Photo Edit by Travis Wilker
First off, it was a much bigger deal for me to go to Sundance this year than previous years, because this year I got to do for my own website rather than someone else’s. So whoever is in charge of handing out press passes, thank you for letting a tiny site like mine come to an amazing film festival like Sundance.
While I saw plenty of films that were just average, I got to see some films that will definitely be among my favorites of the year. Here are my 5 favorite films from Sundance this year. Reviews for each of them are embedded in the titles of said films.
This film has lingered on in my thoughts since watching it. Michael Dweck’s account of the last stock car racetrack in Long Island is an immersive documentary, it’s sounds and images put you right there on in the stock cars violently racing each other. This film is an elegy for the evaporation of places for small communities to gather against the inevitable tide of capitalism and big business.
I loved the previous film, Turbo Kid, from RKSS so naturally I had good will going into their followup Summer of ‘84. My good will was rewarded. It’s another film filled with heart and humor, but is also shockingly dark. It’s a mark of huge growth for RKSS, capturing the fun and adventure of being a kid while contrasting it with the terrifying realities of adulthood and the real world.
Perhaps the most original film I’ll see this year, Boots Riley (great name for a director by the way) fills each frame with dozens of ideas of satire. In the vein of films like Brazil and The Double, Sorry to Bother You presents a heightened alternative reality where everything has an exclamation point attached to it and capitalism runs rampant. Wait, that just sounds like our own present – damn. This could be a big hit, and Annapurna is a perfect home for the film, so congrats to all parties involved. Long live coked-up Armie Hammer.
A Nic Cage dream that I did not want to wake from. Violent, vibrant and nightmarish, it’s one of the most essential Nic Cage viewings. Also, I got to tell director Panos Cosmatos (whose dad directed the Stallone 80s action all-timer Cobra) that Cobra is one of my favorite 80s films. He laughed and said “Me too.”
This was the film I was waiting to see at Sundance, one that totally took me by surprise and didn’t let go. I wasn’t originally planning on seeing it until I found out some of my friends worked on it (it was filmed in Utah) and that A24 was putting it out. I’m so glad I saw it. It’s a terrifying and deeply emotional work with incredible performances and strong direction from newcomer Ari Aster. It reminded me of Shyamalan’s best work in how it weaved human emotion and horror together. I can’t wait for other people to see this wonderful film. It will be released on June 8th. Mark your calendars. Hail to the King.