Before I started regularly attending the Sundance Film Festival about 5 years ago, I wanted to find a way to see those films that may never be projected onto many large screens at a theater near you. It wasn’t easy. Some films get purchased, but still never make it as a wide release. Some go straight to video, but with no marketing campaign whatsoever.
What to do?
I’ve seen a lot of films that were far better than some of the crap that gets shown at 2300 theaters in the U.S., not to mention whatever agreements were made for international distribution rights. Some of these films gripped me from beginning to end at midnight showings. And believe me, that’s not easy when I’m on my sixth straight day of no sleep!
At Sundance, no matter how long you stay awake, you can’t see them all.
Grant it, there’s a good chance you’ll see some really experimental shit (witness a shorts program this year – 90 minutes of twisted, sexually connotative, and gory non-stories), but without risk, sometimes you won’t find the reward.
So, here, without further ado, is list of @SundanceFest films over the last few years and where you can see them now:
Before I Disappear – Shawn Christensen, Fatima Ptacek, Emmy Rossum, Paul Wesley
At the lowest point of his life, Richie gets a call from his estranged sister, asking him to look after his eleven-year old niece, Sophia, for a few hours.
Fruitvale Station – Michael B Jordan, Octavia Spencer
The story of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008.
Alive Inside – Michael Rossato-Bennett, Dan Cohen (founder)
Dan Cohen, founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory, fights against a broken healthcare system to demonstrate music’s ability to combat memory loss and restore a deep sense of self to those suffering from it.
At the end of this documentary film, the maximum capacity theater of about 650 viewers were ALL sobbing with empathy and joy as the Director/Writer Michael Rossato-Bennett and Founder of Music & Memory Dan Cohen came on stage to a standing ovation. VERY powerful.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints – Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster
The tale of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met.
Breathe In – Felicity Jones, Guy Pearce, Amy Ryan
When a foreign exchange student arrives in a small upstate New York town, she challenges the dynamics of her host family’s relationships and alters their lives forever.
Results – Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders, Giovanni Ribisi
Two mismatched personal trainers’ lives are upended by the actions of a new, wealthy client.
Strangerland – Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving
A family finds their dull life in a rural outback town rocked after their two teenage children disappear into the desert, sparking disturbing rumors of their past.
Wish I Was Here – Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin
A struggling actor, father and husband finds himself at a major crossroad, which forces him to examine his life, his family and his career.
Whiplash – J K Simmons, Miles Teller
A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.
Cold in July – Michael C Hall, Sam Shepherd, Don Johnson
When a protective father meets a murderous ex-con, both need to deviate from the path they are on as they soon find themselves entangled in a downwards spiral of lies and violence while having to confront their own inner psyche.
This was a World Premiere at a midnight showing and so worth the wait! Film Noir at its best with stunning performances by Michael C Hall (of Dexter fame), Sam Shepherd, and Don Johnson in one of the best roles I’ve ever seen him perform. Twists coming out of nowhere will keep your attention.
Inside Llewyn Davis (Coen Brothers 2013) – Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Justin Timerlake
A week in the life of a young singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961.
Begin Again – (by Once Again Director John Carney), Keira Knightly, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levin, James Corden, Catherine Keener, CeeLo Green
A chance encounter between a disgraced music-business executive and a young singer-songwriter new to Manhattan turns into a promising collaboration between the two talents.
This film had so many name cast members, I wasn’t quite sure about it. Most ensemble movies turn out to be shit because there are just too many egos on the screen and it takes a very talented director to maintain control and achieve their vision. The film renewed my respect for Keira Knightly who shows a very different side of herself. The chemistry is palpable and characters very likable. A very enjoyable film.
Boyhood – Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette
The life of Mason, from early childhood to his arrival at college.
Meru – Jimmy Chin, Conrad Anker, Grace Chin
Three elite climbers struggle to find their way through obsession and loss as they attempt to climb Mount Meru, one of the most coveted prizes in the high stakes game of Himalayan big wall climbing.
Z for Zachariah (Rent/Buy) – Margot Robbie, Chris Pine, Chiwetel Ejiofor
In the wake of a disaster that wipes out most of civilization, two men and a young woman find themselves in an emotionally charged love triangle as the last known survivors.
Cooties (Rent/Buy) – Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill, Jack McBrayer, Nasim Pedrad, Jorge Garcia, Kate Flannery
A mysterious virus hits an isolated elementary school, transforming the kids into a feral swarm of mass savages. An unlikely hero must lead a motley band of teachers in the fight of their lives.
Well, I have to be honest here. I went into this one expecting to leave wishing I could get back 120 minutes of my life back. It’s loaded with comedic talent and was getting so much good feedback, I had to catch the last showing of it at the festival. Glad I made it! A mix of comedy and horrific gore, I thought the film would lose itself, but instead, it created its’ own genre and owned it. Fans of @WalkingDead_AMC will love this film.
Mistress America (Buy Only) – Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke, Michael Chernus
A lonely college freshman’s life is turned upside-down by her impetuous, adventurous stepsister-to-be.
Slow West – Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael Fassbender
A young Scottish man travels across America in pursuit of the woman he loves, attracting the attention of an outlaw who is willing to serve as a guide.
It’s no secret I love going to the midnight World Premieres. They have a special feel and only real film enthusiasts show up to these. They’re always sold out and Slow West was no exception. This western not only had the most beautiful cinematography (it was filmed in the northwest), but the sound was crisp, dialogue witty, and full of surprises and hilarious visual riffs.
Sleeping With Other People – Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie
A good-natured womanizer and a serial cheater form a platonic relationship that helps reform them in ways, while a mutual attraction sets in.
Sound City – Dave Grohl, Stevie Nicks, Paul McCartney, Trent Reznor
A documentary on the fabled recording studio that was located in Van Nuys, California.
The Truth About Emanuel – Kaya Scodelario, Jessica Biel
A troubled girl becomes preoccupied with her mysterious new neighbor, who bears a striking resemblance to her dead mother.
The original title “Emanuel and The Truth About Fishes” drew me into the mystery surrounding the troubled girl played by Kaya Scodelario. It was my introduction to this actress who turns out a wonderfully difficult performance. Jessica Biel may have put out her best here (though she did kick ass in Blade 3). This story won’t be for everybody. It is a bit difficult to follow, but if you’re in for a good drama, dark overtones, and some very stylistic visuals, this one is for you.