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Sundance 2021 Wrap-Up


Sundance 2021 is a wrap and I'd say that the first ever streaming version of the festival was a huge success!! While nothing can replace the experience of seeing the screenings in person and feeling all the excitement and buzz from your fellow festival attendees, the convenience and ease of this format can't be beat. I was able to see more movies than ever this year and the only movie from my most anticipated list that I wasn't able to catch was Passing, Now that everything is said and done, let's take a look back and round up my personal highlights of the festival.


BEST OF FEST


MASS

This intimate drama about two sets of parents both affected by the same tragedy is sensational. The film focuses most of the duration on just these four actors having a very difficult conversation. The performances here are all incredible and I hope aren't forgotten when awards season hits. Everyone here is fantastic, but Ann Down and Martha Plimpton in particular blew me away.


CODA

CODA opened the festival and was so warm and winsome that many of the movies I watched afterward had a hard time measuring up. CODA is the type of coming of age movie I go to Sundance to see; humorous and heartfelt all at once. Plus it boasts a breakout performance from its young star, as well as an amazing soundtrack which she helps to perform.


IN THE SAME BREATH

This documentary about the origins of the pandemic in China from filmmaker Nanfu Wang is a must watch. She tells this story with an unflinching bravery and honestly, it is essential viewing to understanding how we got where we are and how we can try to understand where we go from here.


ON THE COUNT OF THREE

Two friends form a suicide pact in which they agree by the end of this day, they will each kill themselves. This movie was a hard watch, but surprisingly very rewarding about the fragility of life and the beauty it offers.


EIGHT FOR SILVER

There's nothing I love more than a good Sundance horror film and Eight For Silver happened to be my favorite horror film of the 2021 festival. It's better not to say too much because the reveal to what exact type of horror movie this is happens to be one of the funnest parts of the movie, but rest assured if you're a fan of horror you are in for a treat.


IN THE EARTH

In the Earth was my second favorite horror film of the festival and that might be entirely due to its creep factor. The atmosphere is just right all throughout with an underlying sense of dread. While it most definitely is a slow burn to get to that chaotic ending, it's definitely worth it.


TOGETHER TOGETHER

Together Together was a sweet and sincere dramedy exploring something not often explored in film: a platonic friendship. Ed Helms stars as Matt, a single man in his 40's who wants desperately to be a father. Since life hadn't given him that option yet, he decides to take matters into his own hands and hire a surrogate. The film follows the unexpected friendship that follows between the two and the unexpected complexness in understanding the boundaries of such a relationship. I really enjoyed this. These characters felt real and lived in. I only wish it had a stronger ending.


JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

Judas and the Black Messiah features some of the strongest performances of the festival and will no doubt be recognized come Oscar time. The story of an FBI informant infiltrating the inner circle of the Black Panthers is incredibly compelling. Again I would have loved to have gotten to know some of the characters more to see more inner turmoil, but overall it's still an excellent film.


HOW IT ENDS

This quirky offbeat comedy about a woman coming to terms with the end of the world (with help from her younger self who joins her on her journey,) was light, fluffy fun in the midst of watching a lot of other movies with heavier subject matter. While the film mostly consists of one celebrity cameo after the other, I still just couldn't help but have a lot of fun with it. The humor was on point and everyone seemed to be having a fun time.


CENSOR

Another slow burn horror film to add to the list, Censor ties with The Blazing World (below) to take my tenth spot of my favorite films at Sundance 2021. This movie felt cold and distant; it was hard to love because I couldn't find myself warming to the lead with the way she was portrayed. It wasn't quite what I expected, but by the end I was along for the ride.


THE BLAZING WORLD

The Blazing World is a horror fairytale in the same vein of Pan's Labyrinth (definite Guillermo del Toro vibes all throughout). Sometimes it may be guilty of style over substance, but honestly who ever said style couldn't be substance too?? I have to hand it to the incredible production design for making this waking dream come to life. It truly had its own sense of dark magic.


Well that's it for 2021. May 2022 bring us back to the screens of Utah so we can experience some of these films together.

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