Courtesy of Sundance Institute
With a new year comes a fresh slew of Sundance Film Festival titles to pique the interest of even the most casual moviegoer. And what an assortment 2022 has to offer. Due to the ongoing COVID pandemic and this dastardly variant of omicron, the organizers have decided to offer this year’s program virtually, with the exception of a few satellite screenings hosted in local communities. But good movies shouldn’t be less appreciated just because we watch them at home.
From a young woman’s cannibalistic tryst from hell to a Dutch family’s passive-aggressive holiday horror to a disgraced Southern pastor and his wife’s attempted redemption, Sundance films of this year bring you some serious slices of life to amuse, amuse, cheer and horrify. Sometimes even all in the same movie.
Here’s a selection of the best movies you won’t want to miss when they finally hit the mainstream.
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Honk for Jesus. Save your soul.
Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown are in stellar form in this satirical look at the Southern Baptist Church — and mega-church culture in general — through a disgraced minister’s attempted comeback and his first lady. Part drama, part mockumentary and lots of dark comedy, it’s the perfect film to show Hall’s ability to navigate the humor, grief and simmering rage required for a woman like Trinitie Childs as she strives to stand by her man. Brown rarely manages to flex his comedic muscles, but they’re in great shape, and newcomer Adamma Ebo knew exactly how to showcase the best of both actors in her hilarious yet soulful debut feature.
We have been so indoctrinated by Western folk tales and horror traditions, usually told from a white point of view, that it is easy to forget how many different cultures have their own stories to tell. In his feature debut, Nikyatu Jusu challenges this. She uses the spell of a Senegalese nanny from a wealthy Manhattan family – who is trying to raise money for her son to join her – to weave the myth of the West African mermaid of Mami Wata and the legend of Anansi l trickster spider. If you liked Remi Weekes His homethen Nanny will suit you perfectly, with a superb central performance by Anna Diop. The beautifully eerie color palette both bolsters the storytelling and makes this Grand Jury-winning film the festival’s finest.
Good luck to you, Leo Grande
It takes great direction, a great script, and two very capable actors to make a movie set entirely in a hotel room feel kinetic. Fortunately, the combination of creators for this British romantic comedy worked very well. Emma Thompson stands out as a retired, sexually repressed widow who hires Daryl McCormack’s charismatic young sex worker to show her what she’s been missing. But this movie isn’t just about a middle-aged woman getting high before it’s too late; it’s also a deeply engaging, witty, and relatable dig into feminism, sex positivity, and the generational divides that frequently inform unconscious and conscious biases when it comes to sex and desire.
The British sitcom of the last year We are lady parts showcased the rock and roll side of Muslim women that is rarely depicted on screen; now, filmmaker Rita Baghdadi has followed suit with this spotlight on an all-Arab female thrash metal band from Lebanon. Centered on the founding members of Slave to Sirens, Lilas and Shery, the documentary has all the heightened friendship and romantic drama you might expect from narrative fiction, but these young women face the very real visceral bias against their music. , gender and sexual preferences while trying to achieve success doing what they love.
Am I okay?
Dakota Johnson drips with endearing millennial anxiety in this affable comedy directed by Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne from a script written by Lauren Pomerantz. Johnson’s Lucy is a rudderless artist, working in a spa, having to adjust to the fact that her best friend Jane (Sonoya Mizuno) returns to London just when she has finally come out as a lesbian and is looking to tentatively explore her sexuality. Less rom more com, Johnson and Mizuno are a delightful combination in a relatable and charming story that delves into how we navigate friendships as our personal and professional lives evolve.
In this gripping and heartbreaking documentary from Israeli filmmaker Alon Schwarz, a much-needed spotlight has been cast on the horrific treatment of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Not only does the film include first-hand accounts and interviews with the IDF soldiers who participated in and witnessed the massacre of the titular Arab village, but it also explores the defamation of an Israeli scholar, Teddy Katz, whose dissertation on the devastating event in Middle Eastern history the led to being shunned. There are too few cinematic explorations of the ethnic cleansing that took place during Al-Nakba, but this powerful and heartbreaking documentary goes a long way towards rectifying that historical erasure.
Following his praise for Black bear, Aubrey Plaza continues to prove his dramatic qualities with this Michael Mann-style crime thriller, written and directed by John Patton Ford. Emily (Plaza) is an artist struggling to make ends meet and pay off her student debt due to a criminal record for aggravated assault that potential employers can’t get around. When Youcef (Theo Rossi), a con man hoping to achieve his own American dream through credit fraud, takes Emily under his wing, things get complicated as the stakes rise. Bold, full of attitude and outspoken conviction, Plaza is in her element in this gripping, no-frills drama.
The latest documentary to give female pop stars of the 90s and 2000s a feminist reassessment, Nothing compares focuses on Sinéad O’Connor and her torrid journey to becoming one of the world’s greatest artists before being ousted for her commitment to exposing systemic abuse. Using exclusive interviews with O’Connor and the people who knew her best, director Kathryn Ferguson paints a clear picture of a woman unafraid of being political, whose complicated Irish upbringing enlightened his lucidity. The film also provides fuller context for the unfair backlash O’Connor received that ended the first act of his career. It’s a powerful and important reassessment of a singer who certainly didn’t deserve to be slandered.
Daisy Edgar-Jones goes from normal people to some rather twisted people in this bloody encounter horror told through a particularly millennial lens. Look, this movie doesn’t break the mold of the revenge genre and there are as many cliched bits of modern love lingo in Lauryn Kahn’s screenplay as there are severed human body parts, but Mimi Cave, in her film debut in as director, delivers a fun and impactful story that allows Sebastian Stan to really get his floppy haired freak going. It’s definitely the perfect movie for viewers who were hoping for a more gruesome cathartic experience with Promising young woman.
My old school
This intriguing documentary from Glasgow has heart, humor and a shocking surprise that will have you mumbling “What the f**k are you doing?” Jono McLeod’s feature debut, it tells the story of Scotland’s most notorious impostor who happened to be a former schoolmate. Using interviews with old-school classmates and professors, along with sparkling animations to depict past events, and Alan Cumming’s superb lip-syncing to the forger’s testimony, McLeod delivers a compelling story. about a bizarre 1990s scandal that should keep you completely perplexed long after the credits roll.
Nothing like a coming-of-age drama to trigger anxious memories of how awful bullying can be while experiencing the first pangs of desire. This horror is reflected in the bloody and gruesome brutality portrayed by Carlota Pereda in her Spanish-language film as a serial killer begins to target those who inflict cruelty on protagonist Sara, the larger-than-butcher girl. Laura Galán is sensational as a tormented girl in conflict with the murderous actions of her champion and the weight of abuse she bears from bullies in her community. porcine gives De Palma’s Carrie a race for his money.
Speak no evil
What is the desire of this white film character to go on weekends, or on vacation, with people he barely knows? Speak no evil is the second film on this list to ask this question. Writer-director Christian Tafdrup responds to it with deeply grounded, albeit incredibly intense social horror, centering on a Danish family of three who make the mistake of visiting Dutch tourists they met in Tuscany, in their rural house. It’s not as awful as Michael Haneke’s funny games, but the psychological characteristics are there. Effective casting, one couple’s passive aggressiveness and the other’s disturbing assertiveness ensure that the feeling of unease never wanes and reaches only catastrophic levels.
The worst person in the world
Cinema often portrays motherhood as the ultimate end for its female leads, but Joachim Trier’s latest romantic drama offers a welcome alternative to that worn-out narrative. Chronicling four years in the life of Julie (Renate Reinsve), a young woman with no clear idea of what she wants out of life, Trier and co-writer Eskil Vogt offer an insightful, relevant and humorous examination of professional struggles and that many people – women, in particular – struggle with. That Reinsve and his co-star Anders Danielsen Lie, who plays Julie’s older partner and comic book writer Aksel, make their characters both likable and unpleasant is exactly why this film still feels lively, vibrant and in touch with the different feelings that inform their actions. -for better and, of course, for worse.
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