TCM Film Fest 2016: A Sublime Experience

My TCM Film Festival experience is best summed up in one word – sublime. In the three years I have attended the festival, I can say that without question this was the most enjoyable experience cinematically.

In total, I saw about ten (10) films — all enjoyable in their own way, but without question there were some that stood above the rest.

In this post, I will provide a quick recap and/or reaction to five films, and in subsequent days, I will spotlight three particular films of note: Cinema Paradiso, The Kid, and The Passion of Joan of Arc.

But for now, let’s get on with the business of me sharing a few thoughts on some of the other highlights from TCMFF 2016:

 

One Potato, Two Potato: Introduced by film historian Donald Bogle and the film’s director Larry Peerce, this movie from 1964 is an examination of an interracial relationship and its consequences. I had seen this before but really wanted to catch it on the big screen.

I loved the backstory that Peerce provided the audience, from the limited budget and the challenges they had shooting and distributing the film.

One Potato. Two Potato (1964)

One Potato. Two Potato (1964)

 

Los Tallos Amargos: Who knew there was a film factory down Argentine way, cranking out some pretty good film noir? Thought to be a “lost film,” this gem from 1956 is a restoration made possible by the UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding from the Film Noir Foundation and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

Reporter (Carlos Cores) and a Hungarian ex-pat (Vassili Lambrinos) come up with a scheme that they are sure will make them rich. Well, it works until it doesn’t – soon suspicions arise leading down a path that possibly has no return.

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Los Tallos Amargos (1956)

 

He Ran All the Way: I decision to watch this film noir from 1951 was inspired by a podcast I had listened to weeks prior – Karina Longworth’s You Must Remember This is currently in the season of discussing Hollywood during the era of the HUAC Hearings and The Blacklist. This particular episode from March 14th, talked about John Garfield and his run-in with the Hollywood establish as well as government officials who were hell-bent on rooting out the “red menace” from Hollywood. It was a great episode and I suggest you give it a listen.

One of the films discussed in this ‘cast was Garfield’s final film, He Ran All the Way, which see Garfield portray a petty thief who takes a family hostage. The screening was introduced by director John Berry’s son, Dennis, this film read as a Who’s Who for the infamous Hollywood Blacklist. Not only was Barry forced into exile for alleged communist ties, but the co-screenwriters, Dalton Trumbo (uncredited) and Hugo Butler were also victims of the paranoia sweeping Hollywood.

Also in attendance for the screening was 101-year-old Norman Lloyd, who had a small role in the film.

Overall, it is a pretty solid picture – with a palpable sense of urgency in the performances, especially that of Garfield, who of course in the film and sadly outside the film was a man on borrowed time.

He Ran All the Way (1951)

He Ran All the Way (1951)

 

Band of Outsiders (Bande à part): Jean-Luc Godard’s 1964 film starring paramour Anna Karina (who introduced the film with TCM host Ben Mankiewicz) was once described as  “Alice in Wonderland meets Franz Kafka.” In this film, Karina plays a student conspires with a couple of n’er do wells (Sami Frey and Claude Brasseur) to steal a stash hidden in her aunt’s house.

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Band of Outsiders (1964)

 

The Fallen Idol: Director Carol Reed’s 1948 adaptation of Graham Greene’s short story “The Basement Room,” The Fallen Idol is an adult story, filled with suspense and a bit of levity, all seen through the eyes of a child (Robert Henrey, who was there for a post-screening discussion). It was quite a treat for an early Sunday morning.

fallen idol

The Fallen Idol (1948)

TFF 2016 Short Subject Feature: The Carousel

The Carousel is a short film essentially centered on one episode of one of my favorite television series, The Twilight Zone. In TTZ creator Rod Serling‘s hometown of Binghamton, New York there stands a carousel, a carousel which inspired one of Serling’s most personal episodes, “Walking Distance,” starring Gig Young.

Cortlandt Hull’s finished piece of Rod Serling and other works inspired by The Twilight Zone. Photo by Jonathan Napolitano

Cortlandt Hull’s finished piece of Rod Serling and other works inspired by The Twilight Zone. Photo by Jonathan Napolitano

In the episode, Young more or less plays a stand-in for Mr. Serling, a middle-aged man who returns to his idyllic hometown and soon discovers (because yeah, … The Twilight Zone) that he has returned on a random summer night of his childhood – literally. The realization is punctuated when he soon encounters a younger version of himself, who he proceeds to follow home. As the episode is discussed in the film, we gain a new insight into what this journey likely meant to the man (Serling) who brought the tale to life.

The short, which runs 12 minutes in length, also jumps ahead to the present day, showing the restoration of the original carousel. Filmmaker Jonathan Napoiltano interviews with the restorers of the carousel, who are using this and other popular episodes of Serling’s work as inspiration, in addition to Rod Serling’s daughter, Anne, who offers an illuminating perspective about her father for the audience.

 

And with this, I conclude my Tribeca 2016 coverage. Until next year …

tribeca film festival 2016

Tribeca ’16 Recap: Narratives

Now let’s take a look at a few features that caught my attention during the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.

Adult Life Skills

Jodie Whittaker as Anna in the film ADULT LIFE SKILLS. Photographer: Jo Irvine

Jodie Whittaker as Anna in the film ADULT LIFE SKILLS.
Photographer: Jo Irvine

A poignant tragicomedy starring Jodie Whittaker as Anna, a 29-year-old who is rapidly approaching 30 (much to her chagrin). Added to the complications of her life is the fact that she lives in a shed, on her mother’s property in Yorkshire, England and is in a bit of a rut. Originally titled How to Live Yours (which comes up during the course of the film), Adult Life Skills is based on a BAFTA award-winning short film, both directed, written and edited by TFF 2016 Award Winner Rachel Tunnage (Nora Ephron Prize for Directing and Screenwriting).

Far and away, Adult Life Skills lived up to my expectations and simply was one of my favorite screenings of the entire festival. Sure, I am a sucker for the English countryside, but that slight bias aside, this was a film that keyed into to my sense of humor, emotional engagement and curiosity as the story unfolds, revealing to the audience the cause(s) of Anna’s seeming fecklessness.

Additionally, how can you NOT fall for a film that is described in its press notes as so:

[ADULT LIFE SKILLS has] basically the same themes as ROCKY if you think about it. But with thumbs. And a cowboy. And no boxing.

Adult Life Skills is bolstered by a wonderful ensemble cast that includes Brett Goldstein, Lorraine Ashbourne, Alice Lowe, Edward Hogg, Eileen Davies, Rachael Deering, and Ozzy Myers and features quite an epic use of Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again.

 

Little Boxes

Neslan Ellis as Mack Burns, Armani Jackson as Clark Burns, and Melanie Lynskey as Gina McNulty-Burns in LITTLE BOXES. Photo by: Mark Doyle

Nelsan Ellis as Mack Burns, Armani Jackson as Clark Burns, and Melanie Lynskey as Gina McNulty-Burns in LITTLE BOXES.
Photo by: Mark Doyle

Little Boxes is a fish out of water/coming of age story directed by Rob Meyer, written by Annie J Howell and executive produced by Cary Fukunaga.

Here’s the setup – enter our happy hipster Brooklynite family (Nelsan Ellis, Melanie Lynskey and newcomer Armani Jackson). By all accounts life could not be better. When the family matriarch  (Lynskey) is offered an opportunity she cannot turn down, the family finds themselves boxing up their city life and heading clear across the country to the ultra-suburban placidity of Rome, Washington. As you might guess, the transition has a few bumps that need to be worked out.

Overall I found this film to be an enjoyable light comedy that broached subjects such as cultural assimilation (in a new environment) and cultural identity with a measure of success.

The supporting cast includes Janeane Garofalo and Christine Taylor.

 

Here Alone

Lucy Walters as Ann and Shane West as Jason in HERE ALONE. Cinematographer: Adam McDaid

Lucy Walters as Ann and Shane West as Jason in HERE ALONE.
Cinematographer: Adam McDaid

This Audience Award winner is set against a heavily wooded, post-apocalyptic landscape of upstate New York. Like many films of the similar genre, Here Alone starts out as a quiet, contemplative piece. We are introduced to this “new” world through the perspective of a single traveler Ann (Lucy Walters). In fact, the opening minutes felt more like a “how-to guide” for living in the world after the fall of civilization than a narrative feature.

But alas, circumstances make it such that Ann’s sole accomplishment of simply “surviving” proves to not be enough,  eventually forcing her to face the prospect of expanding her horizons and venturing out into the larger world and the potential risks that lie therein.

Films like Here Alone cater to an ongoing fascination we have as a society for examining survival in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world. While the concept is intriguing, it is also burdened with some limitations, namely the potential for any  story set amidst this setting to be predictable. Where films tend to rise or fall is in how they can take some of these more predictable elements and either subvert them or play them straight, but in an entertaining way.

That said, it begs to be asked — is Here Almost worth a look in?

Well, if you are like me, this film will be of interest to you based merely on the subject matter. Heck – one more infection spreads, causing mass human extinction, leaving its survivors to revert to the basest of human nature narrative in your filmgoing experience couldn’t hurt – now could it?

 

Next: A Spotlight on a Tribeca 2016 Short Subject Film

Tribeca ’16 Recap: Let’s Start with Docs

This year, I think I accomplished my mission of balancing out the features I screened between documentaries and narrative. I even managed to squeeze in a short film as the Festival was winding down. In the coming days, I will focus on the films that I felt were of note; much like I did my briefs in the lead up to #Tribeca2016, I will break separate each post by content category – documentary, narrative and short. As the title indicates, I’ll start with the documentaries.

 

The Last Laugh

Mel Brooks in THE LAST LAUGH "Anything I could do to deflate Germans... ANYTHING... I did!... Hitler was always funny!" Photographer: Ferne Pearlstein

Mel Brooks in THE LAST LAUGH “Anything I could do to deflate Germans… ANYTHING… I did!… Hitler was always funny!” Photographer: Ferne Pearlstein

The central questions being asked by this film include:

  • Can the Holocaust ever be funny? 
  • When do stabs at humor cross the line of decency?
  • What is the role of free speech in this whole process?

The journey of The Last Laugh is seen through the lens of Renee Firestone, a 91-year old Auschwitz survivor and anti-genocide activist whose life story serves as a living example of the rewards and risks of using humor in the face of unspeakable tragedy – in Firestone’s case – the events of the Shoah.

Interviews with Firestone and other survivors and their families are intertwined with clips featuring talent including Mel Brooks, Chris Rock, Sarah Silverman and Carl and Rob Reiner as they attempt to tackle these questions as they pertain to Holocaust and other eyebrow-raising topics that may or may not enter a comedian’s oeuvre. These are run along side some really poignant, rarely seen footage of cabarets inside the actual concentration camps. Also among the rarely seen is some newly discovered footage of Jerry Lewis’ never-released, but widely judged to be “ill-conceived” film, the Holocaust comedy The Day the Clown Cried (eek!).

All said and done, you might be wondering if any of the above-listed questions actually led this viewer (ME) to any concrete answers …

.. well, if I were to come down on a side, I think I am in league with Mel Brooks on this one (watch and see what that exactly means).

This film also reiterated for me an already held belief that making fun of something is separate and apart from using humor as a coping mechanism in dealing with the unfathomable.

As for the other “questions” – sure, there is a line that can be crossed in the name of humor; however, where that line is does feel like it is constantly in flux as our society moves further away from one human disaster/tragedy and barrel towards the next one.

 

My Scientology Movie

Louis Filming being Filmed at Gold Base. © BBC/BBCWorldwide

Louis Filming being Filmed at Gold Base. © BBC/BBCWorldwide

Directed by John Dower, My Scientology Movie (BBC Films) stars provocative British documentarian/writer Justin Theroux as he seeks to unmask the world of Scientology. By combining an earnest approach to the subject matter while maintaining a disarming level of levity, I felt I could easily engage with and be entertained and informed by this documentary in a way that I had not experienced in another headline-grabbing Scientology “expose” I recently saw.

While this story is composed of some first hand accounts from former members of the Church, Theroux and company frame this documentary also as a “film within a film;” the interviews are inter-cut with Theroux “auditioning” actors to portray key Scientology figures. Their assignment is to act out what can only be described as some harrowing accounts of life as a Scientologist from many of the very ex-members featured in the film.

As you can imagine, this leads to some interesting encounters.

My Scientology Movie premiered at the 2015 London Film Festival and made its North American debut at Tribeca.

 

Bad Rap

Awkwafina (Nora Lum)'s fans surround her before her show in Washington, D.C. Cinematographer: Salima Koroma

Awkwafina (Nora Lum)’s fans surround her before her show in Washington, D.C. Cinematographer: Salima Koroma

As a child of hip hop, I was fascinated by this film once I saw it on my film festival program – a history and account of Asian hip hop artists.  We are taken on a journey with four performers (Dumbfounded, Awkwafina, Rekstizzy, Lyricks) at varying stages of their respective careers. The Indiegogo-funded Bad Rap (directed by Salima Koroma) chronicles the obstacles these individuals have encountered in trying to break out onto the rap music scene, a scene that is traditionally dominated by Black and Latino artists.

My initial reaction was a feeling of discomfort with some of the actions and behaviors on display by a few of the performers (looking at you, Rekstizzy). My mind immediately jumped to thoughts of cultural appropriation to the point of making a mockery of the cultural phenomenon which is hip hop.

And while that feeling did not entirely go away by the time the end credits rolled, I was left thinking that Bad Rap was a rather interesting piece if for no other reason than it can inspire conversations about the “ownership” of culture culture or who is “permitted” to use a particular medium as a means to express themselves, particularly when that medium is not generally perceived to include members of certain communities.

Next up: Tribeca ’16 Recap of Narratives

 

 

Checking in with …. the 2016 TCM Film Festival

Sure, there is a full day and a half of programming to look forward to, but I had a little bit of downtime and I thought it was as good a time as any to check in and let you know I have been having an AWESOME time out here in Hollywood at the 7th Annual TCM Film Festival.

This year I really made it a mission of mine to more or less check out screenings for films I have not seen (big screen or small screen). So far the experience has been wonderful and I cannot wait to share with you some of my thoughts and commentary on films such as:

  • The Passion of Joan of Arc
  • One Potato, Two Potato
  • Los Tallos Amargos
  • Never Fear

tcmclassicfilmfestival

In the meantime, checkout my Twitter handle, @iluvcinema for periodic news, commentary and other good stuff!

Tribeca 2016 Preview (Short Film Programs)

I round out my prep for Tribeca 2016 with a look at some of the Shorts Programs playing. For the duration of a feature film you can see a few pieces, threaded together by a common theme. Here are a few programming blocks and a feature (or two) I think are of interest (N=Narrative D=Documentary):

 

New York Now Home-grown New York shorts

You Can Go (N):  A high school administrator talks down a troubled student.

The Mulberry Bush (N): Two men sit next to each other on an autumn day in Central Park. They make small talk about the weather and the joys of summer. When the conversation turns personal, however, it becomes clear that this is no random encounter, and they are headed toward a startling confrontation.

Wannabe (N): NYC, 1991. During a time of tremendous racial strife, a neurotic Jewish boy must win over his crush by first impressing her skeptical Jamaican family.

S. Epatha Merkerson as Mrs. Bryant in YOU CAN GO directed by Christine Turner. Photo credit: Marshall Stief

S. Epatha Merkerson as Mrs. Bryant in YOU CAN GO directed by
Christine Turner.
Photo credit: Marshall Stief

 

New York Then Human stories and New York’s past

Taylor and Ultra on the 60s, The Factory and Being a Warhol Superstar (D): Warhol superstar Ultra Violet (Isabelle Colin Dufresne) and Lower East Side icon Taylor Mead (poet/actor/artist) share their stories of Manhattan in the 1960s.

Dead Ringer (D): There are only four outdoor phone booths left in all of New York City—this is a late night conversation with one of them.

Mulberry (D): This cinematic portrait of Little Italy explores how a working class neighborhood of tenement buildings transformed into the third most expensive zip code in the United States. Part funny, part sad, the film investigates how gentrification and rent control are affecting the neighborhood’s long-term residents.

Starring Austin Pendleton (D): The most famous actor you’ve never heard of; Austin Pendleton reflects on his life and craft while his A-list peers discuss his vast influence and what it means to be an original in a celebrity-obsessed world. Includes interviews with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, Olympia Dukakis, and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

The Carousel (D): In the small town of Binghamton, New York, there spins a 1925 carousel that once inspired Rod Serling and has since become a portal into the Twilight Zone.

Cortlandt Hull’s finished piece of Rod Serling and other works inspired by The Twilight Zone. Photo by Jonathan Napolitano

Cortlandt Hull’s finished piece of Rod Serling and other works inspired by The Twilight Zone. Photo by Jonathan Napolitano

 

Rock and a Hard Place Music-driven documentary shorts program

Let’s Dance: Bowie Down Under (D): The remarkable, forgotten story behind ‘Let’s Dance,’ David Bowie’s biggest hit record.

David Bowie and crew filming the music video for Let’s Dance in the Carinda Hotel, in remote, outback Australia. Photo credit: Smoking Bear Productions.

David Bowie and crew filming the music video for Let’s Dance in the Carinda Hotel, in remote, outback Australia. Photo credit: Smoking Bear Productions.

 

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for updates, tweets and some reviews!

 

 

Tribeca 2016 (Special Programs)

An often overlooked aspect of many a film festival is the opportunity to experience things are adjacent to film that exclusive of simply going to the theater, watching a film and walking out to ponder what you just saw.

The 2016 Tribeca Film Festival has LOTS to offer in this regard.

Unfortunately, my current schedule means that I will probably miss out many of the events, but if you are able to, I would suggest checking out what you can (subject to availability). Synopses and photos sourced from Tribeca Film Festival website.

 

4oth Anniversary Screening and Reunion: Taxi Driver (4/21)

In attendance: Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader, Robert DeNiro, Jodie Foster and Cybil Shepherd.

Iris, Jodie Foster & Travis Bickle, Robert De Niro © 1976, renewed 2004 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Iris, Jodie Foster & Travis Bickle, Robert De Niro
© 1976, renewed 2004 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


The Festival Hub

There is too much going on here to list in a comprehensive and way, so I recommend you just visit the website; highlights include the Games for Change – Games and Media Summit (4/18).


Special Screenings

The Man who Knew Infinity (Tribeca Talks After the Movie)

large_TMWKI_web_1

In 1913, a self-taught mathematics prodigy Ramanujan (Dev Patel) traveled from his home in India to Trinity College in Cambridge to study with the esteemed professor GH Hardy (Jeremy Irons). Hardy fights for Ramanujan to be recognized as the two struggle with prejudice, illness, and culture on the road to perfecting the theorems that changed the course of history of math.

 

Relationship Status (Special Screening debuting alongside the Tribeca Digital Creators Market. Includes a post-screening conversation with the creators).

large_RSseries_web1

Split between New York and LA, Relationship Status is an ensemble dramedy following an interweaving cast of 20 and 30 – somethings as they experience the highs and lows of dating in the digital age, all told through the lens of social storytelling. Featuring Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes, Gilmore Girls), Shawn Ashmore (X-Men: Days of Future Past), Emma Bell (The Walking Dead) and Brant Daugherty (Pretty Little Liars).

 

The Show of Shows: 100 Years of Vaudeville, Circuses and Carnivals

BRENDA CONTORTIONIST. Photo Credit: National Fairground Archive, University of Sheffield Library

BRENDA CONTORTIONIST. Photo Credit: National Fairground Archive, University of Sheffield Library

Benedikt Erlingsson brings us a world of imagination with a compendium of wonderful unseen archival footage of circus performers, cabaret acts, and fairground attractions. The films are set to a haunting electronic score composed by members of Sigur Rós in collaboration with Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson.


Tribeca Talks

Directors Series:

Storytellers:


Tribeca Tune In

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Hey it’s TV time! Taking the small screen to the big screen. Screenings and conversations with the creatives behind shows such as The Night Manager (4/15),  For the Love of Spock (4/18), Catastrophe (4/19) and Roots (4/21).

 

Check in tomorrow for my feature on the Short Film Programs!

In the meantime, happy festival-ing everyone!

 

tribeca film festival 2016

Tribeca 2016 Preview (Documentary)

Over the years and thanks to film festivals like Tribeca, my appreciation for the documentary format has increased ten -fold. Does that mean I like every documentary I have seen? Of course not. But there remains for me something fascinating about “telling” real like stories on the big screen.

So here is a set of feature-length docs that I am looking forward to over the course of the next 10-11 days. Those marked with an asterisk (*) have already been screened. Synopses courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival Film Guide.

 

LoveTrue

Directed by Alma Har’el

Blake & Young Blake in LoveTrue. Photographer: Alma Har'el

Blake & Young Blake in LoveTrue. Photographer: Alma Har’el

Alma Har’el, director and cinematographer of the 2011 TFF Best Documentary Feature Bombay Beach, returns with LoveTrue, a genre-bending documentary, demystifying the fantasy of true love. From an Alaskan strip club, a Hawaiian island, and the streets of NYC—revelatory stories emerge about a deeper definition of love.

 

The Last Laugh *

Directed by Ferne Pearlstein

When is comedy not funny? Some would argue, when it’s about the Holocaust. Through interviews and performances featuring people on either side of the issue—including Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Louis C.K., Joan Rivers, Chris Rock, and Abe Foxman—as well as a portrait of a resilient survivor, The Last Laugh offers an intelligent and hilarious survey of what is and is not off-limits in comedy, from the Holocaust and beyond.

 

Bad Rap *

Awkwafina (Nora Lum)'s fans surround her before her show in Washington, D.C. Cinematographer: Salima Koroma

Awkwafina (Nora Lum)’s fans surround her before her show in Washington, D.C. Cinematographer: Salima Koroma

Directed by Salima Koroma

Bad Rap follows the lives and careers of four Asian-American rappers trying to break into a world that often treats them as outsiders. Sharing dynamic live performance footage and revealing interviews, these artists will make the most skeptical critics into believers. With humor and insight, the film paints a portrait of artistic passion in the face of an unsung struggle.

 

My Scientology Movie *

Directed by John Dower

Louis Filming being Filmed at Gold Base. © BBC/BBCWorldwide

Louis Filming being Filmed at Gold Base. © BBC/BBCWorldwide

BBC journalist Louis Theroux joins forces with director John Dower to explore the elusive Church of Scientology. With the help of a former high-ranking Scientologist, Theroux sets out to understand the furtive goings-on of the Church, armed with his irreverent humor and biting irony.

 

Reset (Releve)

Directed by Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai

Benjamin Millepied. Copyright Emmanuel Guionet/Falabracks

Benjamin Millepied.
Copyright Emmanuel Guionet/Falabracks

Stunningly gorgeous and delicate in both subject and treatment, Reset depicts renowned choreographer and dancer Benjamin Millepied (also known for choreographing the dance sequences in Black Swan) as he attempts to rejuvenate the Paris Opera Ballet in his new position as director. With appearances by composer Nico Muhly, Opera alumna Aurélie Dupont, and designer Iris van Herpen, Reset is a delightfully aesthetic affair.

 

The Return

Directed by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway

Shane Taylor in THE RETURN. Photographer: Todd Hido

Shane Taylor in THE RETURN. Photographer: Todd Hido

How does one reintegrate into society after making peace with a life sentence? California’s controversial and notoriously harsh three-strikes law was repealed in 2012, consequently releasing large numbers of convicts back into society. The Return presents an unbiased observation of the many issues with re-entry through the varied experiences of recently freed lifers.

 

Keepers of the Game

Directed by Judd Ehrlich

Jacelyn shoots. From KEEPERS OF THE GAME. Cinematographer: Peter Eliot Buntaine

Jacelyn shoots. From KEEPERS OF THE GAME. Cinematographer: Peter Eliot Buntaine

Lacrosse is a sacred game for Native Americans, traditionally reserved for men. When a women’s varsity team forms in upstate New York, they aim to be the first Native women’s team to take the championship title away from their rivals Massena High. With the indigenous community torn, they find that more than just the championship is on the line.

 

Obit

Directed by Vanessa Gould

Last remaining archivist Jeff Roth searches the New York Times morgue. Photographer: Ben Wolf

Last remaining archivist Jeff Roth searches the New York Times morgue.
Photographer: Ben Wolf

Within the storied walls of The New York Times, a team of writers is entrusted with reflecting upon the luminaries, icons, and world leaders of our day. Vanessa Gould’s fascinating documentary introduces us to those responsible for crafting the unequaled obituaries of the NYT. As we’re taken through their painstaking process, we learn about the pressures accompanying a career spent shaping the story of a life.

 

Next: Special Programs

 

tribeca film festival 2016

 

 

 

Tribeca 2016 Preview (Narrative)

Sorry in advance for the impending spam, but I am going to do what I should have been doing for the past several days. But work and screening a few of the films that are going to be mentioned here and in subsequent preview posts resulted in my falling a little behind.

Technically a “preview” although today is the official start of Tribeca 2016. Now in its 15th year, it is a celebration of film, New York style.

Over years of volunteering and covering this festival, I have reveled in the laid back, fun atmosphere. It is the main reason I keep coming back for more. That and it is one of my main hometown festivals.

Enough of that though – onto the films. This year I have decided to break out my previews by format: Narrative (this post), Documentary, Special Events and Short Film Programs. Anything that is marked with an asterisk (*) is something I have already seen and will likely have a pending review in the coming weeks. I say weeks because right after this festival is sealed, I head off Hollywood, CA for the TCM Film Festival (more on that later).

——

In the Narrative Category, here is a peek at what I am looking out for (all synopses provided courtesy of the wonderful TFF programmers from the Official Film Guide):

 

Adult Life Skills

Directed by Rachel Tunnard

Jodie Whittaker as Anna in the film ADULT LIFE SKILLS. Photographer: Jo Irvine

Jodie Whittaker as Anna in the film ADULT LIFE SKILLS. Photographer: Jo Irvine

Expanded from her BAFTA-nominated short, Rachel Tunnard’s striking feature debut is a dry-witted, charming, dark comedy that mixes dreamlike flourishes with dramatic action. Adult Life Skills is an off-beat comedy about a lost woman finding herself.

 

Little Boxes

Directed by Rob Meyer

Neslan Ellis as Mack Burns, Armani Jackson as Clark Burns, and Melanie Lynskey as Gina McNulty-Burns in LITTLE BOXES. Photo by: Mark Doyle

Neslan Ellis as Mack Burns, Armani Jackson as Clark Burns, and Melanie Lynskey as Gina McNulty-Burns in LITTLE BOXES. Photo by: Mark Doyle

It’s the summer before 6th grade, and Clark is the new-in-town biracial kid in a sea of white. Discovering that to be cool he needs to act ‘more black,’ he fumbles to meet expectations as rifts are exposed in his tight-knit family, his parents also striving to adjust. This poignant comedy about understanding identity is the second feature from TFF alumnus Rob Meyer.

 

Live Cargo (In Competition)

Directed by Logan Sandler

Dree Hemingway as Nadine in LIVE CARGO. Photo Credit: Daniella Nowitz

Dree Hemingway as Nadine in LIVE CARGO. Photo Credit: Daniella Nowitz

Nadine (Dree Hemingway) and Lewis (Keith Stanfield) visit a small Bahamian island hoping to restore their relationship in the wake of a tragedy, only to find the picturesque island torn in two: on one side a dangerous human trafficker and on the other an aging patriarch, struggling to maintain order.

 

Kicks

Directed by Justin Tipping

Film still from KICKS.

Film still from KICKS.

When his hard-earned kicks get snatched by a local hood, fifteen-year old Brandon and his two best friends go on an ill-advised mission across the Bay Area to retrieve the stolen sneakers. Featuring a soundtrack packed with hip-hop classics, Justin Tipping’s debut feature is an urban coming-of-age tale told with grit, humor, and surprising lyricism.

 

Custody

Directed by James Lapine

Catalina Sandino Moreno as Sara Diaz and Jaden Michael as David Diaz in the film CUSTODY. Photographer: Tom Concordia

Catalina Sandino Moreno as Sara Diaz and Jaden Michael as David Diaz in the film CUSTODY. Photographer: Tom Concordia

Legal and intimate family dynamics dovetail in Custody. Starring Viola Davis as an embattled family court judge with a fraught marriage of her own; Hayden Panettiere as a recent law-school grad flung into a custody case; and Catalina Sandino Moreno as the single mother at the center of the case who risks losing her two children over an ill-timed argument.

 

Mr. Church

Directed by Bruce Beresford

Eddie Murphy as Henry Joseph Church in MR.CHURCH. Photographer: Darren Michaels

When a dying mother hires a talented cook (Eddie Murphy) to help take care of her young daughter, a lifelong friendship blooms, in this tender coming-of-age family drama by Oscar-nominated director Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy).

 

Equals

Directed by Drake Doremus

Kristen Stewart as Nia and Nicholas Hoult as Silas in the film EQUALS. Photo courtesy of A24.

Kristen Stewart as Nia and Nicholas Hoult as Silas in the film EQUALS. Photo courtesy of A24.

Set in a sleek and stylish future world, Drake Doremus’ sci-fi romance envisions an understated dystopia, where all human emotion is seen as a disease that must be treated and cured. Against this backdrop, coworkers Nia (Kristen Stewart) and Silas (Nicholas Hoult) begin to feel dangerous stirrings for one another.

 

High Rise

Directed by Ben Wheatley

Tom Hiddleston as Robert Laing in HIGH RISE, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. Photo credit: Aidan Monaghan

Tom Hiddleston as Robert Laing in HIGH RISE, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. Photo credit: Aidan Monaghan

Based on J.G. Ballard’s novel of the same name, High-Rise stars Tom Hiddleston as Dr. Robert Lang, a newcomer to a recently constructed complex in which the residents are stratified by social class. But when the power goes out, the tenuous hierarchy rapidly descends into chaos. Luke Evans, Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons, and Elisabeth Moss co-star.

 

Stay tuned for the Documentaries I am most looking forward to ….

 

February 2016 (Sundance) Recap

Hi there!

After some technical difficulties (computer death/replacement) and just the overall craziness of the ole 9-5, I am back from my unplanned blogging hiatus to catch you up with my month in the movies.

For the past couple of years, my blog posts have usually been a series of recaps and reactions to my time out in lovely Park City, Utah. However, due to scheduling issues I was unable to attend the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. I could kick myself for missing out on seeing Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation (peep the release date). But alas, what is done is done and I hope to view and review that film later on this year.

In the meantime, have no fear – I was able to catch a couple of films pre-festival; some quick thoughts are below.

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The Fits – (Directed by Anna Rose Holmer. Written by Anna Rose Holmer, Saela Davis and Lisa Kjerulff. Running Time: 72 minutes).

Set in Cincinnati’s West End, this is a coming of age tale (of sorts), centered around 11-year-old Toni (newcomer Royalty Hightower) —a tomboy fascinated by the young women on a dance team that meet at the local recreation center where she and her brother practice boxing. Toni joins the squad in an attempt to gain acceptance with the seemingly confident and determined girls. As she jumps into this new adventure, a mysterious outbreak of fainting spells plagues the team and Toni’s desire for acceptance is tested and pushed to the limit. I will not reveal the source of what ails, but rest assured it is unironically something that we have seen in the news as of late.

ILC’s Quick Take: At points fully grounded in reality and at other times somewhat surreal, The Fits one stayed with me for a while after watching.

Note: The Fits has been picked up by Oscilloscope for distribution.

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How to Tell You’re a Douchebag – (Written/Directed by Tahir Jetter. Running Time: 80 minutes)

Ray Livingston (Charles Brice) is a Brooklyn-based blogger who has been having a tough time of it lately in the relationship department. A chance encounter with up and coming author Rochelle Marseille (DeWanda Wise), begins a process by which Ray finds himself confronted with wondering if he is indeed a douchebag.

ILC’s Quick Take: It is not without its flaws and in fact is a bit tropish, but I have to say I found it refreshing to be able to check out an alternative, “diverse” voice, especially in the romcom genre. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t chuckle a few times. So there is that.

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I have been away a while but I am curious – what have you been watching this past month? Let me know in the Comments section below.