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“The Mustang” and “Velvet Buzzsaw”: Films to Anticipate at the Sundance Film Festival

In the midst of the Oscar season each year, something very different goes on in Utah. Specifically in Park City, the annual Sundance Film Festival occurs, highlighting much of what will be the independent fare offered up for a given year. This year, Sundance is again showcasing some very intriguing indie cinema. Though a bit low on star power and big name filmmakers, it is nonetheless a diverse lineup that should be a fascinating one to follow. Below you will see an even dozen of the titles that I find the most intriguing at the fest. This is hardly an exhaustive list, but it’s a nice little starter for what’s happening at Sundance this month. It begins today, so be on the lookout to see if anything really catches on…

Here now are 12 films to look out for at Sundance:

Big Time Adolescence – Coming of age comedies always play at Sundance. This year, we could see this one be what catches on and becomes a mainstream success. The likes of Jon Cryer, Pete Davidson, and Griffin Gluck star. This is the plot: “A suburban teenager comes of age under the destructive guidance of his best friend, an aimless college dropout.” Sounds like it could be fun, right?

Blinded By The Light – For my money, this is the most interesting title playing at the festival. Just look at this plot synopsis: “In 1987 during the austere days of Thatcher’s Britain, a teenager learns to live life, understand his family and find his own voice through the music of Bruce Springsteen.” Count me in already. Co-writer/director Gurinder Chadha may have something special here…

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind – Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor steps behind the camera for this book adaptation. Directing, writing, and starring, he could end up an Oscar darling for this effort. The plot? Take a look: “A boy in Malawi helps his village by building a wind turbine after reading about them in a library book.” Sounds like it could be one of the most prestige-laden films at the fest.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile -Another high profile title, this biopic of Ted Bundy sees Zac Efron portray the notorious serial killer. Lily Collins, John Malkovich, Haley Joel Osment, and Jim Parsons co-star. The film is described as such: “A chronicle of the crimes of Ted Bundy, from the perspective of his longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer, who refused to believe the truth about him for years.” Joe Berlinger is the director, so watch out for this one. It sounds like one not to miss!

Late Night – If there’s a mainstream hit in the lot at the fest this year, look for this late night talk show comedy featuring Mindy Kaling (also the writer here) and Emma Thompson. The movie is described as such: “A late-night talk show host suspects that she may soon be losing her long-running show.” As long as it doesn’t play it too safely, this is an intriguing one to me.

Memory: The Origins of Alien – The most interesting documentary at Sundance 2019, this is an in depth look at the film Alien, from Alexandre O. Philippe, the filmmaker who did the same thing with Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. That doc, Room 237, was fascinating, so maybe this one will be too? The production describes it as follows: “The untold origin story behind Ridley Scott’s Alien – rooted in Greek and Egyptian mythologies, underground comics, the art of Francis Bacon, and the dark visions of Dan O’Bannon and H.R. Giger. A contemplation on the symbiotic collaborative process of movie-making, the power of myth, and our collective unconscious.” Consider me curious…

The Mustang – There’s some nice buzz brewing for this drama starring Matthias Schoenaerts, Jason Mitchell, and Bruce Dern. This is what the film is about: “MUSTANG tells the story of Roman Coleman, a violent convict, who is given the chance to participate in a rehabilitation therapy program involving the training of wild mustangs.” It hits in March, so we won’t have to wait long to find out if the hype is justified or not.

The Nightingale – Director Jennifer Kent follows up The Babadook with a very interesting sounding effort. The plot is as such: “Set in 1825, Clare, a young Irish convict woman, chases a British officer through the rugged Tasmanian wilderness, bent on revenge for a terrible act of violence he committed against her family. On the way she enlists the services of an Aboriginal tracker named Billy, who is also marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past.” Kent has an eye for compelling images, so this is one to look out for, right?

Official Secrets – One of the fest’s political offerings, this biopic from Gavin Hood stars Ralph Fiennes, Matthew Goode, and Keira Knightley. This is the plot description: “The true story of a British whistleblower who leaked information to the press about an illegal NSA spy operation designed to push the UN Security Council into sanctioning the 2003 invasion of Iraq.” If the quality is there, this is a timely sounding movie.

The Report – Another political tale at the festival, freshly minted Oscar nominee Adam Driver joins Jon Hamm and Jennifer Morrison in Scott Z. Burns’ flick. The drama has this plot synopsis: “In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, CIA agents begin using extreme interrogation tactics on those they think were behind it.” To be certain, the movie will be pushing buttons, so sit tight for more…

Velvet Buzzsaw – The A-list title of Sundance, this Netflix horror film from Dan Gilroy is one we’ve discussed already, when the odd Trailer dropped. In case you need a reminder, it’s described as such: “After a series of paintings by an unknown artist are discovered, a supernatural force enacts revenge on those who have allowed their greed to get in the way of art.” The streaming service drops it in February, so stay tuned!

Wounds – Last, but not least, we have this unique sounding horror tale from the filmmaker behind Under the Shadow. This is how it’s described: “Disturbing and mysterious things begin to happen to a bartender in New Orleans after he picks up a phone left behind at his bar.” Zazie Beetz, Armie Hammer, and Dakota Johnson star. Count me in…

Stay tuned to see if any of these become awards players out of the festival!

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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