Sundance Film Festival Standouts



Photo provided by: Collider
Photo provided by: Collider
Jesse Baalman
Staff Writer

From Jan. 12-29, The Sundance Film Festival was held in Park City, Utah. One of the biggests events of the year for independent filmmakers, the festival is a place for all kinds of new films to make their way into the world.

All the works that debut there can get lost in the shuffle or be celebrated for the year ahead. Some even gain enough momentum to become major Oscar contenders such as ‘Boyhood’ and ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ did.

This year’s festival does not seem to have one lone standout film, but several are noteworthy because of new and returning talent behind and in front of the camera.

Like this year and every year before it, the festival is considered a place for new ideas and bold storytelling. Here are some Sundance premieres to keep in mind as a new year of film begins.

Judd Apatow, the producer behind ‘Bridesmaids,’ lends a hand to ‘The Big Sick’ this new American comedy directed by Michael Showalter.

Kumail Nanjiani moves past his role on ‘Silicon Valley’ to a broader character whose story is based on his own experiences being a traditional Muslim comic who begins a relationship with an American.

It is about time audiences get to see Nanjiani in a role that should show the actor’s range and potential. Zoe Kazan plays his wife, Emily V. Gordon, who co-wrote the screenplay.

Holly Hunter and Ray Romano also make supporting turns as Emily’s disapproving parents in this film that looks to tell a new kind of story about relationships.

Director Gillian Robespierre, writer Elisabeth Holm, and actress Jenny Slate struck gold with their last Sundance hit in 2014, ‘Obvious Child.’ Now, the trio is back with ‘Landline’ this 90’s set New York story of family dynamic.

Back when the lack of internet and handheld phones made communication completely different than it is today, Slate and newcomer Abby Quinn are sisters who realize their parents marriage is falling apart while going through separate experiences in their own lives.

John Turturro and Edie Falco are the parents in this story that shows a family growing closer together after a divorce rather than farther apart. This should be a promising sophomore effort from Robespierre and a breakout moment for Quinn.

Festival regular Jeff Baena made two undeniably original and funny genre hybrids with ‘Life After Beth’ and ‘Joshy,’ but he is still an underrated independent filmmaker.

His next film, ‘The Little Hours’, set in medieval Tuscany, focuses on three unruly nuns (Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie, and Kate Micucci) in a dysfunctional convent.

‘The Little Hours’ could be broad enough to connect further than his previous features as it has an all star cast including Dave Franco, Nick Offerman, and Molly Shannon. Hopefully it does, because Baena always hides interesting ideas underneath these wacky plots.

The horror genre has officially made a comeback with ‘Get Out’. Writer and director Jordan Peele of Comedy Central’s ‘Key and Peele’ joins other artists who are effectively telling scary stories in new ways.

In this social horror movie, Daniel Kaluuya (Black Mirror) is apprehensive about meeting his girlfriend’s (Allison Williams of HBO’s ‘Girls’) parents who do not know that their daughter is dating a black man.

The satirical premise and reflective nature of Peele’s story should be thrilling for audiences especially when it is revealed that the parents’ (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford) suburb has a history of young black men disappearing.

David Lowery’s ‘Pete’s Dragon’ was a great update on the Disney children’s classic, but now he is back with something a little different, ‘A Ghost Story’. Like ‘Manchester By the Sea,’ Casey Affleck stars in another film of grief-stricken characters and the ever presence of pain caused by the loss of a loved one.

In the film, he haunts the house of his former lover (Rooney Mara) in a white sheet. Another genre-defying picture, ‘A Ghost Story’ seems like a cinematic experience unlike any other.

Brigsby Bear, written by and starring Saturday Night Live’s Kyle Mooney, the story follows James as he is opened up to the outside world after years spent with his reclusive and overprotective parents.

Brigsby Bear Adventures, a show that his parents made for him, has only been seen by James. Since his show was cut off abruptly, he decides to create a movie to end that show (and that part of his life) and start a new one.

Mooney is perfect for this type of odd comedy and he is joined by Mark Hamill, Andy Samberg, and Greg Kinnear in this movie that has been purchased by Sony Pictures Classics.

Drake Doremus is entering a new phase of his career with ‘Newness’. His movies may not be flawless, but his romance trilogy consisting of ‘Like Crazy,’ ‘Breathe In,’ and ‘Equals’ is a deeply felt and intimate portrayal of three different perspectives on love and the way it connects with the past, present, and future.

Next he tackles technology’s effect on romantic relationships and monogamy with a story about two millennials who navigate social media-driven hookup culture. Starring Nicholas Hoult and Laia Costa, this marks the fourth romantic drama from relationship expert Doremus.

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