The most interesting movies playing at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival

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One of the highlights for me each January is getting to see what emerges from the Sundance Film Festival with awards buzz. I was lucky enough to attend once a few years back and it’s an experience unlike anything else, both in terms of the festival circuit and just life in general. This year, Sundance 2016 seems to be a fairly mellow year in terms of things set to appeal to Oscar voters, but that doesn’t mean that that the fest doesn’t have a ton of interesting things to anticipate. As such, I’ve listed just 12 of the most interesting in my eyes. Your mileage may vary, but these are the flicks that I most want to see when they move from Park City to a theater near you…

Here now are a dozen movies from Sundance that are worth keeping an eye out for:

The Birth of a Nation – Nate Parker’s passion project, a biopic of Nat Turner, has set records at Sundance for how financially large an acquisition it was. Fox Searchlight forked over a ton for this look at the slave who led an uprising, so expect this to be a contender in 2016, especially for Parker, who writes, directs, and plays Turner as well here.

Captain Fantastic – A supposedly crowd pleasing look at an off the grid family with a performance by Viggo Mortensen as the patriarch that’s generating a bit of buzz, this could have some definite crossover appeal. You never can tell what will successfully go from Park City to New York City, but this one sounds like it has a pretty decent shot at making the move, which is ironic, considering the material.

Christine – This biopic of doomed 1970s television news reporter Christine Chubbuck (look her up to see why) was one of the big titles to watch before the fest started. Well, reviews have been solid enough, with Rebecca Hall getting some excellent notices for her turn as the title character. A potential player in Best Actress, perhaps? We’ll have to stay tuned to find out…

Goat – Fraternity hazing and the many types of impact that it can have on a person is given a dramatized look here in a film that’s been developing for years. It was once a David Gordon Green project (he still is listed as a co-writer), for what that’s worth. Reviews have been decent enough, though it sounds like it could wind up suffering the same fate as the criminally underrated The Stanford Prison Experiment suffered at Sundance last year, at least in terms of how the material translates to a general release.

Lovesong – I’m a big Jena Malone fan, so anything she does has my attention. Well, a return to working in the Mumblecore genre (or at least close to it) sounds like it properly showcases her talents. The reception has been pretty good for this one, even if it’s far too small a flick to really make too big of an impact once it does wind up coming out.

Manchester by the Sea – Probably the biggest potential Academy Award player to emerge so far from the festival is this family drama from Kenneth Lonergan. Look for Casey Affleck to potentially be a major force in Best Actor too. Lonergan could easily be an Oscar darling for this one, so sleep on it at your own risk!

Morris from America – This indie coming of age story/culture shock tale has been one of the best received things at the festival this year, at least as far as I can tell from here in NYC. Filmmaker Chad Hartigan is slowly making a name for himself, so if you haven’t heard of him yet, trust me when I say that you won’t be able to say that for too much longer…

Newtown – A documentary sure to pull at your heartstrings, this is a look at the horrific school shooting, with special attention paid to what the aftermath of it all was like. I suspect this has a definite chance of appealing to the Academy, so if you’e looking for a doc to use in early predictions, this might be the one to grab on too. It’ll be a tough watch, but apparently well worth it.

Other People – The opening night film at the fest was this quintessential Sundance dramedy, one that was often cited as such in reviews. I’m not sure if that’s meant as a good or a bad thing (probably the latter, though it has a specific appeal to me), but it does mean that it could have an art house audience when it does come out at some point in 2016.

Sing Street – I adore John Carney, so another musical romance? Yes please. This one seems to be as crowd pleasing as ever, offering up a split between the no frills approach to Once and the slight studio subversion that was Begin Again. If it’s as good as those two gems, and it seems to be, well…I can not wait then. This just shot to the top of my to see list in a big way.

Southside with You – A date movie about the initial encounter between Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson before they were President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Reviews have been good, which means that this will definitely be a higher profile indie flick whenever it has its theatrical release. I know I’m very curious to get a look at it myself at some point soon.

Yoga Hosers – Sure, the early word hasn’t been kind, but I love Kevin Smith and since I’m talking about interesting titles, few seem as interesting (at least to me) as this one. It sounds very much like a live action cartoon, which intrigues me. I’ve never disliked a Smith movie, so this is right up my alley. I dug Tusk and am waiting patiently for Moose Jaws to complete his True North Trilogy, so you can certainly count me in for this one as well. That’s just me though…

The Paley Center for Media Los Angeles 2012 Benefit - Arrivals

Stay tuned for all of these over the course of 2016!

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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