Each year after the slate is announced McVay and Cooper e-mail back and forth discussing the lineup and what movies excite, surprise or confuse them. Here are some highlights of their e-mail exchange for a very unconventional preview of this year’s Sundance.
Dec 27 12:15 CST
It’s that time of the year! Not sure I have been as excited for as many movies as this year.
But, I’m thinking the movie I might be most excited about is Beirut.
Gone Girl meets Bourne Identity with Don Draper in the Middle East.
SIGN ME UP!
Beirut is my definite number one. Sorry this isn’t a documentary about one of your favorite moody bands, but this looks like an incredibly promising film. Directed by Brad Anderson, who is hopefully regaining his The Machinist form and not so much the Halle Berry The Call directing prowess. But the thing that makes me the most excited about this movie is Jon Hamm and Rosamund Pike working with the screenwriter Tony Gilroy. Gilroy has written many an intense action film ranging from Rogue One, Michael Clayton and four of the Jason Bourne films. In a festival filled with drama, drama and more serious drama, it will be great to have an edge of your seat action thriller here!
Dec 29 22:30 TTZ
I’m going to let that reference to one of the greatest bands to ever rock a flugelhorn slide. This team of Anderson and Gilroy seems like a match made in heaven and I completely trust your instincts on this one. I hope that you’re right in calling it an edge of your seat action thriller, since I’ll need one or two films like that to break up the thick lineup of heavy hitting dramas that are usually so densely programmed every year.
As you well know, the first thing I do when I see the annual Sundance lineup is scroll directly down to the Midnight category. It’s been a category that has been full of disappointment in the last few years, but for the first time in lord knows how long, I’m finally excited about Park City at Midnight!
Now the two movies I’m most pumped about are two that I’m sure I’m going to have to fight to convince you to see.
The first one being the Nicholas Cage film Mandy.
Now I know it’s easy to hate on him, but don’t forget for one second that this is the guy that made arguably one of the best romantic comedies of all time with Moonstruck. The synopsis for Mandy (a haunted man hunts a religious sect who slaughtered his wife) makes it seem like he might be looking to repeat his Wicker Man outing.. but please don’t let that discourage you!
I’m also going to have to recommend that we find a way to make it to the premiere of the film adaptation of Ryu Murakami’s Piercing. Now I know the press release byline for the film made it seem like this movie could go either way, so I’ll give you a sample of the novel synopsis that I lifted from Wikipedia:
“Piercing is set in Tokyo and follows Kawashima Masayuki trying to come to terms with his overwhelming desire to stab his infant child with an ice pick.”
Oh and it’s got Mia Wasikowska. Enough said.
Dec 30 10:42 CTZ
“Nic Cage might be looking to repeat his Wicker Man outing”
This is a good thing?!
Why would you ever want to repeat that. If by repeating his Wicker Man outing you mean he has been acting in a way that straddles the line between incoherence and delusion then every movie he has done since has duplicated the Wicker Man outing. So yeah. That’s going to be a tough sell.
But I’m so very much sold on that description of Piercing.
But let’s get back to taking about movies that might actually be good!
Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan might be my favorite indie couple of all time. Both are brilliant actors and fascinating people. Kazan has penned and directed her own film Ruby Sparks which starred Dano. And now Dano is directing his first film which he wrote with Kazan called Wildlife.
The leads of Wildlife will be a power force with Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan playing a couple facing marital problems which have a deep impact on their son after they move to Montana. A very Sundance-y plot. But it’s certain to make me feel things and the writing should be higher level thanks to those two brilliant minds.
You are rolling your eyes right now, aren’t you?
Dec 31 19:08 TTZ
Wildlife does not sound like something I would enjoy at all… but as I have said before, I trust your better judgement (and for the record I did roll my eyes).
The hardest thing about picking films out of this lineup announcement is that the descriptions are so vague that it’s almost impossible to know if you’ve made a good decision until it’s too late.
I sometimes have some horrible film instincts, but this film I Think We’re Alone Now seems to hit me in all the right ways. I’m not sure if I’m misinterpreting the synopsis or not, but it pretty much sounds like a steamy version of 10 Cloverfield Lane, but instead of John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, it’s Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning… is that enough to whet your appetite?
If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea then I think a good case could also be made for this film Blaze. It’s the story of forgotten outlaw country legend Blaze Foley. It stars Ethan Hawk in the lead role and features the likes of Steve Zahn and Sam Rockwell in supporting roles. I mean come on! STEVE ZAHN!? The dude is due for a comeback! I’m not sure if it’s going to be a full-on musical or not, but it seems like it’s essentially the Sundance version of the film Pure Country. Its probably also the best indie-country film we’re going to get until I convince you to come co-write a Townes Van Zandt biopic with me.
Jan 2 16:13 CTZ
If I haven’t said it enough, I’ll say it again! Saving Silverman is a national treasure that has never reached its due credit.
So yes, give me all of the Steve Zahn! Also kudos to the Pure Country reference, if George Strait has anything to do with Blaze I might be a little more interested. And if Peter Dinklage is in anything I am all for it.
You know what I love Ty? Movies about Oakland. So I say we see every movie at Sundance that takes place in that California city.
I am blown away you haven’t mentioned Sorry to Bother You as one of your most anticipated films. A movie written and directed by a hugely influential underground hip-hop and funk pioneer… Why aren’t you already waiting in line for this Ty?
Boots Riley, the founder of the political hip-hop group The Coup is making his first film with a cast that is filled with every single one of my favorite up and coming actors. Lakeith Stanfield (Short Term 12, Get Out, Crown Heights) Tessa Thompson (Dear White People, Thor: Ragnarok) and Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name, Social Network). And here’s its vague synopsis-
“In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, black telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success – which propels him into a macabre universe.”
Alternate universes? The use of macabre in a description… this is my kind of Sundance movie!
Also, I have decided the movie we are seeing first. Blindspotting. Why you ask? Because it combines my two favorite things in the entire world. Hamilton and Buddy Comedies! Daveed Diggs who won a Tony for the musical Hamilton co-wrote this movie with his best friend who stars alongside him, Rafael Casal. The film chronicles their real life experience as movers growing up in Oakland during “rampant gentrification.”
No way we are missing a movie that might actually make us laugh in Sundance.
Jan 3 21:18 TTZ
It’s funny you mentioned Sorry to Bother You as it was next on my films to recommend to you! Great minds think alike I guess… I’m not so sure that I share your affinity for the city of Oakland, but I’ll take any chance to escape the droll, heart stabbing dramas that seem to plague every Sundance lineup.
Since we’re on the subject of comedies, I think it only best that I mention the new Jim Hosking film An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn. I’m not sure if you ever had a chance sit through his last film Greasy Strangler but if that film is any indication of what to expect here, we are in for a wild romp through the mad house that is Hosking’s mind. The film stars one of your favorite Sundance regulars (Aubrey Plaza), and also has supporting roles by Emile Hirsche and Jermaine Clement.
I am also completely amazed that you haven’t mention Yardie to me yet. The film marks the directing debut of the man whom everyone agrees should be playing 007 (Idris Elba). If that’s not enough… it’s also mafia film!
Jan 4 18:49 CST
Oh Idris! I’m sure that will be great! It’s really hard for me to get excited about the next movie from Greasy Strangler dude, but having my favorite Flight of the Conchord and Miss April Ludgate is probably the right way to do it.
So I am going to wrap up with my last two movies I am really interested in. The first one is a documentary about Imagine Dragons.
There’s a doc about America’s number one BRO band at Sundance?
But it actually has a shot at being one of the most interesting, poignant films this year. Lead singer Dan Reynolds is from Utah and a devout Mormon. The documentary follows him as he confronts the church’s stance on the LGBTQ community and its rising suicide rate. Uh oh! If I love this documentary will it make me love their music? I am worried.
And finally I can’t even begin to tell you how I excited I am for the movie with the best cast of the entire festival.
Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Jonah Hill, umm Jack Black.
In a movie directed by Gus Van Sant.
Tickets already bought!
Does it even matter what this movie is about? Of course not.
And guess what the title has eight words in the title! It’s going to be amazing!
Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot will probably be the most excited I am for anything! And yes you will be with me!
Jan 5 13:55 TTZ
I’m not a huge fan of Mr. Van Sant’s work, but that top heavy cast makes it a must see for me!
With our schedules getting more and more concrete by the minute, I’m not sure I’ll have enough time to pore over this list much more. With that in mind, let me leave you with my final suggestion:
The Happy Prince.
I’m going to try and give you my best elevator pitch… ready?
Colin First stars as Oscar Wilde with a script written and directed by Rupert Everett.
I could elaborate further, but I’m convinced that almost anyone can gauge their interest in this film just by looking at my wonderfully concise description.
I’m also going to cheat and give an Honorable Mention to this film Search. I can’t remember ever hearing of a film winning the Alfred P. Sloan Prize for use of Science in a film over a month before the festival even starts, so there must be something worth watching here. I’m not sure either of us will enjoy this film very much, but I figured it was still something worth mentioning. If we do end up seeing it, let’s at least make sure it’s not a 9:00 am screening.
See you in a few weeks bud!