We at Much Ado About Cinema are unfortunately not attending the Sundance Film Festival, but I can attest from years of experience that there is another way of immersing yourself in all things Sundance without stepping onto the chilly streets of Park City. Learning the schedule like the back of your hand; obsessively refreshing your Twitter feed; jumping on the hype-train for films you haven’t even seen — this is all familiar territory for anyone who is well-versed in the Sundance-away-from-Sundance experience. To bring you your first dose of Sundance FOMO, I present 10 films in the Sundance lineup that I’m dying to read the reviews for — then wait 6 to 12 months to actually see:
(I’ve tried to include a broad range of films from different strands, but I have notably left out documentaries, only because there are so many interesting films to choose from that it would make this list too long.)
Director: Paul Dano
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Ed Oxenbould, Bill Camp, Jake Gyllenhaal
Paul Dano is a Sundance veteran, starring in indie hits ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ and ‘Swiss Army Man’ — but ‘Wildlife’ marks his debut on the other side of the camera. Along with co-writer Zoe Kazan, Dano has adapted the Richard Ford novel of the same name about a young boy in 1960s Montana, who is forced to grow up when his family is falling apart. Starring Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal as the boy’s parents, the film sounds like a devastating exploration of the fallout of the traditional nuclear family.
SORRY TO BOTHER YOU
Director: Boots Riley
Starring: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Steven Yeun, Jermaine Fowler, Armie Hammer, Omari Hardwick
Considering the quirky indie is a mainstay of the Sundance lineup, the fact that Boots Riley’s debut manages to stand out from the rest speaks to how filmmakers continue to bring the unexpected and daringly original. The synopsis is absolutely bonkers so I will just let it speak for itself:
Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a 30-something black telemarketer with self-esteem issues, discovers a magical selling power living inside of him. Suddenly he’s rising up the ranks to the elite team of his company, which sells heinous products and services. The upswing in Cassius’s career raises serious red flags with his brilliant girlfriend, Detroit (Tessa Thompson), a sign-twirling gallery artist who is secretly a part of a Banksy-style collective called Left Eye. But the unimaginable hits the fan when Cassius meets the company’s cocaine-snorting, orgy-hosting, obnoxious, and relentlessly optimistic CEO, Steve Lift (Armie Hammer).
Director: Bo Burnham
Cast: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton
I, and many other Bo Burnham fans, have sorely missed the razor-sharp comedian when he disappeared off the map after his triumphant tour/Netflix special ‘Make Happy. After an agonising wait, he’s back with his directorial debut about is unable to translate the confidence she finds in making connections online to real life. Burnham proved his talents as a writer with the screenplay that landed on the Blacklist, ‘Gay Kid and Fat Chick’ (I can confirm it’s great and I wish it made it to screen) so I can only predict that ‘Eighth Grade’ will make a bigger splash at Park City. A24 have also picked it up for distribution which only makes me even more excited to catch it.
THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST
Director: Desiree Akhavan
Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, John Gallagher Jr., Jennifer Ehle
Desiree Akhavan’s debut ‘Appropriate Behaviour’ was a refreshingly welcome addition to the LGBT canon for its honest depiction of bisexuality. She returns to Sundance with a bigger budget and bigger stars with ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’. Chloe Grace Moretz stars as a teenager who is sent to a gay conversion center when she is caught with another girl. Based on the novel of the same name by Emily Danforth, Akhavan will undoubtedly handle the story with the care and confidence of her first feature. It may make for a great companion piece to Joel Edgerton’s upcoming ‘Boy Erased’.
Director: David Zellner, Nathan Zellner
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, David Zellner, Robert Forster, Nathan Zellner, Joe Billingiere
Let it be known that ‘Kumiko the Treasure Hunter’ is one of the most underrated films of the 21st century — so with that said, I’m completely ecstatic that directors David and Nathan Zellner are FINALLY back with ‘Damsel’, starring Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska. Pattinson plays a love-starved man in the Old West searching for his other half. Considering what the brother duo managed to conjure with the mythology of ‘Fargo’ in ‘Kumiko’, ‘Damsel’ looks to be an exciting and delightfully silly reinvention of the western genre.
Director: Craig William Macneill
Cast: Chloë Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, Jamey Sheridan, Fiona Shaw, Kim Dickens, Denis O’Hare
If I’m being perfectly honest, all of my knowledge of the Borden murders is limited to the Buzzfeed Unsolved episode — but ‘Lizzie’ promises to be an intriguing and compelling deep dive into the lives of the women of the Borden family. Chloë Sevigny has had scene-stealing roles in acclaimed films from ‘Zodiac’ to ‘Lean on Pete’, but this time she takes the lead as the eponymous Lizzie Borden, alongside Kristen Stewart. Sundance describes the film as one that champions “feminism and sexuality” — so basically, everything we want from a movie.
Director: Nicolas Pesce
Cast: Christopher Abbott, Mia Wasikowska, Laia Costa, Marin Ireland, Maria Dizzia, Wendell Pierce
Nicolas Pesce turned heads with his debut, ‘The Eyes of My Mother, one of the most disturbing psychological horror-thrillers in recent memory. He returns to the festival where it all started with ‘Piercing’, another dark horror about a man who decides to kill an unsuspecting victim to rid himself of his murderous desires once and for all. The arrival of a call girl played by Mia Wasikowska signals otherwise, as nightmarish events unfold.
I THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW
Director: Reed Morano
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Elle Fanning
Reed Morano is a force to be reckoned with — the prolific director and cinematographer only recently won an Emmy for outstanding directing for ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, and she shows no sign of slowing down. ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ marks her return to film after her 2015 debut ‘Meadowland’, and it boasts an intriguing premise not unlike ‘The Last Man on Earth’. Set in the aftermath of an apocalypse that has wiped out the human race, Peter Dinklage plays Del, the last remaining human — until he discovers Grace, played by Elle Fanning. How she will shake up his peaceful solitude is a mystery that I can’t wait to find out.
Director: Aneesh Chaganty
Cast: John Cho, Debra Messing
Do you remember ‘Unfriended’? The horror movie told entirely through the screen of a MacBook? ‘Search’ utilises a similar gimmick, but instead the device puts a new spin on the conventional mystery thriller — John Cho plays a father who desperately looks through his missing daughter’s laptop for any signs of her whereabouts. I was endlessly fascinated by the possibilities of the computer as a mode of storytelling in ‘Unfriended’, but was ultimately disappointed by the cheap horror — hopefully ‘Search’ will improve on what ‘Unfriended’ innovated.
Director: Idris Elba
Cast: Aml Ameen, Shantol Jackson, Stephen Graham, Fraser James, Sheldon Shepherd, Everaldo Cleary
Award-winning actor and the Internet’s boyfriend, Idris Elba, makes his feature-film directorial debut with ‘Yardie’. Based on the novel by Victor Headley, the film blends the gangster genre with the coming-of-age story and stars Aml Ameen (who you may recognise from Sense8). In a story that spans years and continents, the film is about a man who falls into the world of gangs and tries to find his brother’s killer when a loyalty-testing mission goes wrong.
BONUS: THE DEATH OF STALIN
Director: Armando Iannucci
Cast: Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, Andrea Riseborough, Rupert Friend, Olga Kurylenko, Jason Isaacs
I managed to catch ‘The Death of Stalin’ when it was released in the UK last year, and it’s an unexpected (and underrated) delight. Directed by ‘The Thick of It’ helmer Armando Iannucci, the totally inaccurate dark comedy about the fallout of Stalin’s passing is outrageously hilarious and never stops the laughs from coming. In a packed ensemble filled to the brim with acting titans like Steve Buscemi and Jason Isaacs, Andrea Riseborough is a particular standout as the daughter of the Russian dictator.