The Only News From Sundance 2017 That Actually Matters

Jan 27, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. ET
Image: WikiMedia

As the 2017 Sundance Film Festival draws to a close this weekend in Park City, Utah, movie fans around the world are gossiping about the biggest movies, the biggest stars and the biggest price tags at the event. Don’t worry: We’ve got the top tidbits of news that you need.

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Image: Netflix

On-demand companies like Amazon and Netflix threw their weight around like never before

Amazon and Netflix were even bigger presences at the film festival than last year, both when it came to making and buying standouts. Netflix notably produced Casting JonBenet, a creative hybrid film about the famous unsolved murder, and I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, a dark but comedic drama about a woman (Melanie Lynskey) who tries to solve the burglary of her home with the help of her slightly weird neighbor (Elijah Wood).

Film writer Molly Laich of the Missoula Independent and Vanguard Seattle told us that film executives in Park City were whispering about how much money these companies had to throw around. Sundance founder Robert Redford mentioned during the opening press conference that the trend was a good thing for film; Netflix and studios like it are producing stories that might not otherwise get seen.

A Ghost Movie promo
Image: Sailor Bear

A Ghost Story is frighteningly good

Written and directed by David Lowery, A Ghost Story starsCasey Affleck and Rooney Mara. The movie, in which Affleck’s stereotypically sheeted apparition haunts the home of his grieving wife, was one of the biggest films of the festival, though some bemoaned the slow scenes (including one in which a very sad Mara eats a pie for an almost interminable five minutes, unedited) and though Affleck is currently being haunted — in real life — by past claims of sexual harassment.

Image: Sundance Institute

A cyber attack and some snow slowed things down but didn’t cause any dropped curtains

There have been a few blips as the festival rolls to its conclusion on Sunday. On Saturday, just as Chelsea Handler led a Women’s March in Park City, a cyber attack shut down the festival’s box office for about 40 minutes, though none of the screenings were affected. Authorities still aren’t sure what happened or why.

Festivalgoers were also slowed down by snow, chilly weather and related power outages, which we suppose should be expected in a mountain town in January. A few premieres had to be rescheduled, but the show went on.

Image: Frensy Film Company

Sexy Call Me by Your Name had reviewers hot but not bothered

How can one possibly warm up during a snowstorm? Sundance audiences flooded in to see Call Me by Your Name, a red-hot gay Italian romance directed by Luca Guadagnino. Moviegoers described the movie as a sentimental, sensory-heavy coming of age story that dips viewers into the warm, bright deliciousness of Italian summer (and summer flings). Add a couple of original songs by soothing indie rocker Sufjan Stevens, and we are getting in line right now.

Image: Oculus Story Studio

The virtual reality field continued to blossom and grow in weird ways

Sundance’s experimental New Frontier show has been growing steadily in the past few years as more and more filmmakers are exploring the many possibilities offered by virtual reality cameras and equipment. Not only was the New Frontier setup more prepared for the crowds this year, but the fare was even more diverse and exciting.

Dear Angelica won Best Cinematic Virtual Reality Feature, which was illustrated literally in the virtual reality environment by Wesley Allsbrook and which tells the story of a daughter remembering her mother. Runner-up Miyubi tells the story of an '80s family from the point of view of a toy robot. The 40-minute comedy was created by noted virtual reality studio Felix & Paul and co-written by the jokesters at Funny or Die.

Image: FilmNation Entertainment

The Big Sick explores tough race issues through love and laughs

Husband-and-wife comedy royalty Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon wrote a comedy based on their own relationship that follows the story of a Muslim Pakistani-American man trying to gain acceptance from his white partner’s family. The cross-cultural love story is a rom-com with a head, a heart and a funny bone.

The movie tugged heartstrings and purse strings, with Amazon winning a bidding war for the rights to The Big Sick at a cool $12 million, the highest sale at the festival.

Image: Brainfeeder Films

Flying Lotus’ Kuso Had Some Audience Members Looking for the Exit

First-time director and DJ Flying Lotus produced an epic gross-out flick that had audience members on their feet — and walking out the door. The puzzling film included images like these: 

  • An erect penis being stabbed by a steel rod
  • A boil-covered woman choking someone sexually
  • A woman chewing concrete until her teeth broke
  • A fetus being pulled out of a woman’s womb by an alien

We’ll stop there before you walk out of this article.

Image: AMBI Group

To the Bone presents a powerful look into anorexia and sells to Netflix

Another standout film was To the Bone, a woman-powered movie produced by Julie Lynn, Bonnie Curtis, Karina Miller, Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi and written and directed by Marti Noxon. The story follows an anorexic young adult (Lily Collins) looking for help and her doctor (Keanu Reeves), who tries to provide it. Netflix was so taken by the movie that it put down $8 million for the rights.

Before you go, check out our slideshow below.

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Image: Netflix

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