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The Best Films Of The 2014 Sundance Film Festival

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist January 27, 2014 at 3:02PM

The film writing community is still catching up on sleep, getting over festival flu and showering off the stink of their blogger condos, but there's no escaping it: the Sundance Film Festival is over for another year. For over thirty years, the festival has provided a welcome opportunity to shake off awards season, and to start to look over some of the movies and faces that we'll be talking about for the next twelve months.
4
Concerning Violence

"Concerning Violence"
Director: Goran Hugo Olsson ("The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975)
What's It About? Based loosely on Frantz Fanon's "The Wretched Of The Earth," this tells the story of anti-colonial struggles in Africa in the 1960s and 1970s.
What's It Like? Three years ago, Swedish documentarian Goran Hugo Olsson managed a remarkable work after digging through the Swedish Television archives for "The Black Power Mixtape," and has pulled off the same trick here with "Concerning Violence," which sees the struggle for black power during the similar time period, but in Africa rather than the U.S. Narrated by Lauryn Hill, it allows the viewer to "consider these revolutions in a whole new light," according to Kevin Jagernauth's review for us. The film "does occasionally become disorienting," but "the footage Olsson provides has an immediacy that is riveting and occasionally bracing," proving to be "a searing look at Europe's painful involvement in participating, encouraging and backing regimes of oppression."
When Can I See It? No distributor yet, though hopefully IFC and/or Sundance Selects will step in, as they did for "Black Power Mixtape."
Our Review: Kevin's A- review is here

Honorable Mentions: Beyond all of the above, you can find links to every review we ran during the festival below (we’ll update as the last few stragglers come in), many of which are just as worthy of keeping an eye out for as the films above. You can also find some Top 5 lists from the festival from Playlist correspondents Rodrigo Perez, James Rocchi, Cory Everett and Chase Whale. You’ll notice a few discrepancies below, but not all writers reviewed all films for The Playlist, so outliers might be intriguing movies we all need to catch up on. And note: not all writers saw all the movies, so personal lists will change grow and expand throughout the year.

I Origins

Rodrigo Perez’s Top 5
It’s certainly not a contrived grouping, but in retrospect, I found myself drawn to some of the more challenging and divisive films of Sundance and shying away from the predictably glum and dour, very “Sundance,” films. Perhaps the polarizing pictures are just my taste, but I loved the idiosyncratic portraits of misfits (“Frank,” ‘Kumiko’) and the distinctive harsh and hard edges of a few off-center films (“Listen Up Philip,” “The Sleepwalker”). I missed Marjane Satrapi's “The Voices” and I’m deeply intrigued by the response, so that’s one I’m definitely going to have to try and catch up with later this year. We only made a top 10 of dramatic films and a top 5 of docs for this feature, but the quality of Sundance films was such that we easily could have written up about 30 movies we thought had value. Overall, a good year.

1. “Frank”
2. “Listen Up Philip”
3. “Kumiko The Treasure Hunter”
4. “Calvary”
5. “The Sleepwalker”/”I Origins”/"Young Ones"

Dear White People
Roadside Attractions "Dear White People"

James Rocchi’s Top 5
While the most cinematic—and startlingly good—thing I saw at Sundance was “Blind,” I can't help but note that there were a bunch of great films that impressed and moved me with everything from loveliness (“Love is Strange”) to liveliness (“Dear White People”), with either plain-spoken strangeness (“The One I Love”) or the everyday at epic proportions (“Boyhood”).

1. “Blind”
2. “Boyhood”
3. “Love is Strange”
4. “The One I Love”
5. “Dear White People”

Song One

Cory’s Top 5
This was my fourth year attending Sundance, and quite possibly my favorite yet perhaps because I saw more films than I had any other year. Looking at the ones that rose to the top for me, there's a little bit of something for everyone: balletic, balls-to-the-wall action, a sincere and shambling tale of adolescence, a whacked-out comedy with darker edges, a misanthropic character portrait and a delicate love story. Long live Sundance.

1. “The Raid 2”
2. “Boyhood”
3. “Frank”
4. “Listen Up Philip”
5. “Song One”

Imperial Dreams, John Boyega

Chase’s Top 5
This year was one of the best Sundance's I’ve attended. While most of the films I saw were solid, only a small handful really blew me away (“Blue Ruin” and “Imperial Dreams” being two of them). The upside to all of this is I only saw one film I didn’t like and wish I could un-see (“The Voices,” starring Ryan Reynolds and talking pets), which is nice—nobody wants to go to Sundance and sit through films they don’t want to talk about later.

1. "Blue Ruin"
2. "The Raid 2"
3. "52 Tuesdays"
4. "Imperial Dreams"
5. "Obvious Child"

All The Playlist Sundance Reviews So Far...

Frank [A]

Life Itself [A]

Whitey [A]

Love is Strange [A-]

Listen Up Philip [A-]

Web Junkie [A-]

The Overnighters [A-]

Calvary [A-]

Concerning Violence [A-]

Boyhood [B+]

No No A Dockumentary [B+]

Whiplash [B+]

The Raid 2 [B+]

Kumiko the Treasure Hunter [B+]

They Came Together [B+]

The Sleepwalker [B+]

Appropriate Behavior [B+]

Young Ones [B+]

I Origins [B+]

Imperial Dreams [B+]

Battered Bastards of Baseball [B+]

20,000 Days On Earth [B+]

No No [B+]

The Voices [B]

The One I Love [B]

The Guest [B]

Cold In July [B]

White Shadow [B]

To Be Takei [B]

Dear White People [B]

Rudderless [B]

White Bird In A Blizzard [B]

Obvious Child [B-]

A Most Wanted Man [B-]

The Skeleton Twins [C+]

Laggies [C+]

Land Ho! [C+]

Life After Beth [C+]

Song One [C+]

Hellion [C]

Wish I Was Here [C-]

God’s Pocket [C-]

God Help The Girl [D+]

Infinitely Polar Bear [D+]

The Better Angels [D+]

Low Down [D+]

War Story [D-]

This article is related to: Features, Sundance Film Festival, Frank, Listen Up Philip, Love is Strange, Calvary, Boyhood, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter, They Came Together, Whiplash, The Sleepwalker, The Raid 2: Berandal, Concerning Violence, Roger Ebert (1942-2013)


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