Sundance 2014 Preview: 10 to Watch

Sarah Posted by Sarah at January 16, 2014 15:43:55 January 16, 2014 15:43:55

I was looking over my Sundance 2013 preview for formatting notes when I saw this:

Matthew McConaughey will get nominated for an Oscar. It will happen. I missed it this year, so I’m going to go ahead and call it for 2014—Matthew McConaughey will get nominated for an Oscar.


Anyway, less gloating, more movies. Here are 10 movies to look for coming out of Sundance this year.

A Most Wanted Man

A John le Carre spy thriller adaptation directed by Anton Corbijn (The American) isn’t the most Sundancey movie, but this is one of the biggest titles of the festival. It’s going to bring a lot of big names as it stars Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Willem Defoe and Daniel Bruhl.

Camp X-Ray

Kristen Stewart may have taken some knocks over the last couple years, but she still has the juice to get a movie made. A movie like this, in particular, would never see the light of day without A Name being attached. Camp X-Ray is about a young female soldier working as a guard at Guantanamo Bay who befriends a Muslim inmate. Unless your movie is about Navy SEALs, Afghanistan/Iraq war movies have not fared well, but I hope for Stewart’s sake this gets a good reception. It’s one of the buzziest titles going into the fest.

Dear White People

A bunch of white kids at an Ivy League school have an “African-American themed” party (which sounds sadly plausible), and a riot breaks out in response. Dear White People follows four black students through the riot, and is billed as a comedy. I’m in for the title alone, but the premise is promising.


Aaron Paul co-starring in a movie with Juliette Lewis about social workers and delinquent teens and family drama. Now THAT is a Sundancey movie.

But really I want to talk about its writer/director, Kat Candler. The Celluloid Ceiling Report was just released and it was all kinds of Not Good. Not only are women not making headway in key behind-the-camera positions, we’re actually backsliding. It’s a glaring, EMBARRASSING problem for the industry. The Director’s Guild is taking steps to promote diversity hiring, but filmmaker Lexi Alexander’s comments on that front are not encouraging, either. So I made an effort to pick some interesting titles by female filmmakers (marked with an asterisk), and judging by their slate, so did the Sundance programming board.

Infinitely Polar Bear*

This is a stupid title, but it stars Mark Ruffalo, who is always going to get a mention from me. Also starring Zoe Saldana, who has a tendency to phone it in, but when she wants to, she can be very, very good. Ruffalo plays a manic-depressive dad trying to win back his wife via their daughters. He’s sure to be adorably rumpled throughout.


Starring the odd couple of Keira Knightley and Chloe Grace Moretz, Laggies is about a woman who lies to her fiancé in order to spend time with her teenaged friends. It’s hard to tell by the official synopsis if the woman has a clinical case of arrested development or if she’s just a particular kind of obnoxious Millennial, but the cast is solid and it’s directed by Lynn Shelton, who made waves at Sundance 2011 with Your Sister’s Sister. Did I mention there’s bonus Sam Rockwell?

Obvious Child *

This one caught my eye because of Jenny Slate. You might recognize her from her one-off season on SNL, or from House of Lies, or maybe as Mona-Lisa on Parks & Rec, and you should definitely make some time for the “PubLIZity” sketches from The Kroll Show, but if you don’t know Slate, she’s a very funny comedian and actress that is always worth watching. She stars as Donna, a comedian who gets dumped, fired and pregnant at Valentine’s Day. I’m interested to see is Slate can carry a movie.

The Voices*

Ryan Reynolds stars as a schlumpy guy whose cat and dog talk to him. And there’s a death, and also Anna Kendrick. It’s supposed to be a crime comedy. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Reynolds in something that was actually funny; hopefully this breaks his dry spell.

They Came Together

Do you love Wet Hot American Summer? I love Wet Hot American Summer. They Came Together is the long-awaited reunion of the Summer crew, plus new additions Amy Poehler and Michael Shannon. It sounds a bit like You’ve Got Mail—quirky shop owner vs. giant corporation—but Summer was brilliant, so I have high expectations for the follow up. Plus, seriously, WHAT is Paul Rudd doing? If it’s possible, he’s aging even better than Rob Lowe. He actually looks younger now than he did in Clueless.

Young Ones

Jake Paltrow (brother of Gwyneth) brings his second feature to Sundance, a sci-fi flick set in a future where water is scarce. Doesn’t sound super original (it was also written by Paltrow), but it has Elle Fanning, Nicholas Hoult, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Michael Shannon, all of whom are pretty compelling to watch. And even if Paltrow is not a great director (his first movie was pretty awful), I’d rather watch one of his films than anything crapped out by a Coppola-spawn. At least Paltrow has a point of f*cking view.

Bonus trifecta: Three comedy imports coming from the UK and Ireland, The Trip to Italy, Calvary and Frank, all of which are on my most-anticipated list for 2014.

Attached – the cast of A Most Wanted Man.

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