Film festival scheduling is a delicate art, a precarious balance of needs and desires, a rigorous exercise in making puzzle pieces fit. It’s hard, is what I’m saying, and it’s harder still when a fest’s programming is rounded out with so many films that sound so good – like this year’s Sundance Film Festival slate. As the fest rolled out their picks late last year, I’d spend whole mornings squealing over their listings, getting jazzed weeks in advance for films I hoped I’d be able to see.
After all that, I’ve narrowed down my picks to ten films I cannot wait to see, a list that includes some Sundance favorites, some returning stars, Canada’s best film of the year, a possible break-out hit or two, and even a doc about mountain climbing, because those are just the sorts of films I wait all year to see at Sundance. Take a look at the ten films I’m most likely to shiv someone in order to see, after the break.
Stories We Tell
I’ve been writing obsessively about Sarah Polley’s first documentary since its Venice premiere was announced last July, and my desire to see the film has not abated in the slightest since then. Polley has already proven herself adept at portraying thorny emotional issues with grace and honesty, as she did with her Away From Her and Take This Waltz, and Stories We Tell seems poised to do the same. But with real people. No, really real people – like Polley’s actual family real.
Director Drake Doremus and co-screenwriter Ben York Jones return to Sundance two years after their other Felicity Jones-starring drama, Like Crazy, earned Doremus the Grand Jury Prize and Jones (the lady) a Special Jury Prize back in 2011. While Like Crazy didn’t garner the major mainstream response it deserved (I still can’t look at handcrafted wooden chairs without getting both misty and angry), Breathe In will likely be a major pull for the Sundance crowd eager to see what Doremus, Jones, and Jones (secret law firm?) can do when matched up with Guy Pearce, Amy Ryan, and maybe some twisted sexual desires.
Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy promise to wrap up their nearly-two-decade-long narrative that started with Before Sunrise back in 1995 with this third entry in their unexpected trilogy. We will again spend (perhaps just?) an evening with Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy), this time in Greece, discovering what happened post-Before Sunset and maybe, just maybe, what will happen after the final clock strikes for our star-crossed lovers.
I cannot possibly sing the praises of filmmaker Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s debut feature, Easier With Practice, enough. With C.O.G., Alvarez again takes on a cinematic adaptation of a personal story (Easier was inspired by a story by Davy Rothbart of FOUND Magazine fame), this time with the very first feature film based on a David Sedaris story. Featuring an outstanding young cast, including Jonathan Groff, Corey Stoll, and Casey Wilson, Alvarez will take us to an Oregonian apple farm, where not everything is as wholesome as it may seem (but where it’s probably all just deliciously sarcastic instead).
Casey Wilson. That’s all you need to know.
Here’s something: actress and screenwriter Brit Marling has, so far, only completed six feature films, and yet four of those films have debuted or will debut at Sundance. Hello, Sundance? We have your It Girl. Marling burst on to the Sundance scene in 2011 with no less than two features that she both co-wrote and starred in (Mike Cahill’s Another Earthand Zal Batmanglij’s Sound of My Voice), then she popped up in 2012 Sundance premiere Arbitrage, and now she and Batmanglij return with their much-anticipated Sound follow-up. Featuring Ellen Page, Alexander Skarsgard, and Patricia Clarkson in supporting roles, Marling and Batmanglij’s latest sounds like a very close cousin to their first feature, as the pair again venture into a closed sect of people (this time around, it’s a group of eco-terrorists, not cult members) with Marling at the center of more intrigue. That’s all I want to know.
The Spectacular Now
While my ardor for screenwriter Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter’s (500) Days of Summer has faded over the years, I am still spectacularly (ha) pumped for their latest, because it joins them up with Smashed director James Ponsoldt and two of Hollywood’s most charming rising stars, Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller. I’d watch two hours of Woodley and Teller watching paint dry, so you’d better believe I’ll 99 minutes of the two of them maybe falling in love as angsty teens.
I’ve long held a soft spot for stories about mountain climbing and the total wackos (meant in, of course, the best possible way) who do it. It’s all so inherently dramatic – the triumph of the will, the human desire to achieve, interpersonal bonds forged in the midst of horrifying circumstances – making it perfect fodder for the feature treatment. But Nick Ryan’s film has something even better going for it – his film is a documentary and The Summit is a true story.
This is your final chance, David Gordon Green. Please don’t make me regret my FSR bio, as I did after both Your Highness and The Sitter.
Director Lynn Shelton and star Rosemarie DeWitt’s last Sundance outing, Your Sister’s Sister, reduced me to buckets of tears and sent me into a tizzy of emotional vulnerability that I’ve failed to replicate since, so it should be no surprise that I cannot wait for Touchy Feely, their next match-up. The criminally underrated DeWitt stars in this project as a massage therapist who suddenly can’t deal with touching people. Emotions, people, they will be there! The film also co-stars Scoot McNairy, Ellen Page, and Ron Livingston, as if we needed icing on this cake.
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