn’t the only actor who’s generated buzz for his lensing feats. With ”City of Ghosts” and ”The Maldonado Miracle,” Matt Dillon and Salma Hayek will both showcase their directorial debuts. ”City” follows an expat (Dillon) searching for his mentor (James Caan) in Cambodia, while ”Maldonado,” starring Peter Fonda and Mare Winningham, tells the story of a small town’s brush with a religious miracle.