Director Jennifer Siebel Newsom takes questions during a screening of her film “The Mask You Live In.”

We were lucky enough to be in attendance for this years Mac Daddy of the film festivals for all the good times and films. Given that numbered lists get the most attention, here’s our breakdown of why the festival was so great this year and a laundry list of films that you should probably see in 2015 (and some to avoid perhaps). Without further ado:

1) The temperature of Park City in comparison to Detroit made it feel like Cancun for the entire duration of the festival. OK, but seriously, movie thoughts are probably more important (and will follow), but this was a very distinguishing feature of the festival experience.

2) Me and Earl and Dying Girl was actually as good as the $12 million price tag Fox Searchlight paid for exclusive distribution rights. This amount was a festival record, but really, the film was amazing. Like Juno on steroids. It tells the story of Greg, a self-deprecating high schooler who befriends Rachel, a girl dying of Leukemia. You should absolutely see this when it when it hits theaters sometime in 2015.

3) Jimmy Chin, all-around adventure megaman (climber, skier, director, photographer) teamed up with other adventure megamen (Conrad Anker and Renan Ozturk) to create our absolute favorite documentary of the festival: Meru. You’re thinking “great, another mountain climbing doc!” but really you should get down from that horse and watch this film. It tells the gripping story of going for summit at Meru, a shark fin shaped peak in the Himalayas. The actual climb itself proves to be of secondary importance compared to the interpersonal exploration of the three guys that go for this nearly impossible feat.


From left: Conrad Anker, Renan Ozturk, Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi take part in Q+A following a screening of their film Meru.

4) Second best doc award goes to Cartel Land, which also got awards at the festival. Go out of your way to see this film. It explores the idea of being a vigilante against the drug cartels on each side of America’s border with Mexico. Multiple character plots make for a gripping adventure that leaves your palms plenty sweaty.

5) Docs you should see when they’re out on Netflix, but aren’t necessarily worthy of the top prize or an overt amount of gushing: Being Evel, DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD: The Story of the National Lampoon, Misery Loves Comedy and Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck.

6) The doc you should see, and be prepared for some introspective questioning after you watch it: The Mask You Live In. It expounds on the idea of the idea of the growing “boy crisis” whereby society at large is putting unnecessary pressure on boys to be one thing or the other. The film takes a refreshing (albeit sometimes sobering) look at how the modern man is portrayed and what parents can do to combat this looming reality.

7) Time we can save you by warning you that these movies are not nearly as good as you may think or be told: A Walk in the Woods and The Wolfpack. The former is based on a book by Bill Bryson, where Nick Nolte and Robert Redford walk the Appalachian Trail and make terrible jokes. The other caution is probably a controversial observation, seeing as how it made it through Sundance as the darling in the US doc category, but it won’t be the end of the world if you don’t see The Wolfpack. It follows the prison-like setting of six brothers and one sister who are largely kept in their New York City apartment without being allowed to go outside. What ensues is a band of brothers both odd and thrilling for reasons you would absolutely expect of folks that stay inside for the better part of two decades. But the film is everything you’d expect in delivering that story, and while entertaining at times, it’s not worth the fuss.

8) The films we are pissed we missed which may (or may not) be worth your time if/when they surface this year: The Chinese Mayor, Most Likely to Succeed, The Beaver Trilogy Part IV, The Russian Woodpecker, James White, Western and Partisan.

There you have it. Such a fun week. Lots of fun conversations, movies, learning and smiles. Happy movie watching in 2015.