Keith Simanton's 25 Most Anticipated Films of Sundance, 2018

by keithsim | last updated - 5 months ago

I've been fortunate enough to have been attending Sundance since 2001. I have to say this might be the best sight-unseen lineup that the talented festival programmers have ever put together. There are numerous films that were nearly on this long list, the bench is so deep. Lynne Ramsey/Joaquin Phoenix's "You Were Never Really Here" isn't here because I saw it in Cannes. I'll be interested to see if the edit has changed since then though. Also, my apologies to first-time directors for including mostly known contributors here. I hope to discover your films in Park City too.

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1. Leave No Trace (2018)

PG | 109 min | Drama

7.1
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
84 Metascore

A father and his thirteen year-old daughter are living in an ideal existence in a vast urban park in Portland, Oregon, when a small mistake derails their lives forever.

Director: Debra Granik | Stars: Thomasin McKenzie, Ben Foster, Jeffery Rifflard, Michael Draper

Votes: 255

Deb Granik came to Sundance in 2010 with "Winter's Bone," directing Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes to Oscar nominations. Can she do the same for another favorite actor of mine, the sublime Ben Foster?

2. Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot (2018)

R | 113 min | Biography, Comedy, Drama

6.8
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70 Metascore

On the rocky path to sobriety after a life-changing accident, John Callahan discovers the healing power of art, willing his injured hands into drawing hilarious, often controversial cartoons, which bring him a new lease on life.

Director: Gus Van Sant | Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Jack Black

Votes: 763

Even if it's wasn't Amazon Studios (which it is) I'd be wanting to see this film by Gus van Sant and a talented troupe of actors as they tackle numerous tough subjects. Based on a true story.

3. A Futile and Stupid Gesture (2018)

TV-MA | 101 min | Biography, Comedy

6.8
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55 Metascore

In the 1970s and '80s, National Lampoon's success and influence creates a new media empire overseen in part by the brilliant and troubled Douglas Kenney.

Director: David Wain | Stars: Frank Gingerich, Morgan Gingerich, Annette O'Toole, Harry Groener

Votes: 7,923

As a person who used to buy National Lampoon and who laughed as hard as I've ever laughed reading it I'm very excited to see this talent-studded film. (The "Futile" poster, btw, is a takeoff of an infamous Lampoon cover where a dog had a pistol leveled at its head alongside the headline, "If You Don't Buy This Magazine We'll Kill This Dog.") I also loved the under-rated "They Came Together," the best thing that director David Wain has done so far. Forte in a serious turn is always worth watching.

4. Damsel (I) (2018)

R | 113 min | Comedy, Drama, Western

5.6
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64 Metascore

It's the Wild West, circa 1870. Samuel Alabaster, an affluent pioneer, ventures across the American frontier to marry the love of his life, Penelope. As his group traverses the west, the once-simple journey grows treacherous, blurring the lines between hero, villain and damsel.

Directors: David Zellner, Nathan Zellner | Stars: Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, David Zellner, Nathan Zellner

Votes: 321

You should be interested in this film for many reasons. Brothers David and Nathan Zellner were last in Park City with "Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter." Or you could be a sucker for the Western genre, as I so hopelessly am. Or you could think that Robert Pattinson was brilliant in "The Rover" and "Good Time" or that you're hoping that Mia Wasikowska finally has the role that suits her best. Lots of reasons.

5. Juliet, Naked (2018)

105 min | Comedy, Drama, Music

6.0
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55 Metascore

Juliet, Naked is the story of Annie, the long-suffering girlfriend of Duncan, and her unlikely transatlantic romance with once revered, now faded, singer-songwriter, Tucker Crowe, who also happens to be the subject of Duncan's musical obsession.

Director: Jesse Peretz | Stars: Ethan Hawke, Rose Byrne, Chris O'Dowd, Megan Dodds

Votes: 121

Great actors swarm to great parts and here you have Rose Byrne, Chris O’ Dowd, and Ethan Hawke, so that's good. Jesse Peretz showed promise with "My Idiot Brother." Perhaps his adaptation of this Nick Hornby novel (always a good starting point) will prove to be a success.

6. Ophelia (I) (2018)

PG-13 | 114 min | Drama, Romance

5.9
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65 Metascore

A re-imagining of Hamlet, told from Ophelia's perspective.

Director: Claire McCarthy | Stars: Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, Clive Owen, Tom Felton

Votes: 192

As a big fan of the Danish play and the guy who wrote it I'm intrigued to see how Shakespearean this is or if they're just going to leave the text behind. And it's got that Ridley person also. And Tom Felton as her brother Laertes and he's been very good in many things that weren't Harry Potter

7. Hal (2018)

90 min | Documentary

7.7
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Hal Ashby's obsessive genius led to an unprecedented string of Oscar®-winning classics, including Harold and Maude, Shampoo and Being There. But as contemporaries Coppola, Scorsese and ... See full summary »

Director: Amy Scott | Stars: Allison Anders, Judd Apatow, Rosanna Arquette, Hal Ashby

Votes: 28

As a person who has a hallowed "Hal Ashby" section of his DVD collection I'm not missing this for the world.

8. The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018)

Not Rated | 90 min | Drama, Romance

6.9
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76 Metascore

In 1993, a teenage girl is forced into a gay conversion therapy center by her conservative guardians.

Director: Desiree Akhavan | Stars: Chloë Grace Moretz, Quinn Shephard, Jennifer Ehle, Sasha Lane

Votes: 699

As much as I think the Chloe Grace Moretz is a classy, talented actress I'm extremely excited to see the next performance by Sasha Lane. Lane was the stunning lead in "American Honey" and she brings a vitality to the screen that is hard to match.

9. Lizzie (2018)

R | 105 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

6.7
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60 Metascore

A psychological thriller based on the infamous 1892 murders of the Borden family.

Director: Craig William Macneill | Stars: Kristen Stewart, Chloë Sevigny, Kim Dickens, Fiona Shaw

Votes: 131

I've been fascinated with the Lizzie Borden case since I saw Elizabeth Montgomery play her in a 1975 TV movie. Sevigny is a smart actor and it sounds like a project she's been pursuing for years.

10. American Animals (2018)

R | 116 min | Crime, Drama

7.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
66 Metascore

Four young men mistake their lives for a movie and attempt one of the most audacious heists in U.S. history.

Director: Bart Layton | Stars: Ann Dowd, Evan Peters, Blake Jenner, Barry Keoghan

Votes: 1,315 | Gross: $0.89M

I love all these leads, particularly Evan Peters, who was amazing as Quicksilver in the X-Men movie ("Days of Future Past"? I get confused) and terrifying and horrific in "American Horror Story."

11. I Think We're Alone Now (2018)

R | 93 min | Drama, Sci-Fi

6.3
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52 Metascore

The apocalypse proves a blessing in disguise for one lucky recluse -- until a second survivor arrives with the threat of companionship.

Director: Reed Morano | Stars: Peter Dinklage, Elle Fanning, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Paul Giamatti

Votes: 108

I like post-apocalyptic films. I like Dinklage though the jury is still out with me on Fanning. Director Reed Morano, usually a cinematographer, promises us great setups of this intriguing pairing of stars.

12. Beirut (2018)

R | 109 min | Drama, Thriller

6.5
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69 Metascore

Caught in the crossfires of civil war, CIA operatives must send a former U.S. diplomat to negotiate for the life of a friend he left behind.

Director: Brad Anderson | Stars: Rosamund Pike, Jon Hamm, Mark Pellegrino, Dean Norris

Votes: 3,507 | Gross: $5.02M

Brad Anderson has made a number of films very unlike each other from the creepy, still "The Machinist" to the downright terrifying "Session 9" to the thriller "Transsiberian." Interested to see what he does with what sounds like solid genre territory.

13. The Catcher Was a Spy (2018)

R | 98 min | Biography, Drama, War

6.3
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49 Metascore

A major league baseball player, Moe Berg, lives a double life working for the Office of Strategic Services.

Director: Ben Lewin | Stars: Paul Rudd, Connie Nielsen, Mark Strong, Sienna Miller

Votes: 157

Director Ben Lewin made the deeply affecting "The Sessions" and has a way with getting the best from intriguing actors. Very excited to see what he gets from a serious Paul Rudd.

14. Private Life (2018)

127 min | Drama

6.7
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81 Metascore

An author (Hahn) is undergoing multiple fertility therapies to get pregnant, putting her relationship with her husband (Giamatti) on edge.

Director: Tamara Jenkins | Stars: Paul Giamatti, Kathryn Hahn, Molly Shannon, Siobhan Fallon Hogan

Votes: 52

If you told me Kathryn Hahn was starring in a spoken-word, tone-poem, stream of consciousness one-person play in the Playplace sitting area of the McDonalds down by the Interstate I'd go. Here she's directed by Tamara Jenkins (“Slums of Beverly Hills,” “The Savages”) + a Paul Giamatti bonus

15. Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

PG-13 | 94 min | Documentary, Biography

8.7
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85 Metascore

An exploration of the life, lessons, and legacy of iconic children's television host, Fred Rogers.

Director: Morgan Neville | Stars: Joanne Rogers, Betty Aberlin, McColm Cephas Jr., François Scarborough Clemmons

Votes: 1,201 | Gross: $2.26M

You outgrew him before you hit pre-school but no one can ever forget this kindly gentleman and I'm fascinated to find out what made him tick.

16. Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind (2018)

116 min | Documentary

8.7
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77 Metascore

An intimate look into the life and work of the late comedian, Robin Williams.

Director: Marina Zenovich | Stars: Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Pam Dawber, Eric Idle

Votes: 18

I had the good fortune to see Robin Williams in person twice at Sundance. Once when he turned a Q&A into a one-man show after the Eccles screening of "One Hour Photo" and again later that same week when he burst out of the Egyptian Theater in antic/manic flourishes into snowy Main Street before hopping in his ride. Seems fitting to catch this doc.

17. Mandy (I) (2018)

Not Rated | 121 min | Action, Thriller

7.8
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82 Metascore

Mandy is set in the primal wilderness of 1983 where Red Miller, a broken and haunted man hunts an unhinged religious sect who slaughtered the love of his life.

Director: Panos Cosmatos | Stars: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Bill Duke

Votes: 445

That photo.

18. Burden (2018)

129 min | Drama

6.7
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63 Metascore

Klu Klux Klansman Mike Burden opens the Redneck Shop and KKK museum in historic Laurens, SC. He subsequently falls in love with a single mom, and, under her influence, quits the Klan and is taken in by an African American Reverend.

Director: Andrew Heckler | Stars: Garrett Hedlund, Andrea Riseborough, Forest Whitaker, Tom Wilkinson

Votes: 144

Will this finally, FINALLY??? be the film that gets Garrett Hedlund in the hearts and minds of the general public? Gawd I hope so.

19. Eighth Grade (2018)

94 min | Comedy

7.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
84 Metascore

A teenager tries to survive the last week of her disastrous eighth-grade year before leaving to start high school.

Director: Bo Burnham | Stars: Josh Hamilton, Elsie Fisher, Daniel Zolghadri, Emily Robinson

Votes: 465

Director Bo Burnham is the droll, super-successful comic in "The Big Sick" and a funny stand-up in his own right. Will Sundance lightning strike twice for him?

20. Come Sunday (2018)

TV-14 | 106 min | Drama

5.9
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65 Metascore

Evangelist Carlton Pearson is ostracized by his church for preaching that there is no Hell.

Director: Joshua Marston | Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Gerard Catus, Allie McCulloch, Lakeith Stanfield

Votes: 1,045

Oooh, great cast but I've been mostly cold on director Joshua Marston. It's also a subject that could tend to be a one-sided polemic, and that leaves me as cold as a Park City Metro bus ski rack.

21. The Last Race (2018)

75 min | Documentary, Sport

9.0
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THE LAST RACE is the portrait of a small-town stock car racetrack and the tribe of blue-collar drivers that call it home, struggling to hold onto an American racing tradition as the world ... See full summary »

Director: Michael Dweck | Stars: Marty Berger, Mike Cappiello, Barbara Cromarty, Jim Cromarty

Votes: 23

A fascinating theme, fascinating characters and the end of an era. Sounds like a compelling doc. that's closer to home and reality for most of us.

22. Three Identical Strangers (2018)

PG-13 | 96 min | Documentary

7.6
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76 Metascore

New York, 1980: three complete strangers accidentally discover that they are identical triplets, separated at birth. The 19-year-olds' joyous reunion catapults them to international fame, ... See full summary »

Director: Tim Wardle | Stars: Silvi Alzetta-Reali, Eddy Galland, Ron Guttman, David Kellman

Votes: 141

Publicity materials are known for hyperbole but rarely is the word "jaw-dropping" used (they have some shame). It's used here.

23. Tyrel (2018)

86 min | Comedy, Drama

5.8
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Tyrel, a sole black man, attends an otherwise all-white weekend of drunken bro debauchery on a birthday trip to a cabin in the Catskills.

Director: Sebastián Silva | Stars: Christopher Abbott, Trust Arancio, Nicolas Arze, Max Born

Votes: 85

I love a good horror movie and this sounds like a good horror movie.

24. Never Goin' Back (2018)

R | 85 min | Drama

6.7
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Jessie and Angela, high school dropouts, are taking a week off to chill at the beach. Too bad their house got robbed, rent's due, they're about to get fired, and they're broke.

Director: Augustine Frizzell | Stars: Maia Mitchell, Camila Morrone, Kyle Mooney, Aristotle Abraham II

Votes: 95

Great buzz on this one and I'm certain to try to see it. It has that American Honey feel to it.

25. Blaze (2018)

127 min | Biography, Drama, Music

7.3
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77 Metascore

The life of musician Blaze Foley.

Director: Ethan Hawke | Stars: Charles Adams, Edgar Arreola, Charles Barber, Brett Beoubay

Votes: 96

Ethan Hawke, by most old accounts, was an ego-engorged young actor. Having had the privilege to have met him and dealt with him on many occasions in the last few years my experience has been that he's a serious, hard-working artist committed to the vision at hand, be that a play, a film, or music. Hawke's also one who is the first to be self-deprecating. How that applies to direction will be fascinating to see. Plus, I thought "Chelsea Walls" (his first feature) showed promise.