0114KMTsundanceHEADER

America’s favorite party-fueled, star-studded movie bender, the Sundance Film Festival, starts its projectors this Thursday in Park City, Utah.

And whether or not you’re planning on packing up your skis and a promising starlet and heading to Redford-ville for the next 10 days, there’s no way you’ll be able to catch all 16 American dramatic premieres—let alone the 16 documentaries, 24 international films and 66 shorts that will be screening over the next 10 days. So we’ve put together a fool-proof primer on what you need to know to pass muster.

Herewith, an annotated guide to the films at Sundance this year:

0114KMTsundance1 The Flick: Camp X-Ray
The Buzz: Kristen Stewart plays a soldier at Guantanamo Bay, befriends an inmate and puts the final nail in the coffin when it comes to camouflage as a style choice.

0114KMTsundance2 The Flick: Cold in July
The Buzz: Dexter’s Michael C. Hall kills a home invader, then must deal with the thief’s vengeful father. Described as “muggy, oppressive and hard to shake,” kind of like the weather in New York right now.

0114KMTsundance3 The Flick: Dear White People
The Buzz: A tongue-in-cheek comedy about racial tension in a prestigious university. Expect spot-on witty satire and white audience members unsure of whether or not their laughter is acceptable.

0114KMTsundance4 The Flick: Fishing Without Nets
The Buzz: Somali pirating, from the point of view of the Somali pirates. Early reports say Tom Hanks is nowhere to be seen.

0114KMTsundance5 The Flick: God’s Pocket
The Buzz: John Slattery directs Christina Hendricks, Philip Seymour Hoffman and other big names in a crime drama set in what looks like the same small town that Don Draper grew up in.

0114KMTsundance6 The Flick: Happy Christmas
The Buzz: A family drama starring Anna Kendrick and Lena Dunham; drunkenness, sisterhood ensue.

0114KMTsundance7 The Flick: Hellion
The Buzz: Aaron Paul, as an adrift father, must set aside differences with his delinquent elder son to regain custody of the younger from Child Protective Services. Heart-wrenching, no doubt.

0114KMTsundance8 The Flick: Infinitely Polar Bear
The Buzz: Raising two girls while their mother attains her MBA in another city, a bipolar Mark Ruffalo struggles to keep afloat. Uplifting, apparently.

0114KMTsundance9 The Flick: Jaime Marks Is Dead
The Buzz: A boy befriends the ghost of his mysteriously dead, bullied classmate and falls in love with the girl who discovered the body. Based on the novel Sorrow by Christopher Barzak.

0114KMTsundance10 The Flick: Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
The Buzz: A Tokyo woman, convinced that a fictional briefcase filled with money awaits her, takes her bunny and heads to Minnesota. Obviously.

0114KMTsundance11 The Flick: Life After Beth
The Buzz: While mourning the death of his girlfriend, a teenager is relieved to find her revived… sort of. Aubrey Plaza is, unsurprisingly, a hilarious zombie.

0114KMTsundance12 The Flick: Low Down
The Buzz: The daughter of bebop pianist Joe Albany grows up managing her father’s heroin addiction but must define herself regardless. Starring Elle Fanning, John Hawkes and two-thirds of the Lannister siblings.

0114KMTsundance13 The Flick: The Skeleton Twins
The Buzz: Led by Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, this is actually not a comedy, but about estranged twins repairing their relationship after simultaneously surviving near-death experiences. So, maybe a comedy?

0114KMTsundance14 The Flick: The Sleepwalker
The Buzz: A psychological thriller involving two sisters in a secluded family estate and some seriously warped versions of reality. That sadsack from Girls plays the boyfriend of one of them.

0114KMTsundance15 The Flick: Song One
The Buzz: Anne Hathaway tracks down her comatose brother’s favorite Brooklyn musician, falls in love and learns about life. Classic Brooklyn.

0114KMTsundance16 The Flick: Whiplash
The Buzz: Trained by a prestigious musician with unorthodox methods, a young drummer epically battles his fear of mediocrity. Blood is spilt, somehow.

—S.P.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Stephen Praetorius