SALT LAKE CITY — With 141 different Sundance Film Festival screenings happening in Salt Lake City this month, people along the Wasatch Front are running out of excuses for avoiding this year's festival. Especially considering that nearly every one of those screenings is for a different film.
To save you time — because, let's face it, 141 films are a lot of films to sift through — here are 12 downtown screenings that caught our attention.
“Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot”: “Good Will Hunting” director Gus Van Sant returns to the festival with a stellar cast and plotline. “Don’t Worry …” stars Joaquin Phoenix as the real-life John Callahan, an irreverent partier who becomes a quadriplegic after a car accident in his early twenties. Clutching a pen between both hands, Callahan surprisingly took up drawing, and his provocative cartoons stirred the pot at a Portland newspaper for nearly 30 years. The film also stars Jack Black, Jonah Hill and Rooney Mara.
When and where: Jan. 20, 3:15 p.m., Grand Theatre
“Three Identical Strangers”: What are the odds that three identical triplets, separated at birth and unaware of the others, would all find each other by chance? In 1980, that actually happened. “Three Identical Strangers” documents the one-in-a-million story of Bobby Shafran, Eddy Galland and David Kellman, who became best friends, moved in together, became world famous and opened a successful New York restaurant together. But things don’t stay rosy: In time their fame exposes some sinister secrets.
When and where: Jan. 20, 6 p.m., Salt Lake City Public Library
“Pity”: This Greek dark comedy features the wise epigraph, “It’s your own fault if people stop pitying you.” With that macabre claim, audiences are introduced to a sorrowful but paradoxically happy man. Yes, his wife is in a coma, but he’s showered with pity by those around him. And that pity is actually pretty great. What if his wife recovered? Would people still be so accommodating?
When and where: Jan. 20, 6 p.m., Tower Theatre
“306 Hollywood”: As it turns out, one can accumulate a lot of stuff in 71 years. Brother-sister filmmaking duo Elan and Jonathan Bogarín excavate the Newark home of their deceased grandmother, Annette, who lived there for seven decades. Combing through grandma’s trove of miscellany — vacuums, 1950s dresses, forgotten home recordings, etc. — the siblings breathe new life into things long forgotten.
When and where: Jan. 21, noon, Broadway Centre Cinemas
“Juliet, Naked”: Another Nick Hornby novel gets the big screen treatment here. “Juliet, Naked” tells of Annie (Rose Byrne) and Duncan (Chris O’Dowd), a long-term couple that’s stalled — Duncan cares more about the obscure rock musician Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke) than he does Annie. Their three lives are brought together, and consequently disrupted, through a chance encounter. Good music and romantic weariness ensue.
When and where: Jan. 21, 3:15 p.m., Grand Theatre
“Mandy”: Nicolas Cage’s career has been, well, an oddity these past few years. Indeed, it’s been surprising to see an Academy Award winner and former A-lister serve up so many duds recently. Here’s hoping “Mandy” reminds people (and maybe Cage himself) how good he can be. Buzzworthy filmmaker Panos Cosmatos (“Beyond the Black Rainbow”) enlists Cage as a broken man living for vengeance. His target: a group of supernatural creatures who took the love of his life, Mandy (Andrea Riseborough). The setting: a surreal wilderness near the Shadow Mountains in 1983. An unhinged Nic Cage is the best Nic Cage.
When and where: Jan. 21, 3:30 p.m., Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center
“The Last Race”: Some of the best documentaries bring you into subcultures you never knew existed, and “The Last Race” looks to do just that. Showing audiences the world of Long Island’s Riverhead Raceway, filmmaker Michael Dweck documents a dwindling world — one of eye-catching homemade stock cars and quarter-mile races. Long Island used to have 40 such raceways, but Riverhead is the last one standing amidst the area’s real estate boom.
When and where: Jan. 25, 9 p.m., Tower Theatre
“A Futile and Stupid Gesture”: The National Lampoon’s origin story is laid out in this comedy starring Will Forte, Domhnall Gleeson, Emmy Rossum, Joel McHale and many more. Director David Wain (“Wet Hot American Summer”) is tasked with the retelling, and his subversive streak seems ideal for the subject matter.
When and where: Jan. 26, 11:59 p.m., Tower Theatre
“Hearts Beat Loud”: Nick Offerman as an unlikely Spotify hit maker? Say no more. (Well, we’ll say a little more.) “Hearts Beat Loud” features the “Parks and Recreation” star as Nick, a single dad sending his daughter (Kiersey Clemons) off to college. As Nick’s record store business flounders, he and his daughter turn their weekly “jam sesh” into a band. Blythe Danner, Ted Danson and Toni Collette round out the supporting cast, with Sundance alum Brett Haley (“The Hero”) directing.
When and where: Jan. 28, 12:15 p.m., Grand Theatre2 comments on this story
“Bad Reputation”: Filmmaker Kevin Kerslake has documented a slew of musicians before — Nirvana, the Ramones, Soundgarden — and now he turns the camera to Joan Jett. Featuring interviews with Jett and her friends/contemporaries, “Bad Reputation” gives an inside look at Jett and the ’70s punk scene.
When and where: Jan. 27, 9:30 p.m., Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center
Free screenings at the Tower Theatre: Sundance hosts two free midnight screenings at the Tower Theatre, but the specific films haven’t been announced yet. Comedy? Drama? Horror? Documentary? Only time will tell.
When and where: Jan. 21 and 25, 11:59 p.m., Tower Theatre