Sunday, May 04, 2008

Well, it's the end of the Tribeca Film Festival, and after all is said and done, the festival remains a constant work-in-progress, yet there are always good films to be found, and there are always some real disappointments. Must-to-avoid: most of the American independent films, no matter who's in it. Must-sees: most of the foreign films, which are usually surprisingly strong. Documentaries are also very strong.

On IndieWire, it was fun to read Howard Feinstein, wanting to blast the festival, but then admitting to liking some films. The Tribeca Film Festival isn't a highly selected event, like the New York Film Festival or New Directors/New Films; it's more sprawling, with a lot more slots to be filled. Because of that, you're necessarily going to have a hit-and-miss festival.

Thursday, the press screenings were over, but the press was allowed to order tickets for the public screenings for the remaining three days of the festival. The proviso was that there was no guarantee: if the show was sold out, that was it. But i did get to see two additional films that way: "Theater of War" and "Life in Flight". The former was a documentary that used the Public Theater's 2006 production of "Mother Courage and Her Children" as the starting off point (i forgot who recommended this to me, but it was worthwhile, even if it got a little unfocussed after the midway point), the latter was an American indie starring Patrick Wilson as an architect going through a midlife crisis. Too low-keyed, and using an architect is tricky, because the architect-and-angst bit was (of course) used in Antonioni's "L'Avventura", and you've got to really have your game on if you think you can compete with Antonioni's masterpiece. Well, this film wasn't it. But it was an indie shot in New York City, and it was amazing to see the talent that's around, because the movie was very well-acted. (Patrick Wilson is one of those people who really needs to find the right role, because he's got everything to be the kind of leading-man-star that Paul Newman was, or that George Segal was at one point in his career: Patrick Wilson seems like a decent person, and he can play a normal person, i.e., someone who can go to work, function, take care of his kids, etc. He's not like Ryan Gosling, who can go to extremes, but then, i don't know if Ryan Gosling can just play a normal person.)

Then got home and watched some stuff on TV: Hallmark Channel's "The Shell Seekers" (i was confused, because i remembered that there had been a TV movie with that name with Angela Lansbury; i was right, this was a remake, with Vanessa Redgrave filling in for Angela Lansbury; i watched it for Vanessa Redgrave and i wasn't disappointed, she's still one of the great beauties, and her untouched aging is now part of her beauty, she makes the wrinkles and sags amazingly expressive), "The Scapegoat" and "Hungry Hill" on TCM. It's fascinating what a difference a decade can make! In the late 1940s, Robert Hamer worked with Alec Guinness in a context where he played multiple roles, the justly famed "Kind Hearts and Coronets" (one of the greatest English comedies ever), and then, in 1959, when Hamer was drowning in alcoholism and his career was just about over, Hamer reteams with Guinness on a movie where Guinness is once again playing multiple roles. But "The Scapegoat" is smooth (considering the difficulties with the production, including Hamer getting so wasted that there were days when he couldn't work, so Guinness himself directed some of the movie, though Guinness isn't credited) and fitfully entertaining. But TCM's "theme" for the night was movies based on Daphne Du Maurier, so of course Hitchcock's "Rebecca" and "The Birds" were included.

Have a lot more to say about Tribeca and about movies. Should note that "Iron Man" opened at over $100 million! And it's playing here in my neighborhood, so i might catch it since here in Brooklyn we still get discount matinees!


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