One of the pleasures of attending a film festival is discovering good movies that most people haven't had a chance to see yet, then raving about them to your friends. One of the frustrations, however, is when those good movies don't make it past the festival stage, and the people to whom you've been raving never get a chance to see them. (I'll go out on a limb and guess that this is more frustrating for the filmmakers than it is for me.)
It would be neither feasible nor advisable to see every movie at every festival, so this list is incomplete. But of the 80 or so festival movies I saw this year, here are 10 praiseworthy ones that have not yet been released in the United States. Keep your fingers crossed for 2011!
'American: The Bill Hicks Story' | This documentary about the subversive, dearly departed comedian got a theatrical run in the U.K. (where the filmmakers are based) but nothing yet in the United States, despite a warm reception at South By Southwest, HotDocs, Seattle, and elsewhere. You might be able to find it on a Region 2 DVD. Official website.
| The title character in this bizarre (and strangely affecting) comedy-drama is a teenage dirtbag and agent of chaos who befriends a young boy after the boy's mother dies. He's played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I wish it had come out this year, as a companion piece to JGL's very different 'Inception' performance. Newmarket bought the film at Sundance and presumably still has plans to release it in 2011, but I wasn't able to track down an exact date. Official website.
'His & Hers'
| From Ireland comes this charming little documentary in which women from ages 4 to 90 talk about the men in their lives: their daddies, their boyfriends, their husbands, their sons. What emerges is a profound admiration for the fairer sex, if only for the way they put up with us dopey males. It played at Sundance and SXSW, among other fests, but so far has no theatrical run lined up. (A DVD is available for purchase, but they'll only ship to Ireland addresses.) Official website.
'I Saw the Devil'
| As you are probably aware, South Korea's chief export is bloody movies about revenge. This one, which played at Toronto and Fantastic Fest and will turn up at Sundance in a few weeks, is an admirably unsettling addition to the canon. Magnet (the genre arm of Magnolia Pictures) will release it stateside on March 4. Official website.
'The Loved Ones'
| This Australian shocker -- about a crazy teenage girl who goes to extreme measures to secure a prom date -- premiered at Toronto in 2009, then played SXSW this year, where it found a very appreciative audience. It's now one of those buzzy, you-gotta-see-this horror films, endorsed by no less an authority than Cinematical's Scott Weinberg (who reviewed it for those Weinberg-stealing fiends at Fearnet). But can you see it? It's in Australian theaters now, with no word yet on when (or whether) it will expand. Official website.
| 'Murderball' co-director Dana Adam Shapiro made his fiction debut with this engrossing character study about a voyeuristic photographer (Chris Messina) and his fiancee (Rashida Jones). It's nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, which is a good sign. Oscilloscope has distribution, release date TBD. Official website.
| For fans of 'Saturday Night Live,' what could be better than a behind-the-scenes look at a typical production week? How about if it's directed by James Franco? And how about if SNL's guest the week in question was John Malkovich? SXSW and Tribeca fans got a kick out of this entertaining doc (read our review), which Oscilloscope plans to release in "early 2011."
| The latest from Errol Morris -- one of the best documentary filmmakers alive, you know -- is an outrageously entertaining look at a strange-but-true news story from the 1970s, in which a woman allegedly kidnapped a Mormon missionary in England and made him her sex slave. It gets nuttier from there. The only word we have on distribution so far is from Morris himself, just a couple days ago, via Twitter: "'Tabloid' will be in theaters next year. A deal will be announced in the very near future. (Thank goodness.)" So there you go. Official site.
'Tucker and Dale vs. Evil'
| You know those slasher movies about creepy backwoods guys who torture and kill innocent teens? This is a hilarious deconstruction of such films, from the point of view of the hillbillies -- played by Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine -- who it turns out are harmless and misunderstood. It was a hit at Sundance and SXSW. How does it not have distribution yet?? That's an atrocity. Maybe this is another job for Drafthouse Films...? Official site.
| Oh, I don't really expect to ever see this in theaters. It's too goofy, too provincial, too weird. Sure made me laugh at Tribeca, though. Erik Davis observed that it's like a live-action 'Simpsons' episode, and that's exactly right. An alcoholic escapes from rehab and convinces the morons in a quaint Irish village that he's a space alien; hilarity ensues. It's gotten some play in the U.K. and Australia and is for sale on DVD in Ireland only. I could see this becoming a cult favorite once it gets some more home-video exposure. Official site.