This weekend marks the beginning of this year's Tribeca Film Festival, which brings film lovers from all over to the cavernous streets of downtown Manhattan, and sends your trusty Cinema Blend correspondents running all over creation to cover it. Eric Eisenberg, Perri Nemiroff and myself will be covering Tribeca over the next ten days, seeing all kinds of indie films, doing all kinds of interviews, and trying to sleep once in a while in the meantime.
We've already started seeing some of the films from this year's festival, and below we've got a list of 20 films that we either know are worth your time or are anxious to see yourself. Keeping checking Cinema Blend daily for new reviews and interviews from the festival, and if you're there too, let us know in the comments!
Climate of Change
More than just a "woe-is-us" screed about all the destruction we humans are wreaking on the earth, Climate of Change looks like a hopeful, human take on global warming, showcases efforts all around the world of everyday people trying to save the planet. Plus, it's narrated by Tilda Swinton, and we'd listen to her read the phone book.
"We are the renters of this world, not its masters," reminds Pooshkar, a precocious 13-year-old member of a youth environmental defense group in India. He and his fellow voraciously energetic students actively rally against the use of plastics. In Africa, a renaissance man teaches citizens to harness solar power to cook food. In Papua New Guinea, villagers practice sustainable logging to save their rainforests. A woman in London uses her PR savvy to start a successful environmental communications firm. Self-described "hillbillies" in Appalachia battle the big business behind strip mining. In this rich and inspiring documentary, director Brian Hill takes us around the world to find the ordinary people taking action in the fight to save our environment.
Disappearance of Alice Creed
A kidnapping thriller set in just two rooms, featuring in its cast Gemma Arterton, the pretty girl from Quantum of Solace finally given a chance to actually act, and Eddie Marsan, the angry driving instructor from Happy-Go-Lucky who can act circles around probably anyone. This directorial debut by J Blakeson is already garnering great pre-festival buzz.
Meticulous. Taut. Restrained. That's how the plan is set by alpha Vic and naïve Danny to kidnap a woman and hold her ransom for 2 million euros. But it also describes J Blakeson's skillful crafting of his tension-fueled debut—not an easy feat when you have only three characters and two rooms to work with. In one of those rooms is Alice, pulled off the street by Vic and Danny, blindfolded, gagged, and tied to a bed nailed to the floor. The plan is on track, with every detail plotted from the ransom call to Alice's father all the way down to how Alice goes to the bathroom.
New York Magazine already beat us to recommend this one, given that they've actually already seen it, but the notion of a doc that takes on the complicated but hugely important political game of chicken that is gerrymandering sounds pretty fascinating. Maybe documentarian Jeff Reichert can start beating Tribeca superstar Alex Gibney at his own game.
What is "gerrymandering"? You don't have to wait for your oversized 2010 census envelope to figure out what exactly it means. Named for the Massachusetts governor who conveniently redrew a few erratic lines in 1812, gerrymandering is the redistricting of electoral boundaries to effect voting outcome in favor of a particular candidate, political party, et cetera. And why should you care? As the governor of California will tell you, the reestablishment of district lines takes away the voice of individual communities, reduces voter turnout and lessens competition among candidates. Whether it's a community, race, or party issue, an issue it surely is.
Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek, and Robert Duvall in a performance many are already arguing could garner him an Oscar nomination. This film has been making the festival circuit for a while now, but this is the time to see it in New York.
First-time feature director Aaron Schneider blazes onto the scene with the hugely impressive Get Low. Set in the 1930s in a rural Southern town, the film follows scruffy hermit Felix Bush (played impeccably by Robert Duvall), who has lived alone on the outskirts of town for 40 years shrouded in a dark mystery. One day he emerges from isolation to plan his own living "funeral party," expecting the townsfolk who have rejected him for years to attend. Denied a proper funeral for his checkered past, Felix perseveres to set the record straight. With the help of Frank Quinn (Bill Murray), the town's broke funeral director, his quirky assistant Buddy Robinson (Lucas Black), and an old friend and widow Maddie Darrow (Sissy Spacek), he tries to retrace history and expunge his record.
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
Love her or hate her, you have to admit that Joan River is a unique and important figure in American pop culture, and this documentary is apparently pretty frank about Rivers good and bad. It debuted at Sundance to positive reviews, and we're excited to catch it on our home turf.
At 76 years old, Joan Rivers is showing no sign of slowing down. The undisputed queen of American comedy's career has spanned five decades and as many media, from serving as the first female guest host of The Tonight Show, to opening a one-woman play in London in 2008, to winning The Celebrity Apprentice in 2009.
Last Play at Shea
Just before the beloved Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets, was abandoned in favor of the glossier Citifield next door, Billy Joel played one last concert in the first arena to ever host the Beatles. What better film to play Tribeca than a New York tribute like this one?
From The Beatles' first-ever arena performance in 1965 until Billy Joel's concert before its demolition in 2009, Shea Stadium played host to some of the biggest names in music from around the globe in addition to serving as home to the New York Mets. This lovingly crafted documentary interweaves the history of this recently lost New York City landmark with the career of Long Island native Billy Joel, a performer whose personal connection to the stadium made him the perfect choice to close the curtain on Shea's storied past.
Meet Monica Velour
Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall as a washed-up 80s porn star. What can we say, we love a good acting gimmick.
For Tobe, a nerdy, horny, frizzy-haired cineaste who doesn't quite fit in with the average contemporary teen, the pinnacle of womanhood is Monica Velour (Kim Cattrall), a soft-core actress who reached the zenith of her career in the 1980s. When Tobe learns that his love idol is headlining hundreds of miles away at the Gentlemen's Petting Zoo in Indiana, he drives off with carefree glory—in his grandfather's (Brian Dennehy) used Weinermobile, no less—filled with the hope of meeting her. When Tobe defends Monica's honor against ruffians who taunt the aging erotic starlet off the stage, he lands a pity invite into Monica's trailer. As the two begin an unlikely friendship, Tobe's unripe romantic impulses entangle with her messy life as a struggling single mother embroiled in a custody battle for her only daughter.
The new film from Amelie director Jean-Pierre Jeuenet is just as quirky and warm-hearted, but also carries a political undertone and a pretty moving anti-arms message. Come for the wild characters, stay for the important message.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amélie is a landmark of cinematic ingenuity. Similar inspiration and wonder is echoed in his inventive, playful, and wildly entertaining Micmacs. Meet Bazil (Dany Boon). He was raised in an orphanage from a young age, his father having been killed by a land mine as a soldier and his mom deemed insane. Flash forward years later, a grown-up Bazil is working at a video store when a stray bullet from a random drive-by shooting lodges into his brain. Unable to remove the stubborn slug, the doctors release him into the world to encounter an unexpected fate.
It's simple-- we'll catch Chris Messina (recently of Julie & Julia and Greenberg) doing pretty much anything. Parks & Recreation's Rashida Jones is an added bonus.
Thirtysomethings Theo (Chris Messina) and Nat (Rashida Jones) are engaged to be married. They live what seems to be on all counts a comfortable life of love, music, and laughter in their cozy Brooklyn apartment. But Theo is bored with his job as a wedding photographer—the generic backgrounds, the artificial posing, the stilted newlyweds—so he develops the unconventional side business "Gumshoot," a service where clients hire him to secretly stalk them with his camera. When he is called out on a job to snap pics of an exhibitionist mystery woman (Meital Dohan), a simple gig develops into a voyeuristic obsession that forces Theo to confront uncomfortable truths about himself and his impending marriage.
Ostensibly it's a road trip movie about three brothers squabbling and trying not to die in a broken-down bread van, but it's also a touching story about growing up and coping with family tragedy-- one that includes an 11-year-old singing "I am the champion farter!" Trust us, it's worth it.
From the producers of last year's award-winning The Eclipse, My Brothers is a beautiful and heartwarming road movie set during the Halloween weekend of 1987. The eldest of three boys, 17-year-old Noel has always been the reserved, serious, and responsible one. When he accidentally breaks his dying father's wristwatch that he won from an arcade in the town of Ballybunion, he "borrows" his boss' bread van with his two younger brothers—11-year-old Paudie and seven-year-old Scwally—in tow. Paudie is a bit cocky and not so bright but dreams of playing for the Liverpool soccer team. Scwally has never seen Star Wars but is obsessed with it. On the trip, brotherly differences—and similarities—turn the journey into more than what they expected.
My Trip to Al-Qaeda
One of two films by documentarian Alex Gibney at this year's festival, this one is actually a document of a one-man play. It's already been snapped up by HBO for broadcast, but we like seeing things before anyone else, so we'll be there.
Academy Award® winner Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) collaborates with Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright to bring Wright's titular one-man play to the screen. Wright made waves in 2006 with his best-selling book The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, chronicling fundamentalist Islam's rise to power, and the roots of modern religious extremism and terrorism.
You could call it "the Colin Farrell mermaid movie," but it's also a touching story about father-daughter relationships, learning to let go of the past, and the spectacular beauty of the Irish coastline that everyone there seems to take for granted. Farrell's not so bad in it either.
Syracuse, a simple and gruff fisherman trawling his ordinary route off the coast of southern Ireland, one day pulls in the biggest catch of his life—a beautiful young woman. Appearing dead at first, the beauty inexplicably comes to life before his eyes, setting off a miraculous chain of events loaded with romance and bewilderment. Entirely thanks to the encouragement of his sickly but precocious young daughter, Annie, he slowly comes to believe in the mystery surrounding his new catch (aptly named after the water nymph of German folklore, Ondine) while falling head over heels for the siren. Not too soon after does reality butt its ugly head into their newfound fairy tale life, threatening the future of all three….
What could be better than a funny and warm-hearted, pure New York story that stars the likes of Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt and Rebecca Hall? Nothing, that's what.
Life is good for Kate (Catherine Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt). After decades of marriage, they have settled into a comfortable rapport, and success in their estate-sale antique furniture business has allowed them to finance an expansion of their Greenwich Village apartment. They purchase the (occupied) unit next door, and begin the wait for its elderly tenant Andra (Ann Guilbert) to pass on so they can proceed with their construction plans. Feeling guilty about their impatience for Andra's death, the family reaches out to her granddaughters Mary and Rebecca (respectively Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall) for some moral grounding, only to find the new relationships compounding their ethical conundrum rather than alleviating it.
Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage
Rush superfans will be the likeliest people to check this out, but even those of us who know nothing beyond that concert scene in I Love You Man are likely to come away charmed by this cuddly, totally geeky Canadian rock trio. Being a ock star has never looked so fun.
For fans of the legendary Canadian band RUSH, this is the documentary to experience. A comprehensive exploration of the entire history of this extraordinary power trio, from their early days growing up in Toronto, through each of their landmark albums, to the present day. Sit back and revel in the words, music, and wonder of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart.
sex & drugs & rock & roll
Andy Serkis-- a.k.a. Gollum-- has already earned a BAFTA nomination for his performance in this film. Come see what he's got to offer beyond "My precioussssss."
The man who played Gollum and King Kong is now transforming into an equally volatile creature: punk rocker and new wave artist Ian Dury. BAFTA nominee Andy Serkis plays The Blockheads frontman like the circus ringmaster at a carnival of dysfunction (known to the rest of us as the '70s and '80s). This unconventional biopic follows Dury from the days before Catshit Mansions through his rise to quantifiable success. Somewhere along the way, we're introduced to a different Dury: a man whose tenacity allowed him to overcome the debilitating effects of a botched childhood and polio, and who challenged those closest to him to have the same strength of character. He may have been a sonuvabitch, but he gave as much love as he gave grief.
Sons of Perdition
A depressing documentary, but one that's particularly timely given the scandals that surround Warren Jeffs and his polygamist community-- the story of the boys exiled from their communities seems like it has potential for truly heartbreaking stuff on film.
"There are no monogamists in heaven," proclaims Warren Jeffs, the notorious (and now incarcerated) leader and "prophet" of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. For decades, the church's followers have practiced polygamy, believing dozens of young wives and scores of children bring them closer to God, but as Jeffs' cultish influence over the community grows, they soon find themselves sacrificing their freedom of thought.
A comedy! At a film festival! And one directed by Fatih Akin of The Edge of Heaven Head On, so you know it might actually be good! What more could a tired festivalgoer want?
Director Fatih Akin dishes out lighter fare in his delightful and appropriately titled Soul Kitchen. Having previously achieved worldwide art-house fame for such brooding and powerful films as The Edge of Heaven and Head-On, Akin is at ease and in great form in this wistful comedy.
Ticked-off Trannies With Knives
The deliberately provocative title has already rounded up some controversy, but we're optimistic about the potential of this new-era exploitation film based on the actual beatings of transgendered people nationwide.
Some girls are simply not to be messed with. And so it is with the fabulous heroines Bubbles Cliquot, Tipper Sommore, Rachel Slurr, and Emma Grashun. All respect is given to them in Pinky La'Trimm's nightclub, but when they beome the victims of a psycho guy who just can't get over his conflicted desire for Bubbles, the bruised-up babes shake it up grand diva style and transform into deadly vixens. An homage to the exploitation films of the '70s and '80s, Ticked-Off is a revenge fantasy flick that brews up a concoction of camp, slasher horror, and power-chick flick to create a radical new genre: Transploitation!
Untitled Eliot Spitzer Documentary
It's the hottest ticket at the festival, and we don't even know if we'll get to see it, but a new movie from Taxi to the Dark Side director Alex Gibney about disgraced former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer automatically makes the must-see list. The first clip released from the film was intriguing, and we can't wait to see more.
This work-in-progress documentary from the Academy Award®-winning director of Taxi to the Dark Side takes an in-depth look at the rapid rise and dramatic fall of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. Nicknamed "the Sheriff of Wall Street" when he was New York's attorney general, Eliot Spitzer prosecuted crimes by America's largest financial institutions and some of the most powerful executives in the country. After his election as governor with the largest margin in the state's history, many believed Spitzer was on his way to becoming the nation's first Jewish president.
Can't get enough of everyday people dressing in ridiculous costumes after Kick-Ass. Good, because here comes Zonad, a comedy directed, somehow, by the guy behind Once. It looks just bizarre enough to be great.
He came from a faraway galaxy. A place that you can only imagine when looking up at the clear night sky—somewhere beyond the twinkling stars. He is… Zonad! Well, actually, he's just an overweight bloke who just broke out of rehab (and happens to be wearing a tight, red vinyl bodysuit and helmet). Promising to return for a fellow inmate injured during the getaway, Zonad instead ends up in the quaint Irish hamlet of Ballymoran, a town with all the modern-day conveniences but that seems to be stuck in an episode of Father Knows Best. He is discovered in the Cassidy house, and after a night of stargazing the family is quick to label him a visitor from outer space.
Follow along with all of our special, Tribeca 2010 coverage right here.