"I felt mildly ridiculous about having such an intense and dramatic response to the death of a celebrity I’d never met. But part of the genius of Hoffman was that everyone felt like they knew him through his work, because he was one of those actors who left everything up there on the screen."- Nathan Rabin
I managed to catch 22 movies during my 6 days at Sundance but with hundreds of movies playing, it’s impossible not to end up missing out on some things. I think I did a pretty good job of seeing some of the most buzzed about films at the fest but didn’t have a chance to see everything I had planned on, including a few films that ended up getting squeezed out for time, sleep or scheduling conflicts. Not including films that already premiered at other festivals which I’m already dying to see (“Blue Ruin,” “Locke,” “Only Lovers Left Alive”) or films that I already had on my Most Anticipated Of 2014 list (David Wain’s “We Came Together”), here are 6 more films that played the fest that I’ll be looking forward to checking out hopefully in the near future.
1. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle) Unfortunately I missed out on the Opening Night film about a drummer (Miles Teller) and his hard-ass music teacher (J.K. Simmons) which took home both major awards and quietly became the most talked about film at the festival.
2. Obvious Child(Gillian Robespierre) Jenny Slate stars as a 27 year old Brooklyn comedian confronted with an accidental pregnancy (abortion jokes!). I actually tried to get into a press screening of this and was shut out.
3. The Babadook(Jennifer Kent) Terrible title aside, this Australian horror film about a bogeyman haunting a mother and son picked up great reviews from the midnight crowds. And the teaser looks pretty good too.
4. Life Itself(Steve James) Documentary about the most influential film critic of all time, Roger Ebert, played extremely well in a room full of film critics. I’m sorry I missed it.
5. What We Do In The Shadows(Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi) Apparently hilarious horror mockumentary starring “Flight Of The Conchords” Jemaine Clement as a member of a clan of vampires in New Zealand.
6. God Help The Girl(Stuart Murdoch) Belle & Sebastian singer Stuart Murdoch wrote and directed this musical about a Glasgow trio that decides to form a band. The film received mixed/tepid reviews but I’m still curious.
This was my fourth year attending the Sundance Film Festival and due to a flight cancellation that left me stranded for an extra day, I packed a record 22 films (plus one screener) into 6 very full days. As usual, I concentrated mostly on the U.S. Dramatic and Premiere categories which means I missed a ton of smaller films and docs that I’ll probably be catching up with throughout the year. Though I say it every year, this year seemed especially great not just for the films I saw but the time I spent bumping into friends and talking to strangers. (Shout out to Sue, a woman I had never met who offered me a place to stay after my flight was cancelled!) One of these years, I may even make it to a party. For now, here in descending order are my favorites from Sundance 2014.
1. The Raid 2: Berandal (Gareth Evans) Not as perfect as the original but still a goddamned great time. The theatre applauded after every big fight. Epic.
2. Boyhood (Richard Linklater) Filmed over the course of 12 years, this unassuming epic tracks one boy from ages 6-18. Quietly moving and cumulatively rewarding.
3. Frank (Lenny Abrahamson) Michael Fassbender is a musical genius with a giant paper mâché head. A fucking weird, wild comedy, a complete original and a must-see for anyone who’s ever been in a band.
4. Listen Up, Phillip (Alex Ross Perry) Acidic, idiosyncratic mix of Wes Anderson & John Cassavetes. Jason Schwartzman’s best role since Rushmore.
5. Song One (Kate Barker-Froyland) Lovely, low-key love story feels emotionally & musically authentic. Great chemistry between Hathaway & Flynn.
6. The Guest (Adam Wingard) Cannon, Cameron & Carpenter. Imagine a young Tom Cruise cast as The Terminator instead of in Risky Business. Fun! Read my review.
7. A Most Wanted Man (Anton Corbijn) Understated spy yarn, handsomely produced but neither a thriller or a character study. Accents distract. Read my review.
8. I Origins (Mike Cahill) Hipster scientists set out to disprove God. Lots of big ideas, silly at times but that ending gave me goosebumps.
9. The One I Love (Charlie McDowell) Small scale high concept exploration of relationships is simple but effective. Elizabeth Moss can do no wrong. Read my review.
10. Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter (David Zellner) Strange, sad character portrait of a lonely dreamer on a quest. Moody, melancholic & cinematic.
11. 20,000 Days On Earth (Iain Forsyth &Jane Pollard) Inventive Nick Cave doc mixes fantasy/reality & gives a glimpse into his creative process circa Push The Sky Away. Read my review.
12. Hellion (Kat Candler) Authentic portrait of 2 brothers growing up in rural Texas doesn’t strike false note until 3rd act. Heavy Metal soundtrack rules.
13. Cold In July (Nick Damici) Mullet C. Hall stars as a meek husband who stumbles onto a dark conspiracy in this retro-flavored genre-bender.
14. Life After Beth (Jeff Baena) Aubrey Plaza is easily the best thing about this disappointing zombie comedy. Lacks motivation, metaphor. Read my review.
15. Laggies (Lynn Shelton) Admirably flips the gender on Apatow man-children but not even a game Keira Knightley can save this uneven comedy.
16. The Skeleton Twins (Craig Johnson) Bill Hader & Kristen Wiig do wonders with difficult material as suicidal siblings in this dark dramedy that ultimately feels too slight and Sundance-y. Read my review.
17. Happy Christmas (Joe Swanberg) A great cast & setup but there isn’t quite a ‘there’ there in this improvised drama that feels more like a rehearsal than fully realized story.
18. Killers (The Mo Brothers) Disappointing serial killer pic from the Safe Haven VHS2 crew. Long & ultraviolent but with a few strong sequences.
19. Young Ones (Jake Paltrow) Post-apocalyptic sci-fi western fantasia better on paper than in practice. Deadly slow, overwrought. Small Naps.
20. Wish I Was Here (Zach Braff) Zach Braff tackles faith & family in this overlong & very uneven comedy. Starts strong but gets very soggy. Read my review.
21. God’s Pocket (John Slattery) 70s-set dour, tonally inconsistent dark comedy about a small town murder. Fargo is a lot harder than it looks. Read my review.