Hello, Oscars 2020! Meet the 10 Buzziest Movies From Sundance Film Festival 2019

The 2019 edition of the Sundance Film Festival didn’t come to sit by the fire and sip hot chocolate. At 9 a.m. on the first full day, the programming director introduced the world premiere of the ultra-controversial and ultra-explicit four-hour Michael Jackson exposé Leaving Neverland and noted that licensed counselors were available in the lobby just in case. The heat (so to speak) never let up for the next 10 days, as audiences ran the gamut of emotions high up in the mountains of Park City, Utah, courtesy of the ever-diverse lineup. Leaving Neverland aside, these 10 entries were my standouts. Let the 2020 Oscar buzz begin!

Congratulations to Mindy Kaling for writing and starring in a brutally hilarious showbiz comedy that just happens to be sharper than a pitchfork. She plays a newly hired writer for a late-night talk show staffed by a bunch of shlubby and privileged white males. As a fresh voice, she aims to shake things up — only to be constantly rebuffed by her coworkers as well as the show’s host (Emma Thompson). The film nails commentary about gender politics, ageism and diversity within the industry but doesn’t hit you over the head with its messages. Applause sign.

Meet Awkwafina, dramatic actress. The Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s 8 extrovert is a revelation in this lovely take on the joys and agonies of family. Her Billie, a struggling writer, heads to China to see her beloved grandma who’s been diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. She longs to take care of her, yet her family members — all in town for a purported wedding — don’t want the matriarch to know of her fate. Sweet and profound, this special film transcends all ages, races and cultures. Grown men in my screening room were weeping as the credits rolled … but not for the reason you think.

Leave it to The Boss to elicit wild enthusiasm from the prudent Sundance crowd. We’re taking it back to 1987, where a Pakistani 16-year-old named Javed (Viveik Kalra) feels lost in his strict blue-collar home life and at school in drab England. Then a friend lends him a few Bruce Springsteen cassettes. As soon as he starts hearing “Dancing in the Dark,” a light goes off and he finds the confidence he needs. Though the story follows the same you-can-do-it narrative as Billy Elliott and Bend It Like Beckham, there’s no denying its infectious spirit. After all, we were all born to run.

Leave it to The Boss to elicit wild enthusiasm from the prudent Sundance crowd. We’re taking it back to 1987, where a Pakistani 16-year-old named Javed (Viveik Kalra) feels lost in his strict blue-collar home life and at school in drab England. Then a friend lends him a few Bruce Springsteen cassettes. As soon as he starts hearing “Dancing in the Dark,” a light goes off and he finds the confidence he needs. Though the story follows the same you-can-do-it narrative as Billy Elliott and Bend It Like Beckham, there’s no denying its infectious spirit. After all, we were all born to run.

Leave it to The Boss to elicit wild enthusiasm from the prudent Sundance crowd. We’re taking it back to 1987, where a Pakistani 16-year-old named Javed (Viveik Kalra) feels lost in his strict blue-collar home life and at school in drab England. Then a friend lends him a few Bruce Springsteen cassettes. As soon as he starts hearing “Dancing in the Dark,” a light goes off and he finds the confidence he needs. Though the story follows the same you-can-do-it narrative as Billy Elliott and Bend It Like Beckham, there’s no denying its infectious spirit. After all, we were all born to run.

Leave it to The Boss to elicit wild enthusiasm from the prudent Sundance crowd. We’re taking it back to 1987, where a Pakistani 16-year-old named Javed (Viveik Kalra) feels lost in his strict blue-collar home life and at school in drab England. Then a friend lends him a few Bruce Springsteen cassettes. As soon as he starts hearing “Dancing in the Dark,” a light goes off and he finds the confidence he needs. Though the story follows the same you-can-do-it narrative as Billy Elliott and Bend It Like Beckham, there’s no denying its infectious spirit. After all, we were all born to run.

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