The Film Threat team descended upon the icy tundra of Park City, Utah in January seeking shelter indoors with the goal to see as many films as possible. Film Threat fought to bring you reviews from the 2019 Sundance Film Festival along with coverage of the party scene and some perspective on this massive celebration of groundbreaking films and exciting new voices in cinema.
Led by Film Threat publisher and festival veteran Chris Gore, this new crop of writers battled the cold and their own anxieties to navigate the biggest festival event of the year. Here’s what they saw… (and in some cases, what they drank.)
Years attending Sundance: Went to my first in 1996 and it was very different. Missed a few along the way, but been almost 20 times.
Sundance 2019 Films Seen (I mostly did interviews for our podcast): Anthropocene: The Human Epoch, Apollo 11, Bedlam, Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, Big Time Adolescence, Memory: The Origins of Alien, The Mustang and Mope.
Fave Sundance 2019 Film: I can’t choose. Forgive me.
Best Party or Lounge: Legion M is always fun, free of elitism with plenty of pizza, beer and wings. The Fly Lounge was also a blast with free-flowing beer and CBD shots. Also, the HBO Documentary Films party was at a steakhouse and had the best food of any event during Sundance. They had a carving station and I just wanted to steal that hunk of meat for my mates at the condo.
Best Party I Crashed: Somehow I crashed the Vulture Lounge when I walked in with Sam Richardson and his crew. (I guess they thought I was somebody.) They had great snacks and coffee.
Tales from the Film Threat Condo: The altitude will make you gassy. So with eight people staying in the condo, well, it often sounded colorful in the evening.
Best Sundance Post-Screening Experience or Q&A: Actor Tom Skerritt joined director Alexandre O. Philippe to discuss Alien after the screening of Alexandre’s documentary Memory: The Origins of Alien. It was amazing to see Captain Dallas from Alien discuss working with Ridley Scott.
Celebrity Sighting: As I mentioned earlier, I crashed the Vulture Lounge and I stuck around for a bit. It was quiet and then Pete Davidson walks in with Machine Gun Kelly and the place gets all quiet… Sundance actor royalty I guess.
Years attending Sundance: Only my second year, so a veteran in this group.
Best Party or Lounge: I spent most of my time in movie theaters, so how about best movie theater? I have to give that to the Eccles, of course.
Best Party I Crashed: The Documentary Now! party was really creative (and designed by my friend Lauren!) and played into the episode that debuted at Sundance.
Tales from the Film Threat Condo: Best newsroom I’ve ever worked in. I got to see a bunch of dedicated movie fans hard at work.
Best Sundance Post-Screening Experience or Q&A: It’s always fun to meet people after a movie that you only know from Twitter and discuss the movie you just saw. The best Q&A was The Report because they brought up Dan Jones, who was the real-life character played by Adam Driver.
Celebrity Sighting: Jon Hamm was in my screening of Native Son but I cared more about Chaz Ebert sitting two rows behind me. Roger Ebert is – and most film writers’- my hero and I love how she continues his legacy.
Most Surprising Thing About Sundance 2019: The weather in the middle of January in Park City was really nice! Especially since I came home to single-digit temperatures.
Years attending Sundance: This was my first time at Sundance. And it lived up to everything I thought it would be.
Fave Sundance 2019 film: My favorite film at Sundance was easily Wu-Tang: Of Mics and Men. Having already known a lot about the rap group, this movie filled in a lot blanks. Check out my review of the film for more detail.
Best Party or Lounge: The best lounge was easily the Fly Lounge. Not only was It easy to get into, but the open bar, and free CBD products made it by far superior to any of the lounges I had to struggle to get into.
Tales from the Film Threat condo: Nothing too crazy happened at the condo, but the most memorable moments came from the late night work sessions with me and the crew. Even though the space was, tight, it never felt overcrowded or annoying.
Best Sundance Post-Screening experience or Q&A: There were several post screening Q&As that were pretty amazing, but I really loved the Mope Q&A the most. Hearing About how all the crazy things that went on set and just what it took to get the movie made from the cast and director gave me a greater appreciation of the movie.
Celebrity sightings: Being at Sundance in Park City you’re going to see a ton of celebrities because it’s such a small town, but the most memorable for me were running into Emma Roberts at the Legion M lounge, Also talking with Boots Riley, seeing Tessa Thompson and Angela Sarafyan from WestWorld.
Most surprising thing about Sundance 2019: Having this been my first year, I didn’t really know what to expect. But the most surprising thing was how helpful all of the Sundance volunteers were. Unlike many other festivals I’ve attended, this was easily the most coordinated and efficient festival I’ve been to. Also, how well the the tram and public transportation ran getting me from film to film.
Years attending Sundance: My first year! But I’m no longer a virgin.
Sundance 2019 Films Reviewed: Memory: The Origins of Alien, Ms. Purple, Sister Aimee, The Lodge, Paradise Hills, Wounds, Before You Know It, The Hole in the Ground, Hala, Little Monsters, The Nightingale, Clemency, Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, The Sharks.
Best Party or Lounge: Queer Warm Up at the Kickstarter Lounge
Tales from the Film Threat Condo: The time Dante James and I got drunk and I wrote reviews all day long.
Best Sundance Post-Screening Experience or Q&A: Clemency, in which they described the process they went through to ensure authenticity in depicting executions, and the surprising amount of female wardens in the United States prisons.
Celebrity Sighting: Armie Hammer in the Library Theater because, well, Armie Hammer.
Most Surprising Thing About Sundance 2019: The more you watched movies, the more you wanted to see them. Also, the cold wasn’t as cold as you would expect.
Years attending Sundance: This was my first year, but I hope not my last!
Sundance 2019 Films Reviewed: Shooting The Mafia, Queen of Hearts, The Sound of Silence, The Mountain, The Wolf Hour, Imaginary Order, The Death of Dick Long, Selah and the Spades, (I also saw After the Wedding, but Matt Passantino wrote the review.)
Fave Sundance 2019 Film: The variety and high quality of the films made for very different experiences that are hard to compare, which was the best part of coming to Sundance, nothing I saw was bad. I would say The Sound of Silence would top the list because it blends several things I have an interest in: sound, technology, New York City, and the awkwardness of relationships for people who relate better to ideas and machines than to other people.
The Mountain runs a close second, Jeff Goldblum in a dramatic role is a real treat.
Best Party or Lounge: As a lifelong introvert, the party/lounge scene was not my sweet spot. My favorite social time was sitting by the fire at the condo with snacks and hot tea, telling stories from the day, talking movies, and doing the podcast with the Film Threat crew. That was a proper Salon style gathering and a fantastic way to end the day.
Tales from the Film Threat Condo: An amazing time was had one night ordering in Chinese food and watching the Fyre Festival documentary. You haven’t watched a show until you’ve done so in a room full of critics. Also, the logistics of 8 people sharing a tiny little condo: you’d think it would be chaos, but we settled into a routine and it went like clockwork. It was a great group to be with.
Random moments: It’s 4AM, where the hell is Norm? How do you pronounce Walter’s last name? When Chris says it, it has subtitles. Someone used a porno mag to scrape the ice off the car windows.
Best Sundance Post-Screening Experience or Q&A: The Q&A for The Sound of Silence with Peter Sarsgaard was great.
Celebrity Sighting: Annette Bening at the screening for The Report, and Peter Sarsgaard at The Sound of Silence. At that screening I met two ladies from Manhattan who come to Sundance every year just to find celebrities, Jon Hamm was a big favorite for them. My shuttle driver back to SLC said last year he had been hired to drive for Marisa Tomei and spent a great deal of time with her + entourage and that they were lovely people.
Most Surprising Thing About Sundance 2019: I was impressed at the scope of the festival. It has screenings between 3 cities that are each about 35 miles apart from the others and runs 24/7 with around 125,000 attendees. This is an extremely well-run festival: the volunteers are all awesome, the logistics are flawless, the quality of the theaters is very good. The volunteers usually each have a good story to tell: they come to see movies in exchange for working the festival, and they have an extraordinary level of commitment to film to do so, many of them have been coming for years. They come from all over. I spoke with one lady from New York who’d saved up to come and got her badge in exchange for volunteering. She was so excited to get tickets to screenings. It’s encouraging to see people that jazzed for movies.
Anthony Ray Bench
Years attending Sundance: Second Year.
Sundance 2019 Films Reviewed: Untitled Amazing Johnathan Documentary, Divine Love, Fighting with My Family, Untouchable, Koko-di Koko-da, The Souvenir, The Witch Hunters, Judy and Punch, and Where’s My Roy Cohn?
Fave Sundance 2019 Film: Untitled Amazing Johnathan Documentary.
Best Party or Lounge: Fly Lounge, but to be fair it was the only one I went to this year.
Tales from the Film Threat Condo: That time Bobby, Walter, Brad and I all ordered and shared Chinese food. Also, Bobby still owes me $25 for his special noodles or whatever it was. Pay up, Bobby!
Best Sundance Post-Screening Experience or Q&A: So I was wrestling (heh) with getting a ticket for Fighting with My Family. It looked like it was a lost cause, but the publicist hooked me up late into the 11th hour. The line was ridiculous because everyone wanted to see Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. The Publicist hooked me up with a reserved seat that sat me close to Nick Frost (like four seats away from him), The Rock, WWE’s Paige, Lena Headley, NXT’s Aleister Black, Florence Pugh, WWE’s and Zelina Vega. After the film, they did a really great Q&A with minimal stupid questions. It was neat to see The Rock and Stephen Merchant field questions together.
Celebrity Sighting: I saw Shia LaBeouf just hanging out outside of The Ray. I recognized his voice and sure enough there he was. His beard was surprisingly well groomed. Good for him!
Most Surprising Thing About Sundance 2019: How bad Utah Mexican food is. My carne asada burrito was criminally bland. Step it up, Utah!
More Sundance Reviews from Film Threat’s Remote Team Coverage
Here’s the review round-up from our remote team who was unable to join us in Park City, but were there in spirit.
Bobby LePire: Anthropocene: The Human Epoch