In just a few, short hours MTV will be hitting the snowy streets of Park City, Utah for the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. And while there are numerous reasons why we’re excited to report the latest industry ~ buzz ~ from the frozen front lines — including, but not limited to, Nick Jonas, Daniel Radcliffe, cozy parkas, layering, hot cocoa, after parties, etc. — it’s these nine projects that have us freaking out for the fest.
Daniel Radcliffe is a literal corpse in “Swiss Army Man.”Joyce Kim / Courtesy of Sundance
It’s hard to say which Sundance films will spark bidding wars like last year’s “Dope” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” but heading into the fest, “Swiss Army Man” is one of the more-buzzed-about movies. Starring Sundance veteran Paul Dano — someone who is well overdue for some industry recognition — as a man who is stranded in the wilderness. When a corpse, played by DanRad, washes up on the shore, Hank finds solace in its presence and ultimately forms a strong bond with it. Think “Cast Away” with a rotting corpse instead of a deflated, sad volleyball. Writer-directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan make their feature-length debut here, and if the buzz holds strong, we could have a Sundance success story.
Barack and Michelle Obama stroll through Chicago’s South Side in “Southside With You.”Pat Scola / Courtesy of Sundance
At Sundance, it’s not uncommon to read a film’s brief synopsis and let out an audible “huh?” Richard Tanne’s “Southside With You” is a prime example of this kind of ambitious filmmaking. After reading about Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date, Tanne wanted to tell the first couple’s origin story on the big screen. So, his film debut, “Southside With You,” starring Tika Sumpter and Parker Sawyers, chronicles that long afternoon in 1989 when community organizer Barack Obama convinced attorney Michelle Robinson to go on a date with him in Chicago’s South Side.
All your favorite men-children get together in “Joshy.”Courtesy of Sundance
A ridiculous premise with an even more ridiculous cast, “Joshy” sounds like a high-brow “Hot Tub Time Machine. (As someone who loved the first “Hot Tub Time Machine, I swear this is a compliment.) Comedians Thomas Middleditch (“Silicon Valley”), Adam Pally (“Happy Endings”), Nick Kroll (“Kroll Show”), Brett Gelman (“Married”), and Jenny Slate (“Obvious Child”) star in a film about a group of emotionally stunted friends who go on a bachelor weekend gathering after one of the members breaks off his engagement. With this amount of talent, “Joshy” is sure to be something special.
Ellen Page steals a baby in “Tallulah.”Courtesy of Sundance
Netflix has already snapped up the worldwide streaming video on-demand rights to “Tallulah,” the story of a young drifter, played by Ellen Page, who takes a baby from a negligent mother. The buzzy dramedy also reunites Page with her “Juno” co-star Allison Janney, who plays a woman who mistakenly believes she’s the child’s grandmother. It sounds like the kind of film that will turn me into an emotional mess, so I am here for that. (Also, I ride for Janney.)
Kristen Stewart returns to Sundance in “Certain Women.”Nicole Rivelli / Courtesy of Sundance
Indie dream team Kelly Reichardt and Michelle Williams pair up once again for “Certain Women,” a film that follows “intersecting tales of different women.” As vague as that sounds, Reichardt is know for her hushed, nuanced storytelling. Her subjects are often outsiders and drifters, much like herself. With a cast that also boasts outstanding talent like Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern, “Certain Women” will undoubtedly be at the top of everyone’s must-see list at this year’s festival.
John Carney will break your heart (again) with “Sing Street.”Courtesy of Sundance
When it comes to lovelorn musicals, John Carney is where it’s at. His scrappy, 2007 film “Once” was a Sundance darling. He followed that with “Begin Again,” a charming indie drama starring Keira Knightley as a young singer-songwriter and Mark Ruffalo as the disgraced producer who takes a chance on her. Now, Carney returns to Sundance with another low-key musical. Set in 1980s Dublin, “Sing Street” is a rock ’n’ roll coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old kid who’s forced to transfer schools. His only hope of social survival? Starting a glam band. Simply put, this sounds f-cking fantastic.
Being young and gay has never been more relatable in “First Girl I Loved.”Courtesy of Sundance
Sundance NEXT is usually the pace where films that are a little too something for the U.S. Drama Competition. Last year, “Tangerine” made its debut at NEXT, and this year, director Kerem Sanga brings his complicated love triangle to the fest. Structured through a series of fractured flashbacks, this queer coming-of-age story follows teen yearbook reporter Anne (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), her crush Sasha and her best friend Clifton, who’s obviously in love with her. The thing that makes “lowFirst Girl I Loved” a standout is Anne’s brazen confidence. She’s ready to be herself — even if she doesn’t know who that is yet.
Nick Jonas is a monstrous frat boy in “Goat.”Ethan Palmer / Courtesy of Sundance
Former Disney star Nick Jonas, whose career continues to branch off in unexpected directions, makes his “Sundance” debut in “Goat,” a movie that sounds absolutely terrifying. “Goat” tells the brutal true story about a monstrous frat boy who hazes the living hell out of his younger brother (Ben Schnetzer) when he decides to pledge. “Scream Kings,” this is not.
Disney movies get reimagined in “Life, Animated.”Courtesy of Sundance
Pop culture’s fascination with Disney Princesses is well documented on the internet. But with all of the tiresome reimaginings penetrating the zeitgeist these days, it’s easy to forget how beloved these films, and these characters, are by children. Enter “Life, Animated,” a documentary feature that might just make you feel like a kid again — or at the very least, make you appreciate the wonderfully magical world of Walt Disney. Directed by Roger Ross Williams, the story follows Owen, an autistic boy who couldn’t speak for years but found a conduit to the world around him through Disney films. (Annnnd I’m already crying.)