Now celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, the Sundance Film Festival is a welcome event to kick off our year in cinema. It’s mostly about discovering new talents along the way: when it comes to a festival such as Sundance, much of the anticipation pertains to those unforeseen films which end up grabbing one’s attention. So, as we run through our most-anticipated titles, think of this as simply sharing what’s on our radar, and make sure to stay tuned to all of our coverage here, while following @TheFilmStage, @jpraup, @djmecca, @zaffi, and our Facebook page for instant updates from Park City.
Note that Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, Life After Beth, God’s Pocket, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, What We Do in the Shadows, The Signal, Cooties, The One I Love, and Hits are all something we’re interested in; sadly, we simply had to cut it off somewhere. Sundance also hosts a variety of films we’ve already seen, and you can check out our reviews at the following links: Only Lovers Left Alive, The Double, Stranger By the Lake, Blue Ruin and R100. Without further ado, check out our 26 (one can thank the last-minute addition of a certain title for the peculiar number) most-anticipated titles below.
26. Jamie Marks is Dead (Carter Smith)
Although its set-up was cliche, The Ruins was a fairly entertaining studio horror film, filled with inventive, frightening imagery. Now, over half-a-decade later, director Carter Smith is returning with a smaller-scale effort that will hopefully meld those touches with a worthy script. Led by Cameron Monaghan, Noah Silver, Morgan Saylor, Madisen Beaty, Judy Greer and Liv Tyler, Jamie Marks is Dead follows the ghost of a deceased teenager, as he influences the lives of those he left behind. – Jordan R.
25. Camp X-Ray (Peter Sattler)
While her Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson is off making films with David Cronenberg, Werner Herzog, James Gray, Anton Corbijn, and more, Kristen Stewart has linked up with an auteur of her own with Olivier Assayas‘ Sils Maria, but before that, she’s taken part in Sundance drama. Playing a new military recruit who finds herself as Guantanamo Bay guard, she befriends a detainee and a discussion of ethics begins. Hopefully Stewart can sell the part, which might be her most demanding yet, and graphic designer Peter Sattler makes a worthwhile debut. – Jordan R.
24. I Origins (Mike Cahill)
After Sundance served as his break-out with the sci-fi drama Another Earth, director Mike Cahill returns with Brit Marling in tow for his follow-up, I Origins. Although the film’s latter elements are shrouded in secrecy, the set-up has us curious: Michael Pitt plays Ian Gray, a molecular biology PhD student who falls in love with a model, but years later one of his discoveries contains existential implications. We certainly don’t expect another Upstream Color, but here’s hoping Cahill improves in his sophomore effort. – Jordan R.
23. Happy Christmas (Joe Swanberg)
While it was far from a large-scale effort, Joe Swanberg stepped up his game with Drinking Buddies, marking his highest profile film yet in both cast and budget, and he’s now set to follow it up with a Christmas-themed drama, one that will hopefully continue his knack for authentic characters. Starring Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Webber, Lena Dunham, and Swanberg himself, the story follows a woman who moves into her brother’s house following a break-up. – Jordan R.
22. Calvary (John Michael McDonagh)
John Michael McDonagh’s The Guard is one of this decade’s better comedies — perceptive to the strangeness of rural life, fish-out-of-water humor, and action film clichés, while maintaining a consistent, pleasing visual style. A fine directorial debut, indeed, and that he seems to be expanding upon some of that film’s themes through a new lens — a Catholic priest, played by the returning Brendan Gleeson — is exciting in and of itself. Are we truly witnessing the sprouting of a new voice? Well, if not, there’s still the chance for droll humor. – Nick N.
21. Love is Strange (Ira Sachs)
After premiering the authentic relationship drama Keep the Lights On (reviewed here) back at Sundance 2012, writer-director Ira Sachs will return this year with Love is Strange. Led by John Lithgow and Alfred Molina, the project finds the actors playing a NYC-based couple who decided to wed after a 38-year-relationship. Also starring Marisa Tomei and Cheyenne Jackson, there’s no reason this won’t be another tenderly realized drama from Sachs. - Jordan R.
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