Sunday, May 4, 2014

Tribeca 2014- The Wrap Up Including a few last minute notes, memories and my Best/Worst lists

This is it the end of  the avalanche of Tribeca coverage. There will be more reviews and pictures coming, but the all Tribeca all the time ends here. This is the wrap up post, or rather my wrap up post since I think Mondo and the other guys may do something similar.

Before I get to some final thoughts on the festival as a whole I’d like to take the time to clear the decks in regard to a couple of things that have been left hanging.

First- as you know doubt know I had a some email conversations with Paul Davis, the director of THE BODY which I reviewed back on Wednesday. I had asked him a couple of question about the film and films and he gave me a few quick answers. I had hoped to be able to weave the material into the review but I couldn’t get it to work as part of that so I’m going to post it here because I think it needs to be seen. (And thanks to Mr Davis for allowing me to post it) (And warning there are spoilers)

I started by asking where the idea for the film had come from:
The idea was originally born with my Producer and his long time collaborator Mary Kerr. They came up with the concept of the killer concealing a murder at Halloween - however the first script that I received just didn't work for me as a filmmaker. The pay off was incredibly overwhelming and all short films need to be consistent otherwise they becoming easily forgettable. From the original script, everything is pretty much there up to the party, that's where my writing came in to it. I made the decision to take these guys in the woods and show the audience exactly why he's not panicking in this situation - because he knows how to deal with the situation. So the basic idea was always there when I got the script - and is the reason I did the movie - but it just needed more for me to be able to tell that story on screen.

(This is) only my second short film. I made the (American) Werewolf (in London) doc in 2007 (it came out in 2009) and then did some acting until I made HIM INDOORS in 2012 (here's a link to it). The Producers of THE BODY then saw that and three months later we were shooting that. The fun thing about those two movies is that with the first - I'm shooting a film about an agoraphobic serial killer - so made sure that the spaces we used were as compact as possible. That film was more about the storytelling and working with actors for me. THE BODY was my chance to show a bit of visual prowess. I grew up on Hitchcock, De Palma, Friedkin, Kubrick, Carpenter - so these are the guys that inspire my techniques...

My favourite horror movies? Off the top of my head - THE EXORCIST, PSYCHO, EYES WITHOUT A FACE, EVIL DEAD II, CARRIE, THE SHINING, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, THE HANDS OF ORLAC, THE THING, SHIVERS, THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE... I could be here all day. Beyond horror I have an honours degree in Cinema History, so I love film across the board. Especially comedy. I'm as much into Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin as I am Boris Karloff and Vincent Price.

Last weekend I saw the James Randi film AN HONEST LIAR a second time via the Tribeca on-line press library. The second viewing was prompted by a talk with another writer about some things she noticed in the film that seemed to be off and the sense that despite being a “tell all” it wasn’t the whole story (It no understatement to say a great deal of Randi's life has been left out). We discussed a number of things not covered in the film and I was left feeling the film might need a longer discussion. I then went home and watched the film a second time, scribbled some notes and then tried to do a little research to put stuff into context.

That’s when things got weird...

In trying to sort out a some details, primarily concerning dates, I ran across conflicting information. What’s in the public record doesn’t fully jibe with what’s in the film and even some news stories conflict with each other. For example I’m still not sure what the correct age is for Deyvi/Jose (Randi's husband). The film said that he was 19 when the Carlos hoax (I believe was1988) went down which would mean that he was born roughly in 1968 or 9, but some news reports about the identity theft listed his age as 50 in 2012 which would mean he’s born in 1962. And then the more I looked other discrepancies and other bits of his life (which I won't get into) started popping up- and even allowing that some were from anti-Randi websites- even the pro-Randi material seemed confused.

Honestly I gave up. Trying to get it so the details of his life made sense wasn’t worth the effort for a what wasn’t going to be that long a piece, and was only going to be a sentence or two. I put the piece into a folder and walked away. Perhaps down the line I'll try to unknot the whole story..

I know I probably shouldn’t mention the search or a piece that may never see the light of day, but on the other hand I did want to warn you that despite the film’s best efforts to tell the truth, its skewed because it depended upon Randi's cooperation for the interviews which make up the majority of the film and which he at threatened  walk out on.

What this all means is that when you see the film keep in mind that the film is something that you’ll need to do more research on.- which considering Randi’s assertion we should take nothing on face value is probably what we should always do when it comes to documentaries.
And now my wrap up----

Going back to work last Monday after 12 days of pre-festival screenings, 10 days at the actual festival and 1 day rooting around in the library I found I was beyond exhausted. There was something about it that damn near killed me. Actually it damn near killed a lot of my fellow writers, more so than in years past.

Looking at a email draft of my planned schedule made a during the pre-festival period I found it kind of matched up with what happened and largely didn’t. There was so much added and so much shifted around that while most of the films listed got covered, many were not. Looking at the list I had to wonder how could I have been so naive?

Looking back I find this year’s festival a mixed blessing. There were some highs, some lows but mostly it just sort of was. Don’t get me wrong it was a blast but there was something different about the festival. I’m not sure what it is but it was much more low key. I’m guessing the lack of truly huge films. There were no huge films in the mix, while there were some big films, Jon Favreau’s CHEF for example, there were no big blockbusters to whip things up. There was also almost no films that everyone was anticipating, there were so many world premieres that no one knew any of the films.

To be honest from my point of view once the films started screening I found most of the films were just okay. While there were a bunch of films I didn't like (see below) there was only one that out right sucked canal water. Most of the films were not anything to get excited about. They were pleasant time passers. Nothing more. There werem't the highs of the past four years that made you desperate to find the next earth shattering film. This year it was so onelevel it removed the excitement (And don't think this is a knock, as with any festival what gets programmed reflects whats available- What was shown was the best that Tribeca was offered, I know that and look forward until next  year.)

Reservations aside there were some truly great things that happened over the course of the festival.---

First and foremost hanging with all my friends was absolutely a delight. I got to hang with Mondocurry, John, Chocko, Hubert, Peter, Joe Bendel, Chris Bourne, and several others. I also got to kibitz with Mathew Monagle (aka Labsplice) from Paracinema on line and to have a weeks long conversation, that's still going on with Sam Juliano from Wonders in the Dark. As I keep reminding people film going is a social activity if you do it right

I had a wonderfully weird  Friday morning getting to meet three directors in in a hour. I met ICE POISON director Midi Z and actress Ke-Xi Wu in an elevator and got to chat briefly right before I interviewed GUEROS director Alonso Ruiz Palacios. I then walked out of the building and across Manhattan with BROKEN HILL BLUES director Sofia Norlin. Only at a film festival can magical things like that happen.
Me and Mark Breland

Probably the coolest thing that happened was I got to sit and chat with World Champion Mark Breland at the premiere of CHAMPS. There is something so absolutely cool about meeting one of your heroes and a guy responsible for getting me into something I love (boxing), especially when it happens so low key and unexpectedly.

I love  that some films, INTRAMURAL, DIOR &I and THE GOAL WINS surprised the hell out of me. I loved that they tackled my expectations. Seeing them restired my faith in film festivals

Probably the second  coolest thing that happened was getting razed on the red carpet by the photographers at the NOW premiere at BMCC. They were some of the funniest people I've ever met and they rightly picked on me to no end. I loved it because they were never cruel just funny since they knew I knew I didn't belong there.

The screening of ZOMBEAVERS a blast. Yea I loved the film. but being there with a bunch of critics who all were fleeing pretentious bad films made it so much fun, especially since they got into the blood and gore and silliness.

Now the best and worst film lists

The Best
 First two truly great performances:
Rory Culkin in Gabriel is scary good. He should be on the early Oscar short list.
Primo in 5 Star- he's a superstar in the making

And now the best films I saw at Tribeca 2014 (and some of the best films of 2014)
Starred up- one of the best prison and family dramas you'll ever see
Venus in Furs- Perhaps my favorite Polanski film. A wonderful blending of theater and cinema.
Super Duper Alice Cooper-The man the myth the legend. Yea I'm a fan but its still that good.
Battered Bastards of Baseball-One of the best sports documentaries ever. It will make your face hurt from all the smiling
The Garden Was Eden-I haven't talked this up as much as the other films but it hung with me. I'm not a basketball fan but I love this movie which is not about just basketball but the change in sports over the last 50 years
The Body- Truly great horror film heralds the arrival of Paul Davis as a force to be reckoned with
Zombeavers- low budget send up of low budget horror that walks the fine line between horror and comedy
Next Goal Wins- It surprised the hell out me, had me and the others talking back to the screen and made me feel good. Why keep going when you're last? For the love of the game and because you will get better. Glorious.
Slaying the Badger-My vote for the best thriller of the year. I knew how it went down, except I didn't. Talk about sitting on the edge of your seat, it kept me there -TWICE. Another one of the best sports docs you'll ever see

The Kidnapping of Michel H...-what do you do if can't find out what really happened to your main character? Make a movie about it and make it all up. Not a thriller but wicked comedy.
Lucky Them-utterly surprising film  about a woman force to confront her past. I didn't want to see it and loved that I did. Loved it.
Traitor- Heralding the arrival of Chaimae Ben Acha as a face to fall in love with
Gueros-I have an interview coming but know that director Alonso Ruizpalacios is a genius.
Land Ho- great time with good people.
Remora-Wonderful short film. The less you know going in the better.
Dior and I-I hate fashion films. I loved this. Absolutely wonderful
Intramural-I never expected to like this. I thought this was going to be stupid as a stick. I never thought this would be as funny and intelligent as it was. Probably the biggest and best surprise of the festival

The Worst
Young Bodies Heal Quickly-if only the linking material wasn't just in the directors head this would have been a great film.
Beneath the Harvest Sky- An okay coming of age film that goes in the toilet with a last minute twist
Virunda-Beautiful pro-conservation film has its heart in the right place but is much too jumbled in what it's trying to do.
Glass Chin- Great performances and filmmaking gets lost in a cliche filled film that requires too many unbelievable twists to work. I don't care if it has some style to burn it has a script that should be burned.
X/Y-Easily the worst film of the festival. Obnoxious people doing stupid things. How could anyone think we'd care about these bozos?

And so ends the wave of Tribeca.

Coming up over the next couple of weeks a palate cleanse from Tribeca  first with some classic films starring Lash LaRue, the man who taught Harrison Ford to use a whip, after that a week of essays sparked by recent  big budget Hollywood films.

Of course look for tons of other films to appear as well since there are multiple festivals happening over the next few weeks as well.

1 comment:

  1. Terrific round-up. I've agreed with you and I've disagreed with you (admittedly INTRAMURAL, LUCKY THEM and ZOOBEAVERS were among my least of the festival, and I thought ALICE COOPER and BATTERED BASTERDS were fine, but nothing special and I did like GLASS CHIN) but we are in full agreement on MICHEL H., GUEROS and DIOR AND I as well as many others you have reviewed on these pages over the past weeks.

    In the four year I have attended this festival I have never been as impressed with it as I have this past year. I am hoping many get distribution.

    Take a bow on a job well-done!