IMO: The Best Sundance Movies of 2017 Go To…

With over twenty tickets to Sundance this year, Stark and I rented out a historic miners home for the full ten day experience.  I couldn’t imagine a spot to be more cozy and more complete for the snowed-in mountain experience we ended up having.

All adorable places to stay and good eats aside, let’s get down to the basics.

My top Sundance films of 2017:

  1. To The Bone

  2. ICARUS

  3. Manifesto

  4. Rebel in the Rye

  5. The Polka King

  6. Rememory

  7. Docuseries Showcase – Abstract & Hot Girls Wanted

  8. Time: The Kalief Browder Story

  9. Band Aid

  10. Ingrid Goes West

  11. RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked The World

  12. Killing Ground

  13. The Little Hours

  14. 78/52

  15. The New Radical

  16. Kuso

I have to admit, The New Radical and Kuso both don’t even belong on a list that implies “top” anything.  The only reason I included them was merely for the mental note of what movies we ended up seeing.

For kicks and giggles, here’s an explanation as to why my top five are what they are:

To The Bone

Four stars!  I don’t remember ever giving anything a full four star audience vote in the history of my 10 Sundance Festivals over the last 12 years.  That is, unless there was an audience vote for It Might Get Loud, because if that were the case, I don’t remember it because I was THAT stoked about that film.  To The Bone was a story that, on the surface, was about a young girl struggling with an eating disorder.  While this will be a film to spark many needed conversations on body image and eating disorders, the film as a whole goes much, much deeper than that.  To me, the message of Keanu Reeves (who plays the therapist and one of only two men in the entire movie, including all of those that made the movie as this movie was made by a team of all women) frankly telling the girl’s step mom that hitting rock bottom was necessary for survival hit me as one of the truest statements I could attach to my own life.  So, I could relate.  I don’t and have never seriously struggled with an eating disorder of any kind, but I could identify with every strand of how each character in this movie felt.  That! is what makes a great film.

ICARUS

Including documentary films with dramatic film stories is nearly impossible when trying to determine an order of what movie wins over another, but ICARUS stands as one of the greatest documentary films I have ever been to for one simple reason: it did a damn good job of making me know and understand that my life was completely in danger simply for having seen the film.  While many documentary films cover hard or risky subjects, this is the first time that a film was ever made so well that it really laid it all out there for you in letting you realize that suddenly you are deeply aware of a secret that multiple government organizations have worked hard to keep in the bag.  People have been murdered, detained, and long disappeared over what seems to be a no-big-deal subject, and now here you are sitting in an audience that only two days prior had KGB spies pulled from the theater, you’re suddenly very, very aware of your EXIT signs.

Manifesto

Easily one of the best art films I have ever seen.  The always amazing Cate Blanchett performs over fifteen different people and almost twice as many voices.  She plays a homeless man, a rude girl, a blue-collar worker doing nothing more than moving trash all day, a rich host, a curious scientist, and so much more. Through each of these story lines, she is reciting without one single mistake, a two hour long manifesto that sounds like a beat generation poem.  The movie is the new Howl; the new cry of a generation so lost, so tattered, and so annoyed by the buzzwords of “art” and “authenticity” that all these characters can do is scream, “BULL SHIT!”  This movie inspired me.  While art films can often wear on your patience and certain parts seemed longer than others, the entire concept inspired me.  And from this film alone, I started writing my own screenplay before Sundance was over.  The concept, the art direction, the acting, and the editing are worth studying!  They are fantastic.

Rebel In The Rye

I’m a sucker for films about writers, and this film is about a not-so-often talked about story despite the very beloved author, J.D. Salinger.  This story does what I wish so many stories would do – it takes a well known piece of history we can all relate to a point in our lives (such as reading Catcher In The Rye) and it paints an entire world around this single moment that expresses exactly how this one moment of your life, sitting in class reading a book silently, even became possible.  I am a big fan of J.D. Salinger.  So much of my writing style comes from having first been a poet rhyming long, short stories together to find my own, overbearing voice.  He changed the way writing and grammar could be.  He gave stories breath, pause, and necessary run on sentences.  This movie made me understand where I came from, although it had absolutely nothing to do with me.  And if you’re a fan of J.D. Salinger and Catcher In The Rye, I highly recommend you watch this inspiring film to really get all that J.D. had to go through in order to give the world this book.

Polka King

Polka King could’ve been better, and I have a feeling it will be better by the time it hits mainstream box offices (or Netflix).  This is a true story of a polka band leader, played by Jack Black.  In the movie, his best friend and band mate is played by Jason Schwartzman. I think that alone makes the movie worth seeing as you’re already guaranteed a good laugh.  But what makes this movie even better is the fact that it is true!  The core of the story is about how the Polka King of Pennsylvania raised over four million dollars in a Ponzi scheme – convincing his elderly fan base to invest in his band and other random businesses with a promised 12% return.  Can you imagine?  Probably not.  And that’s why I recommend this movie is number five in my top five.  I have no doubt it will be on your radar soon.

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