MOST TERRIFYING FILM: Robert Eggers’s The Witch
Robert Eggers’ debut film The Witch was by far the scariest film at this year’s Sundance. Set in 1630, the story is about a New England family filled with five children whose newborn mysteriously disappears amidst the legend of a witch existing not too far from home. Eggers won the U.S. Dramatic Directing award for the time-period piece that will have you on the edge of your seat. You will never look at a goat the same way ever again.
MOST UNDERRATED PERFORMANCE: Cynthia Nixon in Josh Mond’s James White
Winner of the Audience Award for the NEXT film category, Josh Mond’s James White featured a knock-out and critically acclaimed performance from former Girls star Christopher Abbott playing a young troubled New Yorker whose mother is dying of cancer (Cynthia Nixon). Cynthia Nixon’s performance is heart-wrenching, emotionally adept, and sensitively portrayed. The onscreen chemistry between Abbott and Nixon succeeds on many levels and you’ll find yourself grabbing the box of Kleenex by the time the credits start rolling.
HOTTEST LOVE INTEREST: Emory Cohen in Brooklyn
Emory Cohen, playing opposite Saoirse Ronan, takes on the role of Italian love interest to an Irish immigrant arriving in New York City against the backdrop of early 1950s. Written by Nick Hornby and directed by John Crowley (Boy A.), Brooklyn’s exploration of young love and family in times of change is effectively engaging. Emory Cohen will capture your heart and you’ll be begging to see more of him in films. That smile…That laugh…He’s simply irresistible.
MOST EXPLICIT SEX SCENE: The Bronze
This year’s most talked about sex scene was the acrobatic and unexpected moment between Big Bang Theory’s Melissa Rauch, who used a body double and was quoted saying, “My body never looked better thanks to her,” and co-star Sebastian Stan (Captain America: The First Avenger). While the film was met with terrible reviews, people just couldn’t stop talking about the sex scene that involved pole vaults and cartwheels. It’s a film that will probably only be remembered just for this wacky sex scene. At least it got people talking…
BEST USE OF VISUAL EFFECTS FOR A DOCUMENTARY: Rodney Ascher’s The Nightmare
Rodney Ascher, whose last film, Room 237, about The Shining theorists dissecting meanings and symbols, was met with great reviews at Sundance in 2012. This time around, his latest documentary, The Nightmare, explores sleep paralysis and peoples’ lives affected by it. The film’s set-up plays like a horror film due to its use of strong visual effects, featuring horrific images, as described the film’s subjects, including shadow men, static alien men, red-eyed cats taunting those who sleep, and gliding blobs that hover over beds.
MOST WACKY (AND UNEXPECTED): Patrick Brice’s The Overnight
Patrick Brice’s The Overnight is so wacky, unexpected, and downright hilarious. Thanks to the ensemble cast and a clever script, The Overnight takes you on a tour-de-force of contemporary marriage and revamps the adult sex comedy. Critics have compared The Overnight to the 1969 film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, which makes sense, considering the set-up, but what really sets The Overnight from recent comedies is its undeniable twists and turns that will have you crying with tears. It’s a Sundance miracle and one that features prosthetic penises.
BEST SHIT IN YOUR PANTS MOMENT: Rick Famuyiwa’s Dope
This year’s Sundance feel-good movie was Rick Famuyiwa’s debut Dope. Written by Famuyiwa, the film encapsulates many modern-day sensations including Coachella, Bitcoins, Vine, YouTube, and, yes, ecstasy (in a wonderful sequence fueled by dubstep). The story is about a young boy growing up in a tough neighborhood (known as the Bottoms) in Inglewood, California with goals of attending Harvard. When a drug deal goes awry, he’s caught in the crossfire with his two best friends. One particular scene of the film features the most hilarious public defecation you’ve seen since Bridesmaids. I won’t give anything else away. The twists and turns of Dope are very clever and seamlessly calculated.
MOST DRAINING EXPERIENCE: Adam Salky’s I Smile Back
Comedian Sarah Silverman took a strong risk with acting in this year’s I Smile Back, a film depicting a lost wife and mother of two children whose self-destructive behavior begins to ruin her life. Watching Silverman’s performance is definitely riveting but what makes the film so draining is the script. I could compare it to a documentary about a flower not being watered (guess what happens) but that would completely overlook Silverman’s raw performance, which will most definitely shock and make you cringe. I Smile Back is the most draining experience and not in a good way. I hope Silverman tackles another film for next year’s Sundance (and one that’s not so bleak). She really went there for this movie.
BIGGEST TEAR JERKER: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
The winner of the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize was Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, a film about two high school filmmakers who befriend a girl at school that’s been diagnosed with leukemia. While the film’s been compared to Fault in Our Stars, what really works for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is its inspired characters, who make films like The 400 Bros, A Sockwork Orange, and The Rad Shoes, and uplifting humor. Molly Shannon, specifically, as the mother of the dying girl, the rising star Olivia Cooke, is hysterical. I don’t really have to let you guys know why this one is the biggest tear-jerker. Just see it for yourself.
THE JENNIFER LAWRENCE IN WINTER’S BONE MOMENT AT SUNDANCE: Olivia Cooke in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Olivia Cooke will become a household name. We all know that after this year’s Sundance craze for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. So, keep a look out for Olivia Cooke and just wait until you see her terrific performance in this year’s winner. If you haven’t checked out Bates Motel (on A&E), check that out. You’ll get a glimpse of what this young, rising actress has going for her.