2017 Sundance Wrap-Up and Top 5

And so another edition of the Sundance Film Festival is in the books. The 2017 edition marked my eighth year wandering around Park City, Utah, and it was a memorable fest, with blizzard conditions in the first week, cyber-attacks, protests and more giving this a vibe I’ve never really experienced before. Ah, but how were the movies? A mixed bag truthfully. I think the festival was totally overwhelmed by the political situation, with things dominating the news that, one can’t deny, are more important than what’s happening in the indie film world.

Nonetheless, I wound-up filing over twenty reviews, and there was plenty to see, both good and bad. Here are some of my impressions of this year’s fest:

Potential Oscar contenders: Last year’s Sundance generated one full-blown Oscar contender (MANCHESTER BY THE SEA) and the year’s edition has a few movies that could go that route. The smart money is on Dee Rees’s MUDBOUND (complicated by the acquisition deal- see below) and Luca Guadagnino’s gay-themed CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, a movie that blew all of us away and seems all but a lock, especially with the prestige of Sony Classics behind it.

Streaming dominates: Once again, the biggest deals of the fest went to streaming giants Amazon & Netflix. Amazon shelled out big bucks for THE BIG SICK, the Judd Apatow-produced Michael Showalter comedy, starring Kumail Nanjiani as himself. This one would be a good piece of summer counter-programming, being very much in the mold of Apatow hits KNOCKED UP and TRAINWRECK. Netflix had tons of movies in the fest, including Macon Blair’s Grand Jury Winner, I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THE WORLD ANYMORE (drops Feb 24th) and the Jason Segel/Rooney Mara/Robert Redford starrer, THE DISCOVERY (March 31st), with them also picking up movies like BERLIN SYNDROME, TO THE BONE, and more.

The “BIRTH OF A NATION” Effect: One of the weirdest deals of the fest was Netflix shelling out $12.5 million for Dee Rees’s MUDBOUND, with Garrett Hedlund, Carey Mulligan and Jason Mitchell. Many assumed a company like A24, or even Fox Searchlight would pick it up, with rapturous reviews pegging it as an Oscar contender. On the whole, studios seemed to be skittish, with pockets not quite a deep as they were last year, perhaps a response to what happened with BIRTH OF A NATION. Searchlight spent $20 million on it, and critics were all but ready to give Nate Parker the Oscar before the film even screened, only for controversy from his past to totally ruin any chance the movie ever had at getting a nomination or even breaking even. All that said, many think Netflix has just bought themselves a legit contender, although it remains to be seen if the Academy will embrace their day and date films (their documentaries have gotten plenty of attention).

Inconsistent midnight selection: Once again, the midnight selection at Sundance was underwhelming, with XX garnering poor reviews, and one of their titles, THE LITTLE HOURS, despite being part of the selection, not even premiering at Midnight. While they did have the very well-received surprise premiere of Jordan Peele’s GET OUT, overall the selection was, once again, hit and miss.

elizabeth olson jeremy renner wind river


TOP 5 Sundance movies:




Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.