2020 Sundance Titles In My Queue

by keithsim | last updated - 3 months ago

Sundance has done a very good job of recreating the scarcity, the excitement of seeing films at the actual festival with their online format. To further replicate the Park City experience I intend to go about three miles from my house, take a bus back to it, and watch all the films with my windows open. As far as the Press access, as with years past, there are often conflicts between what you want to see and when you want to see it, at least the way they’re doing screeners for us. They are also encouraging us to watch everything we really want to watch as a Premiere. We have to “Favorite,” then “Reserve” these tickets. They’ll have limited amount of seats to these, much as you would any premiere in the Park City. If you miss that film you have a second chance the next day to catch the film in a Secondary Screening. You only get 10 of these. So, again, much as Toronto wisely did with their fest it's a limited window.

I typically chose Narrative features over Docs, mostly because narrative features tend to be seen by more people and have more cultural resonance than docs, though this is changing. I usually pick the Premieres over everything else because getting into the Premiere category means that your film is good enough to have beaten out, literally, thousands of other movies. With Tabitha Jackson now running the show as Festival Director I’m keen to see what her Premiere category looks like. Senior Film Editor, Keith Simanton

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1. CODA (2021)

111 min | Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
72 Metascore

As a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) Ruby is the only hearing person in her deaf family. When the family's fishing business is threatened, Ruby finds herself torn between pursuing her love of music and her fear of abandoning her parents.

Director: Sian Heder | Stars: Emilia Jones, Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur, Daniel Durant

Votes: 272

1/28: 5:00PM - Director Heder has been in Sundance before with TALLULAH in 2016 (where I was fortunate enough to interview her, Elliot Page and Allison Janney) and she's a wonderful light. She's been keeping herself busy on ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK and GLOW so watching how her storytelling has matured with be fascinating.

2. Censor (2021)

84 min | Horror

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
69 Metascore

After viewing a strangely familiar video nasty, Enid, a film censor, sets out to solve the past mystery of her sister's disappearance, embarking on a quest that dissolves the line between fiction and reality.

Director: Prano Bailey-Bond | Stars: Niamh Algar, Michael Smiley, Nicholas Burns, Vincent Franklin

Votes: 207

1/28: 9:00PM. I'm such a wimp. I'm already squirming at the thought of watching this Midnight section selection. But the film stars the intriguing actress Niamh Algar (the android "mother" from RAISED BY WOLVES) and the film is co-writer and director was one of Variety’s "10 Directors to Watch."

3. Cryptozoo (2021)

95 min | Animation

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
78 Metascore

Cryptozookeepers try to capture a Baku, a dream-eating hybrid creature of legend, and start wondering if they should display these beasts or keep them hidden and unknown.

Director: Dash Shaw | Stars: Lake Bell, Michael Cera, Emily Davis, Alex Karpovsky

Votes: 163

1/29, 2:00PM - Writer/director Shaw was at Toronto in 2016 with his earlier animated effort, MY ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL SINKING INTO THE SEA. His voice actors here are stellar and include, in all this uniqueness Angeliki Papoulia, the lead actress from DOGTOOTH. Because of course she is.

4. Bring Your Own Brigade (2021)

127 min | Documentary

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

An investigation into our landscape's hidden fire stories and on-the-ground experiences of firefighters and residents struggling through deadly fires.

Director: Lucy Walker

Votes: 28

1/29: 3:00 - If I was stack-ranking these movies, instead of putting them in screening order, this would be my #1 film. And it's entirely because it's done by one of my favorite people in the movie world, Lucy Walker. Yes, the twice-Oscar-nominated Walker. Yes, the maker of THE CRASH REEL, a favorite doc. of mine.

5. In the Earth (2021)

R | 100 min | Horror

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  
60 Metascore

As the world searches for a cure to a disastrous virus, a scientist and park scout venture deep in the forest for a routine equipment run.

Director: Ben Wheatley | Stars: Joel Fry, Reece Shearsmith, Hayley Squires, Ellora Torchia

Votes: 208

1/29, 6:00. Which Ben Wheatley are we going to get here? A FIELD IN ENGLAND Wheatley? Or the upcoming director of THE MEG 2 Wheatley (actually, I kind of love that he's directing the MEG sequel)? The main image, of a person in shadow, carrying an ax, might mean a bit of both.

6. Mother Schmuckers (2021)

70 min | Comedy

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

Issachar and Zabulon, two brothers in their twenties, are supremely stupid and never bored, as madness is part of their daily lives. When they lose their mother's beloved dog, they have 24 hours to find it - or she will kick them out.

Directors: Harpo Guit, Lenny Guit | Stars: Maxi Delmelle, Harpo Guit, Claire Bodson, Tom Adjibi

Votes: 69

1/29, 9:00PM - Another film from the Midnight program this has such a bizarre plot outline but I feel compelled to watch it. Plus the only other thing playing at 9:00 at night is REBEL HEARTS, a documentary about unconventional L.A. nuns (Don't get mad at me, I'm sure it's great and I'll feel terrible about missing it on its Premiere...I'll do a few "Hail Mary's" to make up for it.)

7. Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street (2021)

PG | 107 min | Documentary, History

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
83 Metascore

A look inside the minds and hearts of the Sesame Street (1969) creators, artists, writers, and educators who, together established one of the most influential programs in television history.

Director: Marilyn Agrelo | Stars: Joan Ganz Cooney, Jim Henson, Jon Stone

Votes: 69

1/30, 9:00AM - This will be my fourth "Sesame Street" documentary at Sundance (including BEING ELMO, about Kevin Clash, which didn't age well) because Sundance and I seem to love "Sesame Street." This looks like the definitive origin story so I'm excited to learn more.

8. Prime Time (2021)

TV-MA | 93 min | Drama, Thriller

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

On New Year's Eve 1999, an armed man enters a TV studio during a broadcast, takes the host hostage and makes one demand: to give a message live on air.

Director: Jakub Piatek | Stars: Bartosz Bielenia, Magdalena Poplawska, Andrzej Klak, Malgorzata Hajewska

Votes: 173

1/30, 12:00PM - If you didn't get to see deservedly Oscar-nominated CORPUS CHRISTI, please do. Bartosz Bielenia, the mesmerizing lead from that film is also the headliner here, from a first-time director.

9. Passing (2021)

PG-13 | 98 min | Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
84 Metascore

"Passing" follows the unexpected reunion of two high school friends, whose renewed acquaintance ignites a mutual obsession that threatens both of their carefully constructed realities.

Director: Rebecca Hall | Stars: Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, André Holland, Bill Camp

Votes: 165

1/30, 3:00PM - Rebecca Hall is an actress that I've always found to be witty and detailed. This is her directorial debut. Plus What A Cast (WAC).

10. Eight for Silver (2021)

113 min | Horror

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  
57 Metascore

In rural 19th-century France, a mysterious, possibly supernatural menace threatens a small village. John McBride, a pathologist, comes to town to investigate the danger -- and exorcise some of his own demons in the process.

Director: Sean Ellis | Stars: Boyd Holbrook, Kelly Reilly, Alistair Petrie, Roxane Duran

Votes: 151

1/30, 6:00PM - Ellis directed the ambitious ANTHROPOID. Both Reilly and Holbrook have been favorites of mine for a while now. Hope this works.

11. A Glitch in the Matrix (2021)

Not Rated | 108 min | Documentary

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.3/10 X  
62 Metascore

Documentary filmmaker Rodney Ascher tackles this question "are we living in a simulation?" with testimony, philosophical evidence and scientific explanation in his for the answer.

Director: Rodney Ascher | Stars: Nick Bostrom, Joshua Cooke, Erik Davis, Philip K. Dick

Votes: 737

1/30, 9:00PM - Intriguing concept and the other premiere is about "ruthless drifters" and I've had enough of those in real life, thanks.

12. The Pink Cloud (2021)

105 min | Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

After a toxic and mysterious pink cloud appeared, Giovana finds herself stuck in a flat with a man she just met, changing her life in a way she never expected.

Director: Iuli Gerbase | Stars: Renata de Lélis, Eduardo Mendonça, Helena Becker, Girley Paes

Votes: 89

1/30 Alternate (we have the day, essentially, to watch this if we change our mind) I said last year that apocalyptic movies have a tough time at Sundance...and then I saw SAVE YOURSELVES!. This film looks much more somber than that lark.

13. Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It (2021)

90 min | Documentary

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A look at the life and work of Rita Moreno from her humble beginnings in Puerto Rico to her success on Broadway and in Hollywood.

Director: Mariem Pérez Riera | Stars: Morgan Freeman, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Eva Longoria, Rita Moreno

Votes: 43

1/30 Alternate (we have the day, essentially, to watch this if we change our mind) I had a chance to see Rita Moreno in concert. I sat next to a senior. After she amazed us for two hours, regaling

14. Marvelous and the Black Hole (2021)

81 min | Comedy

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A teenage delinquent teams up with a surly children's party magician to navigate her dysfunctional family and inner demons.

Director: Kate Tsang | Stars: Miya Cech, Rhea Perlman, Leonardo Nam, Kannon

Votes: 298

1/31, 9:00AM - Sundance has a mixed history with these kind of quirky team-ups (THE WACKNESS comes back to me from 2008, just to annoy me) but, again, this is a Premiere film.

15. Together Together (2021)

R | 90 min | Comedy

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
66 Metascore

When a young loner becomes the gestational surrogate for a single man in his 40s, the two strangers come to realize this unexpected relationship will challenge their perceptions of connection, boundaries and the particulars of love.

Director: Nikole Beckwith | Stars: Patti Harrison, Ed Helms, Rosalind Chao, Timm Sharp

Votes: 106

1/31, 12:00PM - I include this because, whenever I was talking to someone from Sundance, including the demonstrations on how to use the ticketing service this title kept being used as an example. "So, say you want to see TOGETHER TOGETHER..." I think it's subliminal. Plus I like Ed Helms.

16. Jockey (2021)

94 min | Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
79 Metascore

An aging jockey aims for a final championship, when a rookie rider arrives claiming to be his son.

Director: Clint Bentley | Stars: Clifton Collins Jr., Moises Arias, Molly Parker, Logan Cormier

Votes: 77

1/31, 3:00PM, - Three actors I respect: Cliff Collins Jr., Molly Parker and Moises Arias from a first time director. These are the kinds of films that can make Sundance sing.

17. Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021)

100 min | Action, Horror, Thriller

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
54 Metascore

A notorious criminal must break an evil curse in order to rescue an abducted girl who has mysteriously disappeared.

Director: Sion Sono | Stars: Nicolas Cage, Sofia Boutella, Nick Cassavetes, Bill Moseley

Votes: 192

1/31, 6:00PM - Nicolas Cage.

18. Superior (2021)

99 min | Drama, Thriller

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

On the run, Marian returns to her hometown to hide out with her identical twin sister, Vivian, and in doing so alters the trajectory of both their lives.

Director: Erin Vassilopoulos | Stars: Alessandra Mesa, Ani Mesa, Pico Alexander, Jake Hoffman

Votes: 96

1/31, 9:00PM - Alternate - Vassilopoulos based this feature on his short of the same name from 2016. While some of the results of these heavily-work-shopped Sundance films don't actually work and can't be shopped around sometimes they are honed films, with a considered finesse to them.

19. Night of the Kings (2020)

R | 93 min | Drama, Fantasy

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
83 Metascore

A young man is sent to "La Maca", a prison of Ivory Coast in the middle of the forest ruled by its prisoners. With the red moon rising, he is designated by the Boss to be the new "Roman" and must tell a story to the other prisoners.

Director: Philippe Lacôte | Stars: Bakary Koné, Steve Tientcheu, Jean Cyrille Digbeu, Rasmané Ouédraogo

Votes: 990

2/1, 3:00PM - So, someone at Sundance realized that 2/1 is a Monday and some people have other work to do. Thus this film and BLACKJUDAS are the only Narrative Premieres scheduled for today. I hope to catch JUDAS another way.

20. Misha and the Wolves (2021)

90 min | Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
65 Metascore

Misha and the Wolves is the dramatic tale of a woman whose holocaust memoir took the world by storm, but a fallout with her publisher - who turned detective - revealed an audacious deception created to hide a darker truth.

Director: Sam Hobkinson | Star: Misha Defonseca

Votes: 66

2/1, Alternate (we have the day, essentially, to watch this if we change our mind) - I think we're all struggling with the fabulists of the world. What motivates them? This doc looks utterly fascinating.

21. We're All Going to the World's Fair (2021)

86 min | Drama, Horror

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
79 Metascore

Alone in her attic bedroom, teenager Casey becomes immersed in an online role-playing horror game, wherein she begins to document the changes that may or may not be happening to her.

Director: Jane Schoenbrun | Stars: Anna Cobb, Michael J Rogers

Votes: 63

2/1, Alternate (we have the day, essentially, to watch this if we change our mind) I don't have any other films from the NEXT section at Sundance (which programs the alternative films that just wouldn't play well with a general audience. Shoenbrun is a 1st time director.

22. The World to Come (2020)

R | 105 min | Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
73 Metascore

Somewhere along the mid-19th century American East Coast frontier, two neighboring couples battle hardship and isolation, witnessed by a splendid yet testing landscape, challenging them both physically and psychologically.

Director: Mona Fastvold | Stars: Katherine Waterston, Vanessa Kirby, Casey Affleck, Christopher Abbott

Votes: 3,113

2/2, 12:00PM, I'll just quote the Sundance guide here for my reasons: "Mona Fastvold’s rugged period romance, The World to Come, is adapted from Jim Shepard's 2017 short story of the same name and premiered in competition at the Venice International Film Festival."

23. Cusp (2021)

92 min | Documentary

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

In a Texas military town, three teenage girls confront the dark corners of adolescence at the end of a fever dream summer.

Directors: Isabel Bethencourt, Parker Hill

Votes: 58

Going to figure out if I can fit this in: There's a LAST PICTURE SHOW feel to the image provided for this doc. That's enough for me.

24. I Was a Simple Man (2021)

100 min | Drama

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

A family in Hawai'i faces the imminent death of their eldest as the ghosts of the past haunt the countryside.

Director: Christopher Makoto Yogi | Stars: Steve Iwamoto, Constance Wu, Tim Chiou, Kanoa Goo

Votes: 60

Going to figure out if I can fit this in: This movie. Right here. Know nothing about it. But maybe it's WHALE RIDER or MINARI or PALM SPRINGS.

25. Mayday (2021)

100 min | Drama, Fantasy, Mystery

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  

Ana is transported to a dreamlike and dangerous land where she joins an army of girls engaged in a never-ending war along a rugged coast. Though she finds strength in this exhilarating ... See full summary »

Director: Karen Cinorre | Stars: Grace Van Patten, Mia Goth, Soko, Francesco Piacentini-Smith

Votes: 114

Going to figure out if I can fit this in: A gothy/fantasy movie in the main competition? Must be good.

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