Sundance 2013: 10 Movies to Watch and Why It Still Matters

Kutcher as Jobs: One of the many much-anticipated films at Sundance. Credit: Sundance Institute/AP Photo.

PARK CITY, Utah - This snowy ski town has once again gone Hollywood. The 2013 Sundance Film Festival kicks off today, and the formerly quaint celebration of independent film has become, as founder Robert Redford put it in a recent interview, a "monster's ball."

More than 100 feature films will premiere here over the course of 11 days, and that's not including the short film debuts, panel discussions, music performances, industry dinners, and mindboggling array of parties. But its roots remain strong. Case in point: "The Beasts of the Southern Wild," last year's Sundance hit that went on to win over critics, audiences, and the Academy, which bestowed on it four Oscar nominations, including one for 9-year-old star Quvenzhané Wallis.

"As the landscape of indie films keeps changing, Sundance remains their top purveyor," Michael Musto, culture critic for the Village Voice, told "It's the showcase for everyone who wants to debut their offbeat labor of love to the world and get noticed and distributed. People have declared the demise of Sundance for years, but the reality is it's still tops, still strong, still the marketplace for non franchise films. It's here that you'll find the new 'Beasts,' the new 'Precious,' and the latest James Franco weirdness."

Indeed, Franco's going to get really weird this time around. Here are 10 things to watch at this year's 'dance:

FULL COVERAGE: The 2013 Awards Season

1. Ashton Kutcher attempting Steve Jobs. In the very recent past, he's been known mostly as Demi Moore's ex and Mila Kunis' new man. Now he's going for a new, lofty role: channeler of Apple genius Steve Jobs. Kutcher's first major film in years premieres on the closing night of Sundance, and while he's definitely got the hair down pat, it remains to be seen if "jOBS" will live up to the hype.

2. Harry Potter's next chapter. Daniel Radcliffe is at the festival promoting "Kill Your Darlings," about a murder that draws together the famous poets of the beat generation. That's about as far from Hogwarts as you can get.

3. More Foo for you. Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl's documentary "Sound City" premieres here and chronicles the recording studio that played host to Nirvana's "Nevermind," Guns N' Roses, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, Fleetwood Mac, and more rock heavyweights.

4. Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace. The role that Lindsay Lohan lost out on is Seyfried's to own. In 2011, Seyfried told that playing the porn legend would be "terrifying."

5. Matthew McConaughey's "McConaissance." Credit to the Huffington Post for coining that term. Who can even remember when McConaughey was best known for playing the bongos naked? These days, he's the guy who starved himself to play an AIDS patient ("Dallas Buyers Club") and his Sundance film, "Mud," in which he plays a fugitive who recruits two children to help him find the love of his life, looks like another lofty piece.

6. The return of Jesse and Celine. "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset" fans, rejoice. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are back as the famous star-crossed lovers Jesse and Celine in "Before Midnight," which picks up nine years after "Before Sunset" leaves off.

7. Another "500 Days of Summer." If you liked the rom-com that launched Zooey Deschanel into superstardom, you'll likely love this - "The Spectacular Now," about a popular high school senior who falls for a sci-fi geek played by "The Descendants'" Shailene Woodley. The script was written by the same guys who penned "500 Days."

8. The rise of the next Ben Affleck. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is by no means an unknown. But he's catapulting himself onto a greater stage at with "Don Jon's Addiction," a movie he directed and stars in about a good looking guy who's addicted to porn. He's brought Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, and Tony Danza along for the ride.

9. A modern day Bonnie and Clyde. "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" stars Casey Affleck, who escapes from prison to reunite with his outlaw wife, "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo's" Rooney Mara. Uplifting? Probably not. Worth checking out? Yes.

10. James Franco getting freaky. Namely with a documentary about BDSM porn called "Kink." Calling all " 50 Shades of Grey" fans!