BREAKING MOVIE NEWS
The Tribeca FIlm Festival wrapped up a week ago, but we're still kicking ourselves for missing out on the big closing night event-- a special screening of Scorsese's The King of Comedy, with DeNiro, Lewis and Scorsese all on hand to talk about the 1982 cult classic. Jerry Lewis was an icon of comedy by the time the film was made, but these days he's basically a legend
While Ronan's gorgeous blue eyes try to bring some life to the role of Eleanor, she's such a passive character that it's a chore to follow her as she mopes around, killing those close to death, and pining for a mortal boy with a very old-school look (Caleb Landry Jones).
While the details are specific to Saudi Arabia (including the offscreen threat of "religion police"), Wadjda's struggle to be accepted for who she is on her own terms is completely universal and downright inspiring. The behind-the-scenes story on the film only deepens its appeal. It was Saudi Arabia's first feature shot entirely within the nation, as well as its first directed by a female.
Actors who usually work in big Hollywood productions get drawn into indies for fairly predictable reasons: offered a chance to show their range and break out of more familiar charters, they flock to a tiny production with maybe not quite enough attention to the quality of the script. Every year the Tribeca Film Festival features at least a few of these, star-studded but modest productions that attempt to get more mileage out of the famous names than any story they actually have to tell.
This film began as four script pages penned by Kim van Kooten that introduced eight characters and the beginnings of conflicts, including a "whose baby is that" plot line. From there, Verhoeven gave this beginning over to any interested aspiring screenwriter to continue the narrative by penning the next four to five pages.
I had incredibly high hopes for The Rocket and Hide Your Smiling Faces, which were roundly being dubbed the best of the fest in press lounge debates. Funny enough, I didn't totally agree. Below I break it down.
"Mr. Jones" is the name given to an elusive and anonymous folk art sculptor whose creepy scarecrows rose to prominence when he sent them to random recipients back in the 1970s. Enthralled when she uncovers this reclusive icon's new works, Penny declares they have stumbled across an incredible opportunity, "like finding out your neighbor is J.D. Salinger, or Banksy!"
Moviegoers and critics alike were spoiled for choice thanks to an array of outstanding foreign features, daring dark comedies, mesmerizing documentaries, and fantastically freaky midnight movies. I've been so overwhelmed by the flood of fascinating films that it's been difficult to pick a personal favorite. Maybe the paradoxically bubbly dark comedy The Pretty One? Possibly the heartwarming and thought provoking coming-of-age drama out of Saudi Arabia Wadjda?
Believe me, I get it. I didn't especially want to see a movie about a little girl being sexually abused either. Honestly if I'd known that was the plot, I probably would have skipped the film entirely. But that's the beauty of any film festival-- it encourages you to step into a theater to see a film you know almost nothing about, and allows you to push your own comfort zone by encountering a director you've never heard of, and a film unlike almost anything else
Chris Schoeck, the Long Island City resident at the center of the niche vocation documentary Bending Steel is about the last person you'd expect to harbor hopes of becoming an "old time strongman." At 43, he seems a little too old to dream of running off to join The Freak Show at Coney Island.
"Why am I the only one who's not okay with this? Why is it just me?" recounts Private Adam Winfield, his eyes hollowed from the horrors he's seen. Not horrors of combat, but of his brothers in arms, who plotted the murder of innocent Afghans to get the kills they felt were their due.
On the surface, Whitewash and The Pretty One have little in common. The first is an intimate character-driven narrative that stars Thomas Haden Church as an oft-inebriated widower who puts himself through hell in the depths of Canada's cruel and bitterly cold forests. The latter is a plucky romantic comedy in which Zoe Kazan plays identical twins. But both are the first feature helmed by their respective directors, as well as wildly entertaining and mesmerizing dark comedies that's catalyst is a fatal automobile crash.
By being cast in the upcoming Transformers 4, Irish actor Jack Reynor has entered the spotlight before pretty much anyone has ever heard of him. It's a tough situation for an actor-- can you be over-hyped before you're even famous?-- but an ideal one for a movie like What Richard Did at a festival like Tribeca
The standout draw of this quirky indie is that rubber-faced funnyman Will Forte tries his hand at straight-faced drama. In Steph Green's feature directorial debut Run and Jump, Forte plays an American doctor working on a study focused on Conor Casey, a 38-year old Irish family man and carpenter whose brain was irreparably damaged by a stroke. After weeks in the hospital, the man returns home to his family with observing doctor in tow for better or worse.
Like V/H/S, this short is by far the weakest, focusing on some vile crooks who break into a house where they discover a stack of strange VHS tapes. However, V/H/S/2's other shorts are generally, stronger, smarter and more ambition than those we saw the first time around with a mix of body horror, science fiction, well-teased tension, and of course lots of gore.
Prince Avalanche and Almost Christmas make for a pretty solid double feature. Both are dark comedies that star Paul Rudd as a blue-collar guy trying to prove his worth to his girlfriend and her young daughter. Both attempt tender character portraits, and both appear to be attempts by their directors to reclaim the critical acclaim that once embraced them.
Prescription drug abuse isn't as attention-grabbing as bath salts, and not as glamorized as meth, but as the documentary Oxyana movingly depicts, it's just got as much power to destroy. Taking its title from the nickname acquired by Oceana, West Virgina, Oxyana is a portrait of modern rural American life as completely transformed by drugs, in this case a legal prescription painkiller that has paralyzed an entire generation
Whether you know and adore Elaine Stritch for her decades-long Broadway career, her distinctively boozy and brassy singing style, or her wickedly winsome guest appearances as Jack Donaghy's mom Colleen on 30 Rock, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me is an absolute joy.
The film's most telling moments were when Haneke confesses that he channels his own fears and anxieties into his work, which is sometimes autobiographically inspired, as a form of therapeutic catharsis, and when he admits, "In cinema, the viewer is always the director's victim."
As its plot progressed I was able only to follow its broadest strokes. Ultimately, not even the smoking hot sexual chemistry of its leads (Jean Dujardin and CÚcile De France) could save this confounding thriller.