Thursday, June 20, 2024

GEOFF McFETRIDGE: DRAWING A LIFE (2023) in Theaters 6/21 & VOD 7/2


Portrait of artist Geoff McFetridge whose cartoony graphic design style has been used in advertising, in products such as cellphones and it's hung in galleries.

Hagiographic portrait of an artist borders really close to an infomercial sales pitch. You may like McFetridge's style but I doubt you'll be as in love with the man and his art as the filmmakers.  This is an 80 minute mash note.  I don't think a couple at the alter could be this in love with each other as the filmmakers are in love with their subject.

Crazy love aside, this is a really good film. Its a wonderful portrait of the artist and his art. It's really cool stuff and I was absolutely delighted to see so much of it.

If you can get past the mushy love, this is recommended.

Antidote (2024) Tribeca 2024


Chilling portrait of several people hiding out from Vladimir Putin for speaking out and uncovering his crimes.

This film will scare you. This is the story of a monster running rampant across the globe and sending out hit squads to kill those who won't lick his boots. Its a film about the possible death of freedom and democracy.

Told like a thriller, because it is a kind of thriller, ANTIDOTE will make you go cold. That a bad man can get away with this nonsense is frightening, but sadly expected in today's world where former enemies like Putin are held in high regard  by presidential hopefuls who see a chance to do the same.

I couldn't look a way.

This is one of the best films at the fest. It is highly recommended both as a great film and as a dire warning.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

I'm Your Venus (2024) Tribeca 2024


Venus Xtravaganza, one of the stars of Paris Is Burning was murdered before the film was released. The killing was never solved. Decades later her biological brothers come together with her ballroom family to try and solve the crime and celebrate a woman who changed the life of generations.

Sad and bittersweet film is full of things unsaid and undone. Venus' brothers seem to have become saddled with guilt that they didn't do more and weren't more accepting of their sister. While it's clear they loved her they were lost in the times and didn't do enough, or so they seem to feel. You can feel the weight of the world on their shoulders.  It's a weight that is slowly lifted thanks to Venus' ballroom family.

I loved the arc of this film. I loved that the film doesn't go and do what we expect. There aren't answers for everything and its something that makes the film haunting.

After the first screenings of the press corps who attended as well as the festival staff were raving about the film. This is a film that rocked everyone of every spectrum of film fan.

I was moved too.

Highly recommended

Desire: The Carl Craig Story (2024) Tribeca 2024


Jean-Cosme Delaloye​'s portrait of DJ, composer and producer Carl Craig charting the course of his career through hi early days to his current status as a mater of Techno.

This is an excellent look at a man and music that needs to be heard big and loud. I should have put on the headphones watching this because there is so much music that I needed it downloaded into my soul.

This is a great film that shows us how great Craig is but also how instrumental he was in the growth of Techno.  We watch as he travels the world and spreads the word and then brings back things that he found on his travels.

If you have loved Tribeca's music docs in the past you are going to eat this up.

Recommended.

Brief thoughts on LIZA: A Truly Terrific Absolutely True Story (2024) Tribeca 2024


I'm at a loss about how this film flew under the radar at Tribeca. This is a truly great portrait of Liza  from the death of her mother onward to today. Full of incredible and probing interviews, including with Liza herself, it is a film that perfectly explains why Liza is an Icon and why she moved generations of people.

This film floored me. I went into the film expecting to like it and wander out with a enough for a couple of quick lines, instead I staggered out, jaw hanging open with too many words. I don't know what to say except see it.

How good is the film it was the source of two animated discussions about how the film doesn't have a buyer yet. No one could sort out why a film this good wasn't picked up and slotted for release.

A must see for fans and non fans.

SABBATH QUEEN (2024) Tribeca 2024


This is Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie's arc of a life as he finds a path to God as a gay man, occasional drag queen, rabbi, father and founder of Lab/Shul a god optional congregation where everyone is welcome.

This was one of the most moving films at this years Tribeca. It frequently reduced me to tears as we watch one man tries to find his own way to salvation. It's a journey with unexpected turns, some grumpy parts and where everything is full of love. Amichai is nothing if not full of god's love in a way that I have only seen in a handful of people. 

What makes the film so powerful is that there is no clear through line. We don't know where this is going or how it will end up. We are traveling with Amichai as he finds his place. It's a deeply moving journey because unlike in most other biographical docs we get a sense of the life off the screen. We know there is more than we are being told and that somehow makes us love him more. We also don't like him at times which makes him more fully human.

When the film ended I told several friends that they not only had to see the film but go to Lab/Shul because it appears to be the spiritual place they were looking for.

One of the great films of 2024.

DUST TO DUST (2024) Tribeca 2024


Portrait of designer Yuima Nakazato who traveled to Kenya to see what happens to clothing that is discarded. Shaken by the sheer amount he begins work on trying to find a way to recycle it.

A film of beauty and horror. There is beauty in all the images, even those of the mountain of waste, while at the same time the film hits hard in explaining why and how the clothing industry is the second biggest polluter behind the fossil fuel industry. Something has to be done and Nakazato is trying to do just that.

A two part film the first half is the trip to Kenya where Nakazato's eyes are opened. Buying some discarded clothes he returns home where he begins working on trying to find a way to recycle the clothes for his next show. He does it but makes discoveries along the way such as some of the polyester used in the clothing is so bad that it's nigh impossible to use for anything except cheap clothing.

This is a film that will rattle your cage in ways most other environmental films ever do.

In speaking with director  Kosai Sekine after the screening he said that Nakazato is going full on into trying to find away to recycle and has been use the materials he is creating in all his subsequent shows. He also said that the mountains of waste are not just in Kenya but around the world, and the efforts to film at some locations were thwarted by local authorities.

See this film.
The director, producer and translator

They All Came Out To Montreux (2024) Tribeca 2024


Portrait of Claude Nobs who was the mind behind the Montreux Jazz Fest.

This is a film that needs to be many more hours longer. Made up of clips from the Jazz fest (almost every performance has been recorded) this is a film that will make your jaw drop. There is so many great performances (Nina Simone, Prince)

It is also  a battle between Nobs story and the music. The music is excellent but it over powers the the story of Nobs and the Jazz Fest, which feels shoe horned in.  It's not fatal but you realize that 90 minutes is too short.

That said- you need to see this film for the music.

TRIBECA 2024 Short Takes: JAGO IN WHITE, ADULT BEST FRIENDS, SEARCHING FOR AMANI, MIRIAM'S DARKNESS, BIKE CHESS


JAGO INTO THE WHITE
A portrait of the artist Jago as he works on a pieta in his studio in Naples, this film is full of great images and wonderful discussions about the act of creating. I was moved and I ended up filling up my notebook with observations from Jago that sounded like wise advice.

Recommended


ADULT BEST FRIENDS
Delaney Buffett attempts to get out from her father's shadow by turning to filmmaking. The story of two life long friends whose relationship is rocked when one gets engaged has its potential ruined by unreal characters (Delaney's cocaine use is comical) and an uncertain tone. There is a seriousness here that is never addressed. I thought my feelings were the result of a fractured first viewing, but a second look made me realize that there are problems here that prevent it from really working.


SEARCHING FOR AMANI
13 year old aspiring journalist tries to figure out why his father was killed. His dad was a conservation officer working in a reserve being invaded by farmers wanting to graze their animals.  Intriguing look at the complex subject of land management during a drought, the film doesn't have any easy answers. It's a film that  you  have to engage with.  


DARKEST MIRIAM
A librarian has to heal with love and weird patrons, one of which is sending threatening letters. An off kilter romance is probably not for everyone, but if you click with it this is a delightful slice of life (what happens in the library are close to stories I've been told by actual librarians.)

Worth a look.


BIKE CHESS
Award winner for best International Feature at Tribeca, Bike Chess is the story of a reporter having issues with the government. Slackly paced and covering ground we've been over before, interest wanes rather quickly.  You'll be like me and have a pretty good idea where this is going.

Take a pass.

Alien Weaponry: Kua Tupu Te Ara (2024) Tribeca 2024


Portrait of the metal band Alien Weapory who who founded by two brothers when they were teenagers. We watch as they grow into a world recognized band go through personnel changes, stop touring with mom and dad and begin to grow up. They also sing in the Maori language.

Strangely under the radar film at this years Tribeca is one of the more entertaining and satisfying. A warts and all look at the band, we see how the guys are little kids at heart and being changed, perhaps not for the better, by the road. It's told with a frankness and a refusal to hide that is rare in music docs which tend to be purely puff pieces. 

While the music is heavy metal, it is better than you might think. I say this because we hear part of a performance they were trying to put together with a symphony orchestra and it sounds amazing.

Grossly under attended at the public screening I attended, this is a film that is going to develop a cult following. I suspect when the boys go into the stratosphere there are going to be thousands of people who say they were there when it premiered.

Highly recommended

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Deep Into The Forest (2024) Tribeca 2024


A promising athlete is pressured to compete even though he is severely injured.

This is a good drama about the pressures we face in one way or another. Why do we choose to do the things we do? Should we be doing some of them even if they are going to injure us?

One of the best shorts playing at Tribeca, it shines brighter because it's one of the few films that feels like it was made to tell the story not for some other reason. It was one of the few films playing that left me satisfied at the end.

Recommended

White Rabbit (2024) Tribeca 2024


A family moves into a new home and next to a mob guy. Certain she she sees a murder, the mother takes steps to protect her family.

I can not say more than that. I can tell you it's good but because the film builds to a revelation I can't really discuss the film because everything hinges on the end.

Worth a look

When Everything Burns (2024) Tribeca 2024


A female firefighting volunteer gets in trouble for attacking the people she feels are responsible for the wild fires. 

This is a thoughtful look at the dangers of corporate greed and climate change. It's film with no real answers but lots of questions.,

It also feels like something that needs to become a feature. This film has a great deal to un pack and 12 minutes is nowhere near enough. 

That said this is worth a look.

Ariela Rubin has some brief thoughts on GRIFFIN IN SUMMER (2024) Tribeca 2024


Griffin in Summer is a coming of age movie about a 14 year old theater kid who wants to become a playwright. His mom hires an handyman/pool boy who Griffin winds up having a crush on (likely his first crush).

While Griffin isn’t the most likable character, I thought this movie was so cute and had several laugh out loud moments, and the ending was the sweetest! Recommended!

MADE IN ENGLAND: THE FILMS OF POWELL AND PRESBERGER (2024) Tribeca 2024

 


I am not a fan of Powell and Pressberger. Their films never fully worked for me. I admire them technically but I really don't put them on except when I need to reference something.  As such this was not a film I wanted to see but watched as an obligation. It was a film I was going to watch an hour of then jump to something else playing at the P&Is.

However once Martin Scorsese started to talk and I realized it was just going to be Marty talking for the better part of two and a half hours I was in for the duration. 

This is one of the great cinematic biographies. It not only tells you about a pair of filmmakers lives, but it explains why they matter and how they changed everything that followed. I was so entranced that I wanted to go out and rewatch their films.

This film is a glorious celebration you need to see

¡CASA BONITA MI AMOR! (2024) Tribeca 2024


This is the audience award winner for best documentary at Tribeca. While I would be lying if I said I agreed, I do think it's a really good film.

The film is the story of how Matt Stone and Trey Parker took some of the money they made with South Park and Book of Mormon and used it to buy their favorite childhood restaurant Casa Bonita, which is like a Mexican themed indoor theme park masquerading as a place to dine. They thought it would take around six million to buy it and fix it. They are now well over 40 million in the hole and it's still not full open.

This is a wild ride that goes in unexpected places and shows us unexpected things (They use the theme to the Alain Delon Zorro film as a music cue for reasons that elude me even if it delights me). Its a film that will make your mouth hang open as you try to figure out why. It's a film that will make you gasp at the insanity and smile at the delight Matt and Trey find in the whole thing. 

While I want to tell you everything that happens- I won't, because like the actual Casa Bonita, you just need to see it for yourself.

Recommended

MARS (2024) Tribceca 2024

 


Final project from The Whitest Kids You Know is a crowd funded animated film that ended up stalled for several years when Trevor Moore, the driving force to do the film, died not long after they recorded a radio show version of the story.  The film was to be the group's final project and a tribute to their fallen friend. 

The film is the story of a Richard Branson like billionaire who runs a Willie Wonka like contest to pick the people who are to go with him to Mars. Things don't go as planned and the group ends up trapped on the red planet.

This is a mixed bag film. While the basic plot is excellent the film frequently rambles into low brow humor that while funny, distracts from the main story. Not that the Whitest Kids care, they don't, this was a gift for their fans and they aren't looking to do more than please them. At the press screening I attended some of the audience was convulsed with laughter all the way through, while the rest of us smiled and wished it was tighter.

While it doesn't work completely there is still enough here that non-fans who aren't easily offended  may want to try the film.

I COULD DOM (2024) PALM SPRINGS SHORTS FEST


This is a sweet and lovely film that you need to see. It's the story of a non-assertive young woman who decides, after talking to her friends, to try to be dominatrix. Of course it goes sideways.

I really don't know what to say. This is a note perfect little film that sucks you in and carries you to the unexpected conclusion.  And I do think it's largely unexpected, because despite seeing a few similar films over the year I COULD DOM very much charts its own course.

That the film works is due entirely to the cast. Everyone is likable thanks to a group of actors who in no way phone in their performances.

Made with love and a wicked sense of humor and romance I COULD DOM is an absolute delight.

Highly recommended.

Tribeca 2024 Short Takes: SATISFIED, THE SHALLOW TALE OF A WRITER WHO DECIDED TO WRITE ABOUT A SERIAL KILLER, COLOR BOOK


SATISFIED 
Portrait of RenĂ©e Elise Goldsberry, who starred as Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton. It follows her as she prepares for her role as well as the struggles to have the family she always wanted.   This is a very good look at the actress and her life. It's a nice look at what it takes to be a mother and an actress.  If there is anything really bothersome about the film it's that things feel as if the filmmakers assume you know who she is and that she is someone on the order of Liza Minnelli or Luther Vandross or one of the other big names that are the subject of docs at Tribeca.  While I enjoyed the film, I'm not certain I needed to see this story


The Shallow Tale of a Writer Who Decided to Write about a Serial Killer
One of my favorite films at Tribeca is the story of a writer who gets hooked up with a retired serial killer. It's a glorious black comedy that results in some truly twisted and very funny moments.  It's an absolute delight of the highest order. I had so many wonderful discussions concerning the film.
I don't want to ruin it. Just see it.


COLOR BOOK
I'm not going say a great deal but this is a lovely small film that unfortunately has gotten lost at Tribeca. It's a stunning small jewel of a film about a father learning to connect to his son with Down's Syndrome.  It will move you. In the best way.
Because I want to revisit this down the road away from the 90 plus films I saw at Tribeca
Highly recommended.

Monday, June 17, 2024

BLACK TABLE (2024) Tribeca 2024


This is the excellent tale of the African American students, nominally the class of 1997, who tended to all sit together in the Yale dinning hall for meals. They came together for no other reason than their own company, you did not have to be black to sit there, but it was a safe place where they could just be.


This is one of the great films at Tribeca. It's a look at race and higher education that speaks volumes about how people of color are viewed and view each other and the rest of the society. It is a film whose quiet power comes from the very personal tales told as if to friends.

Its a stunner and a must see.