The MVPs of Sundance: From Linklater to von Trier

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There are only a couple of days left in this year's Sundance Film Festival, the annual indie film party in Utah, so to honor the passing of another year of sweaters and cinema, let's honor the event's MVPs.

Richard Linklater

If anyone was the ultimate MVP of this festival it was director Richard Linklater, who debuted his Boyhood, a movie filmed over the course of 12 years. Ben Fritz at the Wall Street Journal wrote that it "breaks new cinematic ground"; Owen Gleiberman said it's "an entrancing, one-of-a-kind act of dramatic storytelling: a beautiful stunt of a movie."  The movie is about a boy named Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane, who Linklater filmed in intervals as Coltrane grew up in real time. 

Saturday Night Live Alums

It was a good festival for alums of the long-running comedy show. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig took to the dramatic in The Skeleton Twins, in which they play siblings who come together after years of estrangement, following their separate suicide attempts (Sundance!). The film sold to Lionsgate/Roadside and received great reviews. "Audiences were buzzing about Hader's surprisingly skilled dramatic turn — as a self-lacerating gay man, he handles his first major lead role with aplomb — but there's plenty of dark comedy here, too, which the ex–Saturday Night Live stars obviously excel at," wrote Kyle Buchanan of Vulture.  

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Meanwhile, Jenny Slate, who had a much shorter stint on SNL (remember? but also, uh, remember?), had festival success with Obvious Child, which won distribution from A24 Films. In the "abortion rom-com"  Slate demonstrated that she has the "makings of a rather special movie star: lovably gawky, casually relatable and very, very funny," according to HitFix's Guy Lodge.  

Elisabeth Moss

Fresh off her Golden Globe win for Top of the Lake, Elisabeth Moss scored with not one but two movies at Sundance. In Listen Up Philip, she plays the girlfriend of Jason Schwartzman's titular novelist, and Rodrigo Perez of The Playlist called her "wonderfully nuanced." In The One I Love, she's paired with Mark Duplass, and Geoff Berkshire of Variety said that both she and Duplass give "spectacular performances" as a couple drifting apart. "Both roles at Sundance capture the shifting mix of steely determination and soft vulnerability that is something of Moss’ stock in trade," Mark Olsen (no relation to Peggy, we think) wrote at the Los Angeles Times.

Miles Teller

Miles Teller had a hit at Sundance last year with The Spectacular Now, and this year he was back wowing audiences with opening night film Whiplash, in which he plays a student drummer, who must contend with a brutal teacher in the form of J.K. Simmons. Jada Yuan at Vulture asked: "Is it possible for an actor to break through at two consecutive Sundances?" 


Lars von Trier 

Von Trier's graphic-sex epic Nymphomaniac: Volume 1 was the surprise "secret screening" of the festival. So kudos, Mr. von Trier, for tricking a bunch of unassuming festival-goers into watching explicit, un-simulated sex. The Skeleton Twins director Craig Johnson even took his parents to see it, thinking it might be the new Wes Anderson movie, according to Variety's Ramin Setoodeh. Johnson told a crowd at a screening of his movie: "Thank you Sundance for the single weirdest movie experience of my life." 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.