Monday, May 4, 2015

LIVE WIRES (1946)

First of the official Bowery Boys series has Slip losing his job by punching his boss. His sister who works for the owner of the company is angry with him. He manages to get  another job working for the DA serving warrants and subpoenas. While on the job he meets Sach. He also discovers that all is not well with the construction firm he was working with and that his sister maybe in danger.

If you're familiar with the later films in the series this early entry plays rather strangely with Slip being pretty much on his own. Sach is not the character we know from the later films. Yes he provides the comic relief but his interaction with Slip are not as the buddy he's become. The boys also spend a great deal of time in suits and ties

The film is not really like the wild comedies that would follow. The film is a mix of comedy and drama. The film is tied to the earlier Eastside Kids films with its mix of the genres. The  rejiggering of the formula that came with the name  change isn't really set, that would take another three or four films to get down.

Taken on it's own terms LIVE WIRES is a pretty good B film. For me the problem is that I'm so used to seeing the later films, I'm not used to seeing Slip, Sach and the boys in such a mix of comedy and drama. Yes the earlier Eastside Kids did similar things, but those films didn't really keep the various characters apart, nor were they operating in the settings that signal what the series would become.

I like this film. Its a solid little film, Definitely worth a look, especially if you're like me and slowly going through all of the Bowery Boys films in the Warner Archive collections. (The film is the first film on the first DVD of the first collection)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Nightcap:5/3/15 The Tribeca wrap up, plus Randi's links


There is this sadness to covering a festival. For the weeks leading up to something like Tribeca its constant contact with people connected to the festival and the films and then suddenly - nothing.

The tents are struck, the band has left and there is nothing but the remnants and the memories. When you're in the thick of things it's like going from 150 mph to hitting a brick wall. A depression hits and a sadness creeps in.

From a readership stand point, once the final couple days of the festival hit readership falls off as everyone moves on to the next thing. You realize how much film fans want to get to the next big thing. With Tribeca done everyone has moved on to Hot Docs or Montclair or whatever.

For me there is a sadness- I like the hustle and bustle. I like being in the thick of things and I hate it when it goes away. But I know its going to happen. I know it's going to cycle. I know I just have to wait for the next big thing and wait for it to crest...the trick is dealing with the god awful waiting...

Tribeca is over and our coverage is largely over so now it's time to reflect.

First off I want to thank Hubert for wading in to the fracas with me. It wouldn’t have worked without you. I also want to say that  it wasn't the same without Mondo and Chocko, one who had to deal with life and the other I just missed.

Ultimately I had a great time, I made some new friends and did some cool things.

If I'm doing this again next year I really have to consider what I'm going to do. I say that because the majority of the festival and the two and a half weeks before it involved 19 hour days and very little sleep. The sleep deprivation broke me and I'm not sure the 90 features plus other things was worth it.

But that's my problem. I'm the moron who decided to see as much as humanly possible- just to see what happens and what was possible.

This year the most amazing thing about the festival was that none of the films I saw were complete and utter dogs. Seriously as much as I dislike some films, there are none I hate enough to rant about for hours and hours.. Yea things like MOJAVE were bad, but they had good stuff in it. Even near dogs like SHUT UP AND DRIVE, GOOD KILL and MEN GO TO BATTLE had performances and moments that worked.

As always it was great to talk with the staff. Exchanging notes with all of the people was great and they steered me to a couple of films I might not have seen otherwise. Don't kid yourself, one of the reasons I go to the festival are the volunteers and I cherish them all.

This year I got to really know one of Chocko's friends Ariel who who was a volunteer who at times seemed to be everywhere. I'm hoping to get her on board with some reviews of the films she saw including some that eluded Hubert and myself.

I also got to know the lovely and charming Lesley Coffin of the Mary Sue and elsewhere. I had a blast talking and arguing with her almost every day of the festival. And assuming I haven’t messed things up earlier today I‘ve talked her doing some stuff for us as well. (Look for an interview with Gil Bellows on Tuesday).  Lesley is truly someone special and I am lucky to now call her friend and to have her as part of the Unseen family.

I can't lie but there was a downside to the festival this year that hopefully they can work out for next year- namely the locations are too spread out and in the case of the Regal Cinemas very out of the way. I have yet to meet anyone who said they liked the arrangement. While the locations are fine once you get there, the trick was getting there or going between them.

I understand that the festival is named after its location,Tribeca, and should be in Tribeca but the Regal Cinemas are a good walk from the subway. I have been told by any number of festival goers that parking around it is nigh impossible. Additionally if you are going from there to Spring Studios or 23rd street where the Bow Tie Cinema (main location for the previous 5 years) and SVA Theaters are you're talking about at least a 30 minutes travel time. (I won’t get into the press lounge being at Spring Studio other than to say why would you put the place for the press to rest 25 minutes away from where all the press events are happening?) Its a minor bitch in an otherwise good year.

Over all this was a really cool year. I got to see Riff Trax live, was inches from Monty Python (or in the case of John Cleese crashed into him), I met Kevin Pollak, had a great chat about a historic horse race, made some new friends, connected with old ones. I had such a good time that when I finally finish transcribing the interviews I think I’ll be looking forward to next year.

I want to thank Tammie Rosen and the other people at Tribeca for letting me attend and be part of the madness.

And now time to sigh deeply and go to bed.
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And now as always-Randi's links:

Brontosaurus makes a comeback
Help Bill Plymptons REVENGEANCE get made
being overweight reduces chances of dementia
The Scream and Pink Floyd
Action figues
Greatest movie song?
Aliens are here
Rosebud
Cult of THE ROOM
Pornographic medical book?
Man eating snakes
Francis Bacon paintings surface
Celebrity interviews gone bad
Spaulding Gray's catastrophe
NY's Carnegie Deli in seep trouble
Ruined Beauty

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This week we move away from the wave of new films that we saw at Tribeca with palette cleanse looks at the first five Bowery Boy films. However mixed in with that look for some new releases, some interviews, including Lesley Coffin's first piece for Unseen, a talk with Gil Bellows and some other stuff.
Time to pack up the Tribeca Trailer and go home

Autism in Love (2015) tribeca 2015

I'm really mixed about this film, its one of the few films I saw at the pre-screenings I really wished I had missed. At the same time the film has some touching moments. This portrait of four adults with autism and their relationship with romance really should have been three separate films, or at the very least not called AUTISM IN LOVE because the sections and the title don't completely work.

The one section that works is the one focused on Lindsey and David. A couple where both partners suffer from the disease. They struggle to get through their days and hold on to their relationship. This is the one section that really focuses on the notion of love. Together for 8 years the pair tries to figure out if they want to take the next step and get married. Its lovely and charming and so good that you wish we had more time with them. I wanted more details about their lives and thoughts.

The second section concerns Stephen who has been married for almost 20 years. We watch as he tries come to terms with the fact that his wife is dying of ovarian cancer. A deeply moving story we are short changed in many ways since we're with Stephen a good while before we are even told he's married. Additionally several events transpire off screen leaving us feeling not as connected to Stephen and his plight as we should.

Lastly is the story of Lenny,  a 25ish year old young man who has very particular ideas about romance. Still living at home with his parents Lenny wants a girl who will let him be the bread winner and let him be in charge. He's had one girlfriend in his life, but that relationship went sour. Actually there is much that is sour about Lenny who seems to simply vent to the camera and have a break down about the course of his life. Occasionally a scary individual Lenny doesn't belong in this film but in a different one.

The biggest problem with the film is that all of the sections really could use more information. So little is told to us and so much time passes between the periods where the filmmakers check in with these people that I'm left to ponder  how much was actually shot for each story since in the cases of Lenny and Stephen we're simply not seeing long periods of time. (And it's not a question of the film's running time being too long, it only runs around 75 minutes)

I was disappointed in this film a great deal since it's one of the few films I had seen up to that point where I felt like I wasted my time sitting in the theater. Not a bad film but one severely lacking in material.

( ADDENDUM: Nate Hood, a young man with Autism I met at Tribeca LOVED the film and explained in great detail to me why its a great film. Here is his review at Screen Comment)

The over hyped over long WOLFPACK (2015) Tribeca 2015

The pre-Tribeca press screening for WOLFPACK was packed. It was one of the fullest screenings I've ever attended. The crowd was the result of rapturous word out of Sundance where it was a darling and made headlines when it was picked up by Magnolia.

The film is the the story of the Angulo kids. The family grew up in an apartment on the Lower East Side of New York. They were home schooled and grew up on a diet of rock and roll and movies....and they never left their apartment ever.  That all changed when the one of the boys had enough and walked out one day... One day when he was out with his brothers he ran into director Crystal Moselle and the result of the meeting was this film

I'm having trouble determining why the film has gotten the big time love it had at Sundance.  At times a sad troubling story the film bobbles things as details are not given, time frames are nonexistent, threads are not pursued, the boys father, a key figure, remains a cipher and there is a general feeling that some events (trips to Coney Island or the movies)  feel staged. A police raid on their apartment- someone thought all their home made guns were real- is mentioned after the fact and it rattles around for a couple of minutes and then is done- like so much in the film.

I don't know what I think of this film. The central tale is intriguing but the film messes things up so badly that you don't care. Worse everything feels stretched by longish sequences watching the Angulo kids recreating the movies they love and video footage of the kids growing up which is not explained and randomly inserted. A half an hour in I was ready to walk out because I felt the film didn't have much to add- and it didn't.

To be honest I suspect that the film might have sustained interest if the film had made some effort to differentiate between the brothers- or even to put the boys names into our heads. Yes they are all named in Sanskrit but thanks to genetics all the boys look exactly the same, with the result by the time they start to leave the nest we really have no idea who the hell they are. Had the film made the boy individuals instead of a pack I would have better connected with the film.

This might have been something a half an hour shorter and with better editing, but as it stands now it a gawd awful mess.

(ADDENDUM: I feel I should point out that during several of the press screenings I attended there was discussions among some of the critics which pondered how much of the film was actual reporting and how much was done purely for the camera. Apparently there were some questions raised somewhere about the veracity of it all. I have not had the time to investigate that line of questioning myself but I raise it as a potential issue for anyone seeing the film)

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Birthday (2015) Tribeca 2015


Because of the crush of late in the game Tribeca reviews BIRTHDAY a dazzling little short film didn’t quite get the attention it deserved when I first reviewed it earlier today (in a post written a week ago) . Thankfully because we at Unseen are allowed do over and retakes I’m going to expand my thoughts on the film.

The film concerns what happens when a soldier on patrol in an unnamed country is injured by an anti-personnel weapon. Wounded to the point that he loses one arm and both legs the soldier is sent to a hospital stateside. The film charts the struggle to overcome the injuries and go home and lead a reasonably normal life. The film shows the struggle both from the point of view not only of the soldier but his wife and family who are shown to have trials of their own.

This inspiring film needs to be shown to anyone in the military or contemplating joining up. While the injuries may scare off some people who will mistakenly think their time is going to be a walk in the park, the film will do infinitely more good since the film clearly shows that just because one is injured life doesn’t go on. The men and women who are wounded can, if they are willing, have normal lives. It’s a message that has to be stated and restated. Of course it won’t be easy, but it is possible.

The film scored several points in my book because the film shows clearly that the injury of the soldier is not a picnic for his wife and family. She is wracked with her own pain. I love that the film shows that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed by the situation.

If the film has any flaw it’s that it could be considered a bit to "up". The success of our hero is tied very much to a good home life and a spouse who is willing to accept the injury. Not all families are going to be as loving and strong. Of course it’s a nitpick on my part. I'm fully aware that the problem is due to the film brief running time- its too short for us to fully see the darkness and down days.  (perhaps a feature film could be done?)

As it stands this is vital and important film, and as I said earlier it needs to be shown to everyone in the military. It’s a celebration of the human spirit and a glorious expression that life does go on and that there is no reason not to join in.

Prescription Thugs Tribeca Film Festival Q&A From April 25th 2015

I'm raiding Chocko's You Tube Chanel yet again to bring you one of the Q&A's for  PRESCRIPTION THUGS.  A word of warning the sound can be a little low.

In brief CODE:Debugging the Gender Gap (2015) Tribeca 2015

Yet another look at the gender inequality gap, this time among the computer coders of the world. The current inequality is troubling considering that in the early days of computers almost all the coders were women. Things began to slide in the 1980's.

A flashy slick presentation tries desperately to hide the fact that we've been here before. Pick an industry and odds are you could do something similar. I kept waiting for someone to tell me something that I hadn't heard before or wasn't painfully obvious.

Who did they make this film for? I'm not sure since other than being something that will play well the converted, most audiences are going to end up bored even at a brief 79 minutes.

This was one of the few films screened before the festival that I wished I had missed.

Toto and His Sisters (2014) Tribca 2015

I’ve seen TOTO AND HIS SISTERS  twice now and to be perfectly honest it’s not my cup of tea. This isn’t to say it’s a bad film simply to say that it’s not my cup of tea.

The film is a slice of live, you are there documentary about 10 year old Toto and his sisters who live with their drug addicted uncles in a really bad slum of Bucharest. Toto’s dad is gone. His mom is in prison for drug offenses. One of his sisters barely is at home and sleeps at friends’ houses to be away from the drugs and crime. Toto’s other sister is an addict herself. We watch as Toto finds hope in dance and what happens when his mother comes home.

When the film started I didn’t know if it was drama or documentary. The film has the feel of reality, its too bleak not to be, but the film looks like a drama with shot choices that only a drama director would use or could get. Additionally no one seems at all aware the camera is there.

I never clicked with the film either time I saw the film. Despite a long conversation with Nicole, the film’s festival publicist after the first time through, I still never connected on the second time. The people in the film remained too distant for me to connect to. The film is roughly half over before the dance portion of the film kicks in and the film begins to kind of find a direction.

The problem for me the film is too observational. I get the sense of these people’s lives off screen but at the same time we’re only seeing flashes of those lives. We get moments and not a sense of the lives a whole. I was left wanting to know more. As I said I spoke with the publicist after the film she filled me in on a good many points that she got from the director. Its all well and good that her questions could be answered, hell they answered some of mine, but shouldn’t all of that been on the screen? This is real life and not a drama where we are supposed to puzzle it out for ourselves.

And I freely admit that one of the reasons I don’t like the film is that it feels exactly like the East European art films that I hate. Not to put too fine a point on it seems exactly like some of the bleak Romanian films that were all the rage here in the US for a while- dark little confections with an intellectual bend that crushed the soul. The feel of these films kept me away from most of the country’s output because that was what I was being offered (it took the last Romanian Film Festival at Lincoln Center to change my mind about the country's cinematic output).

The choice to see this bleak little film is up to you. For me I don’t need to go there again

Friday, May 1, 2015

In brief: Stranded in Canton (2014) Tribeca 2015

Entrepreneur from the Congo ends up stranded in China when a deal to have political t-shirts goes sideways and keeps him in China past the election.

Based on the lives of the actors the film is a mix of documentary and drama that is okay. Neither bad not exceptional the film just sort of is, something that is the result of its hybrid nature which really doesn't allow it to soar in the ways that wholly documentaries or wholly fiction films can.

Probably the most amazing thing about the film is that i have so little to say about it. Yes it looks good, yes the characters are interesting but the film just sort of was there on the screen not really something I could engage with.

Tribeca 2015 random shorts

Fast word on a largely random collection of shorts that played this years Tribeca

BIRTHDAY
Must see film concerns a returning vet who was crippled in an explosion and his road to recovery. Its a film about the difficult journey and what can happen if you have the support of the ones you love.

THE ARREST
Intriguing film flips your expectations a couple of times as an Arab police force breaks into a Jewish hom to make an arrest. Theres more to it than that  but thats the start.. A good little film.

A BOYS LIFE
Great little thriller is not what you expect. I'll say two things- the first is it involves a boy and his gun. The second is that you have to see it. Freaking brilliant- and I can't say why until you see it.

MERRY XMAS
Very very funny story about a father (Dick van Dyke) who informs his kids that he and his wife are divorcing. A neat little film

SEX LIFE
A couple with a new born tries to get sexy. He thinks dressing up as Tim Curry in Rocky Horror is the way to go. Any film that contains the line "Did you just sing Sweet Transvestite to make him go to sleep" is way more than ok in my book.

WRAPPED
Plants devour first a rat then the world in one wickedly cool short film. God I wish I had seen this on the big screen because this was really cool.

NOSTRADAMUS
A man on his way to a job as a drone pilot has an encounter in a diner. A very good short hailed by several people who saw all of the short films as one of the best.  Its a damn good film with more tension than most films

BODY TEAM 12
Deeply moving story of Body Team 12 who are tasked in Liberia to removing the dead Ebola victims from where they lay. Wildly hyped at Tribeca, the film is excellent but I'm not sure it required that much hyping.

We Are Young, We Are Strong (2015) Tribeca 2015

The complex 1992 anti immigrant riots in Rostock Germany are reduced to simple cliches in WE ARE YOUNG WE ARE STRONG. If you've seen any disenfranchised youth films, especially from Europe you've seen variations on this before.

Reducing a three day event down to a single day and giving almost no background (other than there is an intense dislike of the refugees flooding into the country) the film follows a Vietnamese woman living in the apartment block that is at the center of the riots, a politician who is not sure which way to stand on the explosive issue of immigration and the politician's son and his friends who seem to be for violence simply because its something to do.

Playing more like a melodrama then docudrama we watch as the various characters go through their day and have various crisis of belief. Their story arcs are nothing we haven't seen before as the immigrant is noble soul uncertain about staying in Germany or going home, the politician doesn't know if he should do the right thing or simply follow what his bosses say.and the the son goes along with his directionless friends but is unsure if its the right thing especially after a friend kills himself for no reason.

We've been down these roads before. We've seen these sort of characters before going all the way back to the 1950's teen angst films, the tropes of which are refashioned to cover a national crisis. The characters are constructs and not real people, their problems exist simply to get some sort of point across.

For me the biggest problem with the film is that the film really requires you to have some sort of knowledge of the events and German history to really work. Yes its about the rise of xenophobia in Germany and the potential return of fascism.but the climate in which it's operating was about 18 months after reunification of the country. That was a complicated time. There were economic factors that helped this to happen (the economy slid after it)- as did the German policy toward refugees which isn't explained.  The reunification is why several of the characters complain about the Stasi, the East German secret police trying to gain control. I kind of understand what was going on at the time but even so I felt this need more to work for an international audience.

its not a bad film but it is too simplistic for what it's trying to do.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A teaser: Kevin Pollak talks about why he didn't really deal with the darkness that devoured some comedians in his film MISERY LOVES COMEDY

Kevin Pollak meets your correspondent

Back on April 21st I was part of a roundtable interview with comedian Kevin Pollak. We were there to discuss Mr Pollack’s film MISERY LOVES COMEDY about how comedians use comedy to deal with the pain of life. As round table interviews go it was one of the best I’ve ever attended. It was 8 people all on the same page having a conversation together. It’s wonderful dissection of how the film came together and ended up in the form it did. Because Ken helped me prep for the film I sent him a copy of the audio file and he was amazed how well the interview turned out. It’s a great talk.

…but there are problems, first it's very long. We were given 35 minutes, but because I start recording the instant I go through the door and don’t turn it off until I walk out the recording I made runs about 45 minutes. It’s so jam packed with material it’s taking me forever to transcribe it. At the rate I’m going it’s going to be next April before I finish. 

The other problem with the talk is that as good as the talk is to listen to it doesn't read well. There is nothing wrong with the way is sounds or what it said, but much like the Monty Python routine "Nudge Nudge Wink Wink"  it doesn't read as well as it sounds out loud. It reads awkward. Its a problem that has caused me no end of trouble and I ended up asking Ken for help revising and Lesley Coffin for advice as to what to do.

At Lesley's suggestion I'm going to restructure the piece into a cross between a straight transcription and an article reporting on the talk.  Its something that is going to take me a little time to do (I'm tired of fighting it and I'm putting it down for a day or so)

In order to be timely (the film after all is currently in theaters and available on VOD platforms), I’m going to post part of the interview so you can get a taste. 

The piece I'm posting is, selfishly, my first question to Mr Pollack. As funny as the film is I was curious why the film didn’t delve deeper into the dark places that many comedians find themselves in. The question was the result of the appearance of Mitch Hedberg's widow in the film. Hedberg had died as the result of a drug overdose and I found it odd that a potential poster boy for misery and comedy didn’t have his story explored more deeply. It was a question I really wanted answered because as the film ended it's revealed that the film was dedicated to Robin Williams, another tragic loss. 

What follows is the exchange between Mr Pollak and myself. It’s a wonderful statement of what Pollack was going for with his film and why it took the course it did.


Steve: It's a very funny movie, but there's this edge of tragedy there, and it's dedicated to Robin Williams. Did you interview him?

Kevin Pollak: No. If I had interviewed him for the film, he would have been in the film. No, here was a case like with many people...We had four consecutive five-day weeks to shoot and he wasn't available, he was shooting his TV show. Shooting those exact same four weeks, five 12-14 hours on a single camera show, and those four weeks he just wasn't available.

We spoke on the phone twice during those four weeks, almost an hour each time, because he didn't want to get off the phone. He wanted to keep talking on the subject matter, what it meant to him, what it meant to me, what he thought this film could be.

You know he had been a mentor to me since I was twenty. He had been a friend. So when I was editing the film he passed away...and my producers asked if I wanted to get a little crew together and go out and interview some more comedians, maybe (some) already in the film and just ask them how they feel about this passing and include it in the film because it seems germane to the subject and conversation. I felt that was too manipulative, too taking advantage of a horrific situation. Dedicating the the film just became an obvious choice, not only because of his tragic passing but more because of what he meant to me and what he's meant to comedy and what he meant to fans of comedy, which is ultimately what the center of the film is and hopes to be.

Steve: You have Mitch Hedberg's widow in the film and I'm surprised that the film doesn't deal with how dark some comedians can get when they are on the edge of the tragedy....

Kevin Pollak: So the question is why didn't it deal more with that?

Steve: Yes. It's a funny film, but the passing of Hedberg was so tragic and the passing of Robin Williams...

Kevin Pollak: I had to make sure it wasn't a bio-pic. I had to make sure it wasn't about any one individual's tragedy. I had to make sure it wasn't the journey into darkness for any one famous performer or any small group of famous performers. Rather make it about the pursuit of comedy and the articulating of misery. Which to me is a more interesting story than what caused someone to become addicted to drugs and die. I would rather speak to and listen to incredibly funny people talk about their experiences of misery, and their path to finding out a way to articulate it and entertain people with it.

So that while I wanted to include Richard Jeni, his family, or the family member who controls his story, wouldn't allow me to...while I wanted to include Mitch Hedberg...people who had passed based on...in Richard Jeni's case depression, or Mitch Hedbergs's case addiction, which could be connected to depression...that to me is part of the film that to me wasn't what the film should focus on. So I felt like there was more interest and entertaining and even my ability to articulate truth of all performers by not spending too much time on any one performer or one cause of death.

So if you have Jim Jeffries talking and being ridiculously funny...his talking about the family of basketball spinning unicyclists...it's my favorite...it's not my FAVORITE but it's my funniest moment in the film. When he says that's gotta to be one person's passion, there's no way the rest of the family went "Yeah, me too!" And I asked him is that a bit from your act. He said no. Then afterwards when I was editing I said (to Jeffries), this moment was still in the film, you SURE that wasn't a bit from your act. He said no. I said well it should be, you should put that in your act, it's crazy funny and he said no, I said it just there in the moment and it's in your movie, that's fine. But it was him being honest about the weirdness of family that created this incredibly funny moment.

And later in the film, in the third act when we really deal with "do you have to be miserable to be funny", he talks about being on antidepressants for ten years on and off and being a (potential) suicide.

So now we've experienced the journey with him. We've seen him being funny, we've seen him talk about his influences, we have an emotional connection to him now so that when he says...to me it's so much more powerful when he talks about being clinically depressed and when talks about having suicidal feelings because now we have a connection to him as a person as opposed to just focusing on that. So I think that bigger picture to me was much more fascinating


More from the round table interview is coming shortly.  I want to thank Ken Fries for checking over what I typed out and Lesley Coffin for making suggestions 

Lucifer (2015) Tribeca 2015

Love it of Hate it film is notable for having been shot in Tondoscope which means the screen is reduced to like looking out a porthole (see above). Occasionally the image becomes a circular image within the circle. Its a gambit that gets old real fast- even if it forces you rethink what you're seeing.

The plot has a ladder appear in the sky down which slips an angel. Wandering a around small village he works miracles and causes mischief.

Basically a weird arty avant garde film with an occasional insight the film has long segments where nothing happens. I found it boring as all hell so much so I fell asleep.

I don't know what to say beyond that..  Some people seemed to like it, Some people walked out.

Personally I'd take a pass but you might like it, I mean you may need sleep.

Tribeca 2015 Capsules: APPLESAUCE, BRIDGEND, BEING 14, STEAK (R)EVOLUTION, TENURED, VIRGIN MOUNTAIN

APPLESAUCE
Onur Turkel's follow up to last years's SUMMER OF BLOOD is better than that film (how could it not be?)It's a story of what happens in the wake of  a man  not telling a story on a tell all  radio show. (He ends up telling the story to friends and it spins out of control from there)Its amusing but not particularly much of anything. Worth a look when it hits cable or Netflix

BEING 14
Girls will be rude crude and obnoxious in a film that follows a group of them them over the course of a year. While I know how kids can be this feels forced to me as if its not so much trying to be real but provoke a reaction.

BRIDGEND
Based on true story about a Welsh town where there is an epidemic of suicides among the kids.  A deeply troubling and haunting film that will hang with you for days. This film deserves way more than this short little piece (which is all I can do in the wake of the end of Tribeca) so I'll be doubling back in a couple of weeks to take a look. For those who don't mind troubling films this is a must see.

I should point out that there is documentary out from a few years ago on the same subject which is also deeply troubling..

STEAK (R)EVOLUTION
Food porn for carnivores as director Franck Ribière travels the globe to find out how to get the best steak.  This is a really great film that I need to see again. I saw this toward the end of the fest and was way too tired to truly enjoy it to the fullest extent.  The best thing I can say is I can't wait to see it again.


TENURED
Feature length version of a short film that played Tribeca in 2012 about a teacher who's life begins to collapse as his wife leaves him and his literary aspirations begin to disappear.  Stupid funny comedy is funny but not as funny nor as charming as it thinks it is. More proof some shorts need not be expanded into features

VIRGIN MOUNTAIN
Large middle aged man who never really learned to socialize who ends up in a dance class was the big winner at this years Tribeca FIlm festival, a fact that confused most of the writers I know as well as my self. What did the jury see? While not bad, it's not not the best.

A full confession, I'm going to have to see the film again down the road and do a proper review. For better or worse the film was the source of several heated discussions, especially after the film won several of the major awards at Tribeca  since some things that happened seemed a tad creepy.

A COURTSHIP (2015) Tribeca 2015

A COURTSHIP takes a look at the courtship movement in America. The movement  looks to have couples chosen by the fathers of the women. There is no dating in a secular sense, the couple is brought together in asuch away that the first time they kiss is at the altar on the day they are married. The film focuses on 33 year old Kelly, a good Christian woman who lives with the Wright family. The Wrights are helping Kelly try to find a husband, in particular navigate her relationship with a young man named Ross.

I'm trying to work out how I'm supposed to feel about the courtship movement and the people involved. There is no doubt that Kelly is a sweet girl and the Wrights are nice people, the problem is that to my New Yorker's eyes they come off as really silly and behind the times. They come off as so backward that the screening I attended was filled with some of the loudest laughter of any Tribeca screening I've ever attended. While there is no question that people need to believe whatever they like, some of the ideas expressed about women giving up all thought of their own lives brought disapproving laughter from the attending audience.

About a third of the way in the film the personality of the film's subjects takes over and we are more accepting, some of the twists and turns still come off as silly for example Kelly's happiness is ultimately determined by a question of semantics as it's not a question that even in God's perfectly ordered universe bad things happen the question is does god simply allow it or does he cause it.  After the film Hubert, Alec and myself tried to unknot the thorny subject and determined that they were ultimately arguing the same point.

I have no idea how I'm suppose to feel about the film, nor do I know how this is going to play in Peoria.  Certainly the film is a good one. It holds your attention and keeps you interested but at the same time I'll be damned if I know if I'm laughing at the people in the film or with them. There is no indication as to the directors intent, on top of that if you are a believer the film is going to be less silly than if you are an believer. Likewise if you don't see women as a man's property then you're going to have a different take then if you do.

One of the more entertaining films at this years Tribeca Film Festival, A COURTSHIP will give you much to ponder.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Good Kill (2015) Tribeca 2015

Ethan Hawke plays a air force pilot who is reduced to flying drones half way around the world from his targets. As the up close world away killing gets to him, his marriage crumbles and he's forced to question what he's doing

Wildly over long, cliched filled film is effectively over ten minutes in as actor Bruce Greenwood delivers a speech to a bunch of new recruits that lays out the entire premise and thematic landscape of the film. Its states everything the film is trying to say so well that what follows is completely redundant. What makes sitting through the remaining 90 minutes so difficult is the actual plotting that includes the badly handled failed marriage gambit, an evil CIA villain, a possible office romance with another pilot and a reoccurring rape on the far side of the world subplot (what is that doing here?). What were they thinking?  (Actually what was Ethan Hawke thinking because he usually knows better)

I was ready to walk out early on but hung in there hoping something exciting would happen. It never did. My smart ass cheer when the film ended brought giggles from the people around me,

Avoid this one- even if you are anti-drone because with films like this you're liable to lose the battle for hearts and minds.

El Cinco (2014) Tribeca 2015

After injuring an opposing player in a soccer match  Paton is suspended for 8 games, pretty much the rest of the season. With time on his hands and little to do he contemplates his future on the field and in life.

Okay, but nothing special film is considerably less deep than I've made it out to me and unlike the official description. Much lighter than you would expect this is really just the story of a guy at a crossroads in his life, he could be in any sport or any job.

I really don't know what to say. Its a thoroughly enjoyable film that isn't really dep or meaningful. While I had a good time seeing it I was left to ponder how the film ended up at Tribeca of all places. Don't get me wrong its exactly the sort of film I'd expect at Latin Beats or some other NYC festival but not Tribeca.

Definitely worth your time if you want something undemanding, but I wouldn't go out of my way to see it.

Come Down Molly (2105) Tribeca 2015 or My Mushrooms with Molly

I'm very curious why this film is being called a comedy when most of the time it's not funny. I guess because its not a tragedy since no one dies it's safe to call it a comedy.

I'm going to do something some of you might consider bad, I'm going to tell you the entire plot. However when you see how thin it is you'll understand that nothing is lost knowing it (hell it's a couple of words longer than the official synopsis)

Molly is a newish mother with a two year old. Stuck at home while here husband is away she feels trapped. When the chance comes to meet her old high school buddies, all guys, she leaves her son with his father and heads off to meet the guys. Once there they all head off to go tubing while doing mushrooms. That's it, that's the whole plot other than they leave the river and end up in a field while stoned.

The majority of the film is people walking , staring and philosophizing. Nothing is resolved.Nothing much happens. Its kind of like just watching people hang out and not talk much. When they do talk it doesn't really add up to much- though about 50 minutes in the film has a couple of hysterical exchanges as one guy makes weird associations and Molly talks about a sexual encounter with a tree trunk.  So little happens that even at 80 minutes the film is at least an hour too long.

With the mixture of landscape shots and Phillip Glas like music the film felt like a weird Werner Herzog film ala AGUIRRE THE WRATH OF GOD, except with out the life or death struggles. There is a feel to some of Herzog's film that this film seems to mimic for no good reason.

Actually I'm still trying to determine what the purpose the film serves. Yea you've got a solid ten minutes of laughs, but what of the rest of it? I'm kind of clueless. The Tribeca material talks about coming to terms with growing older or up  and the group coming together and a bunch of other bullshit that is nowhere near being in this film. This is a bunch of friends hanging out and getting stoned. There are no revelations, or if there are we never hear them-I mean even the appearance of Molly's dead dad goes no where since once he says "I have something to tell you" the film cuts away to Molly sitting on the ground crying. Why? I have no clue.

The best way to sum up the film is probably in the line of I believe a character named Sam who says "I have something I want to tell you but I don't want to talk about it." He then adds he really wishes that we could go inside his head and see what he's thinking. I felt that way about the director of the film. I really wanted to chop off the top of his head and look into it so I might have a clue as to what sort of pretentious twaddle he was trying to sell us.

If only this film had dialog instead of looks; perhaps some more laughs sooner than 50 minutes in and had some point this might have actually been a film I could recommend. Instead I can only say avoid it unless you need sleep.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

In brief:Thought Crimes The Case of the Cannibal Cop(2015) Tribeca 2015

Having premiered at Tribeca and due to run on HBO on May 11 THOUGHT CRIME is a look at the cannibal cop case where Gilberto Valle, an NYPD officer was arrested and charged with plotting to kill and eat his wife and other women.

The film asks as a  portrait of Valle and an examination of the question of at what point do our thoughts become criminal. Its a question that is very important in this age of everyone throwing out all of their thoughts out in public via the internet. I don't know what to say. This is a good, if over long film that is sure to begin a discussion or six. You can't watch the film film and not have an opinion (everyone at Tribeca who saw it did).

As good as the film is there are a couple of things wrong with the film. Part of the problem is the editing which conceals certain facts about the case unfairly. How you think about the film hinges on when we are told certain pieces of information and the film doesn't tell you that what Valle did on the NYPD computer predated by months all the conversations about abducting women.  The juggling of the time frame deeply effects how the events are viewed.

The other problem is Valle himself. While he seems like a nice guy, its also pretty clear that there is something wrong with him. I got the feeling that had he not been caught he might have taken things even farther. He gave me the creeps and I couldn't really root for him.

Problems aside, this is definitely worth a look when it hits HBO on May 11

Hubert's Tribeca coverage for Flixist and Ruby Hornet Part 2

Hubert's Ruby Hornet Avatar
As most of you know Hubert split his time at Tribeca giving Flixist and Ruby Hornet coverage of the festival as well. Because his pieces are too good to pass up here's the second collection of his posts  for other websites:

Jackrabbit…
Live From New York!
GORED’s Reckless Bravery Offers Lessons for Creatives - …
The Adderall Diaries and the Problem with the Brilliant Male Writer Cliche
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Henry Hobson, and Joely Richardson Discuss Maggie 
A review of Maggie, the post-apocalyptic zombie drama starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin 
Palio

Hubert has more coming both here and elsewhere so keep checking back