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And now, part two of Ian and Jared’s fantasy Sundance draft.  If you missed it, check out part one for scoring and the first four picks.

With the fifth pick of the 2014 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

Low Down

Jared: Director Jeff Preiss is a cinematographer and experimental filmmaker, and this film is about a jazz pianist and his daughter, so I’m taking the movie under the principle that anything unappealing to me is probably a good bet for awards love. Preiss has been knocking around for awhile to some acclaim, and this is his first crossover to anything that could be considered mainstreamish. What mostly drew me to the film were the lead actors: Elle Fanning and John Hawkes. I’m not saying we are high on Fanning, but I thought Elle Fanning deserved an Oscar nomination for Super 8, and Ian is the one who likes her more. She’s a fantastic actress who already has British Independent and Satellite nominations on her resume. John Hawkes has an Oscar nomination, of course, and is just generally awesome. He also shares an Sundance Special Jury Prize for ensemble acting. The rest of the cast includes Peter Dinklage, Glenn Close, Taryn Manning, Lena Headey, and Flea, with Anthony Kiedis listed as a produce. Which is fascinating, if nothing else.

Ian: Just to be clear, Internet weirdos, we think Elle Fanning is a terrific actress, nothing more. But yes, she was the best thing in the charming Super 8, and her performance in Somewhere was approaching transcendent. And I don’t need to sell anyone reading this on John Hawkes, or the rest of the cast. My hesitation is that it may seem a little slight and unfinished even for a Sundance movie, but that’s a mild reservation. If it’s good, I think it would perform well, and I’ll probably be strongly into seeing it. I’d have taken it next.

With the sixth pick of the 2014 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

Dear White People

Ian: Instead, I took a movie that’s probably going to end up less on the lyrical side. Dear White People seems like enough of a polemic that I suspect I’m giving up shots at the Grand Jury and Audience awards, since satire may be a genre even less favored than horror. I do think this movie is very likely to land Justin Simien something, however, since he seems like a smart, already recognized writer who, let’s face it, knows how to market himself well. I’m not saying that to be dismissive, or to say that the film is unlikely to stand on its own, but I think having a nose for p.r. and recognition is a skill (as the Weinsteins prove every award season). Aiming for a writer’s/director’s award here, and hopefully, a smart and subversive movie.

Jared: I strongly considered this one. Look, in order to be an ace awards pundit, you have to throw political correctness out the window. It seems safe to argue that the type of people going to an indieish awards festival in Utah created by Robert Redford will fall over themselves to applaud an intellectual look at race in the country. The only question, really, is how subversive, how funny, how frank the film is. One gets the feeling Sundance folk would like to tsk-tsk others for their racism, it is unclear what the awards impact would be if the film asks viewers to think more critically about themselves.

With the seventh pick of the 2014 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…


Ian: This one is kind of a mirror image of Hellion, as a young man is brutally shaped by a parental figure in a feature film that was expanded from a short previously recognized at Sundance. The difference here is pedigree. Start with the cast, and Miles Teller in particular. I said this last year with The Spectacular Now, but Miles Teller is definitely one On The Verge, and he and Shailene Woodley took home a special jury award for his efforts in that film (aside: well-deserved, in my opinion). Now, he’s back in the competition as an intense student, being mentored by the always reliable J.K. Simmons. Add in that the film has already won a Jury Award as a short, and then Director Damien Chazelle got the feature-length script on the Black List, and this one has a lot of promise. Just as with J.J. Abrams and Infinitely Polar Bear, the presence of big macher Jason Reitman on the producer list also helps tip the scales. Starting to think I may have underrated it, if anything.

Jared: Hm. Yeah, this one may have fallen. Can’t think of many negatives here. Writer/director Damien Chazelle has a screenplay credit on The Last Exorcism Part II, which isn’t the most encouraging thing in the world, I suppose. And he wrote the upcoming Grand Piano, a thriller starring Elijah Wood as a concert pianist who John Cusack (presumably) threatens to kill if he plays a wrong note during a recital. But yeah, the film seems a good bet to bring home something.

With the eighth pick of the 2014 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

God’s Pocket

Jared: As a huge fan of the TV show Ed, I’m tickled pink to see John Slattery directing a Sundance film. Even though Dennis Martino was obviously a bastard and totally wrong for Carol Vesey and maybe I digress. Slattery is best known, of course, for his role on Mad Men and has directed five episodes of the series, to some acclaim. This film marks his feature film debut as director. The cast is jaw-droppingly good: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eddie Marsan, John Turturro, Richard Jenkins, and Christina Hendricks, it isn’t unreasonable to hope for a nod for one of them. The film is based on a novel by Peter Dexter, on whose novel The Paperboy was based, and who has screenwriting credits for Mulholland Falls, Michael, and an Emmy nomination for Paris Trout. So that’s a mixed bag. But the Sundance description includes “authentic”, which is always a good sign, plus it specifically mentions the cinematography, so it could be in the running for a point there.

Ian: It’s hard for me to get a read on God’s Pocket. On the one hand, this is bigger than the type of movie usually in the Sundance competition. This is probably the best prestige cast we’ve seen in our storied history of fantasy Sundance drafting. And yes, Lance Acord, the cinematographer, generally works in movies that premiere at Sundance, and not films in competition. On the other hand, how much of this acclaim is a favor to the well-liked John Slattery? This isn’t said to be dismissive at all, he may well be a great screenwriter, and he’s taken on some visually inventive episodes of Mad Men (Signal 30 in particular is likely an underrated episode in the Mad canon). We (well, I) just don’t know yet, and the film description sounds a little on the pedestrian side to be in the Jury Prize running. It’s probably a pick that’s going to score, and maybe one that has broad audience appeal and familiar characters, so I endorse it here.

Coming up next, part three of our draft.

As you no doubt remember, Ian and I drafted the movies in the U.S. Dramatic Competition from last year’s Sundance festival.  Hopefully you forgot that Ian wiped the floor with me.  As you might have guessed, we’re bringing the draft back again this year.

But first, I’m excited to announce that Adam and I will be attending this  year’s Sundance festival.  No clue whether we’ll actually be able to see any in competition films, but I’ll be sure to report back.

We are using the same scoring system as last year:

Grand Jury Prize: 3 points
Audience Award: 2 points
Special Jury Prizes: 2 points each
US Directing Award: 1 point
Screenwriting Award: 1 point
Cinematography Award: 1 point
Alfred P. Sloan Award: Tiebreak

And the draft will snake, like all drafts should.  I get first pick this year since I got trounced last year.  For summaries of all films, check out the official Sundance page.  Here’s part one of four of our draft.

With the first pick of the 2014 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

Fishing Without Nets

Jared:  I’m not sure what a clear #1 pick would be in a fantasy Sundance league, but I didn’t see one this year.  The overly simplified summary of this film you’ll probably see floating around is that it is Captain Phillips from the perspective of the pirates.  And I’m banking on this film getting a boost by riding the coattails of the likely Oscar nominee, which at this point in the Oscar race seems to have a healthy base of support.  The film is writer/director Cutter Hodierne’s first feature effort (which isn’t necessarily a point against him; the last two Grand Jury prizes were won by first-time filmmakers: Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station and Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild), but he’s directed a documentary of U2, and this film is actually based on a short of the same name, which won a Jury prize at the 2012 Sundance festival.  The film apparently used nonactors, so it is unlikely to compete for acting prizes, but I think the apparent combination of action and moral dilemmas, plus the aforementioned pedigree gives the film a good chance to click.

Ian:  In our long and storied history of the Fantasy Sundance League, there’s never been a year with as little stratification as this one. I also see fewer “locks” than last year, and the bigger name directors were of the mumblecore “it’s an honor to be nominated” variety. This one was a little down my list, if only because Captain Phillips may have sucked up some of the air in the piracy genre. Oh, and also because the movie has been gestating for so long that Somali piracy has been eradicated in the meantime. The fact that this movie was already honored is a point in its favor, but I thought there were better choices on the board with similar Sundance pedigrees.

With the second pick of the 2014 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…


Ian: This film was also selected to premiere at Sundance as a short film. While it didn’t win any prizes then (and may not have been in competition), I like its odds better now. If I had to explain why in two words, they would read, “Aaron Paul.” Paul has been in indies before, of course, but this is going to be the first movie he takes onto the festival circuit after the triumphant end of Breaking Bad. And if we’re talking about a “commanding performance” from him, I think this is one that juries or audiences have been well primed to honor. The subject matter also seems harrowing, and frankly more interesting than most of the other movies in competition. I’m looking for a combination of quality and timing to lead to some of the big awards.

Jared: I strongly considered this one for my first overall pick.  Recent Sundance winners such as Winter’s Bone and Beasts of the Southern Wild, suggest a certain proclivity for rewarding films set in the U.S. in between the two coasts.  Kat Candler seems a prime candidate to break out, and having Jeff Nichols as an executive producer is surely a good sign.  Aaron Paul is obviously hot off a slew of Breaking Bad recognition.  He’s yet to garner any awards recognition for film roles, for whatever that is worth.  I’m usually wary of adolescent-led films, but on the flip side, if Josh Wiggins impresses, he could be rewarded.

With the third pick of the 2014 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

Cold in July

Ian:  Last year, a brilliant and unconventional director of genre film got its start in competition at Sundance. And while Upstream Color wasn’t a big winner there, it was a successful launch, and one that would probably receive greater awards from the same jury if they revoted today. It’s not a perfect analogue, but Jim Mickle strikes me as this year’s answer to Shane Carruth: a director with more experience and acclaim than the rest of the field who is working in a genre that usually doesn’t rack up awards. The difference to me is that Mickle seems to have come up within the system to a greater degree, which means that Michael C. Hall is attached to the project, along with Sam Shepard and Don Johnson (!). I’m hoping that this movie is inventive enough that the panel feels they have to award it with something, or that it’s populist enough that an audience goes wild.

Jared:  Personally, I had this one a little lower.  Phrases from the official Sundance summary of the film include: “pulpy, southern-fried mystery”, “older breed of action film”, “gore-soaked”, and “Don Johnson”.  Which means I’m super excited for the movie.  But also gives me some pause in terms of how broad an appeal the film will have.  Mickle’s last film, We Are What We Are, scored a 5.7 on imdb, and a 69 on metacritic, (though, to be fair, it garnered an 87% on Rotten Tomatotes).  Michael C. Hall is another actor who has received much love on TV, but yet to break through in a film, and I suppose one has to wonder if the universally-hated Dexter final season will have any impact.

With the fourth pick of the 2014 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

Infinitely Polar Bear

Jared:  It just sounds like a Sundance movie, doesn’t it?  Mark Ruffalo’s career has been absolutely fascinating: he’s an indie darling turned Oscar nominee with crossover appeal thanks to somehow becoming Hulk in The Avengers.  And let’s not forget the three Teen Choice nominations way back in 2004.  He got some Sundance love a few years ago for directing Sympathy for Delicious.  So he always strikes me as a viable contender.  A viable concern is the film being too funny for the major awards (and don’t get me started on that), given that writer/director Maya Forbes has screenwriting credits on The Larry Sanders Show, The Rocker, and Monsters vs. Aliens.  But descriptors such as “bittersweet” and “transcendent” provide some hope, and the concept of the trials and tribulations of a father struggling to raise his two daughters seems prime Sundance material.  That J.J. Abrams is a producer suggests the film might have some mass appeal.

Ian:  I had Infinitely Polar Bear, and then erased it before sending it to you. I certainly agree that the Ruff is awards bait, the premise seems like Sundance madlibs, and the J.J. Abrams imprimatur seems like this could be on the fast track. I just struggled to get past Maya Forbes’ resume on this one. Larry Sanders is probably the show most directly responsible for the current state of comedy in movies, but it seems like ever since then, she’s been doing some work for hire. I understand The Rocker has its charms, and I won’t dismiss any of those movies out of hand, but it’s not a resume that screams “Sundance favorite,” which makes me think that there’s a chance the movie could be slight. Also, not for nothing, but that’s a horrible film title.

It is a well-established fact that just about any endeavor is made better by turning it into a draft.  If you thought drafts were just for fantasy sports, you’ve missed some golden opportunities in life, my friend.  So when friend of blog Ian suggested doing a fantasy Sundance draft for the 16 movies in the U.S. Dramatic Competition in Sundance (which has kicked off this weekend), I sure as heck wasn’t going to say no.  After some discussion, we (or, really, Ian) came up with the following scoring system:

Grand Jury Prize: 3 points
Audience Award: 2 points
Special Jury Prizes: 2 points each
US Directing Award: 1 point
Screenwriting Award: 1 point
Cinematography Award: 1 point
Alfred P. Sloan Award: Tiebreak

Like any good draft, ours snakes (for the uninitiated, that means whoever ends the first round will start the second round.  So, since there are two of us, Ian will take the first pick, then I’ll take second and third picks, Ian will take fourth and fifth, and so on).  I think I originally told him I wasn’t going to post this, but then we decided to write about our picks and critique the other’s, so it seemed a shame to waste all this writing.  Plus, I think Ian has now written more for the blog than any of my fellow Grouches in the past year.

With the first pick of the 2013 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints: I can’t say this was an easy top choice, as I think other directors and screenwriters were more pedigreed than David Lowery, who as far as The Internet tells me, is a graduate of the Sundance Institute and first-time feature filmmaker (apologies if I get any facts wrong, I think half-assed opinions are fundamental to a Fantasy Sundance League). That’s not a dealbreaker, though, and the presence of so many indie darlings augurs well for it. With my top pick, I was trying to shoot for a film that could compete in as many categories as possible, and I think this has to be a contender for every award. I could imagine a film with this premise and cast being a strong Grand Jury Prize contender, but also potentially placing for director, or editor. The premise also feels cinematic to me, or at minimum reminds me of one of my favorite movies, Paris, Texas. Even if it strikes out everywhere, would Sundance be able to resist dropping a special jury award on It-Girl Rooney Mara? Or an Ensemble award for the cast? From the outside, this film appears to be a contender in every category, if not a favorite.

Jared’s Reaction: I think the movie is a fine 1/1.  Like you say, it is hard betting against any movie starring Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, and Ben Foster.  My concern, as with most of these, is that the two sentence premise suggests a number of different ways the film could break.  It actually almost reads like it has too much action to be successful at a film festival that often rewards character studies, I guess.

With the second pick of the 2013 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

Upstream Color:  My overall strategy was to aim for movies that I thought could hit the top prize, and in a year with a number of seemingly accessible comedies in competition, I was looking for something that would stand out.  Shane Carruth’s last (and first) movie, Primer, may have come out almost a decade ago, but it won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, along with four Spirit Award nominations, a pedigree I couldn’t resist.  After reading the film’s description and watching the couple of clips made available, I still have absolutely no idea what the movie is about, which I think only helped the film’s case, in my eyes.

Ian’s ReactionThis was high on my list as well, and I’d have taken it next had it come back to me. If nothing else, it’s a shoo-in for our tiebreaker, the Alfred P. Sloan Award celebrating science in film. And yes, it’s hard to advocate against a former Grand Jury Prize winning director, but my only hesitation was whether it could truly compete in categories such as Audience Award or Screenplay, or whether a mostly unknown cast would be worthy of a Special Jury Prize.

With the third pick in the 2013 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

Kill Your Darlings:  I could pretty much copy and paste what you wrote above for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.  Except that director and co-writer John Krokidas went to Yale undergrad and then NYU film school.  And he’s had some award luck with a couple of shorts he directed.  But Ben Foster is also in this one and Elizabeth Olsen is a pretty good comp for Rooney Mara, I’d say.  Biopics and real life characters actually don’t appear to have had much luck in recent years, but again, that’s something that seems like it could make this one stand out.  Plus, a story about the genesis of the Beat generation seems like something that could play to this crowd.

Ian’s ReactionI agree, this is the other film with a clear indie darling cast, even for Sundance. Jack Huston and Dane DeHaan are also scene-stealers, and I could easily imagine Sundance judges rewarding Daniel Radcliffe. But isn’t there a decent chance that this is just a bad movie? I mean, I haven’t seen it or read anything about it, as is my wont, so my opinion is less than worthless, but it’ll take a lot to convince me that this well-trod ground is worth exploring again.

With the fourth pick in the Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

The Spectacular Now: I was fairly certain you were going to nab this one from me, as it was my overall #2 pick. As with Kill Your Darlings and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, this is a cast packed full with young indie darlings who are filled with dewy award-recognition promise (Although I grant you, no one has as yet broken out at the Rooney Mara/Elizabeth Olson level). Unlike those movies, though, the director James Ponsoldt has a Sundance pedigree with Smashed, a movie that broke out to some extent after the festival. Maybe the judges will consider this a make-up call? Also, when in doubt, you’ll want to bring in the TV ringers from Friday Night Lights, The Wire, Justified, and Breaking Bad (yes, and The Secret Life of the American Teenager). I see this as a Grand Jury and Audience Award contender that could also potentially compete in all categories except for cinematography.

Jared’s Reaction: It was a tough call, and to be honest, the fact that I’m so looking forward to it was probably the deciding factor against me picking it.  And no, me not wanting to jinx how good a movie is by not taking it in a fantasy Sundance draft is not a sign that I have a problem.  I don’t really have anything negative to say about it.  Though I expect I’ll have more to say once I see Smashed.  And I suppose it is a little surprising that Smashed never really found the awards traction it seemed like it could.  (500) Days of Summer either, for that matter.  Apologies if I’ve brought this up, but I’m constantly amused that Brie Larson was a teenage pop star.  And am still waiting for the movie version of the She Said video.

With the fifth pick in the 2013 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

Fruitvale: I might be out on a limb here. Not all of the Grand Jury or Audience Award winners are sad slice-of-life dramas, but maybe this is Winter’s Bone or Precious? By that I mean it’s possible that this is a film of uplift in a non-Hollywood setting that relies upon a star turn by its lead actor. If so, I’m comfortable betting on Michael B. Jordan to deliver that level of performance, with Octavia Spencer serving as an ace in the hole. The premise also sounds something that could alternately be heavily cinematic or script-driven, and either way, that could be worthy of recognition. It would probably have helped my cause if I tried to find out how heartbreaking the “true story” of Oscar really is.

Jared’s Reaction: I’m going to go ahead and assume that “limb” line was a pun.  If you want to be spoiled, here is the backstory to the movie.  Also sounds vaguely like a Good Wife plot.  Anyway, I think you may have made a good choice.  Michael B. Jordan is obviously all kinds of awesome, and clearly could be comfortable in a movie that pulls at heartstrings.  The (presumably) ending and/or beginning of the movie seems like a slam dunk, but I have absolutely no idea what the rest of the movie is going to be like, and I think that’s the big question mark, if they can come up with enough to hold up the middle.

With the sixth pick in the 2013 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

C.O.G.: Wait.  This isn’t a movie about pogs?  I’m not the biggest David Sedaris fan, but his name does carry a certain cachet, and as the first of his essays to be made into a movie, I think the film already has some people rooting for it.  Plus, director Kyle Patrick Alvarez won the “Someone to Watch” Spirit Award a few years back.  I expect to see something about Jonathan Groff and Casey Wilson in your reactions, but Dale Dickey and Corey Stoll already have Spirit noms, Denis O’Hare has an Emmy nom and Dean Stockwell has (and I swear this is true) an Oscar nom.  So it doesn’t seem unreasonable they could generate some awards buzz through playing crazy Sedaris characters.

Ian’s Reaction: Gotta admit, this one felt like a slight reach to me, mostly because I share your trepidation about David Sedaris, and I wonder how his intensely personal and slight work transfers to film (I haven’t read Naked, so I could be off-base here). I certainly agree that the cast is well-chosen, and Jonathan Groff, in particular, seems like a strong Broadway-to-Hollywood candidate, but I’m not sure this movie will be strong enough to be in the running for the big awards, or cinematic enough for the more technical options. It probably stands some chance at screenwriting, though, and I think there are definitely movies in the running that are less likely to win.

With the seventh pick in the 2013 Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

Touchy Feely: Another one of those where I feel more comfortable drafting movies I’m probably not going to like.  Writer/director Lynn Shelton garnered a Special Jury Prize for Humpday, and Your Sister’s Sister pulled down a Spirit Award nomination for Rosemarie DeWitt.  It kinda feels like mumblecore is slowly moving toward mainstream.  Or mainstream is moving toward mumblecore.  Regardless, Shelton seems like she keeps progressing, and maybe that means she’s due for a critical misfire, or maybe she’s hitting her groove.  And the cast may the secret weapon, with DeWitt, Ron Livingston, Alison Janney (2 Spirit noms and countless others), Ellen Page and Scoot McNairy (who has a Spirit nom and who may well be the next indie breakout star).

Ian’s Reaction: It’s funny, I think your strategy was to pick movies that you weren’t excited by, and my strategy was to pick movies that I was excited by. I feel a strong affinity with mumblecore, but I’ve actually never seen anything that Lynn Shelton has directed outside of her TV work. You’re probably right that she’s on an upward climb with every movie, and my sense is that her work is probably more likely to crossover than something more Duplass-y, but I have to wonder if this style is one that will ever be audacious enough to actually take an award. I say that as someone who strongly prefers realistic-sounding improvisational dialogue in my movies, by the by. This may well be my personal favorite cast in any of the selections.

With the eighth pick in the Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

May in the Summer: Amreeka is not a movie that I’ve seen, but it is a movie that I know from hearing about it in the ether. Now writer/director Cherien Dabis comes back to Sundance with a movie that I chose on premise alone. I’m expecting a tightly written family drama, set in a world that the audience and judges may be somewhat unfamiliar with, and that definitely sounds like awards-bait to me. Moreover, it stands a strong chance of actually being good. As the lead actor, writer, and director of the movie, and as a Sundance favorite, I’m hoping for the jury to award Dabis with something, assuming that this movie is not up for the whole enchilada. I’d imagine that there’s an outside shot at the more technical awards, too, if only because the setting isn’t an upper middle class Los Angeles suburb.

Jared’s Reaction: I mostly stayed away because the foreign (or foreignish) films are a crapshoot.  I could see Hiam Abbass being due for some recognition.  And Alexander Siddig was quite good in Cairo Time.  It has been a little bit now since our draft, but I’m wondering if I accidentally downgraded it because I was looking at the film from a Spirit perspective.

With the ninth pick in the Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

In a World…: Yes, maybe this is a reach, and I don’t believe there’s any chance of a Grand Jury Prize here, but this isn’t just a vanity pick. My thinking for this movie is that if Sundance judges and Sundance audiences are anything like I think they are, they’d probably love nothing more than to see a movie about themselves. And hey, In A World is set to deliver. Plus, this may be a secondary concern, but there’s a chance that this movie is actually really good and pretty freaking funny. I’m pulling for an Audience Award here, or at least a Special Jury prize for best use of the Children’s Hospital cast. Fred Melamed is inspired casting as Lake Bell’s father, for what it’s worth.

Jared’s Reaction: Hey, a chip and a chair, right?  Audience Award seems like a good fit, like I may have mentioned earlier, I was trying to target films that seemed more likely to have a wider chance at awards.  I want this film to be great, so maybe, like you said, I was staying away from films I’m looking forward to.  The synopsis doesn’t give us a lot to go on, it just seemed a little too…I dunno, light? broad? to make a huge impact.

With the tenth pick in the Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

Mother of George: This one was maybe a little bit more of a gut feeling.  Director Andrew Dosunmu’s prior film, Restless City, played Sundance a couple of years ago.  Star Danai Gurira is apparently some sort of badass zombie killing machine on Walking Dead, and Yaya Alafia has received acclaim for roles in Take the Lead, Honeydripper, and The Kids are All Right.  Otherwise, I view this as a boom/bust pick.  This recap may well be the last time I ever think about the film.

Ian’s Reaction: I’m not sure if it’s more that there’s actually not a lot to go on, or if that’s my ignorance talking, but I agree that this film seems like a crapshoot as an outsider. This is kind of a silly statement, but I think the one screenshot I did see of the movie looks pretty rich and colorful, and I wonder if this may not be a Beasts of the Southern Wild-style surprise.

With the eleventh pick in the Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

Concussion: Writer/director Stacie Passon’s first imdb credit, so not a whole lot to go on there.  I know I just said that I was staying away from one category films, but this one seems like it could have some actress potential for star Robin Weigert, who has been in roughly every TV drama ever and picked up an Emmy nom for her role in Deadwood.  But I guess the comparison I’d make is to Smashed, a movie I still have yet to see, but which apparently rode Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s killer performance to pick up additional acclaim.  And who knows, maybe Passon turns out to be a Sundance darling.

Ian’s Reaction: Another film that needs to refine its elevator pitch; from the description, it could be about literally anything. The tagline makes me a little gunshy, however. It’s tough to pull for acting awards, simply because Sundance doesn’t necessarily even have to give out any of them, but Robin Weigert and Maggie Siff make for a decent one-two punch.

With the twelfth pick in the Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

Afternoon Delight: I don’t know if this is going to be an award-favorite, but I know that I stand a pretty good chance of enjoying the heck out of this, which makes it a fine pick here in the 6th round. I think Jill Soloway is a strong TV writer, and I found her memoir, Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants, crisp and engaging. If that’s not enough, she then stacks the deck by adding Kathryn Hahn, who’s long overdue in my book for carrying some sort of project. Juno Temple should add some indie cred, and Josh Radnor can add…whatever it is that he brings to projects. If it lands well, it could be an outside contender for Screenplay or even the Audience Award.

Jared’s Reaction: Jill Soloway has credits on The Steve Harvey Show, Dirty Sexy Money, and the Nikki Cox vehicle “Nikki”, so she’s A-OK in my book.  A movie with a TV pedigree that looks really funny doesn’t exactly strike me as the description of an award-winning Sundance movie, but hey, it got into competition.  And if this year’s theme is funny movies, maybe it does have a shot.  Also, the poster looks delicious.

With the thirteenth pick in the Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

Toy’s House: Speaking of Smashed, Jordan Vogt-Roberts last directed Successful Alcoholics, a short that I know we both loved. I know he’s been a comedy director in the UCB/Funny-or-Die universe for a while, but that short also proved him capable of pulling nuanced performance out of comic actors–a talent that should serve him well here. The cast is loaded with comedy ringers, from actors with a comic sensibility such as Alison Brie, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and the Offerman/Mullally Team, to crack stand-ups Hannibal Burress and Kumail Nanjiani, to improv stalwarts including Angela Trimbur, Eugene Cordero, Craig Cackowski, and Fake Radio’s own Sparks Nevada, Marc Evan Jackson. My sense is that they’ll be providing much of the color, and the story will rise and fall on the three young leads. I’m willing to see if this is Stand By Me, and if it is, it may have some chance at the Audience Award. Even if not, I’m personally still all in.

Jared’s Reaction: This one seemed to have wide error bars.  The tagline isn’t terribly descriptive and I think I’d rather watch this movie without the three young boys plot.  I don’t think that came out pervy?  I check my spam folder, like, hourly to see if there is any news I’m missing about the Thrilling Adventure Hour poster that should hopefully be mailing to me soon, so I’m not going to argue with you too much here.

With the fourteenth pick in the Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes: Doesn’t that just sound like a Sundance movie?  Francesca Gregorini wrote and directed Tanner Hall, which I’m still not certain if I actually saw or just came across the trailer so manner times that it feels like I watched it.  Imdb says that Kaya Scodelario was twice nominated for something called a Golden Nymph award, which….good lord, Monte Carlo.  Show some respect for yourself.  The tagline sounds like it comes from a horror movie, but I wonder if maybe the rest of the field is so light, this film’s darkness could play.  Taking a movie starring Jessica Biel is certainly a gamble, but seems like maybe she’s due for a turn where she can show off her acting chops.  Plus, Alfred Molina seems like a guy who is always 3/1 to pick up a supporting actor nomination, at this point in his career.

Ian’s Reaction: Just like you, when I read the title, I assumed it would be one of my top picks, and then it just…never happened. I thought Kaya Scodelario was a fascinating spectral presence on the first series of Skins, and then she started speaking. I’m also pretty sure that Jessica Biel does not have hidden depths to plumb as an actress, but I guess I could always be proven wrong. On the upside, this will be a contender for cinematography, direction, and more, but I think it’s more likely that this becomes a laughable mess.

With the fifteenth pick in the Fantasy Sundance Draft, Jared takes…

Austenland: From the wife of the husband-and-wife Hess team comes a movie about a women who goes to a Jane Austen theme park.  I guess it is kind of obvious this was my last pick, huh?  I don’t really have any idea how I’m going to spin this one.  It was based off a novel, so maybe there’s a built-in audience?  Like an audience award play?  I got nothing.  I think I was more just trying to not jinx Ian’s pick.

Ian’s Reaction: Yeah, I thought this one was coming back to me. You mentioned the Hesses, but Stephenie Meyer is also a producer here, and…how is this not an out-of-competition film again? I suppose there is always the chance that this breaks out as an audience hit the way Napoleon Dynamite had before the shame spiral set in, but I’m not optimistic about your choice here.

With the sixteenth and final pick in the Fantasy Sundance Draft, Ian takes…

The Lifeguard: Of course, I’m not optimistic about my last choice here either. For the benefit of readers/random Googlers, I think it’s safe to say that Veronica Mars is one of the earliest cultural touchstones in our friendship. So for a Kristen Bell-led feature to slip to 16th place out of 16 choices is not a promising sign. It’s not that it sounds like a bad movie, necessarily. It seems to have some personal significance/specificity, and I’m intrigued as to whether former Cold Case (and Wonderfalls!) writer Liz Garcia falls closer to Meredith Stiehm or to Veena Sud in terms of her ability to write for characters. It’s more that the concept seems so pedestrian for Sundance that I’d have a hard time imagining this movie earning any traction whatsoever unless it’s flat out terrific. But who knows! That’s why we’re gambling with our ill-considered opinions in the first place.

Jared’s Reaction: It is also entirely within the realm of possibility that on a recent baseball trip in California, Ian and I took two different detours to check out Veronica Mars filming locations.  As someone who has seen Reefer Madness: The Movie MusicalFifty PillsFanboysSerious MoonlightCouples RetreatWhen in Rome, and You Again, believe me, I’m rooting for this movie.  If only so I can start watching some Kristen Bell movies that are good.  Actually, I just checked, and I sent Ian an excited email back in July when I came across some details about the movie.  So if the film tips the scales for him I guess I only have myself to blame.

February 2020
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