We’re nearing the middle of the storm as we hit the halfway mark of the awards season, and all of us are keeping tabs on the films we missed in last year. But the show must go on, and the Sundance Film Festival is first up to give us a few titles to add on our watchlists. From genre-crossing gems, kidnapping comedies, and odes to old cinema, we’ve got a lot to watch out for, and it’s just the beginning.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore
One of the most recognized “character actresses” Melanie Lynskey (Ever After, Sweet Home Alabama, or Perks of Being a Wallflower–take your pick) plays a soft spoken nurse who reaches her breaking point when someone breaks into her house and steals–wait for it–a spoon; thus realizing the world is full of assholes. While this could easily fall into the rabbit hole of nevertheless awesome vigilante-revenge types (see last year’s Elle), things take a turn for the best.
The Big Sick
A light, enchanting romcom hits the jackpot at Sundance with an autobiographic flick from writer and lead Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley telling the story of him and his wife. Taking a charming look into his conservative Pakistani background and the whirlwind that takes place as he falls for Emily, played by Zoe Kazan, the film is equal parts charming and honest, but always funny.
Saturday Night Live mastermind Dave McCary blew everyone away with his directorial debut in this seemingly silly comedy about a man (played by co-SNL alumni Kyle Mooney) who was kidnapped at an early age and grew up watching a wonky TV program self-produced by his stepparents. But when the series comes to a halt, he goes on a obsessive journey to recreate it.
In a similar fashion as he had done in his 2010 documentary The People vs. George Lucas, Alexandre Philippe breaks down the genius that is Alfred Hitchcock and his iconic Psycho, signified by its title referring the 78 camera setups and 52 cuts to create the ultimately legendary shower sequence.
In this fun drama thriller (if there was ever such a thing), two of the most underrated, talented actresses of their age meet for what’s sure to be rollercoaster of riches and rage: Anna Taylor-Joy from The Witch and more recent Split and Olivia Cooke from Me Earl and the Dying Girl, with the late Anton Yelchin making an appearance. Playing two spoiled-ass girls, they plot to murder one of their step-father who gets in the way of their fun.
It seems as though Cate Blanchett is stubbornly determined to give us a shock every performance she takes on. Playing multiple personas in just one film, Julian Rosefeldt directs the actress through a beautiful, challenging, and dizzying world, speaking poetry out of art manifestos.
A Ghost Story
A certain mystery was already suspended over the film, having been shot in secret in Texas by David Lowery and his two previous collaborators, Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck. But with an eerie, and strangely lonely twist, a character dies and comes back to life hiding under a blank, white sheet of cloth. In long takes and unsettling scenarios, it is an overall beautiful tale of grief and the horrifying but inevitable chance of moving on.
Jason Clarke and Carey Mulligan as a couple who have recently spent all their savings on a farm, on the same land as Rob Morgan and Mary J. Blige’s characters who are trying to build an new, independent life while constantly dealing with racism. At the same time, the amazing Garret Hedlund plays Henry’s brother who serves in World War II and takes a step back from the systemic class and race issues going on inside as the trauma of war trapped lala
To the Bone
Marti Noxon (yes, the original writer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) hits hard and heavy for her directorial debut. Drawing inspiration from her earlier experiences, she crafts a story of a young woman diagnosed with anorexia, played by Lily Collins. But veering away from the cookie-cutter PSA-treated movie about recovery, we take a closer look into the sickness: their delicate happiness with their control, the support they give and take from fellow diagnosed, and their unwillingness to get better. A modern, true, and painful portrayal of the save-yourself mentality.
The start of Roxanne Shanté’s journey as the rapper she became to be comes to life in this drama, which competed in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. Chanté Adams steals the show, with SAG Award-winner Mahershala Ali and Nia Long co-starring. Taking a steady roll into the start of her career in hip-hop, the movie deviates from the long-standing drug war-type of street cred story, and zooms in on the unexaggerated grind she had to go through everyday, and not because she had any other choice.–JANROE THE BOAT