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Sundance 2018 Preview

It's finally that time of year again! Today marks the beginning of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and I couldn't be happier. To commemorate the occasion, I've finally gotten around to compiling the ten films set to debut at the festival that have really caught my eye. My track record can be a bit hit or miss in my selections, so take my suggestions with a grain of salt (though for what its worth, the ones that turn out to be good are REALY good.)

10 - Assassination Nation

SUNDANCE SUMMARY: High school senior Lily and her crew of besties live in a haze of texts, posts, selfies, and chats—just like the rest of us. So when a provocateur starts posting details from the private digital lives of everyone in their small town of Salem, the result is a Category 5 shitstorm. We’re talking browser histories, direct messages, illegal downloads, secret text chains, and way, way, way worse. People get angry. Like, “rampaging murder posse” angry. And Lily finds herself right in the middle.

Why I want to see it: When done right, teen girls & the horror genre is a DELIGHTFUL mix (see Night of the Comet,) but....when they miss they miss hard (Yoga Hosers.)

9 - Mandy

SUNDANCE SUMMARY: Bubbling up from somewhere in the realm of madness and chaos comes the eagerly awaited latest from grandiose filmmaker Panos Cosmatos. Somewhere in the primal wilderness near the Shadow Mountains in the year 1983, Red Miller (Nicolas Cage, in an adrenaline-inducing performance) has fallen deeply for the beguiling Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough). But the life he has made for himself comes suddenly and horrifyingly crashing down when a vile band of ravaging idolaters and supernatural creatures penetrate his idyllic paradise with vicious fury. A broken man, Red now lives for one thing only—to hunt down these maniacal villains and exact swift vengeance.

Why I want to see it: Could Nicolas Cage appear in a good movie? This one sounds pretty batshiz insane and Cage usually seems to thrive in films like that. While he usually appears in horrible movies, every now and then he gets a gem and gives a great performance.

8 - Ophelia

SUNDANCE SUMMARY: Something is rotten in medieval-era Denmark, where political intrigue swirls around the imperial court like dark magic. Amid it all, the queen’s brightest lady-in-waiting, Ophelia, finds herself drawn to Hamlet, the charismatic and elusive crown prince. As their secretive love affair takes flight, betrayal strikes the court, threatening to derail their union and devastate the royal family for good. Caught between her desires and her loyalty, Ophelia has to decide where her devotion will ultimately lie.

Why I want to see it: I’m always interested to see more of Daisy Ridley’s acting chops. She did a fine job in Murder on the Orient Express, so I’m interested to see her continuing range. Also I think seeing the familiar story from a different point of view sounds very refreshing. The rest of the supporting cast helps too!

7 - American Animals

SUNDANCE SUMMARY: Lexington, Kentucky, 2004: Spencer and Warren dream of remarkable lives beyond their middle-class suburban existence. They head off to colleges in the same town, haunted by the fear they may never be special in any way. Spencer is given a tour of his school’s incredibly valuable rare book collection and describes it all to Warren. Suddenly, it hits them—they could pull off one of the most audacious art thefts in recent history, from the university’s special collections library. Convinced they can get away with it, they recruit two other friends. Suddenly, the dance of knowing what happens if they cross the line becomes all-consuming. Why I want to see it: I’m not always into heist movies but this one sounds like a lot of fun, plus I’m a big fan of Evan Peters.

6 - Hearts Beat Loud

SUNDANCE SUMMARY: As single dad Frank (Nick Offerman) prepares to send hardworking daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) off to UCLA pre-med, he also reluctantly realizes he has to accept that his own record-store business is failing. Hoping to stay connected with his daughter through their shared love of music, he urges her to turn their weekly “jam sesh” into an actual band. Channeling Sam’s resistance into a band name, they unexpectedly find We’re Not a Band’s first song turning into a minor Spotify hit, and they use their songwriting efforts to work through their feelings about the life changes each of them faces.

Why I want to see this: Me & Sundance films about bands have a good track record! Plus I really love Nick Offerman and Toni Collette.

5 - Juliet, Naked

SUNDANCE SUMMARY: Annie is stuck in a long-term relationship with Duncan—an obsessive fan of obscure rocker Tucker Crowe. Duncan is far more devoted to his music idol than to Annie. When the acoustic demo of Tucker’s hit record from 25 years ago surfaces, it leads to a life-changing encounter between Annie and the elusive rocker himself. Why I want to see it: Juliet, Naked is an adaptation of a book by Nick Hornby (Brooklyn, About a Boy, An Education, Fever Pitch.) Plus I really love Rose Byrne!

4 - Don't Worry He Won't Get Far On Foot

SUNDANCE SUMMARY: John Callahan has a lust for life, a knack for off-color jokes, and a drinking problem. When an all-night bender ends in a catastrophic car accident, John wakes up to the reality of being confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. In his journey back from rock bottom, his honesty and wicked sense of humor turn out to be his saving grace, as he makes friends with an oddball AA group, finds that love is not beyond his reach, and develops a talent for drawing irreverent and sometimes shocking cartoons.

Why I want to see it: The cast! Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Jack Black coming together can only mean good things right? It’s an interesting assembly of players and the trailer looked fantastic.

3 - Wildlife

SUNDANCE SUMMARY: Fourteen-year-old Joe is the only child of Jeanette and Jerry—a housewife and a golf pro—in a small town in 1960s Montana. Nearby, an uncontrolled forest fire rages close to the Canadian border, and when Jerry loses his job—and his sense of purpose—he decides to join the cause of fighting the fire, leaving his wife and son to fend for themselves. Suddenly forced into the role of an adult, Joe witnesses his mother's struggle as she tries to keep her head above water.

Why I want to see it: This is the directorial debut of Paul Dano, who along with his longtime companion, Zoe Kazan, also adapts the screenplay. Plus he attracted two of the best actors in Hollywood to the project: Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan.

2 - Nancy

SUNDANCE SUMMARY: Nancy is a 35-year-old temp living with her mom and cat in a modest home in a modest town. She is also an aspiring writer whose submissions are consistently rejected by the likes of the Atlantic and the Paris Review. To make up for these failures and the invisibility she feels, Nancy spins elaborate lies and hoaxes under pseudonyms on the internet. When she encounters a couple whose 5-year-old daughter went missing 30 years ago, fact and fiction begin to blur in Nancy’s mind, and she becomes increasingly convinced these strangers are her real parents.

Why I want to see it: This plot may have been done before, but usually from the parent's who've lost their child's point of view. Seeing it from the view of someone whose life was upturned and shaped by deception sounds fascinating.

1 - Burden

SUNDANCE SUMMARY: Mike Burden (Garret Hedlund) is a taciturn repo man rising through the ranks of the Ku Klux Klan in small-town South Carolina, 1996. Orphaned as a child, he is fiercely loyal to local Klan leader and toxic father figure Tom Griffin (a terrifying Tom Wilkinson). But Burden has a change of heart when he falls for Judy (Andrea Riseborough), a single mother who stirs his social conscience. His violent break from the Klan sends him into the open arms of Reverend Kennedy (Forest Whitaker), an idealistic African American preacher, who offers him safety and a shot at redemption.

Why I want to see it: The redemption of someone who joined the KKK is certainly not something I've ever seen in film before! A unique tale that is definitely a timely one.

Also noteworthy selections: Summer of '84 (More 80’s nostalgia of kids solving mysteries,) Hereditary (Toni Collette in horror is always a good thing.) Puzzle (a movie about Puzzle competitions—who knew there was such a thing!?) You Were Never Really Here (Joaquin Phoenix as a vigilante.) An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn (a zany screwball comedy with Aubrey Plaza, Craig Robinson and Jemaine Clement.) Search (a thriller using social

media to find the answers.) A Futile & Stupid Gesture (a look into the beginnings of the National Lampoon brand, starring Will Forte.) Lizzie (another take on the Lizzie Borden story, with hopefully less Lifetime results.)

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