15 Must See Films at Sundance 2016
In less than 24 hours, the 2016 Sundance Film Festival will officially begin. With so many films to choose from, picking the perfect film to see is always a challenge. One of my favorite elements about Sundance in comparison to all other festivals is that almost all the films playing at the festival are ones that no one has seen before. Of course, there are a few that have been labeled as “Festival Favorites” that somehow didn’t get a release yet but for the most part all the films playing have very little info about them prior to screening.
With that being said, picking the perfect film to see at Sundance is a shot in the dark but that is what makes the experience so great and unique. All the filmmakers have to get butts in seats based on a plot description, cast, and maybe a few images. It is probably one of the purest and best ways to see a film if you are a hardcore film fanatic like myself because there is no previous opinion but rather only expectations based on the filmmaker and/or cast.
In the past, I have seen as many as 34 films at a single festival and I am looking to break that record in the next 10 days. At Sundance 2016, I am hoping to see over 40 films at this year’s festival. The list below will be short and sweet look at each film as well as a brief reason why I am excited to see it.
Before I go into those 15 personal suggestions of what films to see at Sundance 2016, I want to make mention of a few honorable mentions that I will also catch during the festival run. These are films that I am looking forward to seeing and would make great alternatives if you can’t get a ticket to one of the other films on this list.
Other People starring Molly Shannon
Morris from America starring Craig Robinson
Operation Avalanche from writer/director Matt Johnson
The Fundamentals of Caring starring Paul Rudd and Selena Gomez
Goat with Nick Jonas
Now that we got that out of the way, below are my official picks of the 15 must see films playing at Sundance 2016.
15. Kate Plays Christine
This is one of two films premiering at Sundance about Christine Chubbuck. For those unaware of the name, Chubbuck was the news reporter that took her own life in 1974 while live on the air. It is rumored that her life was the inspiration for the 1976 film Network. This is a documentary by Robert Greene who after 40 years has finally decided to investigate this story and bring some more information about Christine to the public eye.
14. The Intervention
This film sounds a lot like the Big Chill or About Alex. These are the type of films where a bunch of friends get together and shit gets real. Personally, I love films about life, growing up, and realizing that life isn’t always perfect. Independent cinema is usually a great place to see films like this because they are told through a realistic vision and are relatable to most people watching. The Intervention is directed by Clea DuVall and has a talented independent film cast that includes Melanie Lynshey, Cobie Smulders, Alia Shawkat, and Natasha Lyonne.
Jena Malone was one of the first actresses that I grew to love because of Independent Cinema. I remember when I first discovered that Independent film existed and Jena Malone was in a lot of my favorites including Donnie Darko, Saved!, and United States of Leland. Lovesong is being labeled as the American version of Blue is the Warmest Color, which for those who don’t know, I absolutely loved. Even if this film is only half as amazing as that one was, I should come out loving it. Plus, once again, Jena Malone is a truly gifted and underrated actress.
Reuniting Ellen Page and Allison Janney, Tallulah sounds like a very unique and promising tale about social class. What makes the film even more intriguing is the fact that the story sounds like it could have audiences laughing one minute and then in tears the next. Also, just like Jena Malone, who doesn’t love Ellen Page? She is another one of these underrated actresses that barely gets any attention outside of the festival circuit. Tallulah is written and directed by Sian Heder.
11. Complete Unknown
This is one of those films where the cast and filmmaker totally sell me on the film. Complete Unknown stars Rachel Weisz, Michael Shannon, Kathy Bates, and Danny Glover. Joshua Marston, who previously directed the Sundance hit, Maria Full of Grace directed the film. The plot revolves around Shannon’s character Tom who while at a surprise party runs into Alice (Weisz) who he believes he knows but insists she has no idea who he is. I think this will be one of those Sundance flicks that will get picked up almost within the first day and will get a big promotional push later in the year.
10. White Girl
This film sounds like fun and is supposed to be a satire, which just so happens to be one of my favorites in terms of genres in cinema. The basic premise follows a pretty girl named Leah who just before going to college gets involved with drugs and dates a guy who sells them for a living. One day her boyfriend gets arrested leaving her stuck between a rock and a hard place. Leah can’t decide whether or not she should sell the drugs to get him out of jail or just keep the drugs for herself.
9. The Hollars
Jim from the Office is back at Sundance and this time around Krasinski gathers an all-star cast that includes Anna Kendrick, Richard Jenkins, Margo Martindale, Josh Groban, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. The plot revolves around John’s character that after learning his mother (Martindale) has a brain tumor must return home to take care of her. However, returning home doesn’t serve as an easy task since all the family joins him and plenty of family drama ensues making him question things about himself and his family.
This is the other Christine Chubbuck film playing at Sundance and one that had my attention since it was first announced. As previously stated, I am already fascinated by the subject matter but seeing an actual film about this story rather than a documentary should be interesting especially because I am seeing both films and can compare the story to each film. I love Rebecca Hall though and I think she will truly nail this role and maybe even get some award buzz going for next year. Hey, it could happen.
7. Yoga Hosers
What started as a podcast joke somehow got made into a film entitled Tusk. While that film didn’t work for everyone (personally, I am honestly indifferent towards it), I do have to admit that it was unique and different. Yoga Hosers is a sort of sequel/spin-off, which stars Johnny Depp’s daughter Lily-Rose Depp and Kevin Smith’s daughter Harley Quinn Smith. In their film debut, Depp and Smith play two girls who get invited to attend a senior party where some sort of secret evil threatens to destroy Canada. Kevin Smith made note to state that the film is a hilarious look at the instagram generation, which I can only hope, is as funny as Smith thinks it is.
6. Certain Women
Another year, another KStew film at Sundance. Anyone who knows me probably knows that I am a big fan of Kristen Stewart so this was automatically a must see for me. However, when you add Laura Dern and Michelle Williams into the mix, I am even more intrigued. Directed by Kelly Reichardt (Night Moves), this film is based on a series of short stories about intersecting lives. If this was a studio film I would be a bit nervous but considering that it is an indie, I am predicting thought-provoking material along with great performances from all those involved.
Some of the funniest indie comedians come together in Joshy, the newest film from director/writer Jeff Baena. Joshy tells the story of a man named yep, you guessed it Josh, who turns to his best friends to show him a good time after his fiancée dumps him. Unfortunately for Josh, all his friends are more worried about their lives rather than his, even in this time of need. This film stars Jenny Slate, Thomas Middleditch, Adam Pally, and a few other talented funny people that I would rather leave as a surprise than spoiling them for you.
4. Sing Street
From director/writer John Carney comes his latest film Sing Street. The film, which already has distribution rights with the Weinstein Company, is probably one of the most buzzed films at the festival due to the fact that Carney is the genius behind the Sundance sleeper hit Once as well as the well regarded Begin Again from 2014. This time around, Carney focuses on Dublin in the 1980s during a recession and how one 14-year-old boy wants to start a band. With Carney’s passion for music, Sing Street will most likely be one of the most talked about films during and after this year’s festival. Sing Street stars, and Lucy Boynton.
3. Dark Night
One of the ballsiest films to be playing at Sundance Film Festival 2016 is the Dark Night. Even the title is ballsy. The film is centered on a shooting at a local suburban multiplex. This is a fictional film rather than a documentary on several of the movie theater shootings that occurred over the past few years. I’m extremely intrigued by this film but can’t deny for a second that watching a film like this in a theater will make the experience all the more terrifying. I am guessing that element alone is part of the filmmaker’s intent. Needless to say, I am really curious where this film will go in terms of its story and more importantly, if it will ever see the light of day outside of the film festival circuit.
2. Swiss Army Man
When Sundance originally sent out the festival lineup, one of the first films that I made sure to note was Swiss Army Man. The three leads in this film, which includes Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead were all I needed to see even without knowing a single thing about the film’s plot. After reading the synopsis, I am even more intrigued since it seems like a different take on the whole “man left alone and going crazy” plot device that has been used almost every year since the film Castaway was released. This one seems to have a twist to that clichéd storyline and with these actors, I bet this will be one of the best films to come out of this years festival.
1. Wiener Dog
This is the somewhat sort of sequel to Welcome to the Dollhouse from back in 1995 that I for some reason have been anxiously waiting for. Director/writer Todd Solondz has always been known to make really great but twisted and depressing films about people. His films have never become known outside true film lover circles but his passion for storytelling has always been “different” than most. I remember watching Welcome to the Dollhouse as my first introduction to this filmmaker and I remembered loving this odd tale about Dawn Wiener and seeing that character again 20 years later should be interesting. The film also has a pretty impressive cast that includes Greta Gerwig who will be playing Dawn as well as Brie Larson, Danny DeVito, Julie Delpy, and Ellen Burstyn.