Thursday, April 30, 2009

Black Sheep @ TRIBECA

My time at the Tribeca Film Festival is coming to an end now. For the most part, it was an incredible experience. It was light on sleep but it was certainly plentiful when it came to seeing films. All the volunteers were extremely helpful, especially the crew at the Direct TV Tribeca press center. If it weren't for these people at this great space, I would not have had the chance to meet as many filmmakers as I did. There was one day where I didn't know how I was going to make it actually. I caught the latest from XXY director, Lucia Puenza, entitled THE FISH CHILD, first thing in the morning before scurrying over to the aforementioned press center for an interview with Puenza (who is breathtaking, I must say). From there, I hopped in a cab to go uptown to the Regency Hotel on Park and 61st for an interview with one of my favorite directors, Steven Soderbergh and the star of his latest film, THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, adult film star, Sasha Gray. They were running late so I got to relax for a bit and enjoy the catered set up before doing the interview and rushing down to another interview in an alternate universe - a quaint midtown apartment that had no air conditioning, let alone snacks. After that, I hopped on the subway and ventured back to my friend's apartment, where I have been staying. I took a well deserved nap but that ended up being my downfall. I woke up later to realize that I had completely missed my scheduled time on the red carpet with Eric Bana for his directorial debut, LOVE THE BEAST. Right, I am awesome.

It could have been a blessing in disguise. Perhaps I would have been so blinded by Bana's beauty that I would have just stood there, stupefied when it came my turn to speak. Who knows really? What I do know is that I certainly enjoyed his film more than I had anticipated. The beast referred to in the title, LOVE THE BEAST, is Bana's race car, a Falcon Coop he has had since he was 15 years old and the film is a documentary about how holding on to that car and fixing it up with his longtime buddies has kept him real through all his years and time in Hollywood. To hear the synopsis, one might think that the concept inherently takes away from its intention. How can one create a film that centers around yourself when the point is to demonstrate how your ego has remained in check despite your celebrity? And in actuality, LOVE THE BEAST does come off at first as a big budgeted equivalent of a home made movie posted on YouTube, just another film put out to the world that begs to question as to wether the subject matter is relevant to anyone other than those involved in making it. But something sneaks up on you while watching Bana and friends partake in a five day race in Australia; you suddenly begin to care about this car and the connection it has with its owner and those who have worked on it all these years. Apparently, what people who aren't car people, of which I can be counted among, don't get, is that cars, for people who are car people, can become living entities, that you can develop a relationship with. This is exactly what Bana achieves somewhere among the racing laps and then he successfully drives the appreciation across the finish line.

Now, ordinarily I would not review a film I walked out of but this one is way too good to pass up. After a morning interview, I rushed to catch DON MCKAY, starring Thomas Haden Church and Elizabeth Shue, only to end up walking out twenty minutes or so after it started. When I tell people this, they look at me and ask how I could do that. And so I tell it to them just like this ... Church plays the title character, a high school janitor that has worked at his job for over 20 unhappy years. He gets a letter at the school, reads it, and then stares off into space. He packs a bag and goes back home to some small town I can't recall, the same unaffected, almost dead look still plastered on his face. A peculiar taxi driver drops him off at a home, where he is greeted by an even more peculiar woman. He is shown up to a room and this is where he finds Sonny (Shue). She is sprawled out on her bed in a satin nightgown, her hair perfectly placed on her pillows and her body positioned as though she were waiting for hours for her lover to come through that door. Sonny looks incredible but she is actually dying and wants Don to spend his time with her before she goes. The two were high school sweethearts and apparently never got over each other. It is all painfully awkward and even more so when her doctor arrives the next morning. He startles Don, who has just been stung by a bee. For no reason whatsoever, the two begin to struggle and the doctor attempts to kill Don while he is in the midst of having an allergic reaction to the bee sting. Sonny and her nurse are out but Don manages to save himself despite slipping into anaphylactic shock. When he wakes up, it is like nothing has happened. When he and Sonny find themselves on the floor appreciating the view from there, I walked out. Most people I tell this premise to stop me long before that point.

One of the films I was most looking forward to seeing at the festival was SERIOUS MOONLIGHT. This film has a very special back story as it was written by Adrienne Shelley, the writer/director of the surprisingly scrumptious film, WAITRESS. The film won great praise but Shelley sadly did not live to see this, as she was murdered before the film was released. Before she died (obviously), she wrote the script for SERIOUS MOONLIGHT, a story about a husband (Timothy Hutton) who is leaving his longtime wife (Meg Ryan) and how she subsequently holds him hostage in their country home to force him to see that he is making a giant mistake. The film was directed by WAITRESS co-star and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" star, Cheryl Hines. While the premise might seem contrived, it is exactly the kind of thin line between the implausible and the unexpectedly relatable that Shelley towed so delicately in WAITRESS and Hines does a beautiful job honouring Shelley's last words. In addition to this success, the film also boasts the first time Meg Ryan has shined in years. She gets to play on all her strengths, from her frantic neurosis to quick wit and adorable charm. The only question that looms over the film and threatens to unravel it at any time is why anyone would fight so hard for someone who doesn't want to be there. Luckily, Shelley exceeds at understanding love in trying times and exposing it for all its flaws in order to see its might, right there shining down in the moonlight - which is exactly where Hines allows Shelley to look down in approval throughout the film.

The remainder of my Tribeca coverage will follow when the films find their theatrical releases. As for now, I will proceed to nap again. That said, I was sure to check my schedule first and it is all clear. Thank you New York and thank you Tribeca for a great stay.

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