The 2015 Sundance Film Festival has finally come to an end and to put a wrap on things and finalize our nearly two weeks of coverage, it's time to present our Best of the Fest. We're doing things a bit different this year and presenting combined favorites between Ethan and I (since we loved so many of the same movies). Instead of one big list, like year's past, we're splitting up our favorites between the best 7 Feature Films we saw and the best 7 Documentaries we saw. We obviously couldn't see every film playing, but did catch over 40 between us and felt like these films below deserve to be highlighted for standing out over the others. As our final recap of Sundance 2015, which has now concluded, we present these 7 favorite feature films.
There are infinitely more comedians working today than you realize, but that's only because most people only hear about and go out of their way to see the most famous comics who have specials on Comedy Central and star in their own TV shows. What you may not realize is that there's a long career of not being famous for many comedians before they catch their big break, and even if that breakthrough finally happens, it may not last. That brings me to Tig Notaro, a comedienne who has been in the business for 18 years, but skyrocketed to fame in the past three years after a series of unfortunate events inspired a bold stand-up set.
"Good films make your life better." We smile. We cry. We laugh. We shudder. Here I am, at the end of another Sundance Film Festival, 10 days and 30 films later. What did we discover this year? What films left us in awe? Maybe it's festival fatigue and intense exhaustion, but every year by the end I feel like I've grown–or evolved–as a person while at Sundance. I feel like I return home a completely different person, wiser perhaps or maybe just rejuvenated, but nonetheless changed. It's these films, it's the power of cinema, the potential it has to inform us and shape us and guide us that always leaves lasting impressions upon me. I am happy to return, but even happier that I spent another year surrounded by the glory of film in Park City.
China is a endlessly fascinating country. With a population over 1.3 billion people, it's impressive that they can operate with a communist government yet still thrive and remain as powerful and successful as they currently are. I'm even more curious about the government: how exactly it works, how the entire hierarchy is structured, and how they're able to make progress and push forward when so many seem so vehemently against the system. The documentary The Chinese Mayor, which recently won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance for "Unparalleled Access", is a remarkable inside look at how one ambitious mayor in China tried to revitalize his city with his citizen's best interests at heart in the face of constant opposition. It's fantastic.
Independent cinema is where some actors go to defy expectations and try roles outside of their comfort zone. You'll find dramatic stars trying out small comedies, and big comedians putting on their best serious face. With I Smile Back, an adaptation of Amy Koppelman's book of the same name, we get the latter. But this isn't just a gimmick of a raunchy comic trying to get dark just for shock value as Sarah Silverman steps into the lead role with flying colors, delivering a brutal, relentless depiction of addiction and sadness as a mother struggling with substance abuse everyday, popping pills, snorting coke and chugging vodka.
Years ago, the documentary American Teen focused on a group of teenagers living in Indiana, focusing on their everyday high school lives. This time a new documentary heads back to the Midwest with How to Dance in Ohio. However, the young adults at the center of this documentary aren't your ordinary teens, because they all have varying autistic spectrum disorders. The film from Alexandra Shiva turns the camera on these socially anxious teens as they prepare for their first spring formal. This is something that can be daunting for teens who don't have to deal with autism, and with these kids it could be disastrous.
The Sundance Film Festival is host to the world premiere of dozens of independent films, most of them looking to get distribution so they can make it to the big screen (or at least VOD). And since there are so many sales that happen at the festival, we wanted to keep you updated with a complete and comprehensive list of all the films getting picked up here at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. As of the writing of this initial post, five films have already been sold, and the festival has barely started. You'll find the festival films sales listed below as well as other info on each movie, starting with the most recent acquisition. Read on!
The official awards for the 2015 Sundance Film Festival were announced tonight at a ceremony in Park City. We've been anxiously awaiting the results of the awards at Sundance, and now we know who won big - Me & Earl & the Dying Girl, directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, starring Thomas Mann and Olivia Cooke. It landed yet another double header win - Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize, which puts it up there with the likes of Whiplash last year, Precious and Fruitvale as other big double-header winners. There were plenty of other excellent awards and jury prizes given out, so read on for the full list of 2015 winners.
There are a growing number of recent films that have tried to make a fun joke out of religion, which can sometimes be a sensitive subject (at least in this country). Not many of them are that good, as sometimes they get too dumb with the humor (e.g. Year One), but sometimes they strike the right chord, touching upon both the importance of and hilarity of modern religion. Don Verdean is the latest film from Jared Hess & Jerusha Hess, the husband/wife filmmaker team that brought us Napoleon Dynamite and Gentlemen Broncos previously. Don Verdean is the name of religious artifacts collector who gets into some deep shit.
We've been here for 9 days so far, camped out in a lovely ski condo, watching films every day. And we're exhausted. Ethan and I have been working every day seeing films at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, writing about them when we can, and trying to keep the site up-to-date with news as well. It's not easy, I will admit. We typically see 3 or 4 or sometimes 5 films each day, and have to spend time getting to each theater/venue, lining up, getting seats, and oh yea, eating food and sleeping (on occasion). Not to mention meeting up and chatting with friends/filmmakers and other cinephiles. But there's nowhere we'd rather be.
Would you be a better guard or a better prisoner? How would you act? Most of us are inherently familiar with the "Stanford Prison Experiment", the infamously legendary psychology experiment conducted in the 1970s involving a mock prison testing the limits of prisoners against the guards. Many have been trying to adapt this for years, and we finally have a take on it - literally called The Stanford Prison Experiment. Director Kyle Patrick Alvarez (of C.O.G. from Sundance 2013) along with screenwriter Tim Talbott bring to life the intense, brutal mock prison setup in the basement of a Stanford building. It's riveting to watch, and will be divisive just based on how crazy it gets. But we all knew it would go this far, right? Right?
As the high school auditorium converted to a movie palace begins to fill, I glance around. Behind me sits the entire executive team of Fox Searchlight, in front of me the entire cast & crew of the movie we're about to see. A few seats over are two writers for Rolling Stone; amongst the crowd are all of my other critic/blogger/movie friends – from the lead reviewers at industry trade magazines like Variety and Hollywood Reporter, to my pals Peter from SlashFilm and Neil from Film School Rejects, and Ethan Anderton, too. We're all here, sitting together, all about to experience the world premiere of a movie no one has seen yet. This is what I love about film festivals. It puts us all on the same level, and together we get to experience cinema.