Saturday, January 25, 2014

2014 Sundance Film Festival: Emerging Talent, Great Films, and 2015 Oscars

Tonight, the DGA announces their winners, and the Oscar race continues to push forward. But in the midst of all of this madness, the 2014 Sundance Film Festival is already introducing a new crop of contenders, showcasing veteran and new talent, and as always, emerging with what look like some excellent films. According to various reports and tons of reviews, these apparently are the films to look out for emerging out of Sundance this year:

1) Boyhood - Probably the biggest film at Sundance this year, Richard Linklater and Ethan Hawke follow up their Before tribute with an incredibly fascinating premise. Over the course of 12 years, Linklater filmed Hawke, Arquette, and a young actor named Ellar Coltrane, who literally had every year of his life since age like eight or nine, documented in a story about the changing family, the growth of a young man, and the dynamics of growing up in American. Those who have seen it love it, and it is sure to be a critical favorite in 2014.

2) The Skeleton Twins - This is the one I am most excited about. It has already be compared to darker, more Academy friendly comedies like The Kids are All Right, or a film from Alexander Payne or Jason Reitman. It stars Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, both of whom are apparently playing against their normal types. It is nice to see the SNL duo doing great projects after moving on from the late night show, and as fans of both, I think this film, which is getting great reviews so far, is the comedy to watch for this year.

3) Whiplash - Miles Teller just got an Awards Psychic Award nomination for this stunning role in The Spectacular Now. Now he joins the vastly underrated J.K. Simmons (who should have been nominated for Juno), in Whiplash, the story of a young drummer trying to make it as a jazz drummer, being trained by the fierce and intense trainer played by Simmons. Apparently it is an epic battle between the shy and lacking confidence young man Andrew, and the drill sergeant instructor Terence Fletcher. I will definitely put this one on my must see list, and although it is apparently a strange movie, the two performances alone are worth a view. Hopefully it also means that two extremely talented, and award-less actors, will gain some Oscar traction, if the film lives up to its hype.

4) Love is Strange - John Lithgow and Alfred Molina play an aging couple who have drifted and had difficulties in their long relationship. I am not big on romantic movies, as most either tend to be depressingly tragic or ridiculously cheesy. Apparently, what we have here is a well-acted, beautifully constructed love story that is sure to touch the hearts without drenching them. I am willing to tackle any genre if it is done well, and this one looks like one to look out for.

5) Life Itself - I have been revisiting Roger Ebert's The Great Movies series, recently finishing part 1 again, only to start part II immediately. He was incredibly smart and a wonderful writer, because he didn't try to talk over the heads of his readers. He could have, but instead, he always simply talked about why he liked the movie or hated the movie he had watched. Not as a review or a journalist, but as an average guy who just happened to be an incredible film buff. He was one of the best, and I am thrilled he has apparently gotten proper treatment in this new documentary, which is already being hailed as a 2015 Oscar contender, and one of the most moving films of the early year. Count this one on my must-see list.

6) Nymphomaniac (Part 1) - Count me as one that never understood all of the hype around Melancholia. I personally thought it was a long dragging, depressing, and simply boring adventure that was never taught enough, artistic enough, or engaging enough to deserve all of the love that it got. But other efforts like Breaking the Waves by Von Trier have been much more to my liking, and so I am always up for taking in one of his films. Nymphomaniac is being split into two parts here (although in Europe it is playing in a much longer form, although apparently not as long as Von Trier wanted). Of course the critics have jumped on the bandwagon, and surprisingly the remark I am hearing the most is not visionary, epic, stylish (all of which are being thrown around), but instead is funny. I have never thought of Von Trier as funny (sadistic probably being the best term), but if he can bring humor to such a touchy subject, then he maybe still has the ability to surprise as a director.

7) They Came Together - Bringing back the Wet Hot American Summer crew, including Amy Poehler (who is on my list of people I would watch read the newspaper), and Paul Rudd, They Came Together is going to be winning any Oscars come this time next year, but it is sure to be hell of a lot of fun.

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