Sundance 2013: Viva Silva!

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Michael Cera in 'Magic Magic.'

Festival veteran Jesse Hawthorne Ficks files his first report from the 2013 Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals.

This year's Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals were both outstanding, so I did my best to pack my schedule as full as humanly possible (sacrificing sleep in the process). With close to 50 programs achieved, I can assure you it's gonna be one helluva year for cinema. Make sure to mark some of these titles down for 2013.

Filmmaker Sebastián Silva brought two new entries to Sundance, and they both happened to be two of my most cherished experiences. Crystal Fairy and Magic Magic were filmed in Chile at the same time, and showcase the almighty Michael Cera — who learned Spanish just for these projects. If you are able to avoid the countless spoiler-heavy reviews (this isn't one of them) and enter these films at your own risk, you will be treated to Silva's masterful, even transcendental, slow burn.

As he did in The Maid (2009) and Old Cats (2010), Silva allows his "unlikable" characters to reach some surprising conclusions — meaning audiences should leave any snap judgments at the door. Delivering a pair of typically charismatic performances, Cera is the ideal choice to guide viewers into Silva's bold and often profound terrain. (Audiences who continue to dismiss Cera as playing the same character over and over need to get over themselves. Should we also ridicule Charlie Chaplin, Gary Cooper, and Woody Allen for not being Daniel Day-Lewis caliber? Cera knows how to use his strengths, and perhaps is even able to use them against us.)

Cera's co-stars are also worthy of note: Gaby Hoffman (in Crystal Fairy) and Juno Temple (in Magic Magic). Both give stunning and heartfelt performances that may downright mystify many modern misanthropic maniacs. Crystal Fairy, in particular, perfectly explores the side effects of the modern drug scene, though quite a few critics around me seemed to misunderstand the protagonists' motives. These responses baffled me, since both movies feel like updated versions of late 1960s counterculture flicks like Monte Hellman's Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) and Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider (1969).

Yep, you read that right: Jesse saw nearly 50 programs this year. Stay tuned for his next report!