In continuing my part in covering the Tribeca film festival, this remains an exciting, new experience, although I have to say the majority of films I’ve covered so far have been underwhelming. From what I can gauge, this may not be a breakout year for the festival, but hey, maybe there’s some knockouts I missed.
I have a few more of these pictures to share with you. First, Sean Astin tries to overcome adversity in coaching the Norway Tigers’ final season in the aptly tited The Final Season. Also, good-hearted volunteers try to bring a tsunami of support to Sri Lanka in The Third Wave. And last but not least (oh wait, yes it is), Mark David Chapman shares every thought he’s had in the last 26 years in The Killing of John Lennon.
For previous Tribeca reports, click here
The Final Season (Encounters: Sports Drama)
Writer: Art D'Alessandro
Director: David Mickey Evans
Cast: Sean Astin, Powers Boothe, Rachael Leigh Cook
“Baseball is the only sport where the objective is to always find your way home.”
Perhaps I am biased. I love baseball and everything it stands for: skill, practice, finesse and summer ease. So when a little film comes along about a state champion ball club in Norway, Iowa, who live, breathe and preach the fundamentals of the game, I can’t help but submerge myself in it--even when it does its best to try and keep me out.
When Kent Stock (Sean Astin) joins the Norway Tigers in 1989, he rides the back of legendary coach Van Scoyoc (Powers Booth) all the way to the championship. “We grow ballplayers here like corn,” the coach proudly asserts. But before the start of the 1990 season, where the town is psyched to win its 20th state title, bureaucratic goons from Chicago come to inform them the school will be merging with another one, subsequently disbanding the baseball team.
The fine folks of Norway are appalled over losing their team and the business the school and team bring to the local businesses. Coach Van Soyoc is the most vocal against the merger, resulting in a scheme by the bad guys to remove him from the team’s final season and hand over the reins to the young Stock. What follows is a by-the-numbers sports film that gives us everything we’ve come to expect from the genre, nothing more.
To put it mildly, the flick, based on a true story, is sappier than a maple tree. The characters are not fleshed out, the dialogue is cheeseball and repetitive, and every scene is accompanied by an unnecessary booming musical score. But it’s an easy one for me to appreciate with its small town sentiment and positive messages for the kiddies. And any appearance by Major League star James Gammon is always welcome.
Despite its flaws, when we get down to it, it’s a nice, simple family picture that’s as pure as baseball itself. You played some fine ball there, Norway.
The Third Wave (Discovery: Political Documentary)
Director: Alison Thompson
“We can’t help everybody; we can only help who we can help.”
The new documentary The Third Wave chronicles the journey of four individuals who volunteer their support to Pariliyah, a village alongside the coast of Sri Lanka that was ravished from the 2004 Tsunami tragedy. All the pieces of a good documentary are in place: an absorbing subject, an admirable real-life cast of characters and eye-popping, raw footage.
Then why doesn’t it work? I’ll tell you. The film opens with horrific footage of the tsunami slapping into Sri Lanka, not holding back any shots of dead bodies, an abundance of screaming natives and shocked mourners. That right there suggests to us that we do not know what happened and that we must be rattled so we stop being too self-centered to care.
When we meet our newfound heroes, Australian couple Alison Thompson (also the doc’s director) and Oscar Gubernati, Colorado resident Bruce French, and Donny Paterson from Australia, they’re all coming to grips with what happened and their desire to get off their butts to do something about it. Donny comes off as the most likeable of the bunch, with his bald head and brute physical build, yet he’s the one with the most intense desire to be there. He says his joining may be due to a spiritual calling, so he unquestionably does everything he can to set up the first aid station in the village.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s incredible what these volunteers and all volunteers do for the people in most dire need in this world, but this piece of work is ultimately a recruiting video for volunteers. I also appreciate the yearning to help the impoverished for humanist reasons. (No converting the indigenous people’s religious beliefs, nice.)
This film, executively produced by Super Size Me mastermind Morgan Spurlock, reveals the disease and dismal despair of this part of the world, which makes getting fat from McDonald’s look like sweet bliss. But it’s much too bashy, exploitative and self-aggrandizing for my liking. Take a scene where a grandmother grieves the deaths of both her daughter and granddaughter. Yes it’s an effectively tear-jerking moment, but also a private one, where the camera being jammed in the woman’s face wasn’t called for. Hearing about it is sad enough.
The film’s heart is definitely in the right place, but it never gelled for me, even for a moment. Maybe it will find some hardcore supporters, like other volunteers, perhaps? However, in respects to its fellow contemporaries in the documentary field this year, this one might get washed out.
The Killing Of John Lennon (Spotlight: Drama)
Writer/Director: Andrew Piddington
Cast: Jonas Ball, Thomas A. McMahon
”I was nobody until I killed the biggest somebody on Earth.”
The Killing Of John Lennon, written and directed by Andrew Piddington, is sure to inform us before the first frame that all words spoken by the narrator, Mark David Chapman (played here by the much-better-looking Jonas Ball), are entirely his own. So in a manner of speaking, the attention-starved killer essentially wrote this movie and he thinks you’ll want to see it.
Anybody who thought that 112 minutes of listening to a wacko’s incessant banter would help us better understand the wacko is just as crazy as he is. This is literally what this entire film is--a jump from one inner psychotic rant to the other. If it’s not about how his daddy never hugged him or how different and isolated he feels from the rest of the world and how that must not make him human (when, in fact, it does), then he’s reading from the J.D Salinger classic Catcher In The Rye.
The supposed goal of this project is to bring to life the thoughts and feelings of someone who could be driven to take from us a beloved musician, poet, father, husband and peace lover. Does this depiction, which deemed it necessary to re-enact the evening of Lennon’s death at the Dakota apartments where it took place, enlighten us at all on how these senseless acts of violence occur and if there’s anything we can do to prevent them? Short answer: no.
Obsessive psychotics latch onto whatever they can to distract from how pathetic they are. Salinger’s novel didn’t make Chapman crazy. Neither did Lennon’s lifestyle and music, and I’m not even convinced anything from his childhood did either; he just went crazy and that’s all there is to it.
Chapman’s case is only unique due to who he killed, and his own words, “What glory is there in killing unknowns?” confirms how this film is his spotlight, truly putty in his hands. I don’t care what Mark David Chapman has to say about anything and I’m furious that I was excruciatingly subjected to it for as long as I was. Please don’t see this movie, if not merely out of human decency, then to state that we don’t need mediums opened for scoundrels like this to broadcast their warped ideas.
This man has no right to be synonymous with John Lennon in any way. All he deserves is to rot in his six-by-ten-foot prison cell for the rest of his life, while the ears of the free public go deaf on him.
More Tribeca coverage is on the way. Check back regularly at CinemaBlend.com for coverage throughout the festival. We've got plenty more in store.