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My Sundance Watching Career

The Sundance Film Festival starts tomorrow!! Before giving you my preview for this years festival and the movies I'm most looking forward to, I thought it would be fun to go back and take a look at all of the movies I've seen during my four years of attending the festival as a serious movie goer (as opposed to the four years before that as a shameless celebrity gawker....which I never had any luck with anyway. Oh except for THIS GUY.) Since 2012, I've seen a grand total of 15 films at the festival, and this year I'll be making it 20 at the very least. But for now, let's look back on those 15 and rank them from least favorite, to favorite. And hey, if you can't attend the festival this year, have your own and watch the selections below!

15. Celeste & Jesse Forever

I really liked the concept of this movie a lot, but the execution was a little sloppy and all over the place. If this had just been a little tighter, I might have really loved this movie. This was the very first movie I have ever seen at Sundance, so you'd think it would hold a special place in my heart...but alas, I have not revisited it once. Original take on the movie HERE.

14. Don Verdean

Jared Hess has a unique brand of humor that not everyone really digs. Critics tore this movie apart, and audiences weren't too kind either. With its deeply Utah sensibilities I could definitely appreciate this film, even if it is one of the weakest movies I've ever seen at Sundance. But it's certainly not for everyone. Original review HERE.

13. Shaun the Sheep

Okay, I'm gonna level with you right now, I actually saw 16 films total and am now realizing I left Operation Arctic off the list. But let's be honest, 15 is a better number for list purposes. I saw Arctic as a double feature with Sheep, after having won some tickets from the Utah film society. Both films were featured in the Kids section, and were kind of hard, for me, to get super excited about--though both were well made. Arctic was unnecessarily annoying though, while Sheep stayed charming throughout. Review for both HERE.

12. The Double

The Double is a dark, surreal and strange film. It's easy to admire, but hard to embrace. Its surrealism can be off-putting for many, as evidenced by all the people who walked out of the theater! I appreciated it, but have never felt the need to revist it. Original review HERE.

11. What We Do in the Shadows

Okay it's kind of a cheat to include this one as I saw it first at a Sundance summer outdoor screening for free, not truly during the festival.... BUT because of Sundance I still saw it a good year before everyone else got to see it, so it counts. The first time my friends watched it, we found it to be uproariously hilarious. Unfortunately, a lot of the humor relies on the shock factor of things, so its replay value isn't quite as good... but still a pretty fun horror comedy.

10. Brooklyn

Brooklyn is a lovely film in story and looks. It managed to charm just about every movie-goer on earth...even if I wasn't quite as convinced as they were. Every character has depth and manages to be extremely lovable to me...just not the main heroine whose wishy-washy behavior drove me nuts. I get that it's a coming of age, but some of her behavior was a little hard to defend. Still it certainly was one of the most feel-good movies I've seen at the festival, and the crazy lady who befriended me at this screening was sobbing of happiness when she saw it. I was just amused. Original review HERE.

9. God Help the Girl

God Help the Girl is a silly, twee musical directed by the lead singer of Belle & Sebastian. If that doesn't sound hipster enough for you, I don't know what is. Haha, that said, it was one of the most delightful Sundance experiences for me and the movie was just fun! I'm a sucker for a fun musical, and the first couple of songs really hooked me. I was humming the music for weeks afterward. The film could certainly be more focused and trim, but I dig it as is. Original review HERE.

8. Mistress America

Mistress America is so simple. There's really not much to the plot at all, besides two girls who are hot messes in their own ways and how their relationship affects each other. But better than that, it manages to be a screwball comedy in a day where that genre is basically extinct. It's silly, but it's so much fun. Original review HERE.

7. The Wolfpack

Last year's best of fest doc winner really struck a cord with me. The first time I saw it, I felt every emotion humanly possible. The second time, it became pure tragedy. It's a fascinating doc of a group of boys who have led a life that I wouldn't wish on anyone. Original review HERE.

6. The Witch

Last year, seeing The Witch I had no idea what I was in for. I'm glad I got to see it before the hype, as it is one of the most chilling horror movies I've seen. It's not chock full of scares, but rather its the type of movie that at its core is just kinda evil. And really, for a horror movie that's almost the best you can get. Original review HERE.

5. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is kind of the perfect Sundance movie. You can take that statement either positively or negatively as it does kind of have a checklist for what this particular audience will like. It capitolizes off of moviegoers love of cinema more than anything, and it is all too whimsical. But, two scenes toward the end changed it all for me when we've switched from comedy to drama and the film refuses to cut away from the two lead characters faces. From there, the movie is magical. Original review HERE.

4. Liberal Arts

Liberal Arts was a delight and a surprise. At the point in my life when I saw it (and even still now really,) I was at such an "in-between" that I felt that this movie was speaking to me, that it was made for me. I really love the conversations that take place in this film and I really really wish Josh Radnor would direct more often. Original take on the movie HERE.

3. Before Midnight

Now, if I were to rank my immediate Sundance reactions, this probably wouldn't get the place its ending up. The follow-up to Before Sunset was undeniably well-made, but kinda not what I was expecting at all. I was a little off put with it initially, even though I could appreciate it on a filmmaking level. But in subsequent viewings afterward, I really came to love it...even if it didn't match the movie I had envisioned in my head. The story went a far different place than the previous films went, but it went to a place real life goes. Maybe at the time it just felt a little TOO real. But really, that is the beauty of it isn't it? Original review HERE.

2. The Way Way Back

I straight up adore this movie, and honestly it is one of my very favorite movies of the decade. There's so much heart here and I knew from the very opening scene it was something truly special. I could gush and gush over every single element of its perfection, but instead I'll just link you my original review HERE.

1. Whiplash

Again, if I was going by initial reaction...The Way Way Back would probably have slightly edged this out due to my pure love of it. And while I do probably love that movie more, this one had me in complete and utter awe of the filmmaking at display. Whiplash could honestly be called a perfect film and I LOVED being in on its secret a year before it came out. "Wait until you see Whiplash." THIS kind of movie is what Sundance is for. Original review HERE.

So will there be any Whiplashes or Boyhoods or Way Way Backs this year?? Only time will tell. But come back tomorrow and I'll have my preview for the ten movies debuting at the festival this year that have captured my attention.


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