SUNDANCE 2017: Strong 💪🏽 Films

My 12th consecutive year at Sundance. Saw 29 films. All things considered, this was a pretty strong year. These are my Sundance 2017 film highlights — in no keen order.
    Two families struggling in the South, one white, one black, each w a returning WWII soldier. Based on novel by Hillary Jordan. Co-written & powerfully directed by Dee Rees. Memorable performances by Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Mary J. Blige, Garrett Hedlund.
    Father-son hunting adventure & survival story in the wintry Montana wilderness. I was riveted. Written & directed by brothers Alex Smith & Andrew Smith. Matt Bomer & Josh Wiggins as the father & son. And Bill Pullman in the grandpa role!
    The quirky and amazingly versatile LaKeith Stanfield (Darius on "Atlanta") is practically turning into my new fave actor. I saw him in three films at Sundance, all very different roles. In "Crown Heights" he plays Colin Warner, who really spent more than 20 yrs in prison for a murder he did not commit. While the "wrongfully in prison" story is hardly earth-shatteringly new, Stanfield and fellow cast are superb & so is direction by Matt Ruskin, who also wrote screenplay.
  4. GET OUT
    This was tossed in as a special screening — not officially a "Sundance" baby. Opens Feb 24. I called it "Stepford Wives meets whacked-out racism." I've thought about it plenty. Fun, creative, creepy "Black Man Horror film" thriller. Keeps you guessing. From the uniquely talented Jordan Peele! Dynamite performance by Daniel Kaluuya — & I also loved Catherine Keener, Allison Williams (she surprised me) & Lakeith Stanfield in a small but hysterical role.
    Woody Harrelson once again loses himself inside a very real and distinct character — a neurotic and fairly unlikable curmudgeon. Based on the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, who also wrote screenplay. Laura Dern is her typical reliable self. Woody is the reason this one soared for me.
  6. STEP
    Documentary follows seniors at an all-girls' public Baltimore high school. They're on the step team and they are all breaking the mold and heading to college, the first in their families to do so. I cried & cried. Stories like this = Why I love Sundance.
  7. GOOK
    Dislike the title almost as much as I LOVE this movie! Unfolds on one heated day in LA: the day riots broke out after the Rodney King verdict came down in April 1992. Writer/director Justin Chon. Brilliant decision to film in B&W. Astonishingly real, unflinching performances, especially Simone Baker, as the mighty 11-yr-old Kamilla. Pictured: this fine cast at S'dance.
    OMG if you are a member of the media you will be shivering in your shoes. Or if you are concerned about the first amendment or the importance of a free press that cannot be bought and sold! Clunky title, too much of Hulk, but time to edit & fine-tune. Film was rushed to get ready for Sundance. It's hugely HUGELY important !
  9. Honorable Mentions on the lighter side (next 4 pics) THE INCREDIBLE JESSICA JAMES; ROXANNE, ROXANNE; THE BIG SICK; COLOSSAL !
    Jessica Williams! As Jessica James! SHE's such a breath of fresh air!
    Zoe Kazan finally gets a good role & Kumail Nanjiani has never been better, kinda playing himself— a Pakistani comedian who just said No to the "arranged marriage" thing.
    Bio pic of hip-hop legend Roxanne Shanté. Here is the real Roxanne (left) next to fab up-n-coming Chanté Adams who plays her. At R, Nia Long, who plays Roxanne's mother.
    I called it "Godzilla meets Alcoholic's Worst nightmare." I'm Not a big ANNE Hathaway fan, but she won me over here. Writer-director Nacho Vigalondo NEVER expected his movie to do much. But THEN Hathaway read the script & voila! — could be big hit!
  13. I should point out that I Really didn't like some of the films that got "top" recognition. & should also point out that I didn't get to see a few choice films that I am fairly certain would've been on my "best" list. The main films I regrettably missed: THEIR FINEST (opens April 21) & LANDLINE. & DOLORES.