Sundance 2014: Top 14 Picks

Published on January 10th, 2014 in: Film Festivals, Movies, Upcoming Events |

By Less Lee Moore

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Cooties

Another year, another great selection of films from Sundance. Here are my top choices.

Documentary Premieres: Happy Valley
It’s doubtful that anyone in North America doesn’t know about the Penn State and Jerry Sandusky scandal, but it’s also true that many don’t know much more beyond sensational headlines. Amir Bar-Lev’s film purports to “deconstruct the story we think we know to uncover a much more complicated and tragic tale.” Read more …

Park After Midnight: Cooties
With Elijah Wood producing and a screenplay co-written by Saw‘s Leigh Whannell and Glee‘s Ian Brennan, Cooties is already interesting. With a plot detailing what happens when the student body of an elementary school is infected by a virus that transforms them into “deranged, cannibalistic mutants” it becomes a Must See. The cast includes Wood, Jack McBrayer, Rainn Wilson, and Alison Pill. Read more …

Park After Midnight: The Guest
Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett (You’re Next, A Horrible Way To Die) are a dynamic duo in the world of indie genre movies, so The Guest, which presents a riff on Bob Clark’s Deathdream (a war vet returns home and isn’t what he seems), is worth checking out for their credentials alone. It boasts Joel David Moore (Hatchet) as a cast member, too. Read more …

Park After Midnight: What We Do In The Shadows
Have you seen Eagle vs. Shark? It’s not something you could easily forget. Have you seen Flight of the Conchords? What We Do In The Shadows is a mockumentary about vampires written and directed by AND starring Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi and I can scarcely believe such a thing is real. What a great world we live in. Read more …

NEXT: The Foxy Merkins
The title of this is fantastic, but the plot is even more promising. The Foxy Merkins details the adventures of a lesbian hooker and a female grifter and pick up artist who is ostensibly hetero. Stars Lisa Haas and Jackie Monahan also wrote the screenplay for the film, which is directed by Madeleine Olnek. Read more …

Premieres: Frank
I’ll just copy the synopsis here because why mess with something so succinctly intriguing? “Frank is a comedy about a young wannabe musician, Jon, who discovers he’s bitten off more than he can chew when he joins a band of eccentric pop musicians led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank and his terrifying sidekick, Clara.” The screenplay is by Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan, responsible for films like The Men Who Stare At Goats and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. With a cast including Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Scoot McNairy, Frank sounds like a bizarre good time. Read more …

Premieres: Hits
This film is directed by David Cross. I feel like that should be enough but if it’s not, there’s also the plot. It kind of reminds me of an elaborate, modern spin on Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains only instead of a band of teenage girl punks, its about a municipal worker, his daughter, her would-be suitor, and Brooklyn hipsters. Read more …

U.S. Documentary Competition: Fed Up
I am fascinated by the slew of recent documentaries (and narrative dramas) focusing on the alleged obesity epidemic and fatphobia. So my interest in Stephanie Soechtig’s Fed Up is a given. Katie Couric takes the viewer on a journey explaining how the food industry and the US government have been misleading the public. Read more …

U.S. Documentary Competition: Ivory Tower
There are several issues examined in director Andrew Rossi’s film: the staggering cost of higher education, underemployed recent graduates, and ever mounting student debt. It also promises to take a hard look at how things got so bad as well as the future of higher education. Read more …

U.S. Documentary Competition: Private Violence
Through the intersection of the lives of a domestic violence survivor and advocate and a battered young mother, director Cynthia Hill “encourages us to reevaluate the discourse about domestic violence.” Read more …

U.S. Dramatic Competition: Cold In July
Director Jim Mickle is on a roll with critically acclaimed films like Stake Land and We Are What We Are. Cold In July has an impressive cast: Michael C. Hall, Don Johnosn, Sam Shepard, Vinessa Shaw, and Nick Damici, who also collaborated on the screenplay with Mickle. The plot? A noir-tinged, “pulpy, southern-fried mystery.” Read more …

U.S. Dramatic Competition: Dear White People
Director Justin Simien’s brilliantly titled film is described as “a witty and whip-smart satire about black militancy, postracial fantasies, and the commodification of blackness.” I’m totally on board. Read more …

World Documentary Competition: Web Junkie
First, the film addresses Internet addiction in China, then expands to investigate a “society in flux” and how its young, tech-savvy citizens are part of the country’s uneasy transformation. Read more …

World Dramatic Competion: 52 Tuesdays
Although fictional, 52 Tuesdays was shot chronologically on Tuesdays by director Sophie Hyde. The film chronicles the changing relationship of sixteen-year-old Billie and her mother, who is transitioning from female to male, as well as Billie’s own exploration of her sexuality. Read more …

The 2013 Sundance Film Festival runs from January 16 – 26 in Park City, Utah.

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