In Bluebird, like a quieter, humbler The Sweet Hereafter, a school bus tragedy has reverberations all up and down the fault lines of a small, snowbound town, beginning with bus driver Lesley (Amy Morton) and her logger husband (John Slattery). Writer-director Lance Edmands lives in Brooklyn and went to NYU, but he grew up in Kennebunk, in southern Maine, and to make Bluebird traveled north to Millinocket, an old paper-mill town struggling to move forward. Over email, I asked him about the allure of the place—and time—Bluebird takes him back to. Bluebird, Edmands’s first commercial feature after work as an editor (Tiny Furniture) and an award-winning Maine-set student film Vacationland, opens February 27.
In NY Export: Opus Jazz (2010), one of this decade’s best New York City films, Jody Lee Lipes filmed the New York City Ballet as they danced the titular Jerome Robbins “ballet in sneakers” all around town, in stripped-down performances staged for the camera. For Ballet 422, which opens February 6, he again teamed with producer Ellen Bar, a former dancer and now the NYCB’s Director of Media Projects, for another intimate look at the company, this time with a focus on process. The film follows Justin Peck—then a 25-year-old member of the corps de ballet, now a soloist—as he choreographs and prepares a ballet for the company’s 2013 winter season. You can watch Ballet 422 twice in the time it takes to watch La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet once, but its 72 interview-free minutes are packed with engrossing glimpses of rehearsals, costume fittings, tech run-throughs, backstage downtime and patron gladhandling—all the component parts that go into assembling a ballet, here also assembled into a low-key narrative about art-making.