The Sundance Film Festival 2014 has concluded in Park City, Utah with a new crop of provocative, thought-provoking Indies. Say what you will about the festival’s long lines and sold-out premieres, Sundance still remains the top festival in the world for young filmmakers to break into Hollywood. Some of the top movie directors in the industry launched their careers at Sundance such as Steven Soderbergh (Sex, Lies and Videotape), Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs) and David O. Russell (Spanking the Monkey).
As festival director John Cooper announced at the onset, Sundance wanted to get back to their indie roots. Some criticize the festival has gone “Hollywood.” As cofounder of Sundance Robert Redford reminds us, “Storytellers broaden our minds, engage, provoke, inspire, and ultimately, connect us.
Sundance 2014 did not disappoint cinephiles. Out of over 4,000 feature film submissions, there were 100 world premieres this year. Here is my Top Ten Indie Films List to watch at a local art house theater near you.
Whiplash by Damien Chazelle
Ever dream about being a great athlete, actor or musician? This riveting story follows jazz drummer (The Spectacular Now’s Miles Teller) pursuing his dream at a music conservatory in Manhattan and his music instructor (JK Simmons) with a brutal teaching style. ‘Whiplash’ took home the two top prizes at Sundance, the coveted Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award. Miles Teller is one to watch and bound for stardom.
Boyhood by Richard Linklater
‘Before Midnight’ director Richard Linklater's coming-of-age film is groundbreaking. It was shot for 3 to 4 days over a 12-year period. The revolutionary portrait of a boy, growing up from age 5 to 18 is a probing look at the forces that mold him into an adult.
This documentary is based on the memoir of film critic, Roger Ebert. Just months before his death, he allowed cameras to follow his battle with cancer. The result is a moving story of an ordinary newspaper journalist and his achievement as the most iconic film critic of our time.
The Skeleton Twins by Craig Johnson
Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader play suicidal siblings that cheat death on the same day. They reunite and confront how their lives went wrong. Wiig and Hader prove once again that comedians can take on meaty, dramatic roles. Writer-director Craig Johnson won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for the script.
Infinitely Polar Bear
No stranger to the indie world of Sundance, actor Mark Ruffalo is in one of his most poignant roles yet. He plays a bipolar disorder father trying to win back his wife by taking responsibility of his daughters who don’t make it any easier for him with their spirited personalities.
Rudderless by William H. Macy
Actor William H. Macy earned raves for his directorial debut about a grieving father (Billy Crudup) dealing with the loss of his son in a school shooting. After stumbling upon a box of his son’s demo tapes, he is shocked to discover his son’s unknown talent and forms a band in the hope of finding some closure.
I Origins by Mike Cahill
‘Another Earth’ director Mike Cahill teams up again with Indie Darling Brit Marling in ‘I Origins.’ It’s a love story between a biologist and a model. His scientific discovery may fundamentally change society as we know it. It won the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film prize as part of Sundance Institute’s Science-in-Film initiative.
Happy Christmas by Joe Swanberg
Anna Kendrick stars as an irresponsible 20-something who moves in with her older Brother who is a filmmaker, his novelist wife played by Lena Dunham and their two-year old son. This micro-budget indie proves that small films can have a powerful impact. Joe Swanberg is a talented young director who made last year’s critically acclaimed indie ‘Drinking Buddies.’
Laggies by Lynn Shelton
Keira Knightley stars as a 20-something stuck in permanent adolescence. She lies to her finance about going to a retreat and instead hangs out with a younger girl played by Chloe Moretz. Sam Rockwell also stars in this film directed by Sundance veteran Lynn Shelton.
Wish I Was Here by Zach Braff
Probably the most talked about indie film of the year due to Zach Braff turning to Kickstarter to fund the film project. Braff stars as a struggling LA actor married to his loving wife played by Kate Hudson. The film explores a guy at 35-years-old still trying to find his identity while taking on his responsibilities as a father and husband.