Age: 34
Notable films: I Am Not a Hipster (2012), Short Term 12 (2013)

Hawaii native Destin Daniel Cretton makes movies about tough-shelled people who want to connect. His first film, I Am Not a Hipster, dared you to hate it from the title on, following a guarded young San Diego musician fond of weepy music and me time. It's definitely a first feature, all out-of-control angst and solipsism.

For his second feature, Cretton's opened his heart. Short Term 12, a project he's been working on for years—he won a screenwriting fellowship for the script in 2010—takes place in a group home for at-risk teens. Brie Larson makes a case for stardom playing Grace, the adult in charge of the kids who can barely keep her own shit together. But—and this is where artistic growth becomes a reality for Cretton—she tries. She tries to better her relationship with her boyfriend, with her kids. She fucking tries.

Short Term 12, which won the audience award at SXSW earlier this year, is going to make a lot of folks cry, and, come awards season, it's gonna earn Larson and Cretton gold. —RS