When Sundance 2018 rolls around, expect a wave of Donald Trump-induced dystopian cinema (Michael Bay, of all people, is already in production on one such movie). But at this year's fest, which wrapped up on Sunday, there was only faraway talk of the surreal week in the news—although the documentary jury did invent a new trophy, the Orwell Award (necessary in an era of "post-truth, double-speak, and alternative facts")—and the gossip in the streets of Park City. Here are the most resounding takeaways from the week that was, from the protests on site to the films already tipped for next year's Oscars race.
Malia Obama, First Daughter of Sundance
Dad might have his impending book deal (rumored at $20 million-plus), but Malia has got Hollywood internships: First, she wrangled coffee on the set of Girls in 2015, now she has a reported gig working for Harvey Weinstein. This week, she was all over Park City, but not in her Weinstein Co. capacity (that starts in February). She was there to both protest Trump's revival of the Dakota Access Pipeline and to see films like Rebel in the Rye, Danny Strong's biopic of J.D. Salinger, and Beach Rats, "a gritty tale of young people adrift on Coney Island." Sounds like an 18-year-old's gap year to me!
Putin Targets Independent Cinema?
Likely not, but the festival was a victim of cyberattacks that shut down its box office on opening day. There was no direct link to any one event, but it did occur right after the Park City Women's March, which concurred with the march in Washington, D.C. Speaking of...
Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, and John Legend All Protested Trump
The march along the snowy streets was led by Chelsea Handler and Mary McCormack, and attracted a slew of stars. McCormack had her response for Twitter trolls all ready to go: “Before anyone criticizes us for having a march at Sundance, and for only walking four blocks,” she told the crowd assembled at a supermarket nearby, “keep in mind we’re at 7,000 feet—so that’s like marching 12 blocks in Washington.”
Kristen Stewart and Donald Trump, the Backstory
Among all the women the 45th president has attacked and insulted on Twitter, Stewart is not exempt. In 2012, Trump decided to weigh in on the on-again, off-again state of her relationship with Robert Pattinson. (Somehow, not a surprise.) "Robert Pattinson should not take back Kristen Stewart. She cheated on him like a dog & will do it again—just watch. He can do much better," reality show host Trump tweeted then. When it was brought up to her by Variety last week, Stewart remembered the whole thing as "f--king crazy."
Kristen Stewart and St. Vincent, Exes, Both Made Their Directorial Debuts
In addition to announcing her next project, a short film about gun control, Kristen Stewart made her less-woke directorial debut with Come Swim, which she described to The Hollywood Reporter as about "first-world white-people bullshit problems." Well, it's really a very avant-garde short film about a man literally drowning from loneliness, and it happens to be scored by her ex St. Vincent. Speaking of Annie Clark, she also took her bow as a filmmaker, as one of the four women directors of the horror anthology XX.
The Horror of Being Black Around White People
What is actually more horrifying than axe murderers or the undead? Being a black man meeting the so liberal parents of your white girlfriend. That's the premise of Jordan Peele's festival favorite horror movie Get Out, which stars Daniel Kaluuya as the boyfriend and Allison Williams (flawlessly cast) as the liberal white girlfriend. Shudder.
Tavi Was There. So Was Abbi Jacobson. Together. In the Same Movie
Plus Michael Cera and Philip Baker Hall, all starring in the ensemble comedy Person to Person. It takes place over the course of one day in New York. Like After Hours, but less cocaine, probably.
Meet Yung Patti Cake$
Maybe the most exuberantly joyous film of the fest, with an audience response to match. People fell hard for this story of a young, plus-size female rapper trying to get away from New Jersey and the bullies who live there. Her way out? Undeterred rhymes (“My life is f--kin’ awesome!”) and a hip-group called, adorably, PBNJ. Remember that ultra-charming 2013 film We Are the Best!, about Swedish girls in a punk band, that basically bottled teen spirit? No? Well, go see this anyway when it hits theaters. (Fox Searchlight snapped it up for $9.5 million, among the biggest sales at Sundance.)
Netflix Finally Lands a Movie People Actually Want to Watch
I suppose there is an audience, technically, for Adam Sandler and Kevin James vehicles. I guess Beasts of No Nation was well-reviewed. But has anyone actually ever brought up a Netflix-branded film in conversation other than to recommend against it? In chasing after the awards season success of Amazon's Manchester by the Sea, Netflix opened its pocketbook for Mudbound, a drama directed by Dee Rees, who made a noisy debut at Sundance in 2011 with her film Pariah. At $12.5 million, it was the most expensive toy in the store, but it has everything—period drama, racial divide, Carey Mulligan—to make a showing come next Oscars season.
The 2018 Oscars Race Just Got Started
Ah yes, we haven't even held the 2017 Academy Awards, and the speculation has already clicked into gear. The aforementioned Mudbound is a strong contender. It features features two post-WWII families in Mississippi—one is white (Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke), the other black (Rob Morgan, Mary J. Blige!!)—that become dramatically, and problematically, intertwined. Plus, there may be a strong campaign in the works to make Rees the first black woman to be nominated for Best Director. The other most acclaimed drama at the fest was Luca Guadagnino's Call Me by Your Name. Based on André Aciman's novel, it tells of a coming-of-sexual-age love affair in the Italian countryside between Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet. There are plaintive songs by Sufjan Stevens, and whispers of—shhh, real quiet here—Brokeback Mountain, maybe the most incomparable of Sundance success stories. Throw into this prestige sled the delightful Patti Cake$ and The Big Sick, the comedian Kumail Nanjiani's fictionalization of his own love story with his wife, and you have enough weight to start the hurtle downhill towards Oscars 2018.