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Tribeca Film Festival Review – Top Ten Films, an Honorable Mention, and Heated Controversy

Patti Thurman

With the 13th Annual Tribeca Film Festival over, awards announced, statistics heralded, staff and volunteers moved on and media left to examine, write and critique the slate of films, what rises to the top is dependent on taste.

Having the opportunity to participate in three weeks of press previews, an extensive online screening library as well as attending audience, press and industry festival presentations, choosing a top ten was daunting.

With 89 Features and 57 Short films, the sheer volume was overwhelming and impossible to view everything.

Audiences, however, clearly spoke and awarded the festival’s two Heineken Audience Awards for best film, one for narrative and one for documentary, to “Chef,” written and directed by Jon Favreau, and “Keep On Keepin’ On,” directed by Alan Hicks, was chosen for the Documentary award.

In addition to the audiences’ clear distinction to the two films, Tribeca Film Festival Artists Awards program sponsored by CHANEL, presented Jon Favreau for “Chef” with an Untitled courtesy of James Nares and Alan Hick’s for “Keep On Keepin’ On,” received Iguaca courtesy of Alexis Rockman.

Below is a list, in no particular order, of my favorites from this year’s festival.

“5 TO 7,” starring Anton Yelchin, Lambert Wilson, Berenice Marlohe, Olivia Thirlby, Frank Langella and Glen Close.

“5 TO 7” a fun film full of early laughs, and flows like relationship segments, the beginning captivating season when all is pleasurable, new and interesting transitioning to deeper levels of intimacy and then decision. A charming, very sexy cast, “5 TO 7” is enchanting!

Set in Manhattan with all the clichés of New York life. Glenn Close and Frank Langella bring comedic flair with supporting performances as Yelchin’s parents meeting his older, French, married mistress.

The entire cast standouts in this film and Anton Yelchin, as the lead, delivers again. His youthful roles are being replaced by the leading man types. He has a great future ahead of him and the potential to be, the sophisticated, international charmer, the Cary Grant of this generation. His peak, probably a decade or two away, shouldn’t stop him from continuing to carve out a solid niche for himself.

“5 TO 7,”was written and directed by Victor Levin.

“In Order Of Disappearance” from Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland. This dark comedy captures the audience from the beginning.

A devastated father (Stellan Skarsgaard) coming to grips with his son’s murder begins a inter-cartel drug war pitting two rivals against each other in a revenge and vengeance filled contemporary dark, Eastern European, drug smuggling comedy.

“In Order Of Disappearance” has many great elements. The script, of course, which engages and delivers. The stunning cinematography shot entirely in Norway, somewhere in a deep, snow covered, mountain region, with big snow blowers that handle the serious snow that figures prominently.

Although not known to American audiences by name “In Order Of Disappearance” stars Stellan Skarsgaard (The Lady With The Dragon Tattoo), Pal Sverre, Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Jakob Oftebro, all memorable from Kon-Tiki, Bruno Ganz, and Birgitte Hjort Sorenson all of whom are very familiar to American audiences and create an on screen familiarity with the characters. In Norwegian with English subtitles. See this if you can!

“Venus In Fur” from Roman Polanksi stars his wife, Emmanuelle Seigner and Matthieu Almaric. In French with English Subtitles.

“Venus in Fur,” begins as Vanda, Emmanuelle Seigner, enters the theater for an audition to overhear the director, Matthieu Almaric, complaining about the lack of talent, and how no actress can even pronounce the words, let alone become the role.

We meet Vanda, drenched from the rain, looking like a Picasso, mascara the lines, as she and the director engage in sharp debate, while she attempts to convince him to let her read. What he sees is a wet mess in black leather thigh hi’s, no inhibitions, bearing flesh freely, not, in his mind, anywhere near his beloved Vanda, externally reticent, internally dominate. Controlling the audition she continues to push the boundaries. What follows is classic as expectations are exceeded, tables are turned, pursuer becomes pursued.

“Venus in Fur,” captures all the elements. Emmanulle Seigner exhibits no fear as she embodies the actor’s preparation journey and delivery. She hits the range and depth of emotions. And it translates well. She is hysterical.

Matthieu Almaric captures the pretentious intellectual. Every person is merde and when he has found the single person who can deliver he doesn’t want her anyway.

Written by Roman Polanski and David Ives the script is engaging, sharp, witty dialogue, very funny. Listen for the ring tone. See this film.

“1971,” written and Directed by Johanna Hamilton, “1971” presents one of the many 1960’s/1970’s Anti-war movement stories yet to be told.

Like many of the vast topics of injustice “1971,” narrows the decade of turmoil to a single event. Detailing the frustration of the American youth and public, not yet ten years after Dallas shattered dreams, cut a valley through hearts, became the catalyst for a generation of PTSD victims, and collectively plunged America into what is historically known as The Sixties.

Americans struggled with the War in Vietnam, the assassinations of John, Bobby, Martin, the images filling the news from South East Asia, the destruction of America’s sons, all became a psychedelic explosion which began with that first shot fired on a Texas morning.

“1971” recounts the story of a small band of anti-war protestors, living in Media, Pennsylvania, carrying out covert operations, participating in Anti-War protests, getting arrested, having babies, living life seemingly normal dedicated American citizens, all the while planning the theft the files from the local, FBI outpost.

“1971” is intriguing, engaging and a thought provoking documentary on the planning of the Media, PA break-in, the strategies employed by the FBI, which include full-on PR smear tactics and campaigns. The stolen documents revealed methodologies proving the FBI targeted those who demonstrated and voiced outrage against the government and the Vietnam War policies, and the results of the reputational smear campaign, meant to destroy lives. And did! Worth seeing.

“Keep On Keepin On” from Australian-director Alan Hicks delivers an amazing documentary feature chronicling following the mentorship between Jazz legend clark Terry and Justin Kaulflin, a blind piano prodigy, during what became, as the documentary unfolded, a pivotal point in their lives.

At eighty-nine years old, ‘CT’ has played alongside Duke Ellington and Count Basie; his pupils include Miles Davis and Quincy Jones, but his most unlikely friendship is with Justin, a 23-year-old with uncanny talent but debilitating nerves.

As Justin prepares for a competition that could jumpstart his budding career, CT’s failing health threatens his own. Beautifully nostalgic with a reverence for the importance of finding your own sound, “Keep On Keepin’ On” celebrates an iconic musician while introducing one of equal vibrancy. It is a mentoring tale as inspirational as its subjects.

Produced by Quincy Jones and Paula DuPre’ Pesmen, “Keep on Keepin On” was written by Hicks and David Commbe. Clark Terry, Justin Kauflin, Gwen Terry, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, Phyllis Kauflin all feature prominently in the film.

“Perseveration,” written and directed by Christopher Denham, stars Pablo Schreiber, Aaron Staton, Wrenn Schmidt, Cody Saintgnue, Nick Saso and Michael Chacon, presents a psychopathic contemporary thriller.

Camping, three unsuspecting yuppies, find themselves the center of an unknown enemy’s daring game of life or death. Waking, the camping gear, clothes, keys, everything needed to survive are taken with an “X” marked on the forehead of each.

This begins a race against the clock as the sociopath seems to be everywhere, leaving the weekenders at a loss as the mental conditioning to wound and disable but not kill the enemy, in a mortal, life threatening situation, becomes the guiding force to survival.

“Preservation” has no graphic horror, which makes it a real thriller, even for those with low heightened suspense tolerance. It is every person’s worst nightmare, unprepared against three masked enemies who are determined to kill. This feature, at 90minutes, takes the audience on a rollercoaster ride.

“Preservation,” a real hunted house, with pop up’s around every corner, is an on the edge of the seat thriller.

And five more . . . .

Chef,” stars Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlet Johannson, Sopfia Vergara, Emjay Anthony, and Oliver Platt. “Chef” was written and directed by Favreau.

“Chef” is a stand out social media foodie film, with Favreau as Chef Carl Casper losing his Chef gig over a bad review, written by basement food blogger and social media star Ramsey Michel played by Oliver Platt that goes viral. A social media neophyte, Favreau, sends a tweet that begins a twitter war. The film also reveals the power and business dependent on social media.

Not giving up he opens a food truck and depends on his skill and creativity. “Chef” is a food road film! The guys, Casper, and his son, Percy, played by Emjay Anthony and Sous Chef Martin played by John Leguizamo hit the road traveling from Mia Miami to SoCal stopping along the way to record breaking crowds. The food truck bonds father and son, cements friendships and even brings the naysayers around.

The only complaint regarding “Chef” is that it wasn’t 4th dimensional, if only the audience could enjoy vicariously the sensual seduction associated with the teasing aromas of the food preparation! Visually, “Chef,” is deliciously stimulating. Truly a delightful experience! The ensemble cast stands out! The mouth watering food visuals stir the memories of every luscious fine dining and fun food experience. “Chef” is exceptional.

Glass Chin” starring Billy Crudup, Corey Stoll and is written and directed by Noah Buschel. Bud ‘The Saint’ Gordon (Corey Stoll) once all that Manhattan offered, and one solid jab destroyed his career. With promises of restoring his shattered image and ego, he makes a deal with JJ (Billy Crudup), a crooked restaurateur. But as Bud further entangles himself in JJ’s affairs, he finds himself framed for murder and faces a choice between his integrity and his aspirations. Capturing the moral dilemmas that emerge from the compromises we make for success.

Lucky Them” with Toni Collette, Oliver Platt and Thomas Haden Church, Toni Collette stars as a music journalist focused on the sounds of the Seattle underground, Oliver Platt her pot smoking editor and Thomas Hayden Church, her documentarian friend. They set out to find her former lover, a Kurt Cobain type who disappeared ten years earlier and is presumed dead. Attempting to find the illusive memory becomes the catalyst for discovering the future.

Night Moves” with Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard, Alia Shawkat with James Le Gros in a cameo. Set in the breathtaking Pacific Northwest, these misguided eco-terrorists set out to blow up Oregon’s Green Peter Dam. “Night Moves” has an interesting story, as the rationalizations are an interesting aspect into the mind of the reckless and rash modern day homegrown terrorist and is worth seeing for the cinematography.

And a Top Ten Honorable Mention

Day Ten – From the Shorts Program comes “Day Ten” – one filmmakers remembrance of the following ten days after September 11, 2001 when Manhattan realized its vulnerability and for one moment came together, without color, race, religion, rich or poor. New York City was unified in grief, in hope, in resilience.

“Day Ten” is a roaming film, as the filmmaker, depicts events that seem odd, fathers mourning their lost sons crying in the arms of strangers, common sense gone missing in the events, seasoned New Yorkers oblivious to city training, wandering the streets aimlessly, engaging in coupling in the hopes of restoring feelings that are as deeply buried as the World Trade Center.

Iconic News footage depicts still standing towers with smoke billowing.

“Day Ten” for its content alone deserves a top ten spot.

While the Tribeca Film Festival is maintaining its mission statement as the festival has turned into a teenager it has become a bit rebellious and has truly gone corporate.

The Tribeca Film Festival, in addition to offering a wonderful selection of films, also provides much needed employment. As this is the first year that all festival workers, from management to support staff, receive a wage.

The unfortunate black eye for the festival hiring committee is the failure to hire New Yorkers. A percentage of the 800+ event workers are from New York but the majority, out of state festival groupies or festival hoppers, as they call themselves.

Tribeca Film Festival is a destination event for filmmakers, media, fans and tourist. It’s important to share the wealth to the Manhattanites out of work.

No lectures, as a teen we understand we would receive a door slammed in our face. The original mission statement was to revitalize lower Manhattan, not simply for a two week time frame, but throughout the year, through other development opportunities.

Putting New Yorkers back to work, even for two weeks, or one month with pre-festival lead time, provides economic assistance to those who need it most, the local unemployed.

Like a good parent explaining to the rebellious teen, Bobby, you disappointed us. You became a fair weather friend to the city and the people that love you.

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