The Duplass brothers, Jay and Mark, put together a list of their top nine favorite films available on Sundance Now, the streaming service with award winning films, documentaries and TV series. Their curated collection features the early works of directors like Barry Jenkins, Andrea Arnold and Andrew Haigh, among others.
Since it’s a list for Sundance Now, the brothers recommended movies that in their mind are “quintessentially Sundancian” and have a “rawness of emotion.”
“In my mind, these films have a surprising number of specific elements in common: pin-pointed specific point of view from the director, a first or early film, non-professional actors, an uncontrolled documentary style, low budget, rawness of emotion, and performances that make your subconscious wonder at times if it’s a documentary,” said Jay Duplass. “More than anything, the films feel like they have been made by someone very specific, and you get the feeling that you really know something about them, that they are somehow telling their story of origin with this film, and that it might never be this personal ever again.”
“Sometimes you want to see your favorite director’s early films before they figured out exactly who they were, or what stories they were best suited to tell,” added Mark Duplass. “Sometimes in the early films you see the inspiration, half formed, that eventually bloomed into your favorite film of theirs a few years later. Also, sometimes it’s just nice to see your favorite filmmakers not be perfect… because it makes you feel a little closer to them.”
The curated collection will be released on December 20. Check out their list below, which features quotes about their picks, as well as descriptions of each film.
“Myth of the American Sleepover” – Directed by David Robert Mitchell
“Movies made this cheaply shouldn’t be this interesting.” – Mark
In the tradition of free-wheeling tributes to adolescence like DAZED & CONFUSED, the film follows four young people (a cast of brilliant young newcomers in their feature film debuts) on the last night of summer – their final night of freedom before the new school year starts. The teenagers cross paths as they explore the suburban wonderland they inhabit in search of love and adventure – chasing first kisses, elusive crushes, popularity and parties – and discover the quiet moments that will later resonate as the best in their youth.
“Prince of Broadway” – Directed by Sean Baker
“The movie is simply awesome.” – Mark
PRINCE OF BROADWAY is the story of Lucky (Prince Adu) and Levon (Karren Karagulian), two men whose lives converge in the underbelly of New York’s wholesale fashion district. Lucky, an illegal immigrant from Ghana, makes ends meet by soliciting shoppers on the street with knock-off brand merchandise. Levon, an Armenian-Lebanese immigrant, operates an illegal storefront with a concealed back room where counterfeit goods are showcased to interested shoppers. Lucky’s world is suddenly turned upside down when a child is thrust into his life by a woman who insists the toddler is his son. While Lucky copes with his new domestic dilemma, Levon struggles to save a marriage that is falling apart. The seedy side of the wholesale district is revealed through a journey that continually confronts the interplay between what is fake and what is real. Set in the shadow of the Flatiron building and soaked in the colorful bustle of Broadway, the film is as much a brutal drama as it is a tender comedy, revealing the lives of immigrants in America seeking ideals of family and love, while creating their own knock-off of the American Dream.
“Daddy Longlegs” – Directed by Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie
“Can a single father and wild child at heart actually be a good father to two young boys?” – Jay
After months of being alone, sad, busy, sidetracked, free, lofty, late and away from his kids, Lenny (Ronald Bronstein), 34 with graying frazzled hair, picks his kids up from school. Every year he spends a couple of weeks with his sons Sage (Sage Ranaldo), 9, and Frey (Frey Ranaldo), 7. Lenny juggles his kids and everything else all within a midtown studio apartment in New York City. He ultimately faces the choice of being their father or their friend with the idea that these two weeks must last 6 months. In these two weeks, a trip upstate, visitors from strange lands, a mother, a girlfriend, “magic” blankets, and complete lawlessness seem to take over their lives. The film is a swan song to excuses and irresponsibilities; to fatherhood and self-created experiences, and to what it’s like to be truly torn between being a child and being an adult.
“Fish Tank” – Directed by Andrea Arnold
“A young girl in the projects dares to unleash her heart and talent upon her mother’s new boyfriend.” – Jay
Winner of the Cannes Jury Prize, FISH TANK is an emotionally stunning coming-of-age story, electrified by the breakthrough performance of its young star Katie Jarvis. Fifteen-year-old Mia (Katie Jarvis) is in a constant state of war with her family and the world around her, without any creative outlet for her considerable energies save a secret love of hip-hop dance. When she meets her party-girl mother’s charming new boyfriend Connor (Michael Fassbender), she is amazed to find he returns her attention, and believes he might help her start to make sense of her life. A clear-eyed, potent portrait of teenage sexuality and vulnerability.
“Goliath” – Directed by David Zellner
“A miserable man launches a citywide search campaign for his missing cat.” – Jay
“A lost cat is always about more than a lost cat.” – Mark
A study in economical storytelling that lives up to its name in laughs. GOLIATH ripples with insights into the human condition:specifically, the condition of a man working in a dead-end job, going through a divorce, and coping with a missing cat. The crappy job and the divorce he can take, but the absent cat is too much. He focuses his frustration on broadening his neighborhood search:posting flyers, offering a reward, even seeking out the assistance of a private investigator. When his worst fears are confirmed, he snaps, but realizes in the end where happiness can be found.
“Medicine for Melancholy” – Directed by Barry Jenkins
“After you see ‘Moonlight’ you have to see everything he’s made.” – Mark
A one-night stand between two young African-Americans gets complicated when a casual affair becomes an exploration of love and identity.
“My Effortless Brilliance” – Directed by Lynn Shelton
“Lynn Shelton shows here how well she understands complicated male friendships.” – Mark
An unfit urbanite author must confront nature & friendship when he travels to the Washington backwoods to restore the tattered remains of a broken friendship.
“Raising Victor Vargas” – Directed by Peter Solett
“A pre-teen Romeo from the Lower East Side attempts to seduce a girl who appears to be out of his reach.” – Jay
A Lower East Side teenager struggles to find sanity while surrounded by an eccentric grandmother, a crazy new girlfriend, and a longing younger brother.
“Weekend” – Directed by Andrew Haigh
“A one night-stand between two men marches towards a surprisingly deep relationship.” – Jay
After meeting one lonely Friday night at a bar, Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New) find themselves caught up in an lost weekend full of sex, drugs, and intimate conversation. Although they have conflicting ideas of what it is they want from life and certainly how to get it, they form a startling emotional connection that will resonate throughout their lives.