It seems like just yesterday that the A.V. Club was pouring over the initial lineup of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, making note of promising additions and wondering what the big breakout film would be. In reality, we spent yesterday looking at the initial lineup of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, whose programmers just announced a big block of titles that will compete for prizes in January. As Oscar pundits predict the first Best Picture win for a film that premiered at Sundance, a new crop of independent fare vies to be part of the discussion this time next year. It’s like the circle of life, but with less lions and more SNL alums crying to prove that they’re serious actors now.

While the most high-profile titles won’t be revealed for another few days, when the programmers announce the Premieres slate, the schedule is already heavy with familiar bylines and name talent. Nicole Kidman, Michael Fassbender, Jack Black, Kristen Wiig, and Sarah Silverman all have films in competition. Writer-director Craig Zobel, who caused a stir at Sundance two years ago with his divisive Compliance, returns to the festival with Z For Zachariah, a post-apocalyptic drama starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Margot Robbie, and Chris Pine. Though based on a novel by Robert C. O’Brien, it sounds a bit like a remake of The World, The Flesh And The Devil.


Just as intriguing are some of the films Zobel’s movie will be pitted against in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. First-wave Mumblecore director Andrew Bujalski chases his least mainstream picture, Computer Chess, with what looks like his most mainstream picture, Results, starring Guy Pearce and Cobie Smulders. Speaking of Mumblecore and Cobie Smulders, the latter is also appearing in Unexpected, the new film from Kris Swanberg (wife of Joe). And Kyle Patrick Alvarez, whose C.O.G. was a highlight of Sundance 2013, is back with The Stanford Prison Experiment, which is about exactly what it sounds like. Meanwhile, the NEXT section continues to boast more offbeat selections; this year’s lineup includes new films from Rick Alverson (The Comedy) and Sebastian Silva (Crystal Fairy).

On the nonfiction end of the spectrum, Bobcat Goldthwait gets into the documentary game with Call Me Lucky, about influential bar comic Barry Crimmins, while the director of The Cove makes you sad about suffering animals again with Racing Extinction. Looking for something even heavier than endangered species? There are docs on war, murder, drug cartels, nuclear fallout, sex offenders, the porn industry, poverty, autism, racism, terrorism, and surely a few other depressing isms. There’s also something called Chuck Norris Vs Communism, which sounds much less depressing.

Check out the full list of announced titles here. Sundance kicks off on January 22, a week later than usual because of the holiday, and runs through the 1st of February. Buy your plane tickets now, before the diehard Cobie Smulders fans snatch them all up.