Tribeca 2014

The New York City skyline is one of the tired titans of American imagery. To put it more charitably, it’s awfully difficult to fill a movie with classic images of Gotham and finish with something original and interesting. In Ira Sachs‘s newest feature, Love Is Strange, one of his characters goes to the trouble of actually painting the view of Manhattan from a Brooklyn roof. This particular canvas becomes one of the most emotionally charged symbols of the film. In the hands of a less assured director, it would be entirely ponderous. Yet Sachs knows his way around the city, so to speak. His last feature, Keep the Lights On, charted the heartbreaking decline of a relationship against the backdrop of a hazy metropolis. Love Is Strange, on the other hand, finds a much clearer and brighter source of light. Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) are an aging couple finally, legally, getting married after almost 40 years. The film begins with their wedding, a lovely outdoor affair followed by a reception in their apartment. There Sachs introduces all of the supporting players, including an adoring novelist niece named Kate (Marisa Tomei) and some neighborly gay policemen (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez).

read more...

Tribeca Film Festival

Roman Polanski‘s Venus in Fur is a film haunted by an epigraph. It’s a quotation from the apocryphal Book of Judith, used first by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch in his similarly titled 1870 novel and later by David Ives in his play, from which this film is directly adapted. It goes something like this: “The Lord hath smitten him and delivered him into the hands of a woman.” The biblical context is the slaying of the Babylonian general Holofernes, whose unfortunate drunken stupor made him easy prey for the knife of the Jewish hero. Polanski’s film is somewhat more wordy, but not necessarily more complex.

read more...

Best Tribeca Films

And, just like that, another film festival has just gone ahead and wrapped itself right up. This year’s Tribeca Film Festival featured a hefty number of features that sounded typical, standard or otherwise expected (save for a little ditty titled Zombeavers), but the results were often unexpectedly great, strangely able to twist a trite trope or two into something fresh. “Relationship dramas” ruled, there was twentysomething ennui as far as the eye could see and documentaries keeled to the side of “dramatic,” but plenty of final films felt truly satisfying and original. And, of course, there was also a little something we like to call “a triumph of the weird,” but you’ll have to read ahead for that one. After the break, our own Kate Erbland and Daniel Walber — old Tribeca pros by now — share their favorite films of the festival, in the hopes that you’ll be able to seek them out one day, too.

read more...

Tribeca Film Festival

Bad movies come in many varieties. There are catastrophic, painful failures like 5 to 7. There are the glorious, seemingly impossible charmers like Winter’s Tale, so inept that they quickly transcend their mistakes to become raucous comedies. Then, on the opposite end of the spectrum is a genre often ignored and usually misunderstood. Dumb plots, bad acting and silly monsters make up part of the formula for what we might call the “made-for-Netflix” B-movie. This year, the Tribeca Film Festival gave audiences a rare treat by showing two of these formulaic gems on the big screen. Indigenous and Zombeavers were the two most absurd films in the Midnight section, brashly silly “creature features” that don’t have an ounce of sense between them. The first involves a surfing trip to Panama that winds up in the Darien Gap on the border with Colombia. What’s hiding in the jungle? The Chupacabra, of course! Zombeavers, meanwhile, is a bit easier to figure out from the title. There’s a sudden attack of beavers that are also zombies in the idyllic countryside of Indiana!

read more...

Tribeca Film Festival

This year there were well over 50 shorts screened at the Tribeca Film Festival. That’s quite a lot. Spread across nine programs, they’re a diverse bunch both in form and quality. They come from all over the world, too, though there’s a significant emphasis on home-grown New York City filmmakers. This variety makes any attempt at synthesis a little daunting, so instead of drawing any sort of overarching thematic conclusions I’ll just go ahead and tell you which ones are the best. Here are 12 of them, in alphabetical order.

read more...

Virunga Film

Virunga National Park is a place like no other on earth. Its history, its biodiversity and its overwhelming beauty distinguish it from everywhere else in the entire continent of Africa. Yet these constant, long-standing resources are being threatened. Virunga, a new documentary by London-based filmmaker Orlando von Einsiedel, is a breakneck tour of recent developments in the park. This place is not only a physical treasure but the epicenter of an almost unbelievable 21st century geopolitical earthquake. To keep this enormous story within the realm of comprehension, Von Einsiedel isolates a few major characters. There’s Emmanuel de Merode, the Belgian warden of the park who has been appointed by the Congolese government. Beneath him is Rodrigue, a local lieutenant who believes just as strongly in the protection of Virunga. Such faith is important. Between poachers and the all-too-recently concluded civil war a total of 130 guards have been killed over the years. The danger persists, and Von Einsiedel follows Rodrigue on armed patrols through the forest and the grassland. If there is a literal front line in the fight to preserve the environment, it is here. READ MORE AT NONFICS

read more...

Paul Schneider

You enter with a compliment. This is how professional courtesy works – when you’re entering a room (typically a hotel room, often a nice one, usually stripped of things like beds and dressers, which gives most interview settings the feeling of intended disarray) to interview the talent associated with a film or a book or a television show or whatever it may be, you enter with a compliment. I really enjoyed the book, reading is a cool thing. I loved your performance in the season finale, especially when you died. I liked that scene where you have phone sex while in the same room as the other person. You were so good in this! It’s an icebreaker, and an expected one, and it normally doesn’t lead to anything beyond a pleasant start to a ten-minute chat that is recorded for later use. This is not what happened with Paul Schneider. 

read more...

Every Secret Thing movie

Plenty of feature films about crime – true or otherwise – center on seemingly normal people who break both the boundaries of normal social behavior and a little thing called the law. Regular people do bad things, too, but that doesn’t mean it’s not shocking and weirdly wrenching when those regular people are of a jarringly young age. Such is the case is Amy Berg’s Every Secret Thing, which follows a pair of pre-teen girls who (possibly) commit a ghastly crime and then (possibly) repeat it nearly a decade later. The feature opens on what seems to be a charmed night in the Manning household, as mother Helen (Diane Lane) acquiesces to her daughter Alice’s (played in these younger sequences by Brynne Norquist) every demand. Let’s read stories! And paint nails! And bake cookies! Helen is delighted by the requests, unaware that Alice is either desperately trying to please her or attempting to cram all the happy memories she can into a single night before everything changes. A knock on the door interrupts the peace, and suddenly there’s another little face (this one belongs to Ronnie, played in her younger years by Eva Grace Kellner) clinging to Helen, apologizing for something that no words can ever repair.

read more...

Point-and-Shoot

The ghost of Ernest Hemingway hovers over Marshall Curry‘s new documentary, a profile of amateur filmmaker and revolutionary Matthew VanDyke. Or, rather, the novelist’s name is perhaps the best way to isolate and identify what is going on beneath this formally simple but thematically intricate film. Point and Shoot is a 21st century incarnation of some very old ideas, fervently held conceptions of what it is to be a man and an American on the world stage. The word “profile” isn’t particularly sufficient as a description, either. This is not simply a document, it is an entire life. In 2006, VanDyke left Baltimore. He took his motorcycle, his video camera and his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder on a trip to Morocco and did not come back for three years. It was to be a “crash course in manhood.” He crisscrossed North Africa, went across into the Near East and eventually rode all the way to Afghanistan. After that he served as an embedded journalist in Iraq, where he encountered modern warfare for the first time. His last significant stop was Qaddafi’s Libya, then officially not an option for American tourists. He snuck in illegally, made a number of close friends, and felt at home. When he finally returned to the United States he was exhausted, if fulfilled. READ MORE AT NONFICS

read more...

Tribeca Film Festival

Boulevard, the fifth feature from director Dito Montiel, is an intimate character study. As such, it is but one among many. At festivals, in particular those with a bevy of American independent films, you can’t swing a cat without hitting an intimate character study. And so they try to differentiate themselves, sometimes through gimmicks and sometimes through good old-fashioned artistic vision. In the case of Boulevard the elevator pitch is this: Robin Williams is 60, married to a woman, and secretly gay. His name is Nolan and he has a well-paying but dull job in a small bank. Fair enough. The dramatic conflict, therefore, is his discovery and subsequent acceptance of his homosexuality. It is perhaps tiring at this point to see yet another movie in which being gay is the primary, driving narrative force. It is no longer as interesting as Love Is Strange, for example, a drama that gets to establish the sexual orientation of its characters in the first scene and then move on to subtler themes. There’s still some room left for a film like Boulevard to say something new and interesting, but not much.

read more...

Life Partners movie

Indie features about the growing pains and pangs of twentysomethings are a dime a dozen in the film world – good luck hitting a film festival without being inundated with such fare – so when a film rises above the fray, it’s both somewhat remarkable and deeply welcome. Susanna Fogel’s Life Partners is, fortunately enough, one of the rare features about approaching thirty that hits the right levels of humor, heart, and honestly, all while being adorably entertaining and charmingly relatable. The film focues on the relationship between BFFs (and, yes, acronyms apply here) Paige (Gillian Jacobs) and Sasha (Leighton Meester), whose codependent relationship has apparently worked for so long that it’s kept both of them from realizing that it might be holding them back from other things (and other people). The dynamic duo does everything together – march in the local gay pride parade, hang out with their pals, hike, watch America’s Next Top Model, drink pink wine– and it doesn’t appear that there is room for anyone else in their lives. Let’s put it this way – when Sasha calls Paige, the caller ID reads “Husband,” and when Paige calls Sasha, her phone tells her that her “Wife” is ringing.

read more...

Tribeca Film Festival

Some movies do not seem possible. Their very existence is an absurdity of hubris, their production something of a financial miracle. Or, rather, a financial eccentricity. The largest projects are the ones with the most to prove, disastrous flops like the Korean War epic Inchon financed by the Unification Church or that time Richard Burton played Yugoslav president-for-life Josip Broz Tito. Yet there’s a smaller version of this bizarre passion project, fantasies designed not to stroke the egos of cult leaders or dictators but Hollywood moguls. This time around we are in the hands of writer/director Victor Levin, Emmy-award winning co-executive producer of Mad Men and screenwriter of Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! The film is 5 to 7, a romance of almost unfathomably terrible proportions. The hero is Brian (Anton Yelchin), a young man without any sense of his own enormous privilege. Sure, he’s currently a failed writer. He’s also 24 years old, the son of very wealthy New Yorkers who presumably pay for his Manhattan apartment and, as we learn later on in passing, have already put away enough money for law school just in case. He sits at home all day re-writing his short stories and pasting rejection letters from literary magazines to his wall. The film gives him the luxury of near-constant voice over as the story begins, the first sign that Levin is entirely complicit in the narrative excesses that follow. Brian is the most inherently irritating protagonist of the year, but neither he nor his creator has any inkling thereof.

read more...

In Your Eyes Film

Let In Your Eyes be a lesson that not absolutely everything that Joss Whedon touches turns to gold, even the things the beloved filmmaker and character creator writes with his own hands. Although Whedon has recently found himself some big time blockbuster cred and some serious mainstream appeal – his The Avengers is one of the highest grossing films of all time, so that’s pretty mainstream – the screenwriter and director first earned his devoted fanbase with a bevy of more clever, character-driven television shows earlier in his career. That attention to character development, personal relationships, and big ideas is evident in Brin Hill’s directorial debut, which Whedon penned, but the rest of the film willfully and completely squanders its positive attributes. A supernatural romance with roots in the real world, In Your Eyes’ singular and ambitious idea – what would happen if you could literally see through another person’s eyes? – is taken in a number of clichéd and flawed directions, and the film eventually devolves from intriguing to embarrassing.

read more...

Tribeca Film Festival

It is not every day that you get to watch veteran actor Patrick Stewart rave about cunnilingus. Then again, not every day is the Tribeca Film Festival and not every veteran actor agrees to discuss such things in public. The film in question is Match, based on the 2004 play of the same name. Playwright Stephen Belber directed this adaptation of his own work, a first for him. And despite the verbal power of his original text, that’s pretty obvious. The final product could never be mistaken as anything other than a screen version of a theatrical production. Is that a bad thing? Not inherently, and Match is not a bad movie. This is a very different case than Venus in Fur, Roman Polanski’s unambitious adaptation of an open-ended, mythological play with bonkers cinematic potential. Belber’s narrative is a realist, simple living room drama that doesn’t necessarily cry out for fireworks. It begins with Tobias (Stewart), an aging dance teacher who works at Juilliard and lives in Inwood at the tip top of Manhattan. He’s charming, awkward and very nervous as he waits in his favorite diner for his guests. Lisa (Carla Gugino) is a PhD candidate researching the history of dance in New York, and her husband Mike (Matthew Lillard) has come along to record the interview. That’s how it begins, anyway.

read more...

Intramural movie

There’s nothing quite like a sports-centric film to get the blood pumping, the heart racing, and the tears flowing – and that’s just what happens when most people watch an Air Bud outing – but it’s hard to deny that most of the emotional responses that sports movies stir up in their audience come from a carefully laid out set of tropes and some standard plot movements. Consider the sports film playbook, stacked with underdogs and wild plans and offbeat coaching and a last-minute save to win the big game. You know it, and you know it well – fortunately, so do Intramural director Andrew Disney and screenwriter Bradley Jackson. The film opens on a rowdy and ragtag group of freshmen, led by best pals Caleb (Jake Lacy) and Grant (Nick Kocher), who are just minutes away from winning the big! intramural! football! championship! game! Of course, no one else is actually watching the game, save for the seemingly self-installed color commentary team of Bill (D.C. Pierson) and Dan (Jay Pharoah), but the dudes seem invested enough in their little game of flag football fun, and why not let them have that joy? And, yes, there is joy – because the good-time Panthers pull out a last-minute win (complete with a crazy play!) against the evil Titans, led by the hilariously nefarious Dick (Beck Bennett). That joy is short-lived.

read more...

Ballet-422

Choreographer Justin Peck is something of a big deal in the world of ballet. In a recent column, New York Times dance critic Brian Seibert addressed the growing “Messiah” chatter around Peck’s work, as critics starved for a Great (with a capital ‘g’) 21st century artist have assigned their dreams to the young man. That he’s is only 25 years old seems to only fuel the excitement. His pieces for the New York City Ballet have gotten rave reviews, and the old institution has continued to commission them. The fact that he is also a low-ranking dancer in the company’s corps de ballet makes the story even more interesting. All of this makes him an excellent subject for a documentary, at least on paper. Ballet 422 follows the production of one of these NYCB commissions from start to finish, all the way up to its Lincoln Center premiere in January 2013. This is the third feature from director Jody Lee Lipes (NY Export: Opus Jazz) who is perhaps best known as a cinematographer, his credits including the narrative films Martha Marcy May Marlene and Tiny Furniture. As one might expect from someone with such a background,, Ballet 422 opts for a primarily verite approach. Lipes looks for beauty in the least obvious places, presenting a creative process full of details, questions and unexpected changes. READ MORE AT NONFICS

read more...

Alex of Venice review

Mary Elizabeth Winstead has the “one to watch” thing down pat. The former teen actress has now blossomed into one of independent film’s most reliable and relatable leading ladies and her steady rise up the cinematic ranks – from the drunken darkness of Smashed to the dark humor of Faults, with a little The Thing and A Good Day to Die Hard thrown in for a touch of blockbuster fun– has long been someone worth watching, and now. For his directorial debut, actor Chris Messina has quite wisely built a story around Winstead’s charms, setting her up as the eponymous Alex for his Alex of Venice, an amiable outing that serves as yet another reminder that Winstead is more than enough of a draw on her own. The duo star in the domestic drama as a long-time couple fractured and felled by apparently normal grievances. Alex (Winstead) is a hardcore workaholic, and her career as an environmentally minded attorney both fills the time and doesn’t quite pay the bills. George (Messina) is stuck with home-bound duties, from getting their son Dakota (Skylar Gaertner) off to school, maintaining the house, and even caring for Alex’s dad (Don Johnson, potentially playing himself). Alex may be exacting when it comes to her job, but George appears to be the truly pragmatic one – or, at least, that seems to be the role he’s been shoved into by Alex and the demands of their home life – and when he starts exploding around Alex, their son, […]

read more...

Dior-and-I

A brand can be a powerful thing. Frederic Tcheng, director of Dior and I, is absolutely obsessed. This documentary about the famous couture house is peppered with shots of the name itself, hanging above the doorway of a shop or pasted onto an advertisement. Sometimes the effect is intimidation, other times adoration, but it is always at least brushing up against fetishization. Never quite slipping into insistence or redundancy, this leitmotif reminds of the power and dignity of the house, legendary since Christian Dior opened its doors in 1947. This makes for a quite a lot of pressure on the shoulders of Raf Simons, the newest creative director of Dior and the ostensible subject of the film. He started work in April 0f 2012 and that’s where Tcheng begins, leading with the moment when the new boss is introduced to the staff. Dior and I charts Simons’s first collection from start to finish, from design to execution and the eventual big show. Everyone is nervous, most of all the man himself. There’s a lot of anxiety, particularly because Simons was generally seen as an odd choice for Dior due to his reputation as a minimalist and his background in menswear. Everyone is worried and there is no shortage of pained faces. READ MORE AT NONFICS

read more...

Tribeca Film Festival

Something Must Break is a nude film. It is about sexuality and gender, profound infatuation and conventionally taboo, even filthy desire. Its characters are often simply, humbly naked in front of an honest but interested camera. They are beautiful and grotesque, typically at the same time. Director Ester Martin Bergsmark has not made a film in order to “rehabilitate” these socially marginal identities and attractions, however. Neither ze nor hir characters is interested in changing the mind of a perhaps unreceptive audience. This isn’t a work of well-meaning, friendly activism. This is a blood- and urine-soaked love story and it is awesome. It goes like this. Sebastian (Saga Becker) is a waifish bundle of nerves, often terribly shy but occasionally confident with a vengeance. She is also evidently transgender, though Bergsmark and co-writer Eli Léven do not introduce simple labeling into this narrative of transitions. She has taken the name of Ellie, at least on her own, but has not yet told anyone. Instead she lives and works as Sebastian, taking on the world with a bitter resignation and an androgynous wardrobe. For sex she frequents some of the seedier gay cruising locales. She tries to pick up an older man in a public toilet and it backfires. He throws her to the ground, but more beating is stopped by the intervention of a grungy but apparently dashing young man: Andreas (Iggy Malmborg).

read more...

About Alex

“You know what this is like? This is like one of those eighties movies.” Jesse Zwick’s About Alex makes no bones about its apparent pedigree – the first-time filmmaker clearly pulled from a host of eighties features, especially the similarly themed The Big Chill for his debut, but he’s added a nice little twist to his work: no one is actually dead here. Instead, the group of college friends that make up the cast of About Alex are brought back together because someone is almost dead. (This actually makes quite a difference.) Reunited due to the attempted suicide of their pal Alex (Jason Ritter), the erstwhile group assemble at his house in upstate New York to welcome home a recently discharged Alex, find out what went wrong, and learn some stuff about themselves (and each other!) as the film unfolds over an appropriate ninety-six minute runtime. But although the premise of the film is clearly a little contrived, but Zwick clearly knows that – amusingly enough, the dead protagonist in The Big Chill, the friend who really did succeed at his suicide, was also named Alex, and he also slit his wrists in a tub – but About Alex is so charming on its own merits that Zwick’s decision to riff on earlier features emerges as a wily and wise one.

read more...
NEXT PAGE  
Some movie websites serve the consumer. Some serve the industry. At Film School Rejects, we serve at the pleasure of the connoisseur. We provide the best reviews, interviews and features to millions of dedicated movie fans who know what they love and love what they know. Because we, like you, simply love the art of the moving picture.
Comic-Con 2014
Summer Box Office Prediction Challenge
Got a Tip? Send it here:
editors@filmschoolrejects.com
Publisher:
Neil Miller
Managing Editor:
Scott Beggs
Associate Editors:
Rob Hunter
Kate Erbland
Christopher Campbell
All Rights Reserved © 2006-2014 Reject Media, LLC | Privacy Policy | Design & Development by Face3