2014 Sundance Film Festival Predictions List: An Intro

Kids Larry Clark Sundance Film Festival Rosario Dawson Chloë Sevigny

Kids. Such as Sex, Lies, and Videotape or Reservoir Dogs before it, and such as Winter’s Bone, Blue Valentine and Fruitvale Station after it, Larry Clark & Harmony Korine’s seminal film is forever connected in “spirit” to the lieu where it received its secret midnight premiere screening in 1995. The Sundance Film Festival might be known as the birthplace of U.S indie filmmaking innovation, avant-gardism, a larger definition of the low budgeted film response to Hollywood in not only narrative but in the non-fiction form, but it is a festival made strong by its renewal and familiarity. That close acquaintanceness exists in Kids‘ starlets Rosario Dawson and Chloë Sevigny filmography/career path trajectory and connection to Park City (both have several indie films slated for ’14 – of which I’ve included in our predictions list) and it is that “familiarity” that is visibly noticeable in how I map out my annual predictions list.

Acting as an overview of the narrative and non-fiction films that may crack the next edition of the Sundance Film Festival and fancy the programming team lead by John Cooper (and for those that don’t premiere in January, it highlights the American indie films that my break into such fests as SXSW, Tribeca and/or TIFF) my 2014 Sundance Film Festival predictions list is an all encompassing look at 80 potential films from filmmakers, creative folk in front of and behind the lenses that may be the make-up of the fest in less than three months from now (with the documentary line-up being the toughest nut to crack). I take this opportunity to thank those that have provided us with exclusive film stills and behind-the-scenes picks for our profiles.

Nowhere near the heartbreak and/or sting that thousands of creative folk experience firsthand, for the first time I’m including a list of films that were considered for our 4-day overview – and wouldn’t be surprised to see a handful of these get mentioned in less than two weeks from now.

In top tier items, Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher (which got pushed back due to the high traffic number) could change strategies, Peter Bogdanovich’s big return, Squirrels to the Nuts (Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson, Imogen Poots toplining) is about a married Broadway director falls for a prostitute-turned-actress and works to help her advance her career. Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut How to Catch a Monster (underworld dealings with Saoirse Ronan, Christina Hendricks, Matt Smith, Eva Mendes) is festival bound and so is Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy (the life of reclusive Beach Boys songwriter and musician Brian Wilson with Elizabeth Banks, John Cusack, Paul Dano). Blacklist dramedy Theodore Melfi’s St-Vincent De Van Nuys (about odd generational pairings Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd, Bill Murray and Kimberly Quinn) and Dylan Kidd’s Get a Job (Bryan Cranston, Anna Kendrick, Alison Brie in a comedy centered around a recent college graduate, his friends, and their attempts to secure employment) both have distribution deals in place – so a fest is a strong possibility. Polanski’s Venus in Fur – the Cannes-preemed film has yet to show in North America, and we can add Matt Shakman’s Cut Bank (a heist job gone wrong thriller Liam Hemsworth, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich) to bigger title items.

Daniel Ribeiro The Way He Looks

Among highly anticipated world items Hong Khaou’s Lilting about a mother’s attempt at understanding who her son (Ben Whishaw) is after his untimely death and Daniel Ribeiro’s The Way He Looks (see pic above), about the arrival of a new student in school changes Leonardo’s life. This 15 year-old blind teenager has to deal with the jealousy of his friend Giovana while figuring out the new feelings he’s having towards his new friend, Gabriel. Stuart Murdoch’s God Help the Girl (Emily Browning, Hannah Murray, Olly Alexander) which is set in Glasgow, Scotland, the film is about a girl called Eve who is in the hospital dealing with some emotional problems and starts writing songs as a way of getting better. Meet Me in Montenegro by Alex Holdridge with Rupert Friend, Deborah Ann Woll, Jennifer Ulrich, Ty Hodges in a comedy centered on a failed American writer who enters into an affair after a chance encounter with a European dancer.

In the docus, which for thre record I’m horrible at predicting, Anne de Mare & Kirsten Kelly’s The Homestretch (about homeless teens as they fight to stay in school, graduate, and build a future), Kevin Macdonald’s sequel to Life in a Day with Christmas in a Day, Davis Guggenheim’s Untitled Malala Yousafzai Project (the Pakistani schoolgirl’s attempted murder by the Taliban), Marshall Curry’s Run and Gun (tale of Matthew VanDyke, a young Baltimore native, who went to Libya to join the rebels who were taking up arms against Gaddafi), The Hadza: Last of the First – Bill Benenson (this about the origin of humanity, a remarkable people and their challenge to survive). Edet Belzberg’s Watchers of the Sky (explores genocide and our response to it) and finally, Jamie Meltzer’s Freedom Fighters (team who free innocent people still behind bars). Among possible music docs, Don Argott’s heavy metal portrait As the Palaces Burn, Matt Dillion’s docu on Afro-Caribbean music star Fellove, and actress Juliette Lewis’ docu on her music career are longshots.

And under a huge list of comedy and dramatic items we’ve got: Victor Levin’s 5 to 7 (rom com with Olivia Thirlby and Anton Yelchin about differences in opinions), Scott Cohen’s Red Knot, about Peter and Chloe, a young married couple from New York, who decide on impulse to take a belated honeymoon on-board a research vessel en route to the icy wastes of Antarctica (stars Olivia Thirlby, Vincent Kartheiser, Billy Campbell) and another Olivia item in Courtney Cox’s directing debut Just Before I Go, which sets Thirlby, Kyle Gallner, Seann William Scott on the verge of giving up on life, a guy travels to his hometown to make amends. Keeping with the actresses in three notion, Justin Reardon’s A Many Splintered Thing (with Chris Evans, Michelle Monaghan, Anthony Mackie, Patrick Warburton, Topher Grace and Giovanni Ribisi) about ego trips and relationships, we’ve got Geoff Moore & David Posamentier’s Better Living Through Chemistry (Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Michelle Monaghan, Jane Fonda star in a joyride involving sex, drugs and possibly murder), and more Michelle in Claudia Myers’ Fort Bliss (featuring Monaghan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Pablo Schreiber, Ron Livingston) after returning home from an extended tour in Afghanistan, a decorated U.S. Army medic and single mother struggles to rebuild her relationship with her young son. Ryan Phillippe’s Shreveport, about a fading film actor who is forced to concoct an escape after he is kidnapped and tortured thriller.

Gillian Robespierre’s BKLYN-set rom-com Obvious Child (based on the short starring Jenny Slate), Eddie Alcazar’s 0000 (sci-fi film about “collective consciousness”), Mitchell Lichtenstein’s Angelica (Victorian era thriller with Jena Malone, Janet McTeer, Ed Stoppard) and Peter Sattler’s Camp X-Ray with Kristen Stewart, Lane Garrison, Julia Duffy, Tara Holt in a tale about a soldier assigned to Guantanamo Bay befriends a man who has been. A soldier assigned to Guantanamo Bay befriends a man who has been imprisoned there for eight years.

Jim Mickle’s Cold in July (Vinessa Shaw, Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, Don Johnson) which tells the story of Richard Dane, a small town frame builder from East Texas who is forced to kill a man in self-defense. Saar Klein’s crime drama, Things People Do which also features Shaw and Wes Bentley who play husband a wife, the former of whom meets Bennett’s character, a stranger, shortly after losing his job, setting him off on a life of crime. Isaacs will play a detective that he befriends along the way. Also featuring comeback kid Bentley, 3 Nights in the Desert by Gabriel Cowan with Amber Tamblyn and Vincent Piazza – they play three estranged friends and former bandmates who reunite to celebrate turning 30. Shira Piven’s Welcome to Me (Linda Cardellini, Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell) about a year in the life of Alice Klieg, a woman with Borderline Personality Disorder who wins Mega-millions, quits her meds and buys her own talk show. Sci-fi romance In Your Eyes by Brin Hill (with Jennifer Grey, Nikki Reed, Steve Howey) about two seemingly polar opposites are deeply connected in ways neither could have ever imagined.

John Pogue’s The Quiet Ones with Jared Harris, Sam Claflin about a University physics professor assembles a team to help create a poltergeist. Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank with Maggie Gyllenhaal – a comedy about a young wannabe musician, Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), who discovers he’s bitten off more than he can chew when he joins an eccentric pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank (Michael Fassbender). Daniel Barber’s The Keeping Room (Hailee Steinfeld, Sam Worthington, Brit Marling, Amy Nuttall, and Ned Dennehy) about three Southern women – two sisters and one African American slave – left without men in the dying days of the Civil War, are forced to defend their home from the onslaught of a band of soldiers who have broken off from the fast approaching Union Army. Short film Oscar winner Luke Matheny’s Lovesick, which sees Matt LeBlanc a man who goes clinically insane. When he meets the perfect girl, he must overcome his psychosis to claim his chance at true love.

Martin Stitts Love Me Do (Jack Gordon, Rebecca Calder, Max Wrottesley) a twisted love story which follows the relationship between a female investment banker and an out-of-work actor. As the couple learn to bridge their differences and fall in love, a romantic bond develops, which drives them to commit a terrible crime. Andrew Levitas’ Lullaby (Amy Adams, Garrett Hedlund, Jennifer Hudson) about a man who’s estranged from his family receives word that his father has chosen to take himself off life support within 48 hours. Joseph Hahn’s Mall (Vincent D’Onofrio, Gina Gershon, Peter Stormare) about five disaffected suburbanites come together at a shopping mall. Match by helmer Stephen Belber. Carla Gugino, Patrick Stewart, Matthew Lillard in the tale of a Seattle couple travels to New York to interview an eccentric former choreographer.

Bryan Reisberg’s Big Significant Things (stars Harry Lloyd, Krista Kosonen) with growing concerns about his dependency on his long-term girlfriend, Craig Harrison creates a lie in order to embark on an unaccompanied road trip in search of adventures of his own. Cath Gulick’s Nightingale -  about a troubled young girl submerges herself in a dangerous fantasy she may not be able to leave. No Stranger Than Love – Justin Chatwin (Alison Brie, Justin Chatwin and Colin Hanks are top-lining) a romantic comedy Brie plays an attractive and kind high school art teacher in the small village of Spot Valley, filled with men secretly or openly in love with her, while Hanks performs the role of a married high school football coach.

Adam Bowers’ Paperback which sees Dreama Walker, Genevieve Jones, Adam Bowers in the tale of a pizza cook who’s never left his college town meets the girl of his dreams before finding out there’s a huge roadblock to them being together. Raymond De Felitta’s Rob the Mob modern-day Bonnie and Clyde played by Michael Pitt & Nina Arianda with Andy Garcia, Ray Romano, Melanie Shaw’s Running Wild – a comedy/romance/western/road movie/coming of age story about LIZA (Zoe Worth) and ELI (Alden Ehrenreich), childhood friends with a disastrously dependent, sexual tension laden relationship.

Sean Mullin‘s Sam and Amira – a love story between a charismatic army veteran (Sam) and a vibrant Iraqi immigrant (Amira) whose whirlwind love affair is put to the test when Amira is faced with deportation.  Kate Barker-Froyland’s Song One with Anne Hathaway, Mary Steenburgen, Johnny Flynn and Al Thompson – Hathaway plays an archeologist who falls for a rock star. Split by Deborah Kampmeier (woman’s journey to reclaim her authentic identity, sexuality + power through an ancient myth), Tom Gormican’s dating comedy That Awkward Moment (Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller), Josephine Decker’s Thou Wast Mild and Lovely (with Joe Swanberg, Sophie Traub, and Robert Longstreet exploring eroticism in lonely places)

Shawn Christensen’s The Long Goodnight (based on the short featuring Emmy Rossum babysitting), Ben Greenblatt’s Up the River (with Lindsay Burdge, Will Brill, Adam David Thompson), Michael James Johnson’s The Wilderness of James (starring Isabelle Fuhrman, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Virginia Madsen in a tale about a restless teenager explores the wilderness of his city while struggling with the absence of his father.) Zane Johnson & Lauren Morrison’s drama Holy Land – (a mesmerizing account of how the world’s largest suburb was created), Leah Meyerhoff’s Unicorns (teenage girl fantasy with cool cast of Natalia Dyer, Peter Vack, Julia Garner, Joshua Leonard and Amy Seimetz), Simon Helberg and Jocelyn Towne’s We’ll Never Have Paris (about man’s attempt to win back the one with Zachary Quinto and Maggie Grace), Jesse Zwick’s yummy sounding Big Chill-styled ensemble drama About Alex (with Aubrey Plaza and suicide theme), Fisher Stevens’ American Pastoral (postwar America based on the Philip Roth novel), Sophia Takal’s Always Shine (update: currently being prepped – starring Teresa Palmer in a grass is greener jealousy fit).

Zachary Wigon’s The Heart Machine – which sees John Gallagher Jr. and Kate Lyn Sheil  play Cody and Virginia, a couple in a long-distance online relationship who have never met in person. Cody begins to suspect Virginia’s been living in New York the whole time and sets out to investigate. Andrew T. Betzer’s Young Bodies Heal Quickly (starring Kate Lyn Sheil and Julie Sokolowski in the “accidental” killing of a young girl).  Also with Kate, Zachary Treitz and Kate Lyn Sheil’s Men Go To Battle – which takes place in the fall of 1861, most Americans predicted that the War Between the States would end by Christmas. Henry and Francis Mellon couldn’t care less. The two are struggling to hold on to their crumbling estate while bracing for another winter in central Kentucky. Living together in the last remaining structure on their family’s hemp farm, the two have become suffocatingly close.

And that’s that on those that didn’t make the cut. Monday: first wave of our Sundance predictions.

Eric Lavallée is the founder, editor-in-chief and film critic at IONCINEMA.com (founded in 2000). Eric splits his time between his home base in Montreal, NYC, and is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. Top Films From Contemporary Film Auteurs: Almodóvar (Talk to Her), Coen Bros. (Fargo), Dardennes (La Promesse), Haneke (Caché), Hsiao-Hsien (Three Times), Kar-wai (In the Mood for Love), Kiarostami (Taste of Cherry), Lynch (Mulholland Dr.), Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho), von Trier (Breaking the Waves)
  • bct

    Eric, What criteria did you use to make this rejection list ? Is it based on the feedback from the Sundance selection committee or have you seen any of these movies and you don’t think they are good enough to be accepted ?

    • Anon

      Good question.

  • ioncinema

    Thanks for your interest BCT.

    As I did last year, I made a 80-count cut off. I’m trying to predict the items that the programmers won’t pass up on – films that respond to a criteria/spirit/mandate of the fest’s unique sections: 16 Dramatic/Docu Comp slots/approx, 10 for the NEXT, less than 20 for Premieres. So it’s a numbers game, my methodology includes several variables with no dialogue with the programmers.

  • Parr

    I am rooting for a potent little indie called Sand Castles http://www.sandcastlesfilm.com

  • Karl

    Are you predicting that the titles on this list will be rejected by the Sundance committee? I’m not sure if I fully understand what you’re predicting.

  • Karl

    Are you predicting that the titles on this list will be rejected by the Sundance committee? I’m not sure if I fully understand what you’re predicting.