Who knew a film about putting together puzzles would be this adorable? Puzzle is the second feature film from veteran producer-turned-filmmaker Marc Turtletaub (Gods Behaving Badly), and it's just perfect. Going in to see this at the Sundance Film Festival, I was curious to find out what a film about a woman who discovers she's good at putting together puzzles would be about. I'm happy to report that it's an absolute delight. Puzzle is a charming, understated, quiet little film that will melt your heart, and make you laugh, and give you a warm, fuzzy feeling. The whole time I was watching this film, I had that warm, gushy feeling inside my chest, like you're falling in love with someone. It's thanks to the wonderful lead performance by Kelly Macdonald and the story, which is about a woman learning to be herself and do whatever she wants.
This isn't a new concept, but this is the film that is going to change everything. Search is a new film playing at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival that's told entirely through/with computer screens. Directed by Aneesh Chaganty, who also worked at the Google Creative Lab before making this film, sets a new precedent with Search and has made a groundbreaking, thrilling, incredible feature that will hopefully appeal to audiences of all kinds (not just computer geeks or horror fans or curious cinephiles). I know I can say for sure that I loved this film, everything about it impressed me, and it got to me emotionally as well. It's a reinvention of modern filmmaking and storytelling by using technology accurately and showing us just how much of our lives are on computers (and how some of our lives are still not digital, which makes for an intriguing twist).
This. Film. Rules. Every so often, Sundance will be lucky enough to premiere a film in the Midnight category that instantly cements itself as a guaranteed hit and genre-busting work of cinematic art. Assassination Nation is one of the best Sundance Midnight films I have ever seen here, hands down. It's a loud, energetic, socially-conscious, refreshing, awesomely entertaining, totally wild & crazy, seriously impressive, original creation from the mind of filmmaker Sam Levinson. It's amazing. I loved every second of it. The midnight crowd at the Sundance world premiere ate it up, and I am glad I was there to experience this moment. This film is a smashing massive success, and it's going to blow everyone away once it hits theaters everywhere.
There's always room for more light sci-fi, especially when it's something as beautifully crafted as this. I'm a sucker for sci-fi, and this played right to me. Cinematographer turned filmmaker Reed Morano has been on the rise recently, and she has unveiled her second feature film to the world at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Titled I Think We're Alone Now (yes, just like that song, even though she doesn't use it in the film) it's a post-apocalyptic story about a man whose quiet, simple life alone in a small town is interrupted by the arrival of another survivor, a teenage girl. This actually turns out to be almost a "Black Mirror"-esque, almost "Twilight Zone" story that takes a big turn in the middle, and then becomes even more captivating.
I don't know about everyone else, but I come to Sundance to discover films that we've never seen before - crazy original, fresh, never-before-seen concepts that make my jaw drop. Sorry to Bother You is one of Sundance 2018's most original, most WTF, most entertaining discoveries yet. Made by talented musician-turned-filmmaker Boots Riley, this anti-capitalist social commentary comedy film has creativity oozing out of every orifice. It's balls-to-the-walls nuts, in a good way. And despite being a bit sloppy with some odd filmmaking choices, I still love it and don't mind how sloppy it might be at times, because it is so totally bat-shit insane and original and enjoyable and brutally accurate about how terrible our society has become with corporate jobs. It's the epitome of a "one-of-a-kind film" and everyone needs to try a slice of this craziness.
What happens when a bunch of bored young American teens try to pull off an art heist? That's the premise behind this new film from director Bart Layton, titled American Animals, which just premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Back in 2012, Bart Layton brought his documentary The Imposter to Sundance, and I wrote in my review that it's "one of those unbelievable true stories you just must see to believe." American Animals is very similar, thematically, to that film in the way that it's another almost-unbelievable, can't-believe-it's-a-true-story story. But this is about of a group of wacky, free-spirited kids who failed miserably trying to pull off an art heist at a local university in Kentucky. It's creative and fun, but not that memorable.
We're living in a time where art, including cinema, must speak loudly about today's times, today's society and what's happening all around us. It's not just important social commentary, but a chance to really make us think and ask questions and hold a mirror up to ourselves. One of the best films from the 2018 Sundance Film Festival to do exactly that is a called Blindspotting, from filmmaker Carlos López Estrada making his feature directorial debut. This film is kind of a buddy comedy, about two friends from Oakland, California dealing with the craziness of contemporary times. Half of the film is a hilarious smackdown of hipsters and gentrification, but the other half is a very fresh, bold, in-your-face commentary on society, racism, and the inherent biases that are eroding society these days. I really loved this film, it's ambitious yet still enjoyable.
Another year, another Sundance. There's no place I'd rather be. I'm so so happy to be back again. This is my 12th year in a row returning to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, and I'm totally ready to jump in and start watching films. I've written so many of these introductory posts over the years, and I'm well aware that I usually just keep saying the same things over and over. But really, it's how things are at the start. It's all fresh - we have no idea what we're about to see, we don't really know which films will be good or bad, we don't know what we'll discover, we don't know what we'll end up loving (or hating) by the end. It's exciting to be here, nervously waiting for the doors to open and the projectors to fire up. Let's go watch some films.
Back to Sundance we go for another year of discovery. What's on the line-up this year? Out of the 110+ films showing at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, I've chosen 10 that I'm looking forward to seeing the most. To keep things well balanced, I've chosen 5 feature films and 5 documentaries from the line-up. There are so many films playing at the fest, and so many I'll end up seeing (30+), that this is a quick list to get everyone acquainted with some of the work premiering in 2018 (I just want to go see everything). There are new films from great filmmakers like Desiree Akhavan and Reed Morano, and docs about Robin Williams and Fred Rogers, and many other films. You never know what will good or bad, but here's my first few picks for 2018.
Every new year brings us another Sundance Film Festival and with 50 days left until Sundance 2018 kicks off on January 18th, it's time to find out what's playing this year. Sundance has revealed their 2018 selection of ALL of their official feature films in the selection this year, including 121 films playing across 9 different categories, ranging from controversial documentaries to comedies and dramas and so much more. This is the first year in a long time they have announced the full line-up in one big announcement, rather than splitting it up into a few announcements. There's some very interesting, compelling, provocative films linked to the current social/racial climate that I really can't wait to see. Dive into the entire line-up below.