Movies to look forward to at the Sundance Film Festival

This week, the Sundance Film Festival gets underway, seeking to highlight the best in independent film. I won’t be in Park City this year, sadly, though I have been in the past and can vouch for it as a really unique and enjoyable (if exhausting) festival to attend. In honor of its 2015 start, I wanted to run down some of the higher profile titles that could make a dent on the awards season later on this year. If not Oscar players, these could at least become the indie darlings of the season, or perhaps just crossover successes. Had I been in attendance at Sundance, there’s almost two dozen movies that I’d be hoping to catch, but I whittled a list down to just ten of the ones I want to highlight most. Take a look…

Here are ten films to look forward to once they leave Sundance:

10. Digging For Fire – In the last few years, Joe Swanberg has really upped his game, not only in terms of casting bigger names, but also coming up with compelling plots that still fit his unique filmmaking personality. Hopefully he continues the trend with this latest venture, which features a great cast, including Rosemarie DeWit, Jake Johnson (who co-wrote the script), Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Ron Livingston, Chris Messina, Sam Rockwell, and Jenny Slate, along with many others. Swanberg is on a high, so fingers crossed here.

9. I Smile Back – I was impressed by Sarah Silverman’s partly dramatic turn a couple years ago in Take This Waltz, so a full on serious role has me very intrigued. Silverman co-stars with Josh Charles and Thomas Sodoski in the story of an unhappy married woman lashing out with numerous vices. Silverman deserves this sort of a role, so I’ll be eager to see if she aces it.

8. A Walk in the Woods – Festival godfather Robert Redford stars here with Nick Nolte in a movie about old men talking, essentially. Doesn’t immediately sound too amazing, but I have to say, the chance to witness them going back and forth is rather appealing. It’ll likely be a mellow film, but I’m down to check it out.

7. Brooklyn – The latest script from novelist turned screenwriter Nick Hornby is a period piece set in 1950’s Ireland. Saoirse Ronan is the star, along with supporting players Jim Broadbent, Emory Cohen, and Domhnall Gleeson. This one seems to have awards buzz written all over it, so as long as it’s good (director John Crowley is certainly promising), we’ll be hearing much more about this one as the year progresses.

6. Mistress America – As a big fan of Frances Ha (and having enjoyed the soon to be released While We’re Young), this new Noah Baumbach film has my attention. He’s once again working with Greta Gerwig for a comedy, this one centered on a college freshman and her wild step-sister. There’s a ton of potential here.

5. Z for Zachariah – A really intriguing end of the world flick from up and coming director Craig Zobel, this stars the trio of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Chris Pine, and Margot Robbie as the last three seemingly left on Earth. When the men vie for the woman’s affections, things get even bleaker. Count me in.

4. Mississippi Grind – Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck blew me away with their debut Half Nelson, so I’ve made it a point to seek out all of their new films since. Both It’s Kind of a Funny Story (which I’m in the minority of digging) and Sugar broadened the scope of their work, which now looks at gamblers on the road in this dramedy. It stars Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds, with Sienna Miller among the co-stars. Expectations are high for this one, and rightly so.

3. The End of the Tour – Another filmmaker I’m a big fan of will be in Park City this year, and that’s James Ponsoldt. This looks at the interview between David Lipsky (played by Jesse Eisenberg) and author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) that took place over the course of five days. This could be an under the radar Oscar player if it’s as good as I think it could be, so keep an eye out for reviews.

2. The Stanford Prison Experiment – Ever since learning about this event in High School (and diving deeper into it in College), I’ve wondered what the movie version would look like. This year, we’ll finally get to see it. This drama has an impressive ensemble cast that includes Michael Angarano, Moises Arias, Billy Crudup, Ezra Miller, Tye Sheridan, and Olivia Thirlby, just to name a few. I really can’t wait.

1. True Story – The film most likely to turn into an Academy Award hopeful is also the one I’m most interested in at the fest. Starring James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Felicity Jones, it’s a drama about a murderer who assumes the identity of a journalist and the relationship that they form. If it turns out to be well done, awards could certainly be in play for the film.

Stay tuned to see which, if any, manage to become Oscar players later on this year!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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