In anticipation of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which runs from January 20-30, here is a little primer of some films that are worth the time. With about 150 films all playing at different venues, it helps to narrow down the selection to a more manageable shortlist. Consider yourself a true film junkie if you’re able to see all the films at the festival.
Let’s first take a look at some of the competition films:
Homework – George, a smart teenage loner, has made it to his senior year despite the fact that he has never completed an assignment. Enter Sally, the school beauty, who hides her melancholy behind the protective mask of popularity. An unlikely connection blooms as these kindred spirits bond over their troubled parental relationships. With his education hanging by a thread, George concedes to let Dustin mentor him. Dustin is a successful artist, and he’s 25 years old—finally, someone George can respect! With Sally and Dustin by his side, George blossoms and dares to look toward the future. But George soon learns that life and love have a way of dashing dreams as rites of passage and mounds of homework threaten to do him in on the eve of his graduation.
Like Crazy – Jacob, an American, and Anna, who is British, meet at college in Los Angeles and fall madly in love. It’s the purest kind of romance—they’re each other’s first significant attachment. When Anna returns to London, the couple is forced into a long-distance relationship. Their perfect love is tested, and youth, trust, and geography become their biggest enemies.
Pariah – At the club, the music thumps, go-go dancers twirl, shorties gyrate on the dance floor while studs play it cool, and adorably naive 17-year-old Alike takes in the scene with her jaw dropped in amazement. Meanwhile, her buddy Laura, in between macking the ladies and flexing her butch bravado, is trying to help Alike get her cherry popped. This is Alike’s first world. Her second world is calling on her cell to remind her of her curfew. On the bus ride home to Brooklyn, Alike sheds her baseball cap and polo shirt, puts her earrings back in, and tries to look like the feminine, obedient girl her conservative family expects.
Take Shelter – Curtis LaForche lives in a small town in Ohio with his wife, Samantha, and daughter, Hannah, a six-year-old deaf girl. When Curtis begins to have terrifying dreams, he keeps the visions to himself, channeling his anxiety into obsessively building a storm shelter in his backyard. His seemingly inexplicable behavior concerns and confounds those closest to him, but the resulting strain on his marriage and tension within his community can’t compare with Curtis’s privately held fear of what his dreams may truly signify.
All Your Dead Ones – In this eerie and fantastically shot tragicomic satire, an ordinary farmer’s morning routine is interrupted when he makes a grim discovery in the middle of his cornfield—a huge pile of dead bodies. Aghast, he reports the mysterious massacre on what happens to be Election Day. When the small-town mayor and police lieutenant take notice, fearful of unleashing a public scandal, they stall and intimidate the farmer and his family. Meanwhile, the sun beats down, and the eerie corpses remain, refusing to be ignored.
The Cinema Hold Up – Negus, Chale, Sapo, and Chata are teenagers living in Mexico’s Guerrero colony. Friends since childhood, they have too much time on their hands and spend most of it drowning their problems in a constant haze of marijuana, lusting after the opposite sex, and hanging out at skate parks, graffiti hot spots, and hip-hop jam sessions. One day, inspired by the pain of empty pockets and the crush against the gritty boundary between adolescence and adulthood, the foursome have a massive brainstorm that will solve all of their problems—they decide to rob the local cinema. Each finds his or her reason to go ahead with the caper, unaware that the ordeal may threaten the only thing they have—their friendship.
The Guard – Sergeant Gerry Boyle, a salty village cop in Ireland, has a subversive sense of humor, a caustic wit, and an uncanny knack for keeping people at arm’s length. When a straitlaced FBI agent chasing an international drug-smuggling ring hits town, Boyle has no intention of letting the arrival disrupt his routine of hookers and wisecracks. Initially, he relishes offending and ridiculing the agent, but a murder and a series of peculiar events draw the reluctant sergeant into the investigation.
Vampire – Simon seems like a fairly normal, average young man who’s devoted to his teaching job and ailing mother. Underneath the surface, however, things are not what they seem. Simon hunts through online chat rooms and message boards, searching for the perfect girl: beautiful, shy, and suicidal. Simon has a particular condition: he is compelled to drink blood.