HeyUGuys will have its Sundance team back in the Mountains next week as Nathan McVay and Ty Cooper travel to Utah to discover the year’s best Independent films. The 2019 lineup is a little different to years past, but still has a deep crop of big names, films and choices.
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.
Nathan: Thursday, Dec 6, 15:24 CST
Well it’s incredibly cold outside, I am always freezing, and I have no more money left because I have spent it all on Christmas presents. You know what that means?
Yup! It’s Sundance Lineup season!
While I can never be disappointed by a Sundance lineup, this year definitely took me by surprise. Gone are the massive names and high profile directors that tend to sprinkle each year’s lineup and instead this year provides a swift presence of new blood, much diversity, and incredible room for discovery.
In the past few years we have been able to list off the biggest movie stars in Hollywood as leading the lineup. Last year saw Jake Gyllenhaal, Joaquin Phoenix, Nicholas Cage, Carey Mulligan, Jonah Hill, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley and more. This year you have to struggle to make a roster of A-list celebrities. The biggest ones I can see are Gyllenhaal again, Zac Efron, Viola Davis and a documentary about Dr. Ruth. I don’t see this as a bad thing at all. In fact, I believe this opens it up to where it all started, as a platform for discovery and a launching pad for the next generation of stars and filmmakers.
The biggest film on the lineup is probablyExtremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, The film is defined as a chronicle of the killings of serial killer Ted Bundy told from the perspective of his longtime girlfriend. Efron is an incredibly exciting, interesting choice to play Bundy and Lily Collins will serve as his wife who will seem to carry the weight of the film, (REFRESHING!) The subject matter here obviously should make for a fascinating film and the narrative meshes pretty well with the Sundance vibe. We know better than to expect movies about rainbows, butterflies, amazing human achievements and happiness. Instead we get handsome serial killers, a whole bunch of dead young women and the farthest thing from High School Musical you can find.
Ty: Mon, December 10, 23:58 TTZAlright, it took me about two weeks to do it, but I finally managed to drudge through the list of feature films for this year’s festival. I’ll be the first to admit that my initial glance of this lineup had me feeling nothing, if not a bit pessimistic. However, after all is said and done, I somehow ended up with a list of about thirty films that have piqued my interest.
This may not be the star-studded gala that we’ve seen in the past, but that doesn’t mean that the festival isn’t going to be full of young burgeoning talent.
As far as this Ted Bundy thing goes, I tend to be extremely hesitant about films like this. The subject of the film mixed with the grade-a lineup, makes me wonder if this isn’t some sort of cash grab aimed at romanticizing the horrible deeds of one of America’s most notorious serial killers. Also I can’t help but feeling the title is a little bit heavy-handed.
I was actually surprised you picked this film as the high-profile film of the festival, since I had initially pegged Luce for that slot. The film has a solid cast that features Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Tim Roth, and our favorite Sundance alumni, Kelvin Harrison Jr. This film, adapted from the play of the same name, seems to have a high-probability of blowing up big. It should definitely be on our radar.
I would also like to give a notable mention to The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind. The film is directed by the indomitably talented Chiwetel Ejiofor, and tells the story of William Kamkwamba, an teenager from an impoverished part of Africa who built a windmill from scrap in order to help his village. This film’s title makes it sound like some amazing never-produced Hiyao Miyazaki project, and the story itself makes me think this is going to be the kind of film that lifts us out of the heavy wave of depressing films that always threatens to drawn us by the midpoint of the festival. Did I mention that Ejiofor adapted the screenplay as well?
Wednesday, Dec 12 10:08 CST
Holy Chiwetel! The dude is one of the must underappreciated and underrated actors of the last decade plus, so maybe he can finally get his credit as a filmmaker.
But can I talk to you about what i think is going to be the best movie of the fest?
Did you like Nightcrawler Ty?
Would you like to see the same writer, director and cast get together again?
I know I do!
WELL Good news! Writer and Director Dan Gilroy is re-teaming with Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo for another thriller, but this one is set in the contemporary art world in Los Angeles. Look at this picture from the movie!
This is going to be good!!!
Wednesday, Dec 12 19:48 TTZ
I’m 100% with you on your prediction about Velvet Buzzsaw. The whole thing seems a little eerily reminiscent of the spellbinding 2013 classic “The Best Offer” by Giuseppe Tornatore (I highly recommend this film BTW), and until anybody proves me otherwise, I’m just going to assume it’s some sort of American spin off of the film. Either way, let’s do it!
It’s probably a little too early to start talking about which film is going to win the Alfred P. Sloan Award, but there is a good chance that it’s going to be the film I Am Mother, which is making its debut in the World Premiere category. It looks kind of like a re imagining of 10 Cloverfield Lane, except in this movie, John Goodman is replaced by an overbearing robot mother with secret plans for the future of the human race. I think that description speaks for itself. Also, this….
Saturday, December 15, 16:24 CST
You and Your Alfred P. Sloan predictions! A little trivia for you and the audience Ty… John Goodman and I went to the same college and have acted on the same stage. Humblebrag for sure! But, this movie sounds umm interesting…
Speaking of bizarre movies, nothing on the program is more confusing than the film The Sunlit Night. Here is the description:
Between New York City and the far north of Norway, an American painter and a Russian émigré find each other in the Arctic circle. Together under a sun that never sets, they discover a future and family that they didn’t know they had
Ok? So if you were casting this movie, a few names that would come to mind are serious drama leads like Colin Firth, Cate Blanchette, Benedict Cumberbatch or Kiera Knightley.
But guess who the two leads in this film are?
Zach Galifinakis and Jenny Slate.
Yeah, Seriously. Two of the funniest people in comedy, on stage and on film, in a movie with that description. I have no idea what to expect. But you know my love of Jenny, so you know i will be there.
December 17, 08:39 TTZ
As far as The Sunlit Night is concerned, you pretty much took the words right out of my mouth. That must mean that this is going to be the “Ty & Nathan Buddy Film of the Fest.” This was one of those films where I felt there was some sort of extreme disconnect between the synopsis and the casting list. I’m not sure how those two ended up starring in a Norwegian film with Gillian Anderson, but who cares!
As far as your fun piece of trivia goes, they must be doing something right at that school since they’ve produced two of my favorite people in the world (and no, I’m not talking about former Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brad Ziegler).
The next film on my list has to be The Sound of Silence. Though I would be perfectly fine if this were a film about Simon & Garfunkel, instead what we are presented with is a cinematic piece starring Peter Sarsgaard as a self proclaimed “house tuner”, which is essentially somebody who goes around fine tuning the acoustics of a house to help influence the moods of its residents.
There’s something incredibly quirky and enticing about this plot, and the fact that Rashida Jones is in the passenger seat also helps. Fun fact, the co-writer of this film Ben Nabors directed a film that you might have seen at SXSW a few years back called William and the Windmill. Now in case your memory recall is also in need of some “tuning”, that would be the same William Kamkwamba who is the subject of Chiwetel Ejiofor’s The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind! Am I good, or am I good?
December 24, 11:13 CST
NERD!!! Sorry! When you say things like that I wonder how we ever got so lucky or confident that people would want to read our e-mails. But, then again we write for a website that’s named after a quote from a monster in an 80’s children’s movie. We are right where we need to be!
You ready for this?
A child TV star and his ex-rodeo clown father face their stormy past through time and cinema.
Would this be a movie I would see at Sundance? Possibly..
Would this be a movie I would see if Shia Lebouf starred in it? Probably.
Would this be a movie I would see if Shia Lebouf wrote it? Oh HELL YEAH!
This movie is called Honey Boy. I am so intrigued. it also co-stars Lucas Hedges who is in EVERYTHING right now and is directed by Alma Har’el, a woman who directed music videos for Sigur Ros and Beirut and when you visit her website, the first thing that pops up is a picture of her face then it just melts off.
This movie is going to rock!
December 26, 19:44 TTZ
It only takes one look at Lucas Hedges’ top 4 on IMDB to understand that whatever he’s involved in right now has got to be cinematic gold. Count me in!
Now, let me steer the conversation away from these A-list affairs that we’ve been talking about, and instead direct your attention to a little film called We Are Little Zombies.
The film is directed by past Grand Prize Jury Award winner Makoto Nagahisa, whose 2017 short film “And So We Put Goldfish in the Pool” pushed the limit of my short film patience clocking in at about 29 minutes. This year, he is debuting his first feature length film about four Japanese orphans who decide to put together a rock band. Now, if that elevator pitch isn’t enough to get you on board, I urge you to take a look at the teaser for the film below. Don’t worry… it’s only 36 seconds long!
Need I say more?
January 2, 22:29 CST
You know how I know we are the best of friends? The moment I read that description on the Sundance site, I knew Ty will be first in line for that! And yup, I was right!
You know what I love at Sundance? Movies that have none of the following elements:
– Pill Addiction
– Animal Abuse
It is proven (by my mathematical calculations) that 98 percent of all Sundance movies have at least one of these elements. My guess is there’s about five movies this year that will have all five of these.
But I think I found a movie that will contain none of these.
Big Time Adolescence
A suburban teenager comes of age under the destructive guidance of his best friend, a charismatic college dropout.
This sounds like my favorite kind of Sundance movie, moments of hilarity with an underlying message and strong character arcs. What I am most interested in is that this film stars Ariana Grande’s scorned lover Pete Davidson. Davidson has skyrocketed in fame with his relationship and breakup to the massive pop singer, but he is definitely not known for his acting. But a large reason for his success is his wonderful stage presence on screen and overall likability. I think he has the ability to carry a film and definitely the ability not to depress me and hate my life for 2 hours in the mountains of Utah.
January 9, 23:11 TTZ
The 2005 Sundance Film Festival was memorable to me for many reasons. Not only was it my first foray into Park City, but it was also the year that I developed a blind, and probably unjust hatred for the film Squid and the Whale. However, the 2005 festival was also notable for one other important reason; it introduced me to the work of Anton Yelchin, who was there with his film Alpha Dog.
Since then, Yelchin has been like a cinematic constant in my life. My journeys to Park City were always brightened by his fantastic performances, and the documentary piece on his life, Love, Antosha, seems to be the perfect way to say goodbye to a man who meant so much to so many people. I know, I usually tend to steer away from films that put their audiences through a tortuous “Cry Test”, but I think this one will be worth both our tears and our time.
Monday January, 14 10:53 CST
Hmm… yeah, Can’t imagine a more appropriate way to honor an actor who ripped our hearts out multiple times with his Sundance films, by ripping our heart out one more time.
I should probably stop e-mailing you and focus on finding all of my warm clothes and wool socks for the wet snowy conditions. But before I go I wanted to give my one sentence summaries of the movies I’m excited about that we haven’t talked about:
Troop Zero – Viola Davis and Allison Janney in a comedy! Sign me up now!
The Report – Jon Hamm and Adam Driver are two of my favorite actors. They are in a movie together. How excited do you think I am!?
After the Wedding – Remake of a Foreign Language Academy Award nominee… starring Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, and Billy Crudup. This might be Oscar Awards bait come next year!
THE DOCUMENTARIES– There is one about worshiping Satan called, yup, Hail Satan, that will be uplifting. One about the Moon Landing called Apollo 11, sadly no Ryan Gosling in this, but should be fascinating, and then Knock Down the House tracks three female candidates in the recent 2018 election and chronicles one of the biggest political upsets in history. I’m so going to be a sucker for that film.
Alrighty! Watch out Park City! Ty and I are coming for you!