Newlyweds - Grade: A
For many people when they think of the TriBeCa Film Festival they think of Robert DeNiro, which makes sense since he is the co-founder of the festival. But for me, I think of writer/director/actor Edward Burns. (See my picture below). A native of TriBeCa himself, he not only lives there, and films many of his movies there, but he's had films at six of the ten years of the festival, and I've been at four of them out of my last six years attending. It's just not a complete TriBeCa experience unless I get to see the latest Ed Burns film. And this year's did not disappoint. Ten years after he made the fantastic 'Sidewalks of New York', he revisits his love of Woody Allen-esque documentary style filmmaking about realistic relationships in New York City, and this one is arguably his best film yet. In fact I think I'd call it the best Woody Allen film not made by Woody Allen. (Although Nicole Holofcener's 'Please Give' which played last year at TriBeCa is another personal favorite.) Call this one 'Husbands and Wives 2' if you please. Some critics might call it thievery, but I'll call it an homage to films he clearly loves, as do I. And according to Burns this one was made for a palty $9,000, including a $3,000 camera he bought from B&H days before the shoot. No special effects, no production designers, no hair and make-up people, and not much lighting. Just interesting people he's worked with before talking in a realistic way. And that realism makes watching this film seem like eavesdropping on couples discussing the trials and tribulations of their relationships. Oh, and it's funny. It's not for everyone, especially if you prefer the action, but I loved it and it certainly seemed like the entire theater of die hard Burns fans agreed. Now let's see if the actual Wood-man's upcoming 'Midnight in Paris', scheduled for limited release in May, is anywhere near as good.
The Guard - Grade: B+
Fans of 'In Bruges' rejoice. The writer and director of that film executive produced this one, which was written and directed by his brother. And they clearly have the same eye for dark humor and for casting. Brendan Gleeson is also back playing a quirky policeman in Galway, who teams up with an American played by Don Cheadle to track down some drug dealing killers. The dark comedy tone is done just right, just like in 'Bruges'. If you like British crime drama with some dark comedy, check it out. Sony Pictures Classics will be releasing it in a few months.
Romantics Anonymous - Grade: B
Is it just me or is there something so much sweeter and more likeable about European romantic comedies than American romantic comedies, even when they're not that great? This French film about two awkward Chocolate makers isn't fantastic, but there's just something very enjoyable about it. Audrey Tautou isn't in it, but if you're a fan of hers like I am you'll probably dig this one. Oh and it's not as good as 'Chocolat', but that's not a bad film to pair this one with if you want a sweet tooth romance double feature.
A Beautiful Mind 10th Anniversary screening followed by a panel with Director Ron Howard, Producer Brian Grazer, book author Sylvia Nasar, screenplay author Akiva Goldsman, and two mathematicians.
Movie Grade: A
Panel Grade: B-
Last year I attended a 10th Anniversary screening of 'Memento' followed by a panel discussion including stars Guy Pearce and Joe Pantoliano and writer Jonathan Nolan, and it was both one of the highlights of the festival and of my entire year. So this year I made sure to be in the front row of this screening of the Academy Award winning film 'A Beautiful Mind', which won Best Picture, Best Director for Howard, Best Actress for Jennifer Connelly, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Goldsman. The film is tremendous. If you haven't seen it you definitely should. Just like 'Memento', it holds up really well and reminded me what a solid A film is. But alas the panel (see my picture below) wasn't quite as interesting as last year. I really came to see Howard and Grazer, who have been responsible for so many great films like 'Splash', 'Night Shift', 'Parenthood', 'Backdraft', 'Apollo 13', 'Cinderella Man', and 'The DaVinci Code'. These guys are arguably the best in the business and I could listen to them talk all day. Sadly, Grazer didn't get much time at all and even Howard probably didn't get more than 15 minutes. TriBeCa powers-that-be, next year may I recommend leaving out the technical scholars and focusing on the filmmaking? Oh, and as for my prediction for next year's 10th Anniversary screening, my money's on 'About a Boy' which opened the maiden TriBeCa Film festival in the Spring of 2002. And that would be fun, if Hugh Grant made an appearance. But may I also recommend 'Gangs of New York' which isn't the best movie of 2002, but a Q&A with Scorsese and Daniel Day-Lewis would be great fun.
Let the Bullets Fly - Grade: B-
Two Fridays in a row I saw a Chinese action film at 3:00 PM. (See my review of Detective Dee and the Phantom Flame from Part 1.) And both times I was overwhelmed by the fast paced subtitles, and large amounts of action and exposition. OK, maybe I'm slow. Or maybe 3:00 on Fridays just isn't my sweet spot. But I think I should see both of these films again to give them a proper review. But I can say they're both visually interesting and have a lot going on. I'm just not sure if there's enough substance to match the style.
A Good Old Fashioned Orgy - Grade: C+
I know what you're thinking. Is this really about an orgy? Yup. Jason Sudeikis from Saturday Night Live (see my picture below) heads the cast in this R-rated comedy about a bunch of immature thirty somethings who don't want to grow up and just want to throw kick-ass parties in Sudeikis' dad's house. But when dad, played by Don Johnson, decides to sell the house, they decide to send it off in style ... and have an orgy. In the hands of the best writers and cast, this could have been a classic comedy. Intended to be a funnier, sexier 'Big Chill', it doesn't even come close. But it's enjoyable enough for what it is.
Bleeding House - Grade: C-
Midnight films kill me at film festivals. I always aspire to see many of them, since I like genre films, and the descriptions often sound appealing, and the experiences with the crowd and the Q&A's are often quite memorable (especially in Toronto.) But as I get older it gets harder and harder to make it until 2:00 AM especially after seeing three or four films already that day. Honestly, I didn't make it through this one. At 12:45 AM I wasn't feeling it enough to tough it out, so I left. And I never do that. So my grade is only based on the first half of this gory horror slasher. But something tells me the second half wouldn't have redeemed what I already saw.
And that wraps it up. I hope you enjoyed reading about what I saw a fraction as much as I enjoyed experiencing it. Now I'm going to sleep. Hard. I'm exhausted. I am ready for it to be over, but in about a week or two I'll miss it and wish April 2012 were right around the corner.