Hit a handful of screenings, muddle through the slush, cameo at an after-party, spot a Gyllenhaal, shiver while waiting for an Uber, get a few hours of sleep, rinse and repeat. For years, this was the typical day in the life of a journalist working the magical good times of the Sundance Film Festival. But in 2018, the sobering, life-changing effects of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements reached all the way to the top of the snow-capped Utah mountains. Powerful and outspoken women such as Jane Fonda, Issa Rae, Gloria Allred, Laura Dern and Octavia Spencer all spoke about the cause in various luncheons, Q&As and the women’s rally. The biggest movie star of all was pioneering Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who made a rare public appearance to support her excellent documentary, RBG. The rest of the films were the usual eclectic mix of probing issue-oriented dramas and heart-opening wonders. Read about them now; catch them before the 2019 Oscars.
The title says it all, right? Prepare to relive all the awkwardness and insecurities that come with being on the edge of high school in this beautifully poignant gem. Kayla (future star Elsie Fisher) is an introvert at heart. But just because she was voted Most Quiet in her class doesn’t mean she has nothing to say. Cynical adult journalists (ahem) bawled during the press screening.
Ethan Hawke was born to play a washed-up 90s alt rocker. His Tucker Crowe character is the obsession of an aging hipster (Chris O’Dowd) — and the unlikely soulmate of the schlub’s long-suffering, longtime girlfriend (Rose Byrne). The sparkling and witty romantic comedy trifle is based on the Nick Hornby novel. (And, yes, Hawke does his own singing).
In New York City, a married couple (the great Paul Giamatti and Katherine Hahn) are desperate to have a baby or die trying. After yet another failed in-vitro attempt, they ask their precocious college-grad step-niece (Kayli Carter) to be the egg donor. Director Tamara Jenkins’ lived-in and often-hilarious dramedy is a richly rewarding experience with a whopper of a closing shot.
A clean-cut 17-year-old NYC film student (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is arrested for a murder he did not commit. Languishing in jail and knowing full well that he’s seen as just another black criminal, he desperately tries to prove his innocence. The powerful drama, co-produced and financed by John Legend, earned a rare standing ovation at its premiere.
Three Identical Strangers
You’ve never heard a story like this. Ever. Ever. This truly unbelievable documentary focuses on a set of triplet boys who were separated at birth and somehow found each other in New York at age 19. But their much-ballyhooed reunion in 1980 sets off a chain of events that leads to a highly unsettling and gut-wrenching discovery. I’m forever haunted.
Hearts Beat Loud
In Brooklyn, a record shop owner (Nick Offerman) convinces his UCLA-bound daughter (Kiersey Clemons) to form a band with him. (Naturally, the group is called We’re Not a Band). They craft lovely original music together, which helps strengthens their bond. This is the material sweet and cool indie movies are made of.
Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind
You already know the comic was a nimble force of nature. This fascinating documentary explores Williams’ fun-loving and often-tormented private side. David Letterman, Whoopi Goldberg and Steve Martin are just some of the loved ones that weigh in. It’s a cliché, but here goes: The movie will make you laugh and cry. But mostly laugh.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan are a married couple living peacefully in Montana in 1960. That is, until he abruptly decides to leave his wife and 14-year-old son to help fight the wildfires in the mountains. While he’s away, the emotional fireworks go off at home. The understated tale, the directorial debut of actor Paul Dano (Prisoners, Love & Mercy), is aided by terrific performances.
This is a wildly entertaining true story about bored college students that, gasp, are desperate to get their hands on some books. In 2004, four friends — played by an ultra-appealing Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner and Jared Abrahamson — decide to pull off a heist at a university library. Alas, they’re not nearly as smooth as the Ocean’s Eleven crew.
Sorry to Bother You
It’s like a crazy fever dream: A lowly telemarketer (Get Out’s Lakeith Stanfield) in Oakland, California, learns a secret trick to rise through the ranks of his sinister company, much to the disgust of his activist girlfriend (Tessa Thompson). That doesn’t even begin to describe the satire’s audacious hijinks. Armie Hammer doing a line of cocaine while wearing a sarong, anyone?
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