2.18.2015

Sundance Film Festival

I'm a few weeks late with my annual coverage and I'm not sure if anyone even cares, but I do, so I'm writing about it. I love looking back on these posts to see how many I saw and how many were nominated for awards. Here are the movies from the Sundance Film Festival I'm most excited to see. And there are a lot this year!

*3 1/2 Minutes In 2012, four middle-class African-American teens stopped at a gas station to buy gum and cigarettes. One of them, Jordan Davis, argued with Michael Dunn, a white man parked beside them, over the volume of their music. The altercation turned to tragedy when Dunn fired 10 bullets at the unarmed boys, killing Davis. This documentary explores the danger and subjectivity of Florida's Stand Your Ground self-defense laws.


*The Bronze (Melissa Rauch, Gary Cole, Thomas Middleditch, Sebastian Stan, Haley Lu Richardson, Cecily Strong) In 2004, Hope Ann Greggory became an American hero after winning the bronze medal for the women's gymnastics team. Today, she's living in her father's basement in her small hometown. Stuck in her past glory, Hope is forced to reassess her life when a promising young gymnast who idolizes her threatens her local celebrity status.


*Brooklyn (Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters) Based on the novel of the same name. Eilis Lacey, a young Irish immigrant navigates her way through 1950s Brooklyn. The initial shackles of homesickness quickly diminish as a fresh romance intoxicates her. But soon, her new vivacity is disrupted by her past, and Eilis must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.


*The D Train (Jack Black, James Marsden, Kathryn Hahn, Jeffrey Tambor, Mike White, Kyle Bornheimer) Dan Landsman is the overly enthusiastic head of his high school reunion committee and also the group's laughingstock. To impress his so-called friends, he vows to convince their most famous former classmate—Oliver Lawless, the star of a national Banana Boat TV commercial—to attend the reunion to increase attendance. 


*The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgard, Christopher Meloni, Kristen Wiig) Based on the graphic novel, this coming-of-age adventure tells the story of a San Francisco teenager growing up in the counterculture haze of the 1970s. 


Digging For Fire (Jake Johnson, Rosemarie DeWitt, Orlando Bloom, Brie Larson, Sam Rockwell, Anna Kendrick) A young married couple house-sit for one a yoga clients. Once there, Tim discovers something suspicious in the yard that gets the wheels in his head turning, and Lee, worried that he will become obsessed with digging deeper, decides to drop their toddler off with her mother for a much-needed night out. Sans-wife, Tim invites his buddies over, and a “boys-will-be-boys” scenario ensues.


*Dreamcatcher This documentary shows former prostitute Brenda Myers-Powell on a mission to disrupt the cycle of neglect, violence, and exploitation endured by girls and women in inner-city Chicago. On any given day, she’s performing interventions with at-risk teenagers, female prisoners, and prostitutes on street corners. She uses unconditional love, non-judgmental support, practical help—whatever it takes for them to change their own lives.



*The End of the Tour (Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Segel, Anna Chlumsky, Joan Cusack, Mamie Gummer, Mickey Sumner) In 1996, shortly after the publication of his groundbreaking novel Infinite Jest, acclaimed author David Foster Wallace sets off on a five-day interview with Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky.


Experimenter (Peter Sarsgaard, Winona Ryder, Jim Gaffigan, Kellan Lutz, Taryn Manning, John Leguizamo) In 1961, social psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted the "obedience experiments" at Yale University. The experiments observed the responses of ordinary people asked to send harmful electrical shocks to a stranger. With Adolf Eichmann’s trial airing in living rooms across America, Milgram’s Kafkaesque results hit a nerve, and he was accused of being a deceptive, manipulative monster.


*Finders Keepers In this documentary, Shannon Whisnant bought a used grill at a North Carolina auction with a the severed human foot among its ashes. Soon the gruesome discovery becomes the toast of the infotainment world, and the new owner spies a golden opportunity to cash in on the media frenzy, until struggling addict and amputee John Wood recognizes his missing member and demands his own foot back.


*Fresh Dressed A fascinating, fun-to-watch chronicle of hip-hop, urban fashion, and the hustle that brought oversized pants and graffiti-drenched jackets from Orchard Street to high fashion's catwalks and Middle America shopping malls. Hip-hop, and its aspirational relationship to fashion, would become such a force on the market that Tommy Hilfiger, in an effort to associate their brand with the cultural swell, would drive through the streets and hand out free clothing to kids on the corner. 


*Grandma (Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer, Laverne Cox, Sam Elliott) Elle, a onetime successful poet, abruptly breaks up with Olive, her girlfriend of four months. But before she gets a chance to get overly sentimental, her granddaughter, Sage, unexpectedly shows up with an emergency that requires money. With the clock ticking, the two set out in a vintage Dodge and drop in on Elle’s old friends and flames, asking for help but instead ending up rattling skeletons and digging up secrets. 


*Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief Based on the book of the same name, this documentary profiles eight former members of the Church of Scientology, whose most prominent adherents include A-list Hollywood celebrities, shining a light on how the church cultivates true believers, including their experiences and what they are willing to do in the name of religion. 


*Hot Girls Wanted Thanks to the Internet, thousands of young American women are entering the "amateur" porn world, fulfilling a growing demand for girl-next-door starlets. Hot Girls Wanted follows one such girl, eager to leave small-town life in search of freedom and fame. With the click of a mouse she transforms from A-student to fledgling amateur actress. This documentary reveals a business reliant on Millennials who believe empowerment is synonymous with online notoriety.


I Am Michael (James Franco, Zachary Quinto, Emma Roberts) The film depicts the years when an idealistic, gay-rights activist Michael Glatze empowered a new generation of gay youth through writing and film. When a nerve-racking brush with death triggers his need to reconcile faith and sexuality, Michael embarks on a zealous search for answers that eventually leads him to Christianity and the absolute conviction that "homosexuality is death."


I Smile Back (Sarah Silverman, Josh Charles, Thomas Sadoski, Mia Barron, Terry Kinney, Chris Sarandon) Laney is an attractive, intelligent suburban wife and devoted mother of two adorable children with the perfect husband. But beneath the façade lie depression and disillusionment that send her careening into a secret world of reckless compulsion.


James White (Christopher Abbott, Cynthia Nixon, Scott Mescudi, Mackenzie Leigh, David Call, Ron Livingston) James is a troubled twenty-something trying to stay afloat in a frenzied New York City. As he retreats further into a hedonistic lifestyle, his mother's battle with a serious illness faces a series of setbacks that force him to assume more responsibility. With the pressure on him mounting, James must find new reserves of strength or risk imploding completely.


*Knock Knock (Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo, Ana De Armas, Aaron Burns, Ignacia Allamand, Colleen Camp) Evan Webber is living the dream. Just look at his beautiful, successful wife, his two wonderful kids, and his truly stunning house. Things are going so well, Evan doesn't even mind spending Father's Day alone while the rest of his family heads out for a beach weekend. And then there’s a knock on the door. The two young women standing on Evan's doorstep are where Evan's dream takes a nightmarish turn. Things get weird, and then dark, and then much, much, much darker. But Eli Roth keeps the horror nice and psychological.


Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck Experience Kurt Cobain like never before in the first fully authorized portrait of the famed rock music icon. Following Kurt from his earliest years in Aberdeen, Washington, through the height of his fame, a visceral and detailed cinematic insight of an artist at odds with his surroundings emerges. While Cobain craved the spotlight even as he rejected the trappings of fame, his epic arc depicts a man who stayed true to his earliest punk rock convictions, always identifying with the "outsider" and ensuring the music came first.


Larry Kramer In Love & Anger From the onset of the AIDS epidemic, author Larry Kramer emerged as a fiery activist, an Old Testament-style prophet full of righteous fury who denounced both the willful inaction of the government and the refusal of the gay community to curb potentially risky behaviors. Co-founder of Gay Men's Health Crisis and ACT UP, Kramer was vilified by some who saw his criticism to be an expression of self-hatred, while lionized by others who credit him with waking up the gay community—and, eventually, the government and medical establishment—to the devastation of the disease.


Lila & Eve (Viola Davis, Jennifer Lopez, Shea Whigham, Julius Tennon, Chris Chalk, Andre Royo) When teenage Stephon is killed in a drive-by shooting, his mother, Lila, slips into a paralyzing grief. She joins a support group for women who have lost children to crime and meets Eve, a woman whose little girl was killed the same night as Stephon. Lila and Eve form a friendship, and Lila begins to crawl out of her depression. She develops a burning desire to find justice for her son, and she presses the authorities for answers, but they are slow-moving and ineffective. It’s Eve who has the idea first—join together, find the drug dealers who shot Stephon dead, and bring them to justice themselves.


*Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon) Greg is an awkward high school student determined to coast through his senior year as anonymously as possible, avoiding social interactions like the plague, except for making movies with his friend Earl. Greg’s well-meaning mother forces him to befriend Rachel, a classmate who's been diagnosed with leukemia. Both Greg and Rachel are surprised to find out that they actually like each other. Tentative at first, this unlikely duo becomes inseparable. But when Rachel gets sicker, Greg’s well-fortified world is changed forever.


*Misery Loves Comedy Tom Hanks, Janeane Garofalo, Larry David, Lisa Kudrow, and Whoopi Goldberg are among the 50 stand-up comedy legends featured in this hilarious twist on the age-old truth: misery loves company. In-depth, candid interviews with international comedy veterans dig into their earliest comic experiences, ones that planted the seeds of "funny" and became formative in their careers.


*Mississippi Grind (Ryan Reynolds, Ben Mendelsohn, Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton, Alfre Woodard, Robin Weigert) Gerry is a talented poker player, but his gambling habit is getting the best of him. One day, he meets a charismatic young traveler named Curtis. Deeming Curtis his lucky charm, Gerry convinces him that they should hit the road together. As they gamble their way down South toward a legendary high-stakes poker game in New Orleans, the trip’s highs and lows unveil the duo’s true character and motivation, and an undeniable bond forms between them.


*Mistress America (Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig) Tracy, a lonely college freshman in New York, is having neither the exciting university experience nor the glamorous metropolitan lifestyle she envisioned. But when she is taken in by her soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke—a resident of Times Square and adventurous gal about town—she is rescued from her disappointment and seduced by Brooke's alluringly mad schemes.


*The Overnight (Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, Judith Godreche) Alex, Emily, and their son, RJ, have recently moved to Los Angeles from Seattle. Feeling lost in a new city, they are desperate to find their first new friends. After a chance meeting with Kurt at the neighborhood park, they gladly agree to join family pizza night at his home. But as it gets later and the kids go to bed, the family “playdate” becomes increasingly more revealing as the couples begin to open up.


People, Places, Things (Jemaine Clement, Regina Hall, Stephanie Allynne, Jessica Williams, Michael Chernus) From the moment graphic novelist Will Henry accidentally walks in on his wife, Charlie, with another man, his life officially begins to suck. Not only is he exiled from Brooklyn to a tiny studio apartment in Astoria and forced to see his daughters only on weekends, but, according to Charlie, the separation is all his fault. As he muddles through single fathering and teaching college, a defeated Will sits up nights at his drafting table, illustrating his frustrations and loneliness.


Racing Extinction This documentary covers mankind's role in precipitating mass extinction, potentially resulting in the loss of half of the world's species. Believing that images can stimulate empathy and in turn change behavior, Psihoyos joins forces with activists, scientists, nature photographers, and cutting-edge inventors to draw attention to the dangers we face. While covert operations reveal the horrific black-market trade in endangered aquatic species, the film's broader lens uncovers the even more disastrous consequences of human activity, chiefly the release of ocean-killing methane and carbon from energy consumption.


*Results (Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders, Kevin Corrigan, Giovanni Ribisi, Anthony Michael Hall, Brooklyn Decker) Recently divorced, newly rich, and utterly miserable, Danny would seem to be the perfect test subject for a definitive look at the relationship between money and happiness. Danny's well-funded ennui is interrupted by a momentous trip to the local gym, where he meets self-styled guru/owner Trevor and irresistibly acerbic trainer Kat. Soon, their three lives are inextricably knotted, both professionally and personally.


The Stanford Prison Experiment (Billy Crudup, Ezra Miller, Michael Angarano, Tye Sheridan, Johnny Simmons, Olivia Thirlby) In 1971 Dr. Philip Zimbardo launches a study on the psychology of imprisonment. Twenty-four male undergraduates are randomly assigned to be either a guard or a prisoner. Set in a simulated jail, the project unfolds. The participants rapidly embody their roles—the guards become power-hungry and sadistic, while the prisoners, subject to degradation, strategize as underdogs. It soon becomes clear that, as Zimbardo and team monitor the escalation of action through surveillance cameras, they are not fully aware of how they, too, have become part of the experiment.


Sleeping With Other People (Alison Brie, Adam Scott, Amanda Peet, Jason Mantzoukas, Natasha Lyonne, Jason Sudeikis) Years after impulsively losing their virginity to each other in college, Lainey and Jake meet at a support group in New York. A spark resurfaces, but they've walked this road before. Abject failures in romance who lead lives of serial infidelity and self-sabotage, they agree to a platonic friendship to mutually support their recovery—and what’s more supportive than teaching your friend proper self-stimulation? Can love bloom while you're sleeping with other people?


*Strangerland (Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving, Lisa Flanagan, Meyne Wyatt, Maddison Brown) New to the remote Australian desert town of Nathgari, the Parker family is thrown into crisis when Catherine and Matthew discover that their two teenage kids have mysteriously disappeared just before a massive dust storm hits the town. With Nathgari now eerily smothered in red dust and darkness, the locals join the search. With temperatures rising, and the chances of survival plummeting with each passing day, Catherine and Matthew find themselves pushed to the brink as they struggle to survive the uncertainty of their children’s fate.


Take Me to the River (Logan Miller, Robin Weigert, Josh Hamilton, Richard Schiff, Ursula Parker, Azura Skye) Ryder, an artsy teenager, travels from California with his parents, Don and Cindy, for a family reunion in Nebraska. Upon their arrival, Ryder's impish nine-year-old cousin, Molly, leads him to a barn to show him a bird’s nest. What happens behind barn doors makes Ryder the sudden target of suspicion and unearths a long-buried family secret. Ultimately, Ryder must come to terms with the truth on his own.


*Tangerine (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian, Mickey O'Hagan, Alla Tumanian, James Ransone) It's Christmas Eve in Tinseltown and Sin-Dee is back on the block. Upon hearing that her pimp boyfriend hasn't been faithful during the 28 days she was locked up, the working girl and her best friend, Alexandra, embark on a mission to get to the bottom of the scandalous rumor.


*Ten Thousand Saints (Ethan Hawke, Asa Butterfield, Emily Mortimer, Julianne Nicholson, Hailee Steinfeld, Emile Hirsch) Jude—named after a Beatles song by his hippie parents—spends his high school days in small-town Vermont getting high with his best friend, Teddy. Beneath Jude’s mind-numbing activities lurks a desire to reconnect with his estranged father, Les, who abandoned the family when Jude was nine. Desperate to keep her son out of trouble, Jude’s mother sends him to live with Les in New York City. Jude struggles to establish an identity within the cultural upheaval and forms an unlikely surrogate family with Teddy’s straight-edge brother and a troubled, rich uptown girl.


(T)error After working for more than 20 years as a counter-terrorism informant for the FBI, ***** has a choice to make. He can stay home to raise his son or do one last high-stakes job for the Bureau. Infiltrating terror networks and befriending suspected terrorists is *****’s specialty. He is one of a growing number of covert operatives in America who straddle the murky line between preventing crimes and inventing them. Shot over the course of two years and with unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to a counter-terrorism sting, this documentary feels like a political spy novel set in your own hometown.


Unexpected (Cobie Smulders, Anders Holm, Gail Bean, Elizabeth McGovern) Samantha is a science teacher at a low-income high school about to close, and she has just found out she's pregnant. Though her boyfriend, John, proposes and is thrilled to begin a new life together, Sam struggles with the idea of halting her career to be a full-time mother. Simultaneously, one of Sam's brightest students, Jasmine, has also become pregnant. Sam makes it her mission to get Jasmine into college and bonds with her over their impending motherhood.


Welcome to Leith In September 2012, the tiny prairie town of Leith, North Dakota, saw its population of 24 grow by one. The newcomer was Craig Cobb, a notorious white supremacist. Quietly snapping up plots of land, he planned to take over the town government and establish Cobbsville, a haven for white separatists. As his behavior becomes more threatening, tensions soar, and the residents desperately look for ways to expel their unwanted neighbor.


*The Witch (Anya Taylor Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson) A colonial family leaves plantation life and attempts to reap their harvest on a fledgling farm at the edge of an imposing ancient New England forest. Soon, superstition and dread set in as food grows scarce, a family member goes missing, and the children's play takes on a frenzied and menacing undercurrent. As they begin to turn on one another, an ethereal presence from within the woods exacerbate the growing corruption of their own natures.


*The Wolfpack Locked away from society in an apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Angulo brothers learn about the outside world through the films that they watch. With no friends and living on welfare, they feed their curiosity, creativity, and imagination with film, which allows them to escape from their feelings of isolation and loneliness. Everything changes when one of the brothers escapes, and the power dynamics in the house are transformed. The Wolfpack must learn how to integrate into society without disbanding the brotherhood.


Z for Zachariah (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Margot Robbie, Chris Pine) In the wake of a disaster that wipes out most of civilization, a young woman who believes she is the last human on Earth meets a dying scientist searching for survivors. Their relationship becomes tenuous when another male survivor appears. As the two men compete for the woman's affection, their primal urges begin to reveal their true nature.


*Zipper (Lena Headey, Richard Dreyfuss, Ray Winstone, John Cho, Dianna Agron, Patrick Wilson) A charismatic federal prosecutor and devoted family man whose political star is on the rise, Sam Ellis appears to be en route to higher office. But what he thinks will be a "onetime thing" with a high-class escort service swiftly escalates into a reckless sexual compulsion. Facing ever-intensifying scrutiny as he is groomed for a U.S. Senate seat, Sam wrestles with the addiction that threatens to destroy his life, family, and career.


Does anything look good to you?

*Picked up by a distributor

7 comments:

Micah said...

So many of these look good to me. I don't even know where to start. I guess I could just say I adore Cobie Smulders. That's a good place to start, right? Oh, and I'll see anything Connie Britton does. I think I want to be her when I grow up.

SMD @ lifeaccordingtosteph said...

Lots of good ones that I will probably forget to see.

Jana @ Jana Says said...

I read about The Wolfpack doc a few weeks ago. That shit is crazy.

So many good movies that I'll probably see once they're on Netflix. Except maybe the one with Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg. I adore (read: madly love) Jason Segel.

Karen M. Peterson said...

Of course I want to see Zipper because Patrick Wilson. A lot of these look really great, though. I need to see more movies this year. Last year I was a total slacker.

Elle Sees said...

going to sundance is a bucket list goal of mine!!

Allison said...

I love your ridiculously (as a compliment) thorough movie lists - I have to be honest, I heard of zero of these, but now I have a bunch that I know I want to see! I remember reading with my students the dialogue and info for the Prison Experiment, and how absolutely insane it was to read about the brutality of it. The movie is probably going to be INTENSE.
I totally owe you an email re: American Sniper - I've been slacking so much as work is totally kicking my ass, but I appreciate your blog SO much, girlfriend. xo

Kate said...

Thank you for continuing these posts! I always bookmark ones I want to see. Lots of good ones coming up. The psychology major in me is most excited for the Stanford prison experiment and the Milgram movie!