The 31st edition of the Sundance Film Festival opens tonight in Park City and what we’ll do here, as succinctly as possible, is provide a guide to the guides. For some, such as Julia Sutherland in the Financial Times, Sundance is “a bellwether of economic trends within the industry.” For others, like Brian Moylan in Guardian, it’s all about the Big Race. He notes that the festival “has produced a slew of titles that have made the Academy Awards shortlist—including, in recent times, Precious, Little Miss Sunshine, The Kids Are All Right and Winter’s Bone.” But if it wins, “Boyhood would be the first to actually scoop the prize (and, if it did, it would be beating another Sundance alumnus, Whiplash).”
“Are there Oscar players this year?” asks the Hollywood Reporter‘s Gregg Kilday. John Cooper, who was named director of the festival in 2009: “I just never think like that.”
“A vast majority of the 123 movies that will play Sundance this year will end up finding an audience not in a theater but on a video-on-demand system,” writes Brooks Barnes for the New York Times. “The shift leaves Sundance, longtime attendees say, on the edge of an identity crisis. The festival, fiercely proud of its heritage as America’s foremost showcase for independent cinema, is working to hold on to that identity. At the same time, it is tentatively embracing an art form, television, in which innovation and energy abound. In other words, it is trying to remain relevant.” Barnes previews some of the shows “being shopped” at Sundance.
“Sundance may be best known as the place to discover top independent films,” writes Jessica Gelt in the Los Angeles Times, “but the festival’s New Frontier exhibition curated by [Shari] Frilot has cultivated its own reputation, emerging as the go-to source for the kind of cutting-edge cinematic innovations found at the crossroads of art, filmmaking and multimedia technology.”
For Filmmaker, Jenni Olson, who’s taking The Royal Road to Sundance, presents a guide to the LGBT highlights in this year’s program. And Scott Macaulay gathers “eight suggestions from veterans of the ’14 and ’13 editions” regarding where to eat, how to handle interviews, what to wear, the works.
Similarly, Erik Childress at RogerEbert.com: “I have had the privilege of attending Sundance since 2003 and as I head out for my 13th year, now is as good a time as any to look back on what happy (and unhappy) memories can help inform my choices this go round and maybe even offer a tip or two on those making their first journey into the heart of independent cinema.”
Ondi Timoner talks with documentary programmers
David Courier and Hussain Currimbhoy
“While political and eco-themed documentaries are once again prevalent at Sundance, portrait docus dominate this year’s nonfiction lineup,” suggests Addie Morfoot in Variety.
The lists! Kim Adelman (Indiewire, “5 Must-See Shorts”), Erik Davis (Movies.com, five films, four performances, three “stories,” two docs and one experience), Film Stage (“25 Most-Anticipated”), Flavorwire (12 “Can’t Wait to See”), Guardian (“20 key movies”), HitFix (“25 Most Anticipated”), the “13 Films Indiewire Can’t Wait to See,” Brent Lang (Variety, “9 Most Controversial Films”), the Playlist (“30 Most Anticipated”), Tatiana Siegel (THR, “10 Films That Could Be the New Boyhood” and “5 Sleepers“), Time Out New York (10 “most excited about”), Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times, nine narratives and four docs), Twitch (11 dramatic and 14 docs), Vulture (20 “You Need to Know”) and Samuel Wigley (BFI, British films).
Update: The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Eugene Hernandez explains “Why Sundance Matters (to me).”