Monday, April 24, 2017

Tribeca ’17: The Trip to Spain

Seriously, does anything go better with spicy seafood than Roger Moore impressions? They’re in Spain, you see. The Moors, Roger Moore. Get it? You will if you join Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon for another culinary jaunt in Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip to Spain, which screens again today at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.

Steve Coogan is still Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon is still Rob Brydon. Coogan was always the more famous one, but that is especially true now that he is riding high on the success of the ridiculously overrated Philomena. However, despite his professional frustrations, Brydon appears to be the happier one. It would be more accurate to say the loving father and sort of faithful husband is somewhat happy, whereas the emotionally unfulfilled Coogan is really just miserable. Of course, we are talking about their Trip franchise analogs, not the real comedians, right?

Regardless, Brydon and Coogan are together again, following up their restaurant tours of Italy and the North of England with a saunter through Spain. This time, Brydon will do the newspaper reviews, while Coogan takes notes for a self-indulgent book. Of course, Coogan brings up Philomena every chance he gets. His digs at Brydon also seem less good-natured, but his Welsh counterpart largely lets them roll off his back. After all, this is a good gig for the working-class celebrity.

Once again, the two bickering friends mine comedy gold from their dueling celebrity impressions. Coogan is also quite the good sport allowing Brydon and Winterbottom to deflate his pomposity for comic effect. There is no question Coogan and Brydon dominate this Trip, just like they did previous installments of the UK television series/US film franchise. However, Kyle Soller scores a lot of laughs in his scene-stealing cameo as Coogan’s ex-American agent.

All three Trips are consistently funny films, but they also offer a bittersweet, deeply humanistic portrayal of middle-age and its related insecurities. Frankly, the trilogy makes us willing to forgive Coogan for What Goes Up, whereas Brydon still has plenty of good credit accrued from his voice-work in the Julia Donaldson animated specials (The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom). Recommended like the return of a slightly balmy old friend that always raises your spirits, The Trip to Spain screens again tonight (4/24), as part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

Tribeca ’17: Blues Planet Triptych (screening & concert)

If you grew up in the early 1970s, you might be more familiar with the blues legend Taj Mahal than you realized, thanks to his soundtrack for the hit film Sounder. Since then, the real deal bluesman and his music have graced many films and soundtracks, including The Hot Spot and Once When We Were Colored. As he approaches his 75th birthday, Taj Mahal racked up another screen credit in Wyland’s short documentary, Blue Planet: Triptych, which celebrated its world premiere at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival with a special post-screening concert by the Phantom Blues Band, fronted by Mr. Taj Mahal himself.

Awkwardly, the film itself, written, produced, directed, and featuring uni-named environmental artist and activist Wyland, is pretty much a big nothing. We see Wyland mope around the mucky aftermath of Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and listen to his platitudes, like “it will take all 7 billion of us to save this planet” (in which case, we’re done for, since the 2.5 billion people of China and India, or at least their governments, clearly aren’t on board). However, he tantalizes us with scenes of the Phantom Blues Band recording the forty-eight environmentally themed blues songs he wrote, in a New Orleans studio.

Technically, the film is rather unremarkable, to put it diplomatically, but it is well worth sitting through if you get to hear Taj Mahal and the Phantom Blues Band play afterwards. It is a heck of a band, including NOLA’s Jon Cleary on keyboard, Willie K (“the Hawaiian Jimi Hendrix”) on guitar, and perennial jazz poll-topper Steve Turre (known for his long tenure in the Saturday Night Live band) on trombone and shells.

Despite some quickly resolved sound issues, “Dirty Oil” was an appropriate tune to kick off the set. It certainly highlighted Wyland’s eco message, but more importantly, it really brings out the Delta in Taj Mahal’s voice. “Going Back to the Ocean” sure sounds a lot like another well-known Blues standard, but there’s certainly a long “cut-and-paste” tradition in Blues, so who cares, especially when the Phantom Blues Band digs into it. “My Home is Your Home” nicely dialed it down for Nick-I Hernandez’s vocal turn and Cleary’s solo, both of which were quite eloquent. Throughout the set, Cleary laid down some tasty lines on a Roland trying to sound like a piano, while a chugging Hammond gave it a firm bottom, all of which is just such a kind combination of sounds.

Arguably, “Little Ocean Pearl” was the highlight of the set, featuring Taj Mahal on harmonica, Willie K on uke, and Turre on the shells. It is indeed fitting Turre’s shells had a feature spot, given the ocean theme. In this case, his solo was especially melodic and rich in sonic color. “Queen Honey Bee” also sounds like a hummable cross-over hit, with a lovely melody and “honeypot” lyrics that definitely suggest “blues” connotations. There was actually a surprising degree of textural and rhythmic variety in the set, with the pseudo-calypso “All Gone Now” aptly summing up Wyland’s message at the end.

At one point, an audience member shouted out “sound good,” to which Taj Mahal replied “after fifty-five years, you’d better sound like something.” He then added: “I’m just waiting for those rappers to get to 75.” Frankly, it looked like the blues legend could have played all day if they would have let him, and he sounded so good leading the Phantom Blues Band, it is a shame Tribeca didn’t just let him go. As a film, Blues Planet: Triptych is what it is, but getting to hear Taj Mahal and the Phantom Blues Band play afterward is a treat you shouldn’t miss if you have the chance. Viewers will get a hint of what they missed when Wyland’s film also screens as part of the Shorts: S.O.S. program tomorrow (4/25), Wednesday (4/26), Saturday (4/29) and Sunday (4/30), as part of this year’s Tribeca.

Ariela's brief take on ICE MOTHER (2017) which is one of her favorites at Tribeca 2017

Ice Mother is the story of Hana who lives alone and has weekly visits from her two sons and their families. Hana still helps a lot by doing a lot for them. One day Hana is watching her grandson, Ivanek, and he wanders off. She finds him and winds up meeting a group of ice swimmers. They swim and race in 3-5 degree water. She befriends them and in particular befriends a man named Brona, who has a best friend as a hen, and they begin a relationship with each other. Ivanek, who is picked on at school, also befriends the ice swimmers. The two of them now have a new group of friends.

The film is in Czech with English subtitles. The movie was really sweet. The scenery was beautiful. There were definitely moments of ridiculousness and a sex scene I could have done without, but overall I really enjoyed and recommend this film.

Tom of Finland (2017) Tribeca 2017

It may sound odd but I have always loved Tom of Finland's art. I am not a gay man, however in running across his work in bookstores I was always drawn to his line work. I still remember my first encounter seeing a cover and wondering why it was listed as adult- and then I opened the book and realized why. Ultimately though while his his work is very much about sex is also pieces of high art.

Dome Karukoski's cinematic biography of Tom, whose real name was Touko Laaksonen, is a really good film. While the film can be graphic in its depiction of sex, the film is really about the man, his art and the man who he fell in love with.

Beginning in the second World War the film follows Touko as he cruises parks and makes art. We watch as he tries to have the life he dreamed of but finds that society isn't understanding. As time goes on he and his art begin to get noticed and eventually he becomes well known around the world.

While we come to understand "Tom" and what inspired him, we also see the changes that have come in society over the last 70 years. Its a frequently moving trip.

As much as I like th film I do have to quibble about the pacing. Much of the first 70 minutes is Touko living his closeted life and having legal trouble. It is a deliberately paced film that takes its time setting everything up. The problem for me was that once Touko sends pictures to the US and his work begins to be printed the film races to the end. A great deal happens and not all of the whys and wherefores are covered. Its not fatal but it reduces several moments that should have been even more emotional. (Though the hand holding with the yellow curtains crushed me)

Definitely recommended for anyone who won't be bothered by the subject or the art.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Tribeca Day 4 post is coming

I was at seven screening/talks today and I am exhausted. I will have reviews up soon of:

The Whoopi curated groups of animated films
LITERALLY BEFORE AARON (Ariela's review will go up soon)
The Kobe Bryant/ Glen Keane talk (and it has to be said DEAR BASKETBALL will win the Oscar- I cried all three times I saw it- twice at the talk and once during the Whoopi collection)
ROCK AND ROLL (Ariela is taking lead)

The reviews will be soon because I'm too tired and I have another long day tomorrow.
Kobe Bryant and Glen Keane (more pictures are coming)

I do want to say that I never in a million years expected to hear some one wonder if they were seeing me while passing me in a car going down 23rd street. It was my friend Sam Juliano from Wonders in the Dark who was heading in for a day of films. While I have known Sam on line for six or seven years we have only met once in person-fleeting last year at a Tribeca screening. While pictures of Sam are around- pictures of me are scarce so that he recognized me while zooming at speed is surprising.

In any case the meeting was a happy occurrence an I now have what I have wanted for a while now- photographic proof we both exist. (I'm on the left and Sam is on the right)

In Brief: Cop Watch (2017) Tribeca 2017

A look at the use of cameras and cellphones to record police activity and particularly arrests in the wake of the Oakland and Baltimore. The film is also a look at the people who serve the community by watching the watchers.

How you react to the film will depend upon how much you know of cop watching. If you are well versed in the incidents that have made national headlines and you have seen reports on the people who record arrests then you may less likely to be in love with the film than if you only have a passing knowledge.  This isn't a knock on the film, rather its simply point  out that while it hits all of the right notes, if you have been aware of the movement there is very little new here.

As a primer this is very good but beyond that the film is just okay, despite being an incredibly important film.

Ariela spies on THE BOY DOWNSTAIRS (2017) Tribeca 2017

The Boy Downstairs stars Zosia Mamet who is from Girls, plays Diana, and Matthew Shear who I was unfamiliar with but who is adorkable(think I made up that word but I like it), plays Ben.

Diana is recently back in New York City after spending some time in London. She is looking for an apartment and finds the perfect one with the perfect roommate. Perfect until she finds out that her ex boyfriend Ben, who she broke up with before moving to London, is her downstairs neighbor.

They have an awkward first encounter where she tells Ben she wants to be friends, but he clearly has no interest. What continues is a series of awkward moments. The film goes back and forth between the past and present. The past showing us what their relationship was like. The film deals with thinking about their past, present and future relationship. As someone who just went through some heartache myself, I was able to relate to this film and was glad I had tissues nearby. This film isn't the most unique, but I thought it was sweet. I'd say see it when it comes out on Netflix or whatnot.

Psychopaths (2017) Tribeca 2017

The press screening for PSYCHOPATHS  was a strangely quiet affair. Despite being packed the audience simply sat in their seats and stared at the screen as if it was a average domestic drama. I mention this because normally during a horror film you can see people reacting to starts, shifting in their seats and genuinely being moved by the film. With PSYCHOPATHS they just seemed to sit and when it was done they just filed out. This is odd because more than any other type of film horror films provoke talk and there was none.

I know that is a weird way to begin a review but PSYCHOPATHS is a weird film, Its an atypical horror film that is more a thriller than a scare machine. Its a film that might have been something but which is ruined by narration which promises something that never materializes.

The film is supposed to be what happens on the night a serial killer named Starkwether (Larry Fessenden) is put to death. Paying as a kind of demonic Le Ronde, we watch as the various killers and sickies crisscross each other on the night the narration is called the Great Chaos.

The problem is that the interview clips of Starkweather and the narration promise some sort of grand evening of madness and instead its just a some unremarkable madness, nothing on the order of "Great Chaos".  Watching the film I kept waiting for something "great" to happen. I wanted real chaos. What I got was a killing for money story, a psycho home invasion tale and table is turned on a killer tale, all are good, but none are "great chaos".  This all would have worked if the narration and references to the dead serial killer were chopped out.

There is a good film here, the music is great, the camera work is amazing but at the same tim the film kind of slides off the table.

I blame writer director Mickey Keating who has been turning out genre films with regularity. While he has made films that had moments (DARLING anyone?) he usually either can't pull it together or he does things that cut his own legs off. (Even if the narration didn't kill the film the long haired LA cop with four days beard growth would have).

Worth a try but I'd wait for streaming or cable.

(I do need to say that the narration-in and of itself is really good but its so good it works against the rest of the film)

Tribeca 2017 Shorts: Viewfinders Part 1

I saw the Viewfinders shorts collection. Here is a the first of two posts of reviews

Portrait of painter Hilda O'Connell is a charming confection. Mixing reality with staged memory the film beautifully gives us insight to Hilda and her life.

A wonderful little film.

The Spring
Portrait  of the women who are and were mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs in Florida.

A moving look at the sisterhood beautifully explains what the mermaid shows are and how they ended up creating a small groups of women who have become more than friends and coworkers. Listening to the women describe what the Spring and their new family  means to them had me wiping away tears.

A marvelous film that is one of the best of all of Tribeca.

The Godfather of Fitness
Portrait Jack Lalanne is a neat little film.

This is a wonderful celebration of Lalanne and the healthy culture that he created. Filled with talking heads that include his family plus Clint Eastwood, Lou Ferrigno and almost every modern work out guru this film tells you everything you need to know about the the man, his records and his life's work.

When it was done I wanted to run around the block.

True Conviction (2017) Tribeca 2017 (With a report from the 4/22 Tribeca Q&A)

Portrait of Christopher Scott, Johnnie Lindsey and Steven Phillips, three men who were wrongly accused and who now work to free others who have been wrongly convicted.

The film follows the men as they take up the cases of two men Isiah Hill who was given a life sentence for stealing 150 dollars 36 years ago and Max Soffel who was wrongly convicted of a multiple murder and now needs to get out in order to fight the cancer that had recently been found.

I have few words for this film other than this is a must  see. A marvelous film that explore the lives of three men who lost it all do to police bone headedness, prejudice and errors, the film shows us just what is lost and the damage done when things like this happen.

A bittersweet film happiness is tempered with truth that somethings can't be made whole. The world is not perfect and we see how time and the evil of some men won't allow the truth to win out. I have to applaud the filmmakers for not wrapping it all in a bow and making a film that is falsely happy. What joy there is is real and any victory is small and hard fought. I love that we see the cost of everything. I was moved to tears by some of the turns

I don't know what to say. A vital and important film TRUE CONVICTION is one of Tribeca's very best films and a must see.

Ariela saw the film on April 22nd and filed this report on the Q&A that followed the screening
At the end of the screening of True Conviction, director Jamie Meltzer came out, along with Christopher, Johnie and Steven. The three men this great documentary focuses on.

It took Jamie Meltzer 3 years to convince the men to do this documentary. One said after being in prison for so long, it's hard to trust. Another said he didn't like the idea of a camera being in his face for who knows how many years. In the end, they all felt the director cared about the subject, that it's hard to find people who care and that it's an important story to tell. It took Meltzer 5 years to make the film.

Updates on some stories:

Chris' son got his high school diploma in jail, has taken some college classes and some trade class's and hopes to make parole in 6 months.

They started receiving letters from females who wrote that they were wrongfully accused, they never had prior but now have been getting several.

Texas has one of the best compensation laws in the country for those wrongfully accused. The men mentioned they had lobbied to have a higher compensation.

They kept fighting to clear Max Soffel name but sadly were unable to do so.

Isaiah Hill, who was out on parole at the end, has since gotten married.

Definitely a documentary that I highly recommend.

Gilbert (2017) Tribeca 2017

I don't really have the words to properly express what I think of GILBERT, a funny touching and deeply moving portrait of not only comedian Gilbert Gottfried but also his family as well. Quite simply the film upends expectations and makes you see Gilbert in a whole new light.

It was a given that the film was not going to be a portrait of the manic soul we see on TV, but at the same time the film is something else instead. The Gilbert Gottfried we see is an unexpected one- not only is he a family man but he is also a man of quiet reflection. Here is a man who goes through his day and very frequently can found quietly sitting and just being. He is a man who is taking it all in. Watching him simply sitting he is so quiet that he almost disappear from view. This is not what you'd expect from a man who on TV or in the movies never seems to shut up.

Seeing the off stage Gilbert is a revelation. I a weird way I feel a kinship with him.With his awkwardness and uncertainty he seems to be very much like all of us.Many people reflect that before he met his wife the awkwardness was even more pronounced. I can't imagine it.

What struck me most is that director Neil Berkeley gives the film not only room for Gilbert but also his wife and children as well as his sisters. It is a brilliant move since it is through their eyes that we get who Gilbert really is. We see it through their interaction, their stories but also through the home video and photographs.Through the stories and images we see and learn more than if the film had just focused on Gilbert himself. I found that watching Gilbert and his mom brought a tear to my eye. It was simply how he moved with her, in particular as he helped her walk into a building, which was so loving and so full of humanity my heart melted.

At times there is a sadness to it all. Seeing Gilbert hoarding things like soap is funny but it is also sad for it gives a sense of a man who thinks it will all go away. Equally sad are the shots of Gilbert on the bus. There is nothing wrong with taking the bus but at the same time it is a bit humbling because we see that he is one of us after all.

Of course the film has it's manic performance moments.We watch as he tells uncomfortable jokes about Mackenzie Phillips and his daughter, something that bothers Dara, Gilbert's wife.She knows not to put limits on her husband who will take it as a challenge and push things even further.

And then there are the surreal things that happen to Gilbert, such as staying in a hotel where there is a military re-enactors convention going on. It is the very definition of surreal as he ends up posing with a bunch of Nazis.

But then things turn as Gilbert sets up a table out side of a theater to sell his books and DVDs and generally sell his merch for a couple extra bucks.

Several days after seeing the film I find I am still processing it. I have written several reviews which I have tossed out.Given my druthers I find that I would have waited until I had seen the film several more times to really grasp everything I was seeing. Sadly the need to be timely for the Tribeca Film Festival has me posting a review that may not be as note perfect as I'd have liked.

Ultimately GILBERT is a brilliant film.It is a masterpiece and the best sort of documentary in that it shows us a subject that we thought we knew and instead shows us it not only in a new light but reveals it to be something else entirely. The Gilbert Gottfried that emerges from the film is one that is going to surprise both his fans and enemies.

GILBERT is one of the best and biggest surprises at this year's Tribeca and a must see.

1000 Junkies (2017) Tribeca 2017

1000 Junkies is one of gems of the Tribeca Film Festival. Coming out of nowhere this seemingly bad taste film manages to be both funny as well as tought provoking. When it’s done you’ll have enjoyed yourself and been given much to think about.

The plot of the film is simple, three long time junkies head off to get their first drugs of the day. What happens is the film.

Think of this a kind of absurdist take on drug addiction. It plays as a kind of Samuel Beckett play if Waiting for Godot had been a road film about drugs. You’ll laugh at the nuttiness of it all and then hate yourself as the implications overwhelm you.

The thing is that as surreal as it gets the film always feels real. You get a sense that writers and directors ---- lived this or were party to some of it. You root for the guys who seem like nice guys. And at the same time you feel sad and kind of heartbroken when you realize that this fucked up existence is what these guys do every day.

After the press screening the PR person handling it asked me what I thought and I said I really liked it. However when I got home I emailed her to say that the film was great. In its way it’s a masterpiece because it manages to balance the seriousness of the situation with the insanity of it. While no one dies the horrors of addiction are always there, the pain, the illness and the broken relationships. The fact that the film manages to handle all of them so perfectly puts this in the running for ending up as one of the best films of the year.

A must see.

Tribeca ’17: The Midnight Service (series)

What do the Florida Everglades and Hendricks County, IN have in common? You can find some nice homes in both locales, but the neighboring population is sparse. That makes them prime spots for nefarious goings-on. Brett Potter & Dean Colin Marcial “document” spooky incidents in both respective regions in the upcoming web series, The Midnight Service, which screened as part of N.O.W. [New Online Work] Showcase A at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.

As Josh Meek explains in episode one, “Pizza Delivery,” he did not want to make a delivery at the end of long dark stretch of rural road, but he reluctantly did so at his boss’s insistence. When he arrives, he finds the house empty—or is it? What he sees could have been a scene out of Lost Highway, except tighter and more focused. At just four minutes, Pizza Delivery is in fact super-focused.

The second episode screened, “Home Invasion” is twice as long, but its basic premise could support an entire feature film. One night, comedian Kat Toledano was housesitting in the Glades when a small-time local felon tried to violently break-and-enter, but he suddenly just up and vanished. About the same time, a park ranger in Everglades National Park observed a strange phenomenon from his observation station. Could these events be related?

Toledano is pretty funny playing it straight as herself, but the real stars of the show are the creepy ambiance and Brian McOmber’s massively eerie music. You can think of Midnight Service as the old Unsolved Mysteries TV show reconceived for post-Scream generations. It has an ironic sensibility, creating situations that clearly imply the work of some sort of uncanny agency, while scrupulously maintaining its ambiguity.

The first two episodes are indeed short, but Potter and Marcial sustain the sinister vibe from beginning to end. It also inspires confidence knowing Midnight is a production of Borscht Corp, who previously shepherded a number of cool genre shorts, including Kaiju Bunraku and Boniato. Regardless, it is so vividly weird, it might just catch on when it launches online. Recommended for fans of urban legends and true crime re-enactments, The Midnight Service world premiered at this year’s Tribeca.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tribeca ’17: Super Dark Times

At least this violent high school tragedy cannot be cynically exploited by the personal rights-encroaching nanny-state lobby. Perhaps there is a movement to ban samurai swords, but it is hard to see it gaining much momentum, even with this example of the accidental killing of a classmate. The incident emotionally and psychologically devastates two life-long friends, leading to some very bad things in Kevin Phillips’ Super Dark Times, which screens during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.

Zach and Josh have always been inseparable, even though they both carry a torch for the same popular girl in their class. Sometimes they knock about with Charlie and they will reluctantly allow Daryl, the annoying tubby kid, to tag along. One day, Josh takes his enlisted brother’s samurai sword out into the woods to slice up milk cartons with the other three lads. Unfortunately, Daryl is being his usual grabby, pestering self, except maybe worse. One thing leads to another and Josh inadvertently slices Daryl. Thoroughly freaked out and panicky, the three survivors cover his body with brush and resolve to never talk about it again.

Of course, living with this kind of corrosive secret takes a toll on their souls. Zach manages to keep up appearances, but he is reeling inside. In contrast, Josh seems to go numb, retreating into himself and recording extended absences from class. When he returns, he seems cold and distant. Soon thereafter, a classmate he is known to dislike dies under mysterious circumstances shortly thereafter. Subsequent events lead Zach to suspect his best bud may have developed a taste for killing.

In this case, how Super Dark is programmed has a direct bearing on whether we can recommend it. Phillips’ film is a selection of the “midnight” section, which implies a certain level of mayhem and attitude. Patrons come to midnight screenings expecting to “have fun” with a film, but Super Dark is tonally much more akin to a film like Gus Van Sant’s Elephant. As a result, the regular midnight crew is likely to walk out of it feeling depressed and sucker-punched.

That really does Super Dark a disservice, because it is in fact a film of some merit. It is a tough, honest film that does not resort to cheap sentimentality or lazy takeaways. We cannot ascribe the violence in the film to the influence of drugs or explicit video games. Nor can we blame parental neglect. It is just a function of a sickness in the soul, for which Josh apparently has a greater susceptibility.

Owen Campbell and Charlie Tahan are both unremittingly intense as Zach and Josh. However, it is some of the supporting turns that really breathe life into the film. Elizabeth Cappuccino finds surprising depth and subtly in Allison, the “It Girl,” while Amy Hargreaves adds further dimension and maturity to the proceedings, as Zach’s “cool” but loving single mom Karen. Frankly, the fact that she is so oblivious is rather disturbing, precisely because she seems to be doing everything right.

Phillips deliberately keeps the proceedings dark and dour, which certainly suits the film’s grim view of human nature. The genre elements, such as they are, decidedly reflect an austerely naturalistic aesthetic. That makes it a distinctive calling card for Phillips and his ensemble, but not much of a midnight movie. Look, just because you like a film doesn’t mean you should select it for your festival track. That’s why it’s called programming. Regardless, mature audiences should consider checking it out eventually. For now, it screens again tomorrow (4/23), as part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

River Below (2017) Tribeca 2017

The question at the heart of River Below is one that is batted about in popular culture but it rarely actually seen in action in real life, namely how far will you go to save the thing you love? Would you be willing to do the most terrible thing imaginable if you knew it would change hearts and minds? On top of that would you be willing to deal with the consequences of your actions? It’s a thorny issue but it’s the compelling question that keeps us watching all the way to the end.

River Below is about the attempt to save the pink river dolphins in the Amazon river. Odd looking but absolutely charming animals they are rapidly disappearing thanks to the local fisherman killing them in order to use as bait for the Muto, a scavenger fish considered a delicacy, especially in Columbia. The killing is on a massive scale and were it not scattered across the entire Amazon would make the slaughter in the Japanese Blood Cove look like a calm day at a kids sand box.

The film follows Dr. Fernando Trujillo a biologist who has been championing the animals for over 20 years as well as Richard Rasmussen a TV show host for the Brazilian National Geographic channel and a TV superstar. When a graphic video surfaces of fisherman killing and butchering a dolphin for bait the debate exploded and the dolphins gained protection but what followed was unexpected- and that is the film.

While The River Below would be special if it just dealt with the fight to save the dolphins the fact that the film takes it further to explore the fallout of the conservation makes it something more. Far too many filmmakers would have just taken it only as far as the controversy surrounding the footage but here director Mark Grieco takes it a few extra steps showing the crippling effect  saving the animals has on the local communities…and the monstrous horror that the scavenger fish being caught with the dolphins is loaded with mercury-to the extent it is going to wipe out generations of the people eating it.

I would like to discuss the twists and turns of the film but this is the sort of film you just need to see. Where this goes and how it plays out is deeply disturbing. It is also extremely thought provoking because it’s a film that makes you think about conservation and what it means on many levels. I don’t want to ruin the twists, because discovering them along the way force you to be slapped by what the revelations mean.

I really liked this film. I love that the film is a real life examination of the question of what it takes to save a species. While I won’t join several of my colleagues in the film community who called this the best film at Tribeca, I do think it’s a wonderful piece of filmmaking and it is highly recommended.

Fair warning as good as the film is, it is very graphic in its depiction of the death of the dolphins. The audience of critics at the screening audibly reacted multiple times. I say this because it makes clear why the footage changed the minds of a country. So if you don’t want to see very disturbing images stay away.

Tribeca ’17: Hounds of Love

If Vicki Maloney had paid more mind to her mother, she would not be in this spot. Unfortunately, she snuck out when she was grounded and got into a car with strange people. We can only hope she was wearing clean underwear, because there is a very good chance she could end up dead in Ben Young’s Hounds of Love, which screens during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.

Maloney and her mother Maggie would be arguing like cats and dogs anyway, because that is what mothers and teen daughters do. However, her parents’ separation only makes matters worse, especially since her more financially secure father Trevor is so good at playing the abandonment card. Tragically, Maloney brief lapse of judgement might be fatal. It is clear John and Evelyn White have abducted, terrorized, and murdered a number of girls before her. Yet, even amid the horrors she endures, Maloney picks up on tensions between her tormentors. She has darn good reason to believe the manipulative John has been playing his needy wife and she can tell the more passive captor is starting to suspect it too.

Meanwhile, the Perth coppers are so unhelpful, they might as well be considered accomplices. However, the alarmed Maggie is in her fiercest mothering mode and will not be intimidated into waiting at home for Vicki to call. Old Trevor largely agrees with her, but he lacks her forcefulness. Basically, they are on their own, with the clock ticking.

It seems like abduction-captivity thrillers just keep getting increasingly more sadistic and disturbing. To be frank, Hounds continues the trend, but it also has redemptive substance to go with the unsettling cruelty. It sounds like a shameless pull-quote, but the third act climax really is so tense you can hardly breathe.

As John White, Stephen Curry creates a chilling portrait of clammy, calculating evil. In the potential victim role, Ashleigh Cummings gives a bravely exposed and vulnerable performance, but the real heart and soul of the film comes from Susie Porter’s defiantly haunting turn as Mother Maggie. In contrast, the arrested emotional development of Emma Booth’s Evelyn White does not always ring true, but her pathological codependency is generally credible enough to cover for it.

The sunny Australian Christmas season is also rather feverishly disorienting, like the original Die Hard transferred to a suburban dungeon. The 1980s period details are also spot-on. It is quite a distinctive way for Young, a TV and short film director, to announce his feature arrival. Recommended for fans of dark, provocative thrillers, Hounds of Love screens again this Monday (4/24) and Tuesday (4/25), as part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

Ariela on BLAME (2017) Tribeca 2017

Blame is written and directed by 22 year old Quinn Shephard, who also stars in the film. The film starts with the beginning of the semester at high school and Abigail(Quinn Shephard), who is an outcast, is returning to school after having left the previous year because of an incident. The other kids at school bully her, calling her "Sybil" and are just being awful to her.

The film focuses on the drama class. The teacher, played by Chris Messina, decides to have "the Crucible" as their show. He casts Abigail as the lead which causes her classmates to be jealous and thus bully her even more.

Abigail befriends her teacher, but what begins as a friendship soon changes.

This film reminded me of films like Heathers, Carrie, and Mean Girls. I enjoyed it, but it's been done before. There are some differences of course but it's the same idea. Also, while they kept referring to the incident that happened the previous semester, it was never disclosed what exactly happened which I found frustrating. The other part I found strange was not knowing where Abigail's parents were. They are shown in the beginning before she goes back to school but then never again.They're never home and there was no mention of them. Seemed odd considering Abigail had an "incident" that her parents were never around.

Overall, this movie was good, and impressive that it was done by someone so young, but another than that I would say you can wait to see it on Netflix or whatnot.


I saw five films today and that was about it.

THE DEATH AND LIFE OF MARSHA P JOHNSON is a very good look at the probable murder of Miss Johnson back in 1992. Johnson was an advocate for gay rights felt she was being targeted by dark forces. While the film is strung as a look into Johnson's life it is actually a look at transgender rights in America. There is a lot to say and I'll have a full review soon.(Just know its a good enough film that I did not duck out as planned and stayed to the very end.)

SWEET VIRGINIA is a well acted great looking film noir that is deadly slow and cliche filled to the point that you know where the film is going after the set up. The plot has three men killed in a bar after hours. The killer is a hit man hired by one of the wives. The rest of the film is the fall out of the murder- which once we see the safe full of money is all but a done deal. We've been here before to the point that several people in the audience I saw this with were snoring loudly but no one woke them up. (Frankly I should have skipped out and gone to see MIKE AND THE MAD DOG instead)

ALPHAGO concerns the effort to create a artificial intelligence which can play the ancient game of Go. The film charts the battle between the computer and the champion player from Korea. Unremarkable and kind of on it's own wave length (the film didn't seem to be explaining enough for me) I grew disinterested and walked out. To me it was neither good nor bad rathe it wasn't interesting.

THE PUBLIC IMAGE IS ROTTEN is a portrait of the the group Public Image Limited and it's lead singer John Lydon. A very good look at Lydon and the group the film is going to play best for fans who really know the groups music. I know them more by reputation so I started to get lost as they started to speak of specific albums and songs. I liked it a great deal, I just wish I knew a bit more so I could have followed along. Recommended for fans or those who want to see what a cool guy Lydon really is.

HONDROS is a very good portrait of  photojournalist Chris Hondros who produced a fantastic body of work before being killed in a mortar attack in Libya. A look at Hondros' career the film is full of fantastic images (see above) which become truly over whelming on a big theater screen. The film is a stark chronicle of the cost of war and we see what happens when people clash. Despite taking an detour to follow up on the family in roadside  shooting in Iraq (its really good but slightly out of place) the film manages to give a wonderful accounting of one man's life and what he achieved in photography and in real life. It is most moving when we see how Hodros gave back and how because of him some of the people in his pictures were changed by knowing him. See the guy above- he was sent to college by Hondros and became a police chief. Recommended

The Reagan Show (2017) Tribeca 2017

Made up of news footage and what became known as White House TV, ie. footage shot by the Reagan administration, The Reagan Show is a look at the Reagan presidency in a way that reveals a very human side to both Ronnie and Nancy.

Largely focusing on Reagan’s struggles to bring down the number of nuclear missiles the film marches us through the Regan years at speed giving us a look at what happened and who many of the players were. What is interesting is the supporting cast of players who cameo, Newt, Pat Buchanan, Joe Biden and a few others are seen here and there. Interesting other people who were once big players (Heads of conservative groups) make you look at the screen and wonder why in the hell did anyone listen to them.

Because it begins with a title saying that the Reagan’s shot more footage than the previous five presidents combined I was left to wonder why this film is only 74 minutes long. Full of tons of fly on the wall material and a real sense of time and place this film should be two or three times longer than it is. This is one of the few presidential docs that really adds to what we know and changes how we think about them. The only thing I can think of is that the Reagan family/Library refused permission to delve deeper into other areas of Reagan’s administration such as Iran/Contra.

It should be noted that one of the strengths of the film is that it shows us how the world changed in regard to Presidential coverage. We see all of the normal things that we now take for granted with tight control of the image beginning here. Watching the film you can’t help but think of Donald Trump and see how badly he shapes up to Regan and his crew. Regan and his bunch made it all look so easy- especially the pleasant way they deny or counter allegations. Trump should watch this and learn something.


Flames (2017)Tribeca 2017

Zefrey Throwell and Josephine Decker's look at their relationship is as pretentious a film as I've seen at Tribeca this year. A self indulgent, self important piece of trash this film would be something if they chopped an hour of this away and set the rest on fire.

Beginning with the couple having the first of several sexual encounters the film drifts through the curse (and course) of their relationship as we watch sequences that seem to be a mix of staged scenes and real moments. The film follows them through time as the relationship eventually implodes and the pair then sits in a room and discusses what when wrong while editing footage.

It should be said the best stuff is the editing stuff with the couple looking back. There is something about those moments that really works and we get a sense of the two directors as something other than annoying hipsters. The second best is some of the trippy imagery, landscapes turned side ways and weird lighting. There are these wonderful wordless shots that delight.

Unfortunately the rest of the film, well over an hour of material that is unbearable. Why anyone thought we would have any interest in these two people is beyond me.Decker, outside of the editing room, comes off whiney and Throwell is just an asshole. Why the hell were they together and why are they still talking?  And who thought we'd  want to see them screwing---over and over again? What is this the inde hipster version of 9 SONGS? Than movie was bad, though not as bad as this.

To be honest I'm not sure if this is docufiction or straight documentary. The film wasn't self shot, camera crews filmed everything and but I'm not sure who was doing it. It makes me wonder if the couple redid some of this or are just so fucking narcissistic that they had some one film their lives. I really don't want to know- but I'm curious.

Looking around the auditorium during the critics screening- hey I was looking for something to actually interesting to pass the time- I noticed lots of people sleeping. Frankly I've never seen so many people asleep at a screening. (I also spent a lot of time wondering who all the people were who were walking out)

Do you need to know this? No

Is it proper to report this? No, but then again it's not proper to put your home movies and sex tapes on the big screen and ask people to actually pay to see it.

I hate this movie

Avoid it.

Divine Order (2017) Tribeca 2017

I bet you didn't know that until the early 1970's women could not vote in Switzerland. They didn't have many rights either since the Divine Order of things was to defer to the men. DIVINE ORDER is a film about the vote to give women the vote in what one would think would have been a progressive country.

Focsing on a woman named Nora who lives in a small town the film is an account of how women who didn't think to much about politics became political and worked to get women the vote.

Tat may sound dry and bumpy, but the truth is the film is a charming tale of one woman, her family and her growing circle of friends at a moment where things changed. While the conclusion of the story may seem like a given one that is not the case. The truth of the matter is that nothing is certain and as the end credits state women were still fighting for ome rights until very recently.

That the film works as well as it does is thanks to the fact that the film is ultimately about characters. Unlike the recent SUFFRAGETTE which at times seemed to be about the poltis more than the people, DIVINE ORDER never leaves its characters. There is more going on than the right to vote, this about one woman and her friends looking to change their lives on all sorts of levels-even sexual. I laughed out loud and I was moved to tears.

This is a wonderful wonderful movie.

Highly recommended

Genius (2017) Tribeca 2017

Geoffrey Rush plays Albert Einstein in new TV series running on National Geographic. Initially set in the 1920's but untethered in time the series looks at Einstein's life and a achievements.

Tribeca ran the first episode and then had a talk with producer Brian Grazer, director Ron Howard, actress Emily Watson and Geoffrey Rush. Sadly I did not see the talk which I'm guessing was spectacular. I simply saw the first episode.

Somethings should not be blown up to the size of a movie screen. Watching the first episode I was struck by the sensation that I would have liked it better on TV where it didn't have pretentions of being something more. That is and isn't a knock. As TV series goes the film...episode...plays like a TV show. There are no breaks for TV but the film follows TV series constructions. Its a set up for something more and it ends at a suitable break. It also has the smaller scale feel that makes it look wrong on the big screen.

Is it bad?

No. But at the same time outside of Rush's performance there wasn't a hell of a lot to make me want to come back for the remaining nine episodes.

The series starts airing on April 25th.

Ariela looks at Flower (2017) Tribeca 2017

Flower is the story of 17 year old Erica and her friends who seduce older men and then basically threatens to blackmail them unless they give them money. They consider themselves vigilantes to the wrong. Her mom acts like her best friend, and her dad is in jail. Everything changes when her mom invites her boyfriend and her boyfriend's son, who is fresh out of rehab, to move in with them. What begins is an unlikely friendship. Erica's new brother- in- law also has a connection to the hot older guy the girls drool over at the bowling alley. What turns into fun and games winds up going too far.

This film definitely had its moments. I enjoyed a lot of it. It's definitely a dark comedy. It reminds me of the 80's teen movies, but definitely a lot darker and more screwed up. (The director mentions that it's kind of like a John Hughes movie but starring the kids who are just a bit too weird and screwed up to be in a John Hughes movie.) I like that analogy.

 I didn't enjoy the very weird ending at all though. It just seemed a bit ridiculous to me. It's definitely a film I'm still thinking about. The cast was great, I loved Zoey Deuch, Kathryn Hahn, Joey Morgan and Adam Scott.

Life Boat (2017) Tribeca 2017

In a school for troubled kids, a counselor plays a game of survival with a group of students- who would you save and why. The game reveals dark truths and perhaps teaches some lessons to the kids.

Screening as part of the Disconnected shorts collection LIFE BOAT is unfairly damned to get lost because the collection is runnings late at night on tree of it's four scheduled play times. Its bad enough that shorts get over looked but scheduling the film after 9PM  is going to severely limit the screenings which is a shame because the film is one that should have an easier time finding it's audience. This is one of the best films of Tribeca.

A beautifully made film this film is a real gut punch. Basically the film record of a group therapy session, the film is as raw and real as many films come. I'm guessing that most people in the audience are not going to be experiencing the kind of depression and unhappiness as the teens on screen, however that doesn't mean the in your face style is going to kick up some not so pleasant truths. Questions about what it takes to survive and what it takes to be popular are brought front and center in a manner that not only rattles the people on screen but those in the audience as well. I was pained and I wanted to turn the film off because the film showed me things I really wasn't in the mood to deal with.

This a beautifully acted film that manages to get us in the heart and in the head as the issues and themes that it raises about what it takes to survive and how society works knock us back on our heels.  This was the thirty something film from Tribeca that I saw but it was one of the few few that left me staring at the screen pondering what in the hell I had just seen. This shouldn't turn you off to the film, rather it should send you running to see it because when it's done you'll know you have just seen something special instead of something that just washed over you

A must see

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Family I Had (2017) Tribeca 2017

THE FAMILY I HAD is a punch in the face. This is one of those stories that will leave you broken and shaken and thankful that this isn’t your family. It’s a film that will shock you with its revelations which keep coming until the end credits. There are so many twists that several people in the audience I saw this with were sitting in their seat even after the film ended waiting for the post credits sequence which changes everything.

The film begins with the day that 13 year old Paris Bennett stabbed his 4 year old sister 17 times before calling the police to say that he had killed someone. From there it spins out as a portrait of a dysfunctional family in crisis. We watch as we see what lead up to the events that night and see how the family and its members are dealing with the fallout still.

Despite wanting to tell you the whole story I’m not. This is just one of those films where you need to just see it and not know so the revelations can smack you in the face. It’s one of those films where the stray comment about not having a jury to manipulate says volumes about the world.

While the overriding thing I’ve taken away from the film is a sense that I should be thankful that my own family obviously isn’t that bad. all things considered, this film is a damning look at the criminal justice system. Paris went to jail when he was 13 and he will be there until he is at least 33. As his mother has said he may or may not have been sociopathic when he went in, he most certainly is now because that was how he had to be to survive. What has been gotten out of Paris being in a cage for two decades without help? Looking into Paris’s eyes you can see the darkness dancing behind them.

The film is also a striking call to reconsider how we raise our kids. Not to give too much away the trouble that lead to the murder was set in motion a generation earlier with the tension between Paris’s mom and grandmother. Had they made different choices things may have gone differently. No one is without blame.

I don’t know what to say beyond see this film. Buy a ticket. Belt yourself in and go for it. The emotional punch from this film is killer and its after effect is to leave you staggering about for hours afterward.

One of Tribeca's best and an absolute must see

Tribeca 2017 Day 2

I had a great day at the fest.  Lots of good movies, one I really hated and I got to see more friends.

I had a nice long talk with Nora Lee Mandel for the second day. Unfortunately she got stuck in the MTAs subway woes and missed her first film, but for me it was a win since I got to have a nice chat about stuff.

I was also pleased to really see Ariela at the fest proper and not be dashing here or there. I owe her dinner/lunch something for all the reviews she has been turning in.

The original plan was that I would do daily posts and not write up all the films but I got diarrhea of the fingers and I've written reviews of everything I saw today so look for full posts.  However I know you want know what I thought so:

GENIUS- first episode of the NAt Geo series has a killer performance from Geoffrey Rush but its a first episode of ten so its hard to say beyond that.

GILBERT- Wonderful and moving portrait of Gilbert Gottfried that reveals things only friends and family knew.

VIEWFINDERS shorts collection- a great selection of shorts- reviews are coming

FLAMES- beyond pretentious navel gazing about people we really don't care about.

PSYCHOPATHS- What should have been a low key serial killer version of Le Ronde is wrecked by narration that promises things the film can't deliver

TRUE CONVICTION- Moving portrait of three falsely imprisoned freed men who now try to free the wrongly convicted. Moving and quite human. One of Tribeca's best.

Full reviews are coming so keep reading

Son of Sophia (2017) Tribeca 2017

Elina Psykou's SON OF SOPHIA is a trek into what is becoming a new genre the Greek Weird Wave. This is movement that brought us films like DOGTOOTH and other loopy films. The films are more often than not extremely mannered and seemingly weird for the sake of being weird. Things are not wholly crazy, just off enough that you’re left feeling extremely uneasy and unsure of what the next step is going to be. How people react to the films depends on their tolerance for strange happenings. How you relate to the off kilter and mannered constructions of the film will determine how you react to the film.

The film concerns 11 year old Misha. For the last two or three years while he has been at home in Russia his mom has been in Greece.  When she sends for him, he thinks everything will be as it was and that he and his mom will be together again. However he finds that he has a new dad. This send him spiraling off and causes reality to merge with his take on fairy tales.

As much as I love strange films my tolerance for this sort of weirdness is low. To be honest I’m not sure what I think of Son of Sofia. Well-made on all levels the film is way too mannered to really work for me. I was probably twenty minutes in when I realized that the film wasn’t really interesting me. I would be able to stick it out to the end, I wanted to see how it was all going to play out, but I wasn’t connecting on to anything on the screen on most levels.

That said if you are a fan of Greek weird give it a shot

The Departure (2017) Tribeca 2017

I am haunted by THE DEPARTURE.

This film is a cinematic spiritual quest, a there and back again trip to the mountain top that will leave you moved, teary eyed and utterly vibrating with the sense of feeling alive.

My original idea for this review was simply to write one word PROFOUND and let everyone deduce what I meant by that. However that isn't fair to you or the film and instead I'll try to cobble some thoughts together.

The film is a portrait of Buddhist monk,Ittesu Nemoto. A onetime partying punk, after a bad motorcycle accident he answered an ad for a monk (no experience necessary) and his vocation was born. Ittesu lives with his wife, his two year old son and his mother at a temple. He is best known for trying to help those contemplating suicide. He is so good at what he does that his phone never stops ringing and his health is in jeopardy, at 44 he’s already had one heart attack and is working on a second. To get over it he occasional rides his motorcycle into the city and dances all night in a club.

Structured like a Buddhist mediation or the cycle of life the film begins and ends in the same place. I would be tempted to say that if folded the film in half you’d end up with a mirror image but the film is much more complicated. By the time the film is coming to its conclusion we have made a journey through our soul. When we are once more at the Departure retreat we don’t need subtitles to understand what is happening so when the sudden appearance of the final line appears it is as if we are struck by lightning and our knees go weak. We understand that which is most important in life…

Alternating moments of real life, his wife and son, with his running retreats (the title comes from a retreat on death he runs) and his counseling of the hurting the film is glorious examination of what it is to live life. Sitting watching the film I found myself quietly crying at the beauty and profound sense of enlightenment that seemed to be bleeding off the screen. Moments of depression give way to clarity. A crying baby suddenly turns to laughter. Joy and pain are found in unexpected places. But as with life the moments are fleeting and the highs and lows pass and change and become something else. Director Lana Wilson has made a film that takes us through a variety of experiences to show us the course of a life and all life. Along the way we are forced to ponder what everything is all about and why we are here. Ultimately we are asked to examine what it means to be alive and what it means to die.

At times its a bumpy journey and I wanted for the film to return to the philosophy that Nemoto was explaining and then suddenly it hit me, that it is all his philosophy. Everything reflects his out look. He doesn't stop discussing the way to be, all his life is that way and it's full of wrong turns- he still parties despite health issues and he is't always going to say the right thing.

I was moved by the film the result of something happening on screen forcing a moment of clarity and understanding. When the film was over I turned to Hubert Vigilla, who was sitting next to me, and we said nothing. There was nothing to say, the film had said it all, the profundity of what we had seen rattling around between us in the silence.

Several years ago there was a Broadway show called Getting and Spending about a hot shot lawyer who left it all and went off to be a monk. After almost being talked out of staying with the order the lawyer returns to the monastery. The woman who was trying to get him to leave asks him why are you going back when the life was so hard and then he was never going to be enlightened. His reply was that yes it was a tough life, but its the way he chose. As for being enlightened, it was there, not all at once, not all the time, but in moments and in flashes  it all comes together and one can see the moment of clarity.

THE DEPARTURE is a kind of moment of clarity. It is an explanation of what it means to be alive. It is a small quiet film that is thunderous in it's effect. Its not always there, but there are flashes (actually much more than flashes) that add up to a profoundly moving experience.

For those who don’t care about the philosophy the film offers a good look at the life of a modern day monk.

I love this film and I can’t get it out of my head…to the extent where my schedule lined up and I realized that I could see the film a second time at Tribeca I was thrilled and added it to my film list.

One of the best at Tribeca and of 2017

LA 92 (2017) Tribeca 2017

If I were to compare LA 92 to Ava Ava DuVernay's 13TH, LA 92 is is pure pained raw emotion while 13TH is a long pained scream where the talking heads lift you out of the emotion. There is no respite, or no time to think in LA92, there is just a two hour pounding of the injustice and pain that sparked the rights and bleed out in death and destruction across Los Angeles. LA 92 makes you feel, really feel the suffering and thus understand why things happened they way they did.

Made up entirely of news and home video footage of the LA riots and the events that preceded them the film actually begins in 1965 with the Watts Riots. A news report explains what happened and ends with the ominous warning that if things don't change worse riots will come... And they do. Jumping a head to the years just before the riots we watch as events march along until the Rodney King verdict lets the genie out of the bottle and rage and anger take to the streets.

You've never seen the riots like this. In your face and inescapable the tragedy of what happened sweeps across your heart. Its made all the more painful because for the better part of an hour we are walked step by step all the way up to the riots. This is no longer a series of news reports that happened somewhere else, but this is the culmination of a series of events that we understand. Why are people pissed off? Because they have been abused and we know exactly how and why and there is no other way to express it. And because there are no talking heads and just recordings of the moment there is no second guessing, no attempt at explaining there is just the long pained scream of rage in the moment. We have felt it welling up from the first frame onward and we know why  the riots happened.

Once the riots starts you are there. Through brilliant editing and choice of footage we get a more then a sense of the chaos of those days. The fear becomes real, the emotion and pain on the screen becomes physical. When the film ended I felt sore and tired all through my body. Sitting on the subway I felt like I had been beaten up.I hurt so much I wanted to cry. There was nothing really wrong with me its simply by body reacted to the emotional stress the film put me through.

I know I can not explain what seeing this film in a theater is like. When it ended no one moved. Everyone just sat in the darkness staring at the screen. It wasn't until the lights came up that anyone moved. I turned to Hubert Vigilla who was sitting next to me and we just said nothing. After several attempts at it I finally joked that it was "one of those" - meaning the sort of film that takes away any ability to speak. We then texted for two hours afterward trying to find words.

I have no idea how this will play on TV or a laptop. I certainly can't imagine this broken up by commercials or stops on a DVR. This is a film that is designed to be seen in one chunk in a dark theater.

I have no idea what to say beyond you must see this. This is a film that is going to explode on the cinema scene and be hailed by every one. Its a film that is going to jump to the top of the Oscar contenders. Right now its near the top of the list the very best films of 2017.

Buy tickets right now.

Tribeca 2017 Opening Night CLIVE DAVIS: THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES (2017) and concert

Allow me a moment to gloat- if you weren't at Radio City Wednesday night you missed an amazing experience. It was the opening night of this years Tribeca Film Festival where the World Premiere of the film CLIVE DAVIS: THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES occurred and it was followed by a concert that rocked the house and scared me because the top balcony Chocko and myself  were on was moving with everyone dancing.

As everyone filed in we got to watch the red carpet arrivals on the big screens on either side of the stage. When show time arrived Governor Andrew Cuomo came out and made some remarks indicating that the reason a film festival that is supposed to be set in the TRIangle BElow CAnal is now in the TRIangle BElow CAnada because it has grown so big.

This was followed by Robert DeNiro and Jane Rosenthal who made some remarks before introducing the producers and director of the film- who simply said enjoy before the lights went down and the film started

The biggest laugh of the night was unintentional and came when a promotional film from United Airlines played. No one knew what airline the promo was for but when the United name came up the audience exploded with laughter. It continued into the film until the sound of Janis Joplin singing was heard.

I don't know what to say about CLIVE DAVIS: THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES beyond that is what it is- a recounting our our lives through the music one man helped to make. This portrait of the accidental record executive who changed the music industry forever (it all used to be stuff like Mitch Miller) by signing Janis Joplin will have you replaying your entire life in your head. I'm serious Davis is pretty much responsible for everything you love music-wise because he has his fingers into everything or because what he had brought to audiences changed the world. From Janis to Bruce to Puffy to Whitney to Alan Jackson to Santana to (fill in the blank) Davis is everywhere.

To be honest the film is conventional in it's construction and doesn't really dwell on the mistakes he made.  However with someone like Davis, whose accomplishments could film ten hours of film the removal of his misses is minor when many of his hits are glossed over.

In talking about the film after it was over the only problem with it is that the film's second half has a bit too much on Whitney Huston which cuts into everything else Davis has done. Its a minor quibble and is the only think keeping this from being a perfect nostalgia machine.

And that is what this film is- a cinematic wave of nostalgia- it is a film that allows us to replay the Soundtrack of your life.

After the film there was a wonderful concert where friends and artists who worked with Clive played for his, and our, entertainment.

It began with Barry Manilow playing a medley of his hits, all of which were picked by Davis for Manilow. It was a kick as start and made you wonder how you would top it? I mean things were starting on such a high level there was nowhere to go...



Jennifer Hudson came out to sing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. It was one of the best versions, if not the best I've ever heard. There was no where to go...until she opened the Whitney Huston Songbook and ricked the house. She walked into the crowd to dance with Clive before heading back to the stage...and as the audience went nuts and the band played she announced she was done and walked off....mic drop...there was no where to go...

Earth Wind and Fire had to follow and after moment or two  to get up to speed they had the audience dancing in the aisles. I was terrified because the top  balcony Chocko and I were sitting in was noticeably moving with everyone dancing.

As weird as it may sound but the appearance of Kenny G to play with the group for one song made the audience go crazy. While that may sound weird you have to realize that Kenny delighted everyone during his appearances in the documentary.

After Earth Wind and Fire came Dionne Warwick. Warwick was a bit of a let down. While she was fine on some levels she didn't have the passion that the preceding three performers had.

Carly Simon came out next to do a version of  Coming Around Again. Simon's performance was quite good but it took a bizarre twist as the Itsy Bitsy Spider portion of the song went on and on and on...

Whoopi Goldberg who was doing the intros tried to explain it but it still was an odd moment.

And then there was Aretha.

What can I say but wow.

Despite having an upper respiratory infection she showed up and nailed it. She tore through Natural Woman and Freeway of Love. What absolutely delighted me was she sounded wonderful.  I say this because the last time she was promoting an album she was showing up on various TV programs to sing and she sounded less than perfect.  Last night she was note perfect despite the illness.

When it was done Chocko and myself wander out into the night but not before pausing, as many people who were at the concert were doing, to take pictures of the marquee to remember a truly spectacular night at the movies.