5 Oscar-Bound Movies from Sundance 2014
Hannah Serena Goldstein
Sundance has a reputation for being the festival where Oscar’s future darlings take their bold first steps. And there’s a reason for that: “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “Precious” are just a few of the dramas that premiered here on their way to ultimate awards-show celebrity. The Academy may be a trifle unpredictable at times—we’re still scratching our heads at the absence of “Fruitvale Station” from last year’s nominees, much less winners—but if the awards are for innovative moviemaking, these five flicks should take home gold in 2015.
Be it Natalie Portman in “Black Swan” or Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln,” the Academy loves to love the Method technique. So we’re optimistic voters will respond to Richard Linklater’s pièce de résistance, a movie filmed over 12 years. The plot of an imaginative boy growing up in Texas becomes riveting as the actors change with their characters and occasionally, due to script rewrites, vice versa.
Speaking of “Black Swan,” the Academy seems to favor movies about conflicted characters and their transformations. This dramatic feature picked up prestigious Sundance awards for its portrait of a music student (Miles Teller) straining toward his teacher’s exacting standards. Critics are already calling it the “Black Swan” of jazz percussion, and it seems inevitable the Academy will vote as such next January.
It’s exciting just to see once-typecast actors rebrand themselves: Everyone cheered when action-movie standby Sandra Bullock won for “The Blind Side.” Likewise, Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader may be known for their comic talents, but their serious turns in this acclaimed drama elevate a Best Screenplay–winning story to a moving commentary on sibling dynamics.
Like Sundance’s slogan, the Academy tends to crave “something more than the same old story”; the success of “Juno” owes a lot to its fresh take on a stale topic, for example. Like teen pregnancy, abortion and breakups are typically dramatic subjects, and that’s what makes “Obvious Child” so very satisfying: The first abortion-and-breakup rom-com, the film approaches sentimentalized topics with humor and realism.
The hype over “Avatar” shows that sci-fi movies can win awards-show nods if they say something more original and less clichéd. The buzz-worthy brainchild of Mike Cahill (“Another Earth”), this particular biology-informed drama explores what happens when science yields spiritual breakthroughs, reconciling rationalism with religion and even love.