Paul Dano’s “Wildlife”: Films to anticipate at the Sundance Film Festival

Starting tomorrow, Park City over in the state of Utah transforms. It goes from being a quiet ski resort town to the epicenter of the independent film world. Of course, we all know why. Yes, the Sundance Film Festival will be getting underway, and that’s exciting for all sorts of cinephiles. We’ll be on the lookout for which titles could turn out to be Academy Award players, following in the recent footsteps of The Big Sick, Call Me By Your Name, Manchester by the Sea, and Mudbound, but that’ll reveal itself in time. For the moment, before any fo the movies have played, there’s plenty to be excited about. Below you’ll see 12 flicks that personally have my interest. With any luck, they’ll all turn out to be Oscar players…

Here now are a dozen movies to look forward to at the Sundance Film Festival:

Blaze – Ethan Hawke steps behind the camera once again for this look at the life of musician Blaze Foley. Hawke co-writes and directs, while the cast includes Sam Rockwell. Expectations are high for this one, to say the least. Hawke is an underrated filmmaker, so don’t sleep on this one.

Burden – A potential awards player if handled right, this drama could see Garrett Hedlund get Oscar attention. Hedlund plays a Klu Klux Klansman going through a reformation with the help of an African American reverend (played by Forrest Whitaker). Assuming it deals deftly with the material…which out.

The Catcher Was a Spy – This odd sounding flick could end up being an interesting and unusual biopic. Paul Rudd portrays Moe Berg, a baseball player doubling as essentially a secret agent during the war. The rest of the cast is solid and the premise is juicy, so if there’s a big money buy at the festival, this might be it.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot – A great trailer just dropped for this Gus Van Sant movie, one that could get Academy Award buzz. Joaquin Phoenix plays John Callahan, a paralyzed man who found art to be his therapy. Also starring Jonah Hill and Rooney Mara, this is a star studded affair. If it’s one of Van Sant’s strong efforts, voters could flock to it.

Hearts Beat Loud – Coming off the criminally underrated The Hero, filmmaker Bret Haley heads to Brooklyn for his most musical movie yet. Nick Offerman gets a starring role, while Haley should be able to showcase his composer Keegan DeWitt in an even larger way. This is the second most anticipated festival title here for me, so take that as a major compliment!

I Think We’re Alone Now – This mashup science fiction tale from Reed Moreno pairs Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning as the last people alive during the end of the world…until they’re not. Pretty juicy concept, right? Right. Everyone involved deserves a higher profile, so perhaps this one could do it for them?

Leave No Trace – There’s a chance Ben Foster becomes an early Best Actor frontrunner for his work in this Debra Granik drama. Foster plays a single father dealing with some heavy stuff, which should allow the talented actor to shine. This is another one to keep a close eye out for.

Lizzie – Another biopic, this one is about the infamous Lizzie Borden, played here by Chloë Sevigny. Featuring Kristen Stewart in a central role, we may see some Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress love come its way. At the very least, it’s one that many are looking forward to at the festival…

The Long Dumb Road – Looking for a potential breakout comedy? This could be it. If nothing else, this road trip tale gives leading man status to Jason Mantzoukas, which is pretty amazing in my book. Depending on how broad the comedy is, this one is another that may just break the bank for some distributor out there.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post – This baity drama also has awards aspirations, chiefly for Chloë Grace Moretz, who plays the title character. Set in the early to mid 90’s, Moretz plays a teen sent to conversion therapy. Controversy may follow this one, but so too could Oscar if it’s as good as some think it is.

Wildlife – The film I most want to see out of Sundance is this directorial debut from Paul Rudd. He also co-write the adaptation of the novel of the same name with partner Zoe Kazan, while his cast is top lined by Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan. Yes please. Call it an early hunch, but this could be an Oscar player.

You Were Never Really Here – The rare Sundance title that’s already screened, this Lynne Ramsey outing starring Joaquin Phoenix (pulling double duty at the fest) debuted to strong reviews last year at the Cannes Film Festival. Now, in 2018, it’s re-launching, so watch out…

Stay tuned to see how these films play at Sundance!

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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