Welcome to the first, hopefully annual, Weekend Warrior Sundance Awards, where I go through the couple dozen movies I had a chance to see over the course of the past week and pick some of my favorite things.
I ended up seeing roughly thirty movies in total, only walking out of a couple (that won’t be mentioned), and overall, it was a generally decent Sundance, although only a few movies really stood out and will be remembered later in the year when we start talking about next year’s Oscars.
Oddly, I missed many of the movies that won actual awards at Sundance, so I’ve decided to give a few of my own.
Most Literal Use of a Movie Title
1. Beatriz at Dinner (starring Salma Hayek as a Mexican healer named Beatriz who is invited to stay for dinner at a rich client’s house)
2. Band Aid (Zoe Lister-Jones’ comedy about a constantly squabbling married couple who form a band to help their marriage)
3. A Ghost Story (literally Casey Affleck under a sheet as a ghost for the whole film)
(Honorable Mention To the Bone)
Best Use of a Movie’s Title in the Dialogue
Call Me By Your Name - Luca (A Bigger Splash) Guadagnino’s poignant coming-of-age drama offered one of the most memorable romance sequences that involved those very words to be uttered. One of those rare times when a character saying the title didn’t elicit a snicker.
Most Unfortunate Premiere Timing
Opening night doc An Inconvenient Sequel – Truth to Power premiering the night before the inauguration of an anti-climate crisis administration.
78/52 - Alexandre (The People vs. Geoge Lucas) Philippe’s examination of the shower sequence in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, featuring commentary from filmmakers, sound and film editors and other experts is an incredibly complex analysis of Hitchcock’s most famous moment on film. Philippe even gets Janet Leigh’s body double and Jamie Lee Curtis on the record talking about the sequence.
The “I Can’t Believe This is a True Story” Award
Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky’s The Polka King, in which Jack Black plays Jan Levan, a polka singer who convinces hundreds of his elderly fans to invest millions of dollars in his “business.”
Funniest Ladies (Two of Them Making Fantastic Directorial Debuts!)
1. Jessica Williams – The Incredible Jessica James
2. Michelle Morgan – L.A. Times
3. Zoe Lister-Jones – Band Aid
Scariest Weight Loss
Lilly Collins looking eerily skeleton-like in Marti Noxon’s To the Bone
Most Dramatic Hair Loss
Jason Schwartzman sporting long hair and a beard in Alex Ross Perry's Golden Exits to clean-shaven with short hair in The Polka King.
Male – Sam Elliott (The Hero) and Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick)
Female – Anya Taylor-Joy (Thoroughbread) and Lilly Collins (To the Bone)
Most Impressive Sundance Comeback
1. Brett Haley – The Hero
2. Mike White and Miguel Arteta – Beatriz at Dinner
3. James Strouse – The Incredible Jessica James
Most Inspired Murder Plot
(Tie) Thoroughbread (Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke plotting to murder the former’s stepfather)
and Beatriz at Dinner (Salma Hayek having enough of a billionaire’s insensitivity)
Two Movies That Got Much Better As They Went Along
Dee Rees’ Mudbound and Alex Moors’ The Yellow Birds
The Most Impressive Musical Prowess Award
1. Salma Hayek’s beautiful Spanish song in Beatriz at Dinner
2. Zoe Lister-Jones also singing a beautiful solo song in Band Aid
3. Jack Black transforming into the title character of The Polka King
Uber Drivers Need Love, Too
Kumail Nanjiani in The Big Sick and Zoe Lister-Jones in Band Aid.
Most Overt Career Change and Tonal Transition Between Movies
Elizabeth Olsen going from an Instagram icon in Ingrid Goes West to an FBI agent investigating a murder in Wind River
The Oddest Job Transition for a Music Star Award
Adam Horowitz of the Beastie Boys playing an archivist in Alex Ross Perry’s Golden Exits.
1. Zoe Lister-Jones and Adam Pally – Band Aid
2. Jessica Williams and Chris O’Shea – The Incredible Jessica Williams
3. Sam Elliot and Laura Prepon – The Hero
Shirley McLaine and Amanda Seyfried in The Last Word
Weirdest Film Character
Tie between Fred Armisen’s “Weird Dave” in Band Aid and Fred Armisen as the Bishop in The Little Hours.
“Hey, I Know That Guy!” Award
Metrograph programmer Jake Perlin appearing in both Golden Exits and Person to Person.
Most Abundant and Adorable Use of Profanity
Aubrey Plaza in The Little Hours and Ingrid Goes West
The “Being Adorable Worked for Qhvenzhane Wallis” Award
AnnJewel Lee Dixon in The Last Word and Simone Baker in Gook
Best Bad Guy Played by a Truly Nice Guy
John Lithgow as an insensitive billionaire in Beatriz at Dinner.
Most Awkward Romantic Comedy Killer
1. Girlfriend in a Coma – The Big Sick
2. Miscarriage – Band Aid
3. Eating Disorder - To the Bone
Most Unwieldy Hard to Remember Title:
“I Don’t Feel At Home In this World Anymore.”
Bummed I Missed ‘Em
1. PaddyCake$ (Lots of people in the Sundance lines were talking about this movie.)
2. I Don’t Feel at Home In this World Anymore (The actual Grand Jury Prize winner, which will actually be on Netflix next month.)
3. Crown Heights (The Audience Award winner)
Plus Lots and lots of documentaries.
Look for our last update from Sundance, talking about the very best films we saw there very soon.