Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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.

SKYWALKERS A LOVE STORY (2024) Tribeca 2024


Portrait of skywalkers (people who climb high objects and film themselves doing it) Angela Nikolau and Vanya Beerkus as they fall in love and make plans to climb the Merdeka 118 and take picture at the top of the spire.

The film is a mixture of footage shot by the subjects of their climbs coupled with footage shot on the ground and of their preparation for the Merdeka climb. The climbing footage is stunning. Seeing it on an IMAX screen it was somewhere beyond over whelming. Sure you've seen it on You Tube but odds are you have never seen it like this. You will get vertigo.

As over powering as the climbing footage is, the rest of the film is kind of bland. We never really learn much about either Angela or Vanya other than their love of climbing. The pair comes off as kind of vapid and looking simply to make a financial killing. The dash for cash is revealed by the fact that Merdeka climb has to happen so they can make needed money selling NFTs of the images. There is too many conversations about their business interests and as such no sense of doing it for any reason other than the cash. Worse their is no sense to the people at the center of the tale. There is no sense of friends or life or other interests other than Angela's grandmother (who got a standing ovation at the Tribeca IMAX screening)

Don't get me wrong I enjoyed the film but I didn't love it.

Worth a look for the images.

the skywalkers on the ground at the Tribeca IMAX screening

Thinking Game (2024) tribeca 2024


Portrait of Demis Hassabis who is head of the AI firm Deep Mind. Hassabis is working to make artificial intelligence a part of all our lives which he is certain will make things better.

Insanely myopic portrait of a very intelligent man who is selling his services and wants this film to assure us that AI i safe and will never be used for bad things. He says this because he said he has been told by people in authority that they have no intention of turning AI to the dark side.

Watching the film my jaw hung open in utter disbelief. It's such a sweet and saccharine portrait of its subject that it is impossible to buy his bullshit. While I admire Hassabis' enthusiasm, his myopia is troubling. He reminded me of all the truly brilliant genius track kids I knew in school who would chase these grand projects (some sort of exploding do dad) or to improve this or that in some weird way, completely unaware of the problems they were creating - sort of like the people referenced in Dr Ian Malcolms line in JURASSIC PARK to the effect they were so into the fact that they could recreate dinosaurs they never stopped to think if they should. Hassabis seems to be unaware that anything bad will ever happen with AI. If he is lying through his teeth and down playing the dangers he is not to be trusted. If he genuinely believes it then he is a fool and should be removed from the project. This is especially true since more and more we are getting reports of errors in AI generated materials.

While I know the genie is out of the bottle and AI is here to stay, I think having a blind portrait of a mad genius who loves AI that doesn't consider the dangers is a mistake. We need clear eyed discussions not a sales pitch for new toy that maybe blow up in our faces.

Stevie Van Zandt: Disciple (2024) Tribeca 2024


HBO documentary about Steve Van Zandt a partner in crime to Bruce Springsteen, a solo artist, actor, composer, producer and many other things.

This film is everything you ever wanted to know about Van Zandt and then some. Full of great muic and greater stories it's a film that will make you fall in love with Van Zandt and his body of work. Odds are even if you Van Zandt this film is going to tell you something new.

The problem with it is that it is wildly over long. Yes, there is a lot to tell, but making this film two and a half hours long works against it (I ran into several people who walked out of one of the public screenings because it was simply too much). This should have been shorter or what would have been better several hour long episodes. On the other hand since the film is premiering this weekend on HBO and MAX you can watch this in pieces.

Over length or no- this is a lot of fun and is recommended.


Bang Bang (2024) Tribeca 2024


Tim Blake Nelson plays a cranky ex-boxer who has to consider changing his ways when his grandson steps back into his life.

The reason to see this film is Nelson who gives a scene chewing performance. Big and loud and brash it is a hypnotic performance that is like a punch in the face. It is by far the best thing in this film which suffers from following the paths we have many times before.

At the same time that Nelson is the best thing in the film, he is also the reason the film doesn't work. He is so big and loud and above everything else he feels as though he is in another film. All the flaws of the film are revealed in his light. Worse he wobbles things so badly he breaks the film and nothing is believable. You don't care about anything other than him and the film collapses.

What a major disappointment.

Power of The Dream (2024) Tribeca 2024


This is a look at how the WNBA has stepped forward to speak out on social issues including women's rights, LGBT issues and Black Lives Matter.

This is a very good examination of how the women of the WNBA stepped up to speak their minds about the issues that affect their lives. Since the league is all women most of which are women of color and many of whom are queer they are simply speaking about the issues that directly impact their lives.

Told by the women who helped lead the discussions this is a film you fall into. It's a film that makes the heavy discussions more like talking to friends rather than being lectured. As such it's a film that wins your heart and makes you love the ladies more.

Recommended.

(Note: the run time at Tribeca was listed as 133 minutes. The actual run time was about 95 minutes)