sundance streaming

While we’re still hashing out the great Three Billboards Twitter war of 2017, audiences in Park City and all across Utah will be boldly forging ahead into the first major releases of 2018 at the Sundance Film Festival. One of few festivals firmly established in the cultural imagination, Robert Redford’s mountain citadel of cinema regularly launches major works of cinema from filmmakers flying under the radar. I’ve attended the last two years, seeing multiple movies that wound up landing on my year-end top 10 lists.

Since I won’t be attending 2018’s edition of the Sundance Film Festival (/Film has writers on the ground and will have that covered), those of us not heading to snowy Utah can still do some at-home viewing to quell the FOMO. Here are 11 films with major pre-festival heat and some movies you can stream to have a jump on the conversations starting this weekend at Sundance.

sundance 2018 damsel

Damsel (Premieres)

Robert Pattinson is on a tear post-Twilight, working with established giants of international cinema (David Cronenberg, Werner Herzog, Claire Denis) and lending his star power to get unconventional projects by indie iconoclasts (the Safdie Brothers, Brady Corbet) financed. His Sundance debut, Damsel, falls in the latter territory as he puts another pair of brothers on the big stage: David and Nathan Zellner. The directing duo from Austin typify the city’s off-beat cinema scene, and their latest effort seems to be no different as they bend the western genre to fit their quirky sensibilities.

Can’t make it to Sundance? Watch this at home: While the Zellner Brothers achieved some recognition with their last film, 2015’s Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (anyone remember #TeamBunzo?), the real gem of their filmography is 2013’s Kid-Thing. It’s a simple but mesmerizingly hilarious look at young Annie, a 10-year-old growing up on a Texas farm, and the things she does to pass the time. Her childhood is spent apart from the hyperactive, media-saturated world, and the Zellners pull off the tricky feat of depicting her boredom without inducing it in the viewer. (Available for free to Fandor and Sundance Now subscribers and to rent through Amazon and iTunes)

sundance 2018 private life

Private Life (Premieres)

It feels profoundly unfair that we only get one Tamara Jenkins film per decade (although the writer/director has every right to go raise her daughter like she did), but she looks to make a triumphant return at Sundance with Private Life. As an astute observer of domestic malaise, Jenkins tackles a topic seldom treated on screen but wreaks havoc on any number of marriages: infertility. There’s a hint of sadness behind many of Kathryn Hahn’s notorious comedic creations from Step Brothers to Bad Moms, and it’s going to be interesting to watch her lean into the drama of her situation alongside her on-screen husband, Paul Giamatti.

Can’t make it to Sundance? Watch this at home: Jenkins’ last film, The Savages, is of that exceedingly rare bunch of Sundance premieres that makes it all the way to the Oscars. She earned a much-deserved Best Original Screenplay nomination for her exquisite dramedy following two estranged siblings forced to care for the father who set them on their respective emotionally arid life courses. Come for Laura Linney’s heartbreaking desperation, stay for Philip Seymour Hoffman’s heartwarming humor – and start to miss his talents all over again. (Available to rent on Amazon/iTunes)

sundance 2018 the long dumb road

The Long Dumb Road (Premieres)

Road trip movies are a Sundance staple, but if anyone can make the journey entertaining, it’s Jason Mantzoukas and Tony Revolori. The former seems to pop up in just about every comedy these days, elevating bit parts into unforgettable scene-stealing parts. His role in Chance the Rapper-approved The House suggested he has the chops to carry a movie in his own right. Mantzoukas knows how to sell any character’s flimsy philosophy, and his down-and-out car mechanic will have a likely taker in Revolori, who plays a student in need of a functional vehicle to get to school in California.

Can’t make it to Sundance? Watch this at home: The Long Dumb Road’s co-writer/director Hannah Fidell has taken a familiar setup before and turned it into riveting cinema. Ignore the Rotten Tomatoes score – her 2013 debut A Teacher is a fresh take on the sordid teacher-student affair. Rather than settling for easy moralizing, Fidell fixates on the socioeconomic class gap between wealthy high schoolers and their instructors who can barely get by on their salaries. In this particular relationship, sex becomes just another tool of domination in the arsenal of a teen boy with impunity. (Available for free to Netflix and Sundance Now subscribers)

sundance 2018 american animals

American Animals (U.S. Dramatic Competition)

If you were trying to create a spread of young actors who could also double as a Hollywood Reporter “Next Generation” cover, you might come up with something that looks a lot like the cast of American Animals. Blake Jenner made a successful leap to the big screen in 2016 with Everybody Wants Some! and The Edge of Seventeen, while Barry Keoghan lit up 2017 with killer parts in Dunkirk and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Throw in X-Men and American Horror Story stalwart Evan Peters and rising star Jared Abrahamson, and you’ve got one heck of a crew for Bart Layton’s art heist film.

Can’t make it to Sundance? Watch this at home: American Animals is Layton’s first narrative feature, but it’s not his first go-round in the true crime arena. Back in 2012, he wowed Sundance with The Imposter, the story of a boy in Texas who goes missing told from the perspective of the boy they find in Spain three years later. No spoilers, but if the prior sentence sounded a little funky…you might be on to the wild ride Layton has in store. (Available for free to Netflix subscribers)

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