New from Kevin Wozniak on Kevflix: The Best of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival

The 2019 Sundance Film Festival is officially in the books.  I saw 25 movies this festival and overall it was a pretty good year.  There were some duds, but there were a number of great movies from exciting new filmmakers and great performances from some of our best actors and actresses working today.  Here are my picks for the best movies and performances of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

 

 

 

 

BEST MOVIES

 

 

5.  TO THE STARS (Martha Stephens)

  • The best looking movie of the whole festival, To the Stars is a coming of age story about a shy girl’s relationship with a foul-mouthed city girl in 1960’s Oklahoma.  Shot in stark, beautiful black and white, Stephens shows us an idyllic farm town that isn’t exactly what it seems to be while also showing us the progressiveness and changing of culture in the 60’s.  Kara Hayward gives an endearing, compelling performance as our shy girl and Liana Liberato is a fire-cracker as our city girl.  We also get a surprising, darker-than-usual performance from Tony Hale as out city girl’s belt-wielding, strict father.  This was the biggest surprise at this year’s festival.

 

 

4.  MIDNIGHT FAMILY (Luke Lorentzen)

  • The best documentary that I saw at this year’s festival is as visceral as movies get.  Midnight Family focuses on the Ochoa family, who drive a private ambulance in Mexico City, a city that doesn’t have nearly enough ambulances to help everyone in the city.  Lorentzen puts right in the back of the ambulance, literally, as we watch the Ochoa’s drive around the city to help those in need, as well as show the struggle they face trying to make money and eat because of their profession.  This is a tight, heart-racing film that will have you on the edge of your seat.

 

 

3.  CLEMENCY (Chinonye Chukwu)

  • Winner of this year’s U.S. Dramatic prize (Best Film), Clemency is a haunting look at the processes of present-day death row.  Alfre Woodard gives a cold, calculated performance as a prison warden who’s latest death-row inmate, Anthony Woods (Aldis Hodge, in the best performance I saw all festival) forces her to confront the demons of her job.  This is a truly heart-breaking film that dives deep into the psychology of death row inmates and the ones who’s job it is to perform these acts.

 

 

2.  THE NIGHTINGALE (Jennifer Kent)

  • Jennifer Kent’s follow-up to her breakout horror film, The Babadook, is a brutal revenge thriller you won’t soon forget.  After being attacked and having her family murdered, Clare (a stellar Aisling Franciosi) hires a tracker named Billy (Baykali Ganambarr, in one of the best breakout performances of the festival) to track the men down the men who did this to her and her family.  An incredibly tough movie to sit through, though gorgeous to look at and filled with deep themes about the affects of revenge, The Nightingale proves Kent is a cinematic force we will be hearing for years to come.

 

 

1. THE REPORT (Scott Z. Burns)

  • The Report is a political thriller that looks at the government’s investigation into post-9/11 interrogation tactics.  Scott Z. Burns utilizes a crackling script and masterful ensemble to give us a film reminiscent of All the President’s Men and Spotlight.  Adam Driver is ripe for his second Oscar nomination as the lead investigator and Anette Benning gives her best performance in long, long time as Senator Dianne Feinstein.  The dialog here explodes like Michael Bay action sequences and the film gives us a shocking insight to our own government.  This has the potential to make some Oscar noise later this year.

 

 

 

 

BEST OF THE REST

 

BEST DIRECTOR: JENNIFER KENT – THE NIGHTINGALE

Runner Up: Martha Stephens – To the Stars

 

BEST ACTOR: ADAM DRIVER – THE REPORT

Runner Up: Shia LaBeouf – Honey Boy

 

BEST ACTRESS: ALFRE WOODARD – CLEMENCY

Runner Up: Kara Hayward – To the Stars

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: ALDIS HODGE – CLEMENCY

Runner Up: Andre Hyland – The Death of Dick Long

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: LIANA LIBERATO – TO THE STARS

Runner Up: Maura Tierney – The Report

 

BEST SCREENPLAY: THE REPORT

Runner Up: Honey Boy

 

BEST MIDNIGHT MOVIE: LITTLE MONSTERS

Runner Up: The Death of Dick Long

 

BEST DOCUMENTARY: MIDNIGHT FAMILY

Runner Up: Apollo 11

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: TO THE STARS

Runner Up: Greener Grass

 

LEAST FAVORITE: WOUNDS

Runner Up: Mope

 

 

 

 

 

OVERALL RANKING OF EVERY MOVIE I SAW

 

1 – THE REPORT

2 – THE NIGHTINGALE

3 – CLEMENCY

4 – MIDNIGHT FAMILY

5 – TO THE STARS

6 – HONEY BOY

7 – THE DEATH OF DICK LONG

8 – PHOTOGRAPH

9 – LITTLE MONSTERS

10 – APOLLO 11

11 – MEMORY: THE ORIGINS OF ‘ALIEN’

12 – GREENER GRASS

13 – THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND

14 – HALSTON

15 – JAWLINE 

16 – KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE

17 – LATE NIGHT

18 – NATIVE SON

19 – THE HOLE IN THE GROUND

20 – EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE

21 – BIG TIME ADOLESCENCE 

22 – LUCE

23 – THE SOUND OF SILENCE

24 – MOPE

25 – WOUNDS

 

 

 

 

 

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