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Sundance 2014 Wrap: Discoveries, Disappointments, Breakouts & Awards Contenders (TOP TEN LISTS)

by Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna
January 24, 2014 4:07 PM
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  • Jenny Slate is infectiously charming in subversive rom-com "Obvious Child," following a twentysomething Brooklyn stand-up comedian who accidentally gets pregnant, and then decides to abort. Slate and director Gillian Robespierre deserve kudos for pulling off difficult subject matter while keeping tonal consistency. (Beth Hanna review.)
  • While Desiree Akhavan, writer-director-star of NEXT entry "Appropriate Behavior" will draw inevitable comparisons to “Girls” -- the Brooklyn setting, the unapologetic portrayal of sexual encounters, a narcissistic lead who resolutely flails around in life -- “Appropriate Behavior” has an impressively subdued quality all its own, and is unique in exploring a coming-out tale told from the Iranian-American perspective. (Beth Hanna review here.)


  • "Ida." This stunning work by Pawel Pawlikowski may not have premiered at Sundance, but it was the best of the fest. Shot elegantly in black-and-white and 4:3 aspect ratio, it follows a young nun (newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska) in late 1950s Poland who, before taking her vows, visits her estranged, alcoholic aunt (Agata Kulesza) to uncover what fate befell her Jewish parents, now dead.
  • Ritesh Batra’s Sony Pictures Classics pick-up "The Lunchbox" is a warm Mumbai romance starring Irrfan Khan that cut a swath on the festival circuit from Cannes to Telluride and Toronto.
  • In Jim Jarmusch's authoritative Cannes entry "Only Lovers Left Alive," Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are well-matched vampire lovers. They are at first separated in equally exotic locations--Tangiers and Detroit, respectively--which Jarmusch hungrily exploits. Simultaneously weary and romantic, this movie marks his best work in years.


Elisabeth Moss and Jason Schwartzman in Alex Ross Perry's "Listen Up Philip"
  • John Slattery, who's directed some of the stronger episodes of "Mad Men," misfires woefully with God's Pocket, his unfunny, casually sexist and tonally floundering comedy about the aftermath of a construction-site murder cover-up.
  • "Camp X-Ray" is a journey to dullsville. While "Twilight" star Kristen Stewart is a capable actress, she plays a lonely and callow young soldier assigned to Guantanamo Bay who responds to an articulate detainee desperate to make a human connection. Unfortunately, endless pacing and talking through a prison window imprisons the audience as well as the film's protagonists. 

Anne Thompson's Sundance Top Ten (new films only)

  • 1. "Last Days in Vietnam" 
  • 2. "Life Itself"
  • 3. "I, Origins"
  • 4. "Boyhood"
  • 5. "Finding Fela"
  • 6. "Love is Strange"
  • 7. "Whiplash" 
  • 8. "Land Ho"
  • 9. "Laggies"
  • 10. "Dear White People" 

Beth Hanna's Sundance Top Ten:

  • 1. “Ida" 
  • 2. “Kumiko the Treasure Hunter" 
  • 3. “White Bird in a Blizzard" 
  • 4. “Happy Christmas" 
  • 5. “Obvious Child" 
  • 6. “Listen Up Philip"
  • 7. “CAPTIVATED: The Trials of Pamela Smart" 
  • 8. “The Better Angels" 
  • 9. “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night" 
  • 10. “The One I Love" 


  • Janet | January 28, 2014 2:09 PMReply

    I loved Happy Christmas (that kid is adorable) and Camp Xray. The latter does have some pacing issues that can be easily fixed but I thought Kristen Stewart and Peyman Moaddi were amazing.

    Whiplash was enjoyable but a little overrated in my opinion. Laggies was good but

  • sandy | January 25, 2014 8:44 PMReply

    The Battered Bastards of Baseball was so much fun and interesting too. What a story.

  • LP | January 24, 2014 10:32 PMReply

    It's "Watchers of the Sky" not "Watching the Sky."

  • Taylor Allen | January 24, 2014 7:31 PMReply

    Did either of you see Hellion at Sundance?

    I thought the star of that film Josh Wiggins deserves to be listed amongst talent breakouts. Amazing performance beyond his years.

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