Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sundance 2015: Ranking the Best and Worst of the Festival

I could have just as easily put together a list of the movies I wished I could have seen at this year's Sundance Film Festival: The End of the Tour, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, Going Clear, Diary of a Teenage Girl, The Forbidden Room, Tangerine, Experimenter, I Am Michael, The Stanford Prison Experiment, The Overnight....OK, you get the idea. (Plus, I have Don Hertzfeldt's acclaimed short World of Tomorrow waiting for me on my laptop. I cannot wait.) So consider the below ranking a snapshot of one person's experience in Park City. Five different critics could give you five different overviews.

I can't say I saw any slam-dunk stunners this year, as opposed to 2014 when I flipped for Boyhood and The Raid 2. You'll note my top two picks from the 2015 edition are actually films that premiered elsewhere but were included in Sundance's Spotlight section. I suspect a couple of the movies I didn't see on the list above might have competed for one of the top spots.

Looking at my rankings, I realize I'm less enthused about Brooklyn than many of my colleagues are. On the opposite side, I'm guessing I'm higher on The Nightmare than most. What's funny is that many of the best films at Sundance this year have an element of horror to them, whether it's the 17th century creepiness of The Witch, the school of the damned in The Tribe, the post-apocalyptic setting of Z for Zachariah, or the real-world terrors in the documentaries The Nightmare and Welcome to Leith. As for Eden, I bonded with two new friends at the festival because they responded to Mia Hansen-Løve's film as strongly as I did. It's not a horror movie, but it's a deeply felt character study that I haven't stopped thinking about since seeing it in Toronto last year.

On to the rankings. Links lead to individual reviews (some may be behind paywalls)...

26. Strangerland
25. A Walk in the Woods
24. Ten Thousand Saints
23. The Bronze
22. Stockholm, Pennsylvania
21. Brooklyn
20. What Happened, Miss Simone?
19. True Story
18. Results
17. The D Train
16. Homesick
15. Partisan
14. 99 Homes
13. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
12. Last Days in the Desert
11. Mistress America
10. Dope
9. Wild Tales 
8. Mississippi Grind
7. Digging for Fire
6. Z for Zachariah
5. Welcome to Leith
4. The Nightmare
3. The Witch
2. Eden
1. The Tribe