Sundance 2016 Film Highlights: Part One

Greetings @list peeps, reporting live from the Sundance Film Festival. Been a while since my last list for reasons I'll list about later. I wanted to share some of my favorite films of the Fest so far:
  1. Agnus Dei
    Holy hell, this story is cray cray. Based on a true story set during post war 1945 about a group of nuns in a Polish convent who are impregnated after being raped by Russian soldiers, and the young French Red Cross doctor who helps them. Amazing. French subtitled.
  2. Captain Fantastic
    One of the main buzz films of this year's Fest, Matt Ross writes and directs this smart, funny pic about a father (Viggo Mortensen) trying to raise his well-read and wilderness-trained kids in the woods away from the hypocrisy and corruption of the real world. Great script, great casting and performances, very fun...I'm biased but I loved this film!! (And you gotta give it up for full-frontal Viggo).
  3. Embrace of the Serpent
    Oscar-nominated, black & white and subtitled, Columbian director Ciro Guerra brings us this masterpiece about an indigenous man in the Amazon and the search for a sacred life-saving plant. Can't say I understood it all, but it's a special film.
  4. The Fundamentals of Caring
    Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts are great and very funny in this crowd-pleasing buddy flick about a caretaker and his 18 year old ward.
  5. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
    A Fest favorite, and def one of mine! Troubled Ricky Baker is sent to live with his aunt and her gruff husband Sam Neill on a remote New Zealand farm. Hilarious and a new hero is born. Film by Taika Waititi from my fave mocumentary What We Do In the Shadows. #rickybaker
  6. Indignation
    James Schamus wrote and directed this period piece adapted from the Philip Roth novel about a brilliant Jewish 18 year old from Newark who goes to a small Ohio college while his friends are being drafted in the Korean War. Smart, poignant, with excellent casting, gorgeous art direction, costumes and a beautiful score. There is a spellbinding 15 minute scene that is worth the price of admission.
  7. Life, Animated
    A fantastic doc about a young autistic man and how Disney films drew him out of his non-verbal autistic hole. Animation is gorgeous. A favorite.
  8. Manchester By the Sea
    Casey Affleck gives a star performance in this tragic tale, written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan and produced by Matt Damon, about a Boston area man grappling with the death of his brother (Kyle Chandler) while struggling with the pain of the past. Beautifully shot, beautiful performances and perfectly slow pacing, I can't stop thinking about this film. Loved it.
  9. Miles Ahead
    Don Cheadle wrote, directed and starred in this Miles Davis biopic. Not ground-breaking but entertaining, with Ewan McGregor as a big part of the fun. And spending some time listening to Miles soundtrack is time well spent.
  10. Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You
    Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp, Detropia) do it again with this wonderful doc following the prolific Norman Lear, detailing his life and career. So happy for Team Loki and their Sundance opening night premiere status.
  11. Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang
    Doc about fireworks artist Cai (who did the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony) and his struggle to be an artist in the restrictive Chinese regime.
  12. Under the Shadow
    The highest acquisition of a Farsi language film, this horror movie is on several's top Fest film lists. Not mine cause I get too scared, particularly when there's a scary doll/puppet/clown, but it was very good.