01/31/2014 03:53 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

"I Saw it at Sundance": 14 Films People Might be Talking About This Year

This year's Sundance Film Festival featured the standard themes that indie films are known for: coming-of-age summers, middle-class folk complaining about their lives, and of course, Brit Marling. But it also had our favorite comedians out of their comfort zones (Kristen Wiig as a twin who cheats death, Aubrey Plaza as a zombie), suicidal vampires, two hours of Tom Hardy talking on the phone, and a whole lotta Anna Kendrick.

We checked out this year's slate, but before we can smugly tell our friends, "Yeah, I saw that before anyone else -- at Sundance," we broke them down into categories and predicted the "buzzworthiness" that each would have this year. How likely is it for you to say that you saw these at Sundance? We've got you covered. But please bring your own snow boots, swag and hors'deourves.
-- Sheila Dichoso


Best SNL Post-Grad Work: The Skeleton Twins
I've had a difficult time categorizing this film because the specter of suicide looms over it, but other parts are so very funny. As always, Luke Wilson plays a very good Luke Wilson, but Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader are so brilliantly hilarious and real when they are on screen together, and their hurt and pain is so poignant and profound when they're apart. They've raised the bar for SNL graduates, almost hitting Bill Murray-levels-of-depth decades early. Expect to see this one get some attention. Oh, I really liked this film if that wasn't clear.
Likelihood of saying "I saw it at Sundance" sometime this year: Very Likely. I'm already adding this to my Oscar ballot while practicing saying, "I knew when I saw this at Sundance that those two would be up for Oscars."
-- Martin Moakler

Best Film for Breaking Bad Fans in Need of an Aaron Paul Fix: Hellion
One of the bigger disappointments at Sundance, Hellion suffered from high expectations -- thanks to Aaron Paul's involvement -- that were impossible to meet. The story, about two young boys largely raising themselves after their mother dies and their father retreats to the bottle, is often predictable and cringeworthy as bad decisions cause the action to spiral out of control. It's buoyed by great performances from Josh Wiggins (the titular hellraiser) and Aaron Paul as his drunk, emotionally absent father, but Hellion doesn't transcend the sum of its parts.
Likelihood of saying "I saw it at Sundance" sometime this year: Unlikely. Although the performances were strong, I don't see this being big at the box office or the award shows.
-- Andrea Marker


Best Reminder that Zombies Are Over: Life After Beth
This movie was filled with people whom I love, but they couldn't save this movie. The zombie element never seemed, um, fleshed out, and at the end of the day it was just a movie about a guy who couldn't stop dating a monstrous girl, and I know more than enough of those guys in L.A. Aubrey Plaza has proven that she's capable of so much more in recent seasons of Parks & Rec, so I wish this movie had devoured more brains in order to come up with a smarter film.
Likelihood of saying "I saw it at Sundance" sometime this year: Unlikely. Unless I run into some of the stars of the film at a party and we run out of conversation.
-- Martin Moakler


Best Reminder That Vampires Are Not Over: Only Lovers Left Alive
Jim Jarmusch's love letter to the beautiful ruins of Detroit, and love, is as rock and roll as the city it takes place in. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston play centuries-in-love vampires living separately, but come together again when Adam (Hiddleston) becomes suicidal. Jarmusch is able to reaffirm that there's nothing stronger than unconditional love, and that vampires like to do regular people stuff too, like cruise around, listen to Jack White, and eat blood popsicles.
Likelihood of saying "I saw it at Sundance" sometime this year: Very Likely. 1) This film has both style and substance that will keep it buzzworthy for the whole year. 2) The killer soundtrack of garage rock and Motown rhythm and blues will win over many hipster hearts. 3) Because everyone has a crush on Tilda Swinton.
-- Sheila Dichoso

Most Sundance-y Film: Happy Christmas
This was exactly the type of film I expected to see in Park City: Grainy slices of life with performances by recognizable faces looking to experiment against type. Melanie Lynskey used her native accent without explanation. Lena Dunham tried to project her twenty-something neuroses onto Melanie. And Anna Kendrick pulled her best Hathaway-in-Rachel Getting Married to show that she's ready to move on to the next level of acting. The Sundance-iest of all things, however, was that the film just stopped rather than ended which made me want to jump up and discuss it with anyone who'd seen it.
Likelihood of saying "I saw it at Sundance" sometime this year: Very Likely. And I would be sure to use lots of expressive adjectives that I haven't used since film classes in college.
-- Martin Moakler

Best Film to Name Drop to Impress That Person in Film Class You Have a Crush On: Boyhood

Twelve years in the making and nearly three hours in length, there's not much of a plot to Richard Linklater's Boyhood, which follows a young boy named Mason from elementary school to college orientation. The film, which at time felt almost as if you're visiting relatives you haven't seen in a while, checks in on Mason at moments that have a big impact on his development, from seemingly insignificant vignettes (bowling and camping with his dad) to rather significant ones (moving to a new town and meeting his first love). More of an intellectual exercise than a compelling narrative, if you were to remove the gimmick at the crux of Boyhood, the piece would likely fall apart, but, as it is, the film largely works thanks to the strong performances of a cast that includes Linklater mainstay Ethan Hawke and a terrific Patricia Arquette. One of the hottest tickets at Sundance, Boyhood is necessary viewing for serious cinefiles.
Likelihood of saying "I saw it at Sundance" sometime this year: Very likely. Boyhood is the kind of Sundance movie that comes with bragging rights baked in.
-- Andrea Marker

Best Use of a Car and Tom Hardy: Locke
Steven Knight's (Eastern Promises) minimalist drama weaves an 85-minute narrative literally involving one man, one car, a highway, and plenty of stressful phone calls. Tom Hardy is a cool and collected construction firm manager who comes to a crossroads when he must choose between his professional life and a shot at personal redemption. This could have easily been the most boring film at Sundance but Hardy has enough charisma -- and doesn't need much of anything else -- to enrapture us in a compelling story.
Likelihood of saying "I saw it at Sundance" sometime this year: Likely. People will talk about it for the gimmick factor and will continue to talk about it for the Tom Hardy factor.
-- Sheila Dichoso

Best Film to Make You Feel Better About Your Financial Situation: Infinitely Polar Bear
Mark Ruffalo is charming as a bipolar hoarder: He loves his wife, whom he is sort of estranged from since his breakdown, and his two cute daughters, and is determined to win them all back. Zoe Saldana plays a struggling and broke grad student who finds that pursuing a career is tough as a woman and African-American in the '70s. But together they deal with their situations that life in the best they can: With a whole lotta love. If hugs could be in the form of a film, this is it.
Likelihood of saying "I saw it at Sundance" sometime this year: Likely. Strong performances by Ruffalo and Saldana, and subject matter that resonates today = award season bait.
-- Sheila Dichoso

Best Episode of Dateline in Movie Form: Dinosaur 13
Impressive scientific discovery: Check. Evil antagonist: Check. Government keeping a good man down: Check. Forty-five minutes of documentary stretched out to an hour and forty-five minutes: Checking my watch. But if you like stories about the government bringing down the hammer on paleontologists, perhaps this is for you. I'm still holding out that that's the plot for the new Jurassic Park sequel.
Likelihood of saying "I saw it at Sundance" sometime this year: Unlikely. If I do find myself talking about dinosaurs, it will be most likely with a six-year old, and they won't react to the fact I saw it at Sundance. They're such Cannes snobs. -- Martin Moakler


Movie Your Future Kids Will Most Likely Think They Discovered: God Help the Girl
Truth be told, I've never seen more people leave a screening, but those who fled were older and, as such, I assume they have forgotten what love is. This movie is a musical and the characters sing their feelings and actions while wearing hyper-stylized clothing and generally being Scottish hipsters, but my sincere hope is that legions of future 17-year-olds discover this and are thrilled to finally have found a film that gets how they feel about life, love and growing. Then they will tell me that I don't get them in the way this film does, and I will smile a knowing smile and agree with them, then get up and leave the theater.
Likelihood of saying "I saw it at Sundance" sometime this year: Likely, but only after they've discovered it for themselves.
-- Martin Moakler

Best Film to Make You Fall in Love with Ben Whishaw All Over Again: Lilting
As if you needed another reason to fall in love with him, Ben Whishaw captivates with an emotionally raw performance in this flawed, yet moving portrait of two people trying to cope with the loss of a loved one. That loved one -- Kai -- haunts the film, as his boyfriend Richard (Whishaw) and his mother June (an immigrant who never learned English or the fact her son was gay) relive their final days with him through their memories. Despite the heavy premise, there are genuine moments of levity that imbue Lilting with some much needed warmth, including a romance between June and a fellow resident of her retirement community, and an interpreter who becomes more involved in the action than Richard had anticipated. While far from perfect, Lilting is a must for any Ben Whishaw fan.
Likelihood of saying "I saw it at Sundance" sometime this year: Likely. Lilting is a quintessential Sundance movie (foreign language, secrets, and communication barriers).
-- Andrea Marker


Best Film for Blood-Thirsty Gleeks: Cooties
Written by Glee's Ian Brennan and Saw's Leigh Whannell, this campy horror flick quickly falls short of the promise of its opening sequence: a graphic and unsettling depiction of chicken nuggets that's way more effective in putting you off the school cafeteria mainstay than anything Jamie Oliver ever tried. When an evil chicken nugget transforms the elementary school student body into a pack of blood thirsty zombies, the teachers do everything they can to survive the onslaught. Overwritten and packed with jokes tailored more for Hollywood insiders than its target audience, Cooties squanders a great premise and cast that includes Elijah Wood, Alison Pill, Rainn Wilson, and Jack McBrayer. Here's hoping Brennan trades the chicken nuggets for grape slushies and recycles the idea for the series finale of Glee. At this point, is there anyone who wouldn't want to see the students of McKinley High tear Sue Sylvester and Mr. Schue limb from limb?
Likelihood of saying "I saw it at Sundance" sometime this year: None.
-- Andrea Marker

Best Capturing of Crippling Disappointment Twice in 90 Minutes: Mitt
No matter what your political affiliation, propensity for schadenfreude or feelings about the Osmonds, Mitt is a reminder that behind the campaigns and debates stands a man and his family who love each other very much and put their lives on hold for years and put themselves through the ringer of the political process because they absolutely believed that the Romney patriarch could run the country better than anyone else. And the iron scene is hilarious.
Likelihood of saying "I saw it at Sundance" sometime this year: Unlikely. People are just going to respond that they saw it on Netflix and didn't have to wait an hour in the cold to do so. They've obviously never been to polar-themed movie nights at my apartment.
-- Martin Moakler

Best Attempt at Being the Adventureland of 2014: Ping Pong Summer
This comedy is full of quirky '80s nostalgia, complete with pink gloss, bullies named Lyle and Dale, plus Lea Thompson. And of course, celebrity ping pong advocate Susan Sarandon makes a cameo as a former ping-pong champ. As a coming-of-age film about a teenage boy obsessed with ping pong and break-dancing, it's too cute to be anything else. But it's able to meld the two worlds seamlessly together to make up a fly summer.
Likelihood of saying "I saw it at Sundance" sometime this year: Unlikely. The '80s nostalgia is so in your face sometimes that it almost feels like a parody.
-- Sheila Dichoso