Coming Up: Sundance

Sundance Film Festival

Thanks to Kate Arthur at BuzzFeed.com for providing us with an exhaustive list of the 65 most anticipated movies at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival.  The festival gets underway in Park City Utah on January 22nd and runs until February 1st, 2015.

What’s most striking about the list is the variety of performances by recognizable actors.  There are a number of casts that I assumed to be comedies but are actually dramas, and vice versa.  That’s the beauty of Sundance.  It has yet to become the glamour-azzi of TIFF or Cannes and still offers upcoming talents who are able to offer interesting, new works or established names who can offer films that take chances.

Here are a few favourites as I make my way through the list, on my lunch hour…

1. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (U.S. Dramatic Competition)

Starring: Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, and Molly Shannon
Directed by: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Thomas Mann plays Greg, an antisocial high-schooler who also makes movies as a hobby. He and his one friend, Earl (RJ Cyler), are forced by Greg’s mother to befriend Rachel (Olivia Cooke), who has been diagnosed with leukemia. I have prepared myself to be moved by this film, since I teared up while watching the Sundance video of director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon merely describing it. Jesse Andrews, whose 2013 debut novel of the same name inspired the movie, also wrote the screenplay.

10. Z for Zachariah (U.S. Dramatic Competition)

Starring: Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Chris Pine
Directed by: Craig Zobel
Like I suspect of many children of the ’80s, I can remember reading Robert C. O’Brien’s novel Z for Zachariah when I was a kid, and imagining its spare, harrowing story as a movie. Anyone familiar with the novel, however, will already recognize that this film adaptation has made some significant changes to O’Brien’s story. It still tracks Ann Burden (Margot Robbie), who believes she’s the only survivor of a devastating nuclear war thanks to the secluded valley she lives in that prevented any radiation from reaching her, because sci-fi. But with The Wolf of Wall Street’s Robbie in the role, Ann is no longer a teenager (or, at least, no longer looks like a teenager), and her life is upended when two men enter the valley — first Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Loomis, and then Chris Pine’s Caleb — instead of just one like in the book. I suspect these changes will shift the story from a grim coming-of-age tale to something more overtly sexual and thematically complex, both of which I think are good things. (Fun fact: Director Craig Zobel is one of the co-creators of Homestar Runner, which is just too random for me not to share.) —Adam B. Vary

22. I Smile Back (U.S. Dramatic Competition)

Starring: Sarah Silverman, Josh Charles, Thomas Sadoski, Mia Barron, Terry Kinney, and Chris Sarandon
Directed by: Adam Salky
We always seem to make a big fuss whenever a comedian goes dramatic, but there has always been a chord of real darkness playing under Sarah Silverman’s comedy. Now that subtext becomes text in Silverman’s first fully dramatic lead role as a suburban mother whose depression, drug use, and sexual promiscuity slowly ruin her seemingly happy marriage and family life. I mostly liked director Adam Salky’s last film at Sundance (the 2009 coming-of-age film Dare) and I’m eager to see if Silverman can maintain her savvy live-wire spark without punchlines to leaven the gloom in I Smile Back, adapted by Amy Koppelman and Paige Dylan from Koppelman’s novel.

26. The Overnight (U.S. Dramatic Competition)

Starring: Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, and Judith Godrèche
Directed by: Patrick Brice
If you have children and live in L.A. east of La Brea — or wherever you think the Eastside begins (a question no one agrees upon) — then you may already be aware that indie pop culture seems to want to reflect your days. There’s Jill Soloway’sTransparent (and, before that, her Sundance movie Afternoon Delight) and there’s the Duplass brothers’ Togetherness on HBO, which is set in Eagle Rock. And now there are two Sundance offerings! In The Overnight, Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling play a couple, newly transplanted to Los Angeles from Seattle, who meet another couple (Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche) with a small kid. They go over to their house, and then… raunchy comedy ensues? In his introductory video on the Sundance site, the movie’s writer/director, Patrick Brice, compared its humor to Wet Hot American Summer and Booty Call.

Here is the list in full.  Enjoy!

 

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