Tribeca Film Festival

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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, […]

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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

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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).

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Tribeca Film Festival

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.

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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.

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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.

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Time Is Illmatic

If you’re a working musician who has residential roots to New York City and you happen to have some sort of fraught relationship with your family, the Tribeca Film Festival has a spot for you: Opening Night. Last year, the festival opened with the debut of Mistaken For Strangers, a documentary about the band The National, with a tight focus on the band’s lead singer and his doofus brother as they attempt to coexist on tour together. This year, the festival bowed with the premiere of Time Is Illmatic, another documentary centered on a working musician (in this case, rapper Nas) who has residential roots to the city (he grew up in Queens’ Queensbridge Houses) who happens to have some sort of fraught relationship with his family (though nothing quite so tense as the relationship at the center of last year’s premiere). Time Is Illmatic is pegged to the twenty-year anniversary of Nas’ debut album, “Illmatic,” a hip-hop milestone that, as we are frequently reminded in the film, still resonates today. Nas tells us early on in the film that he sought to make “a perfect album” with “Illmatic,” and though it appears that he absolutely accomplished that, the majority of the film isn’t about actually making the album itself – it’s about making a way out of his existing life into a place where he could even dream of making such an album. Time Is Illmatic is primarily concerned with sharing Nas’ early life experiences (call that the “time” […]

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Most Anticipated Tribeca Films

Hey, look, it’s film festival time again! (It’s always film festival time, much like it’s always awards season time.) This time around, the films are unfurling at New York City’s own Tribeca Film Festival, and two of our very own NYC-based scribblers are on the ground to cover the best of what the festival has to offer. As ever, the festival offers a robust programming slate of brand-new premieres, holdovers from other festivals around the world (we recommend titles like In Your Eyes, Chef, and Begin Again, if you’re looking to play catch up), and some uniquely compelling titles just daring you to try them out (one word: zombeavers). The festival kicks off tonight with the premiere of the Nas documentary, Time Is Illmatic, and runs until Sunday, April 27th. For these next few days, Lower Manhattan will be jumping with the festival and its many offerings, and we dare say that our own Kate Erbland and Daniel Walber have picked out some of the best.

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Tribeca Film Festival

When the greatest city in the world (patent pending) is home to your film festival, it seems pretty obvious that said film festival should play plenty of films about said city — a love letter or ten, if you will — and this year’s Tribeca Film Festival appears to be taking that to heart. The festival, now in its thirteenth year, will hit New York City this April 16 through April 27, and the first half of the festival’s slate (the second half will be announced tomorrow) is very heavy on the Gotham-influenced fare. Think of it this way — at this year’s Tribeca, you can take in at least seven films about New York and its various neighborhoods, and then you can step outside into that actual city. Wild stuff, you guys. These seven films span the city and its far reaches, while also spanning a number of cinematic genres (there’s comedy here, but there’s also some hard drama), and covering topics from ballet to hot dogs and everything in between. Take a look at some of the New York City-centric films (narrative and documentary!) that Tribeca will be offering this year, along with some notes on offerings that – sigh – take place elsewhere.

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Clark Gregg’s 2008 Choke may be the lesser known of the cinematic world’s big screen Chuck Palahniuk adaptations (it is, after all, hard to compete with names like Fincher, Pitt, and Norton), but the multi-hyphenate’s directorial debut adeptly translated the author’s trademark black humor to the screen without a hitch. For his second feature, Gregg again goes in for funny stuff with a truly dark edge and, for at least its first half, Trust Me is more brutally and bruisingly amusing than just about any other current comedy around. But Gregg’s stellar first half ends with one hell of an abrupt, tone-changing twist, and he’s never able to fully reconcile his dark humor with true darkness. Trust Me takes its audience inside the twisted world of dealmaking amongst Hollywood elite – specifically, the twisted world of dealmaking amongst Hollywood elite trying to capitalize on the talent and ability of would-be child stars. Gregg is still interested in trafficking in regular guys with extreme problems – while his Choke centered on Sam Rockwell’s otherwise-average-beyond-that-crushing-sex-addiction Victor, Trust Me focuses on Gregg’s Howard, a sad sack Hollywood agent trying to find the next big kid thing. It’s not easy and it’s not fun and Howard’s particular career path seems like the most weirdly soul-crushing career path imaginable. But Gregg’s Howard doesn’t know any better and he doesn’t know anything else – he’s been in the game since he was just six years old, back when he was a child actor himself, and it’s […]

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Bluebird

Comparisons to Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter will likely plague Lance Edmands’ Bluebird, thanks to the films’ similar subject matter – both are set in snowy small towns, both center on a tragedy that occurs on a school bus, both find their drama in the aftermath – but Edmands’ new feature quickly finds its own footing and announces the arrival of a talented new independent filmmaker. Bluebird approaches its seemingly familiar plotline with a tighter focus than Egoyan’s, as Edmands spends the majority of his film with school bus driver Lesley (Amy Morton), a kind and well-intentioned woman whose life is destroyed by a minor moment of distraction. During an end-of-shift bus check, a trilling bluebird draws Lesley’s attention away from the task at hand, with the hautning consequences of her bird-watching not revealed until late the next morning. Lesley is, however, not the only person at fault in Bluebird (the accident at the center of the film is a unique and jarring one, and is best revealed within the film), though she is the one most obviously culpable. While Lesley is absorbed with the titular bluebird, across town young Marla (Louisa Krause) is similarly engaged, but with depression, drugs, and drinks. As with Lesley, we do not know the full extent of Marla’s negligence until many hours later. Lesley and Marla’s small, twin mistakes bloom outward, and Bluebird maps the fallout from common missteps in an unforgiving world. It is, simply put, deeply heartbreaking.

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Mistaken for Strangers

If you asked Matt Berninger what his younger brother, Tom Berninger, thinks of indie rock, he’d tell you it straight: “he thinks indie rock is pretentious bullshit.” Which is a bit of a problem, because Matt is the lead singer of beloved indie band The National and Tom is about to go on tour with The National to capture a documentary about, well, The National. Will Tom change his mind about indie rock? Probably not, but he might just change his mind about just about everything else. The basic plot of Berninger’s Mistaken for Strangers is almost eerily movie-ready. The National is, as one journalist puts it, a band of brothers – a group composed of the Devendorfs (Scott and Bryan) and the Dessners (Aaron and Bryce, who also happen to be twins, just for good measure), along with lead singer Matt – and while Tom is ostensibly coming on tour to help out with basic roadie duties, he’s actually there to make a movie, but he’s really there to reconnect with his brother.

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Mistaken for Strangers

If you’ve somehow missed our relentless reportage on the subject, the Tribeca Film Festival kicks off later this week with the premiere of Tom Berninger‘s Mistaken for Strangers, a tour documentary about Berninger’s time on tour with his brother’s (Matt Berninger) band The National. The film’s first trailer is a solid mix of standard tour stuff (life as a rock star is wacky!), family drama (it looks like the Berningers get down to some long-needed heart-to-hearts in the film), and performances by the band. Basically, a perfect music doc. Jam out with the first trailer for Mistaken for Strangers after the break.

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Tribeca Film Festival

The spring film festival season is about to kick off in a big way with the opening of New York’s own Tribeca Film Festival later this week, and with a schedule that spans eleven days and includes hundreds of features and shorts, the festival is crammed with solid picks for everyone from the casual moviegoer to the hardcore cinephile. This year’s Tribeca is a more down-to-earth affair than it has been in years past (there’s certainly no massive Marvel film opening of closing Tribeca 2013), and that’s a good thing for movie fans looking to make some true discoveries. Here at NY Reject HQ, we’ve already spent plenty of time poring over the fest’s schedule, all the better to bring you the very best that the festival has to offer. We’re reasonably sure we’ve already picked out some winners for you (just reasonably, really). After the break, check out Team Rejects’ twelve most anticipated films of the Tribeca Film Festival. Trust us, this is one list that has everything.

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Tribeca Film Festival

Now that the Tribeca Film Festival has rolled out their impressive feature slate and their massive shorts program, the fest has revealed the complete lineup for their seventh annual Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival. Per the fest, “this year’s film program features a selection of sports and competition-themed films that celebrate competition, passion and teamwork, and reflect the diversity of filmmaking in this genre,” which includes nine films, four of which are a part of ESPN Films’ “Nine for IX” series (a new series focused on celebrating the fortieth anniversary of Title IX, which consists of a full nine documentary films about women in sports directed by outstanding female filmmakers). The world premiere of Kevin Connolly‘s Big Shot  (yes, that Kevin Connolly) will kick off the fest-within-a-fest with a gala screening on April 19th. Connolly’s latest explores John Spano’s fradulent purchase of the New York Islanders in 1997, which ended up being “the biggest fraud in hockey history.” Check out the full lineup for the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival after the break.

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