While the movies categorized by the Academy as the year’s best pictures certainly are some of the best, the most artistic ones tend to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival — including past films like Beasts of the Southern Wild, Memento and Reservoir Dogs.
Every year the popular film fest showcases 200 of the world’s best independent films, giving lesser known filmmakers, actors and producers a chance to shine. If the filmmakers are lucky, some wealthy celebrity-turned-producer will be at their screening, fall in love with the story and want to fund it so maybe next year it will be considered for an Academy Award.
This year’s lineup (the festival runs from Jan. 16-26) seems to have been created just for Policymic readers, and includes stories that are thought provoking, controversial and relatable. However, seeing 200 films is quite the challenge, so we’ve combed through the 2014 selections and narrowed the list down to our own version of the Best Picture category.
1. 'Dear White People'
There’s nothing young audiences love more than seeing young, hard working and hilarious people passionate about challenging society. No matter what your race, anyone who’s heard the name Tyler Perry a few too many times will think this satire has successfully addressed many of the issues we have with race and Hollywood. Justin Simien makes a promising directorial debut with this film.
Directed by Greg Whitely, this film offers a refreshing look at Mitt Romney and his recent attempt at winning the presidency. After the premiere, this film is set for a Jan. 24 Netflix release. It will definitely change the way you view the man who was nearly president.
3. 'Happy Christmas'
Image courtesy of Sundance Institute.
No significant other, no plan and no place to live. This realistic drama directed by Joe Swanberg might hit close to home. After the success of last year’s Drinking Buddies, Swanberg is back with even more down-to-earth and relatable characters. If the cast (Lena Dunham, Anna Kendrick) doesn’t draw you in, the all-too-familiar tale of a young woman (Kendrick) who doesn’t know what to do with her life, will.
4. 'The Internet's Own Boy'
Following the late internet activist and programming pioneer Aaron Swartz’s controversial hacking gesture and subsequent arrest and suicide, director Brian Knappenberger explores how the young man’s work affected the future of information access the internet, and the people who use it.
5. 'White Bird in a Blizzard'
Inspired by the book of the same name, White Bird in a Blizzard examines the relationship between a mother and daughter. Hollywood’s darling, Shailene Woodley, stars as a struggling young woman whose mother mysteriously disappears. Director Greg Arraki uses interesting music and dream sequences to tell the tale that Laura Kasicshke wrote — a tale actually inspired by a news report she read in the 80s.
6. 'Ivory Tower'
This investigative documentary directed by Andrew Rossi about the cost of education will lead you to question whether or not your ivy league degree was worth it.
7. 'Wish I Was Here'
It’s been 10 years since Zach Braff challenged the paths we’d chosen with the very impactful Garden State. Now, Braff is pushing us even farther with Wish I Was Here. Braff – who also directs the film – plays a 35-year-old father and husband who has no idea what his purpose in life is, a question we all might face one day if we haven’t already. This film also features the late James Avery in one of his last roles.
8. 'Web Junkie'
Image courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Are you suffering from an Internet Addiction? Seasoned documentarian Shosh Shlam’s latest documentary may reveal the answer to that question. The controversial film explores the diagnosis and treatment of the condition that plagues young people in China, the only country to identify Internet Addiction as a clinical disorder.
9. 'Skeleton Twins'
Craig Johnson’s film about a set of twins re-examining their lives and the paths they’ve chosen might be categorized as a drama. But with a cast that includes Kristin Wiig, Bill Hader, Luke Wilson and Ty Burrell, you can bet there will be some hilarious moments as well.
10. 'One Billion Rising'
Once a year in over 200 countries, men and women turn a horrendous act into a beautiful one as they dance, sing, and march to end violence against women. Eve Ensler’s documentation of these events will inspire you to do the same.