ScreenCrush’s Extremely Excited 2017 Sundance Film Festival Preview
Weather Underground’s current forecast for Park City, Utah calls for snow on five out of the first six days of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, including a possible (gulp) five to eight inches on Monday. ScreenCrush’s current forecast for Park City, Utah, snow be damned, calls for as many movies as we can cram into those six days while we’re on the ground covering Sundance 2017. Editor-in-Chief Matt Singer and Senior Editor Erin Whitney will be there, doing their best to honor the mailman’s creed: Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat (okay maybe we won’t have to worry about that one), nor gloom of night will keep them from their appointed rounds. (It’s possible a party or two might; it’s probably too early to tell right now.)
On the eve of this year’s festival, here’s what Matt and Erin are most excited to watch in Park City. Snow, as you will see, did not make the list.
Directed by Alexandre O. Philippe
The Psycho shower scene is easily one of the most iconic in the history of cinema. Mimic the strings of Bernard Hermann’s score with thrusting gesture with your hand and everyone knows what you’re doing. Alexandre O. Philippe devotes his entire documentary 78/52 to dissecting the sequence, filmed in 78 set ups with 52 cuts. Philippe also enlists the wisdom of horror buffs, critics, and filmmakers, including Guillermo del Toro, Karyn Kusama, Bret Easton Ellis, Eli Roth, and Peter Bogdanovich. A whole 91 minutes dedicated to breaking down the two-minute Hitchcock scene shot by shot? It’s a film lover’s dream!
The Big Sick
Directed by Michael Showalter
In this autobiographical movie (or technically bi-biographical movie) real-life couple and comedians Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon tell the story of their relationship. Nanjiani plays himself; Zoe Kazan plays the role of Gordon. Shortly after the two became a couple, Emily became gravely ill (hence the title), a crisis that seriously affected their relationship. Judd Apatow produced The Big Sick, which Nanjiani and Gordon wrote themselves; Michael Showalter of The State, Wet Hot American Summer, and Hello, My Name Is Doris fame directs.
Call Me By Your Name
Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Secret desires, lust, and sun-drenched summers in Italy is the language of Luca Guadagnino’s films. The latest from the Italian filmmaker behind I Am Love and last year’s A Bigger Splash has all of that and more. Adapted from the acclaimed novel of the same name by Guadagnino and James Ivory, Call Me By Your Name follows a brewing romance between Elio, a bored 17-year-old (Interstellar’s Timothee Chalamet), and the charming Oliver, a 24-year-old American (Armie Hammer). With Guadagnino you know you’re in for a story rich with passion and Call Me By Your Name, bought by Sony Pictures Classics, already sounds like a romance classic. Plus, it co-stars Michael Stuhlbarg, which is always a treat.
Directed by Charlie McDowell
The One I Love was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2014, a clever sci-fi thriller about a couple’s broken marriage and latent disappointments. Director Charlie McDowell (son of Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen) is back with The Discovery, another contemplative sci-fi film with a script co-written by McDowell and The One I Love scribe Justin Lader. The film is set in a world where the afterlife has scientifically been proven and millions of people are taking their lives in hopes of reaching it. It sounds a bit like a recent Black Mirror episode, which should only make you more intrigued. Rooney Mara and Jason Segel play two people who visit the mysterious afterlife island, and Robert Redford is the scientist who proved it all. Netflix already bought the film and has plans for a release later this year.
A Ghost Story
Directed by David Lowery
Though David Lowery jumped into blockbuster territory with Disney’s live-action Pete’s Dragon remake (one of the most stunning big studio movies of 2016), he’s still keeping one foot in the indie world. The writer-director reunited with his Ain’t Them Bodies Saints stars Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck for A Ghost Story, a project they developed and shot in secret last summer. The film, which A24 has already bought (reportedly without even seeing it first), follows Mara and Affleck as a couple once again, only this time Affleck is dead and returns home as a ghost to watch over his mourning lover. Lowery recently took to Instagram to clarify his movie is not a horror film (well duh), adding that it will have lots of “staring out windows for long periods of time without talking.” Oh hell yes, this just got bumped way up to the top of our most anticipated list.
Directed by Alex Ross Perry
Alex Ross Perry returning to Park City is definitely something to be excited about. The latest from the Listen Up Philip and Queen of Earth filmmaker follows two Brooklyn families who are thrown off course by a long visit from a young Australian girl. Perry reunites with Jason Schwartzman for the film, which also stars Emily Browning, Chloe Sevigny, Adam Horovitz, Mary Louise-Parker, and Lily Rabe. Get ready for lots of dysfunctional family drama.
I Don’t Feel At Home in This World Anymore
Directed by Macon Blair
Macon Blair is best known as the vengeful protagonist at the center of Jeremy Saulnier’s second feature Blue Ruin. Now Blair makes his directorial debut with I Don’t Feel At Home in This World Anymore, one of the fest’s opening night films. The dark comedy stars Sundance regular Melanie Lynskey as Ruth, a depressed nursing assistant who goes on a hunt for the thieves who broke into her home and stole her laptop. It sounds very Sundance-y with its cast of oddball characters (Elijah Wood plays her erratic neighbor), but if Blair can find the right blend of darkness and humor, this might just be a festival gem.
Directed by Gillian Robespierre
The team behind the awesome Obvious Child — writer/director Gillian Robespierre and star Jenny Slate — reunite for a new comedy set in ’90s New York City (an era before cell phones, hence the title) involving crumbling relationships and secret affairs. The cast also includes John Turturro, Edie Falco, and Jay Duplass, but the real selling point is the return of Robespierre and Slate, who made Obvious Child such a refreshing treat.
Directed by Julian Rosefeldt
At this point we don’t know much more about Manifesto than the fact that it’s a movie where Cate Blanchett plays 13 different roles. But what else do we need to know? By my math, 13 Blanchetts in one movie is automatically 13 times better than a movie with just one Blanchett. Oh fine, here’s a little more: Blanchett recites a baker’s dozen of “the most influential and emotional artist manifestos in history” as characters like a housewife, factory worker, and TV anchor. Interesting, but largely irrelevant when the bottom line is 13 Cate Blanchetts in one movie.
Directed by Michael Almereyda
Wikipedia (which is never wrong) tells me that Jon Hamm plays a holographic “younger version” of a old woman’s deceased husband. That just makes me wonder who could play the young hologram of me some day. Whoever it is, he definitely won’t be as handsome as Jon Hamm. Oh well. Lois Smith plays the older woman in this unusually human sci-fi movie from director Michael Almereyda, whose unusually structured biopic Experimenter premiered at the festival in 2014.
Directed by Dee Rees
Dee Rees blew audiences away with Pariah, a startling portrait of a young black lesbian, when it debuted at Sundance in 2011. Rees went on to direct Bessie for HBO and now she returns to the big screen with Mudbound, a drama set in the post-WWII South. Two families in rural Mississippi are upended when a pair of soldiers, one black and one white, strike up a friendship after returning home. The film’s cast includes Carey Mulligan, Mary J. Blige, Garrett Hedlund, Jonathan Banks, and Jason Mitchell of Straight Outta Compton. Also exciting: Mudbound was shot by Dope and Fruitvale Station cinematographer Rachel Morrison, and from the first photos it looks nothing short of stunning.
The Polka King
Directed by Maya Forbes
Husband and wife writing team Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky are a formidable comedy combo. Forbes worked on The Larry Sanders Show; Wolodarsky was one of the creative voices during The Simpsons’ heyday. Together they’ve worked on Monsters vs. Aliens and The People vs. O.J. Simpson. Their latest collaboration stars Jack Black in the true story of Jan Lewan, the so-called “King of Pennsylvania Polka” who conned people into investing in a Ponzi scheme. Ugh, that old cliché; the polka Ponzi scheme. When will these Hollywood types start coming up with some new ideas?!?
Directed by Sabaah Folayan
A brief look over the doc slate at Sundance shows the festival lineup has gotten considerably more political this year, which feels apt in these increasingly scary times. Even in a lineup that includes multiple docs on Syria, a Kalief Browder docuseries, and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Sequel, Whose Streets? looks to be one of the most important non-fiction of the year. First-time Brooklyn filmmaker Sabaah Folayan traveled to Ferguson, Missouri to capture the uprising in the city following the killing of Michael Brown in the summer of 2014. Folayan speaks with multiple activists, organizers, and residents who share their stories and perspectives outside of what we’ve seen in the news.
Directed by Craig Johnson
You don’t see a ton of comic-book movies at Sundance, but Wilson is based on a 2010 graphic novel by cartoonist Daniel Clowes. Clowes’ Art School Confidential was the source of a wildly underrated Sundance movie a decade ago, and now he returns with a project directed by Craig Johnson, who previously made the solid Sundance dramedy The Skeleton Twins. Wilson stars Woody Harrelson as the title character, a “misanthropic dog lover” who gets a new shot at happiness. If Wilson lives up to Art School Confidential and Ghost World before that, we’ll have a good shot at Sundance happiness too.
Directed by Taylor Sheridan
Actor-turned-screenwriter Taylor Sheridan has penned some of the most interesting genre films of the last couple years, Sicario and Hell or High Water. Now Sheridan becomes a director as well with Wind River, which is described on Sundance’s official site as the final part of an informal trilogy about “the American frontier.” Is Sheridan as good a director as he is a writer? That’s the question, though if nothing else he’s lined up a solid cast for his directorial debut, including Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, and Jon Bernthal. The story involves a Fish & Wildlife agent and an FBI rookie searching for a killer on the Wind River Indian Reservation.