SUNDANCE PICKS

WHEN QUIRKY MINDS MAKE QUIRKY FILMS

According to American film critic Kenneth Turan, the International Sundance Film Festival is “where dreams come true.” It was there in Park City, Utah where Steven Soderbergh made his name with Sex, Lies and Videotape and where Kevin Smith became known as a filmmaker with Clerks. The sexy ski town 30-plus miles from Salt Lake City swells from a population of 7,800 to well over 40,000 during the festival. Cinephiles at the festival will have their dreams come true as being the first to view some groundbreaking independent and American cinema, and filmmakers will make their name in Park City. The highly anticipated festival will celebrate its 30th anniversary this January (festival runs January 16-26) with over 100 features chosen as part of the program. Here are a few fun and off-the-wall picks from yours truly.

To Be Takei
Director: Jennifer M. Kroot

There are two types of people in this world: those who like George Takei and those who are lying. Unless you’re a homophobe or Star Trek hater it seems impossible not to love the charismatic Takei who is now an activist for gay rights. The documentary is sure to be a big hit at the festival where it will highlight Takei’s humble beginnings, including his time in Japanese-American internment camps, and his remarkable career as an actor where he landed the iconic role of Sulu in Star Trek. As a social media phenom, with over five million fans and followers, and a poster child for marriage equality, the film will no doubt show us that George Takei is as relevant as ever – not that we need any convincing.

Cooties
Directors: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion

What do you get when you put the creators of Saw and Glee together in one room? Apparently you get Cooties, an outlandish prepubescent horror comedy set in an elementary school. Instead of say, head lice or the flu going around, kids are catching an evil bug that transforms them into cannibal, mutant students. As if that wasn’t goofy enough, add to the equation an ensemble cast of “teachers,” including Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill and Jack McBreyer. Maybe they’ll even break into song at some point and we’ll get a cameo by Billy the Puppet. If not, I’m sure it will be just as fun to see how the protagonists escape the clutches of the mutant elementary children.

Ping Pong Summer
Director: Michael Tully

The ‘80s seem like a nostalgic era for everyone – even those who didn’t grow up in it. Maybe that’s why I feel drawn to Ping Pong Summer, a coming-of-age film set in the summer of 1985. Or perhaps it’s because the film centres on a 13-year-old white kid obsessed with ping-pong and hip hop. Rad Miracle (what a name) has one hell of a summer on his family vacation in Ocean City, Maryland, where he meets a lady friend, butts heads with racist, rich bullies and makes a new best friend who happens to be black. The film just seems like a good time and I also like the fact that it tackles real world problems like racism and the social divide: two issues in American culture that unfortunately are still at the forefront of headlines and politics.

The Double
Director: Richard Ayoade

I’m not going to lie, I love Richard Ayoade. Since discovering the comedian on the hilarious British comedy the IT Crowd, I have been following him ever since. The Double is his second feature film as director and should show off another side to him as the film is being described as a “black comedy.” The film focuses on Jesse Eisenberg as Simon, a man whose life is being taken over by a doppelgänger who is stronger, better and faster than he is. The supporting cast includes Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, Noah Taylor and James Fox. From the looks of the trailer, the cinematography looks exceptional and I’m looking forward to Eisenberg’s performance, which has already garnered much praise from critics who saw the film on the fall festival circuit.

The Sundance Film Festival runs from January 16 to 26.

By Sheena Manabat

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