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05/01/09 11:00am
05/01/2009 11:00 AM |

FILM IST. a girl & a gun
Directed by Gustav Deutsch

In the grand tradition of epic poetry, FILM IST. a girl and a gun fuses found footage from cinema’s past and ancient Greek text, by the likes of Sappho, Hesiod and Plato, into 24 frames-per-second of kinetic ecstasy. Combing the vaults of international film archives and the Kinsey Institute, Austrian artist Gustav Deutsch returns to Tribeca with the third installment in his Film ist (“Film is…”) series, bringing to light some of the most entrancing and indelible images of early cinema that you’ve never seen. The spectacles range from purple-tinted bodybuilders to Annie Oakley, nudist athletes to stop-motion flowers that blossom before the camera’s eye, stag film models to gun-toting women. Using the Greek writings as intertitles, Deutsch orchestrates the images into a five-act structure: Genesis, Paradeisos, Eros, Thanatos and Symposion. Within this framework, seemingly disparate images collide, creating a new cinematic world of gods and goddesses.

While the title recalls Jean-Luc Godard’s famous quip — “All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun” — the film feels more in the tradition of Joseph Cornell’s Rose Hobart (1936), in which footage from East of Borneo (1931) was “remixed” with other found footage. Cornell disrupted pre-existing narrative continuities and built his own: the rhythms and logic stem from his own hyper-energetic perception as a viewer, and go above and beyond the limits of what is merely “on screen.” Cornell, like Deutsch, was inspired to go to the source and write his own cinematic genesis. Infused with a creative sense of wanderlust, Deutsch’s art is equal parts research and editing. The inter-relations from cut-to-cut vary: some create continuity where none existed before; others create clever image-play the way a linguist would manipulate words; still others create something more ambiguous, a poetry that is felt rather than thought.

Using images originally shot on that volatile dinosaur nitrate (whose grain was so fine that it even surpasses current digital technology, but which was also so unstable that it tended to spontaneously combust…), it is only fitting that FILM IST. a girl and a gun be seen on the big screen. Some of the images may be over a hundred years old, but it is still one of the most pleasurable movies of the year to watch thus far.

Screens for the final time on Sat, 5/2. Currently without U.S. distribution.

04/30/09 11:00am
04/30/2009 11:00 AM |

Dazzle
Directed by Cyrus Frisch

Watching Dazzle, I couldn’t help but thinking of the song “At the Window of Vulnerability.” Most of the (in)action occur by a window; not only does it look out over an Amsterdam street and a river, it also acts as a screen through which a young woman (Georgina Verbaan) projects her own anxiety and guilt. We never see her engage in the world around her, which seems to be one of her biggest problems. Throughout the film, she talks on the phone to a complete stranger (Rutger Hauer), retelling to him the various events she has seen through the window, such as a junkie masturbating in the street or a mouse that commits suicide by leaping into the river. She sees desperation, but is not moved to enact any change herself; contrarily, the open spectacle of need inflicts upon her a great guilt, which she feels is unwarranted. Unable to cope, she reaches out to the stranger on the phone, a doctor in Buenos Aires, who is confronting his own doubts about his profession and his life.

Dazzle’s story recalls Roberto Rossellini’s The Human Voice (1948), based off a play by Jean Cocteau, in which Anna Magnani clings to a telephone as her only connection to a former lover she doesn’t want to let go of. Dazzle director Cyrus Frisch, though, rarely allows us the visual access to his characters that Rossellini gave. Much of the beginning of the film is a black screen, interspersed with brief glances of life through the windows, all the while the two voices communicate with each other unseen by anyone. Taking on a particular challenge (for actors and audience alike), both Verbaan and Hauer do a commendable job conveying at once a sense of alienation from the world, yet a strange connection to this ambiguous presence on the other end of the line.

Director Frisch (who infamously made the first feature-length shot on a cell phone, 2007’s Why Didn’t Anybody Tell Me It Would Become This Bad in Afghanistan) plays his concept to the fullest. Not only does he restrict our knowledge of the characters (particularly their lives and backgrounds, and in the case of Hauer, even his face), but he also leaves it up to the audience to decide whether Verbaan’s observations are fact or mere conjecture. It’s a maddening film to watch — as it is intended to be, which is neither a justification or endorsement, but rather a part of the film’s conceit which is impossible to ignore. Just as Verbaan watches through her window without knowing the people she watches, we watch the screen in ignorance of the characters. As a moral and aesthetic instigator, Frisch is certain to get most of the audience’s goat to some degree, but after a while his approach starts to feel more tiresome than effective.

Screens Fri, 5/1 at 8pm. Currently without U.S. distribution.

04/29/09 4:00am
04/29/2009 4:00 AM |

To most New Yorkers, writer Conor McPherson is best known as a playwright His The Seafarer earned him Tony nominations for best play and best director. McPherson is also however an accomplished filmmaker, having previously written and directed two films that have woefully not been imported to the U.S., Saltwater (2000) and The Actors (2003).

His third film, The Eclipse, returns to The Seafarer’s themes of confronting one’s mundane responsibilities through the supernatural. Widower Michael Farr (Ciarán Hinds) meets horror author Lena Morelle (Iben Jhejle) while volunteering at the Cobh Literary Festival. The two form a tentative relationship but connecting with one another is difficult thanks to the return of Nicholas Holden (Aidan Quinn), famous author and Lena’s ex. Matters become even more complicated when the ghost of Michael’s father begins to haunt him, though he has yet to pass on. (Read Henry Stewart’s review here.) He spoke to the L on the eve of his film’s U.S. premiere, at Tribeca.

The L: You co-wrote The Eclipse with fellow playwright Billy Roche, adapting it from his original source material. What was working with him like and how did you two come together on this project?

Conor McPherson: Billy had been emailing these short stories the had for this book (Tales From Rainwater Pond). There was this one story called “Table Manners,” based around a guy volunteering for this literary festival who falls in love with this poet. In the story, he’s married and has kids but as I was working on it with my wife (musician Fionnuala Ni Chiosain, who composed the film’s score), she told me “Women don’t like that kind of stalking, obsessive type if he’s married. So we got to kill his wife.”

As soon as she said that, I thought, “Well, if he’s lost her, then he must be haunted,” which in a way, added an element of the supernatural. So Billy and I worked on the first few drafts of it together and then I finished it.

The L: Having worked with Ciarán recently in The Seafarer, do you feel that when you adapted his character from Roche’s story that you wrote it with him in mind and if so, how?

CM: I certainly wrote the last four or five drafts with Ciarán in mind. I also knew that I wanted to keep his dialogue very short, not the kind of dialogue you’d have in a play. If I kept it short, it’d allow the acting and themes to breathe. I could probably film Ciarán doing quite a lot without saying anything and it’d still be pretty intense and cinematic.

The L:You’ve also said previously how you feel directing for the stage and for film are fundamentally different in that you feel the director has more influence over an actor’s performance than the actor himself. How did that affect the way you worked with your actors for this film?

CM: Well, I think when you’re directing a play, you’re kind of like the coach of a sports team. You build up your players’ stamina and develop the game plan. It’s a very athletic exercise because it’s a very exhausting thing. In a way, you’re like a cheerleader and a coach and you’re trying to scare them and direct them and all that. In a film, you’re like a hunter looking for all these little moments and it only has to happen once.

Also, in the theater, I think the audience has to concentrate much harder than they do in film because it’s hard to hear, it’s hard to see. You’re really staring hard at this thing and I think concentrating so hard takes the audience into a communal trance. In a film, it’s like a dream that somebody dreams for you. You just sit back and everything you see is exactly what you’re supposed to see. Those are the fundamental differences to me right now. You have to be aware of them as you can’t really apply the rules of one to the other.

The L: Could you talk about what informed the look of the ghost in the film? Was it horror films?

CM:The big influences on the style of it were films like The Exorcist, The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey

The L: Really?

CM:[SPOILERS) Well, y’know the scene where he’s looking at his wife in bed and she’s changed? [END SPOILERS] They were just such impressive cinematographers, those guys. They were such a big influence on me as picking the right lens is so important. In the past, I’ve shot stuff using long lenses; I’ve always liked long lenses. I saw that Kubrick used these huge wide lenses so I tried that for this film and it really gave the film a great scale and scope. All those were big influences on me and I hope that they’re taken as an homage and not a rip-off.

04/29/09 4:00am

The House of the Devil
Directed by Ti West

The House of the Devil, a retro-minded horror flick, is all foreplay, an extended tease that tests the limits of audience patience before rushing through its hypergory climax. On the one hand, we should commend horror directors that choose not to revel too long in geysers of blood (for not “Eli Rothing”); on the other, build-up without satisfying denouement is exasperating. Grisly as his film may be at times, West seems uninterested in necessarily cathartic violence; over-concerned with establishing the proper atmosphere, he fails to strike the right balance between the horror film’s dual demands: setup and, pardon me, execution.

The serviceable Jocelin Donahue, fresh off her turn as “Cute Girl” in He’s Just Not That Into You, stars as a coed lusting to escape her slovenly dorm room, her sleep-all-day roommate, the roommate’s stertorous boyfriend, and the couple’s early-morning sexcapades. Desperate for cash, she takes a shadily high-paying babysitting job for an unsettling couple (Mary Woronov, conspicuously done up to resemble Ruth Gordon, and a fabulous Tom Noonan, most recently seen doubling Philip Seymour Hoffman in Synecdoche), who we can safely assume are the Satanists to whom the opening title cards allude. Spoiler alert: guess which character(s)’s house the title refers to!

Writer-director West capably sustains the delicate tonal and stylistic balance that the film adopts — a cross between Rosemary’s Baby and Halloween. He also smartly addresses the immediate psychological scarring that would likely result from experiencing a horrific encounter like this film’s eventual blood ritual; it’s something nearly every other horror movie ignores, in the name of “survival instinct”, for the sake of an active Last Girl Standing. But here, flashes of the gruesome experience she just endured, and from which she is still trying to escape, briefly and repeatedly paralyze our heroine, rendering her something like a haunted and hunted Hamlette.

But The House of the Devil‘s central virtue is an appearance by Queen of the Mumblers Greta Gerwig in a supporting role, introduced slurping down soda and sucking pizza grease off her fingers. Her charming, comic performance as the brash, blond and marked-for-death friend is the sweetest treat (love you, Greta!) in this otherwise functional but not terribly remarkable horror entry, an exercise in style devoid of any payoff, let alone a compelling, coherent subtext — a necessary component of any great horror movie.

Remaining screenings are Wed, 4/29 at 11pm and Sat, 5/2 at midnight. Currently without U.S. distribution.

04/28/09 4:00am
04/28/2009 4:00 AM |

Watching someone try to get the inside scoop from a man holding a rocket launcher is a high point of Fixer, which is about a young Afghani go-between for foreign journalists. Ian Olds’s documentary-cum-memorial about Ajmal Naqshbandi is at its best when showing the complex skills of on-the-ground diplomacy required by this unusual job and how people like Naqshbandi can affect the shape of news stories and perceptions abroad. The likeable, dimpled 24-year-old is a true professional, in many ways more impressive than the two journalists we meet who worked side by side with him. Much of Fixer tags along with Naqshbandi and Christian Parenti (reporting for The Nation) on the stop-start sniffing out of stories in the Pashtun tribal hinterlands of Afghanistan (the topics Parenti proposes “doing” are Drugs and Instability). Naqshbandi must effectively be a double confidant, politely building trust amidst contingent loyalties while leaving Parenti satisfied that he is covering new terrain; the translation in the subtitles is alert and revealing. Fixer, however, is mostly about how this true professional ended up dead: kidnapped with an Italian journo for La Repubblica, he was the one Karzai did not bend the rules to free. Olds, whose Occupation: Dreamland followed grim American patrols through Iraq, understandably dwells on the drama and injustice of the confinement crisis, but it’s also at this point that the film, which needs tightening up, seems to slip through his fingers. And even (mostly) censored by a black box, the recruitment-video beheading of Naqshbandi, a few feet from his terrified client, should have been omitted. But Olds broaches valuable and timely new territory in his foray into Afghanistan and in chronicling an unseen part of newsgathering not framed by U.S. military operations, in a film that is at some level also about itself.

Amid the hoopla and the documentaries, Tribeca often harvests a few good international films that have played at other festivals. This year yields a readily matched pair of films about grown-up siblings brought together, still smarting over old wounds. Still Walking is a becalmed, sentimental house drama from Hirokazu Kore-eda, director of Nobody Knows and forthcoming Cannes entry Air Doll. A daughter and two sons (with kids of their own) gather at the old homestead, fussed over by their mother and presided over, at first in absentia, by their brusque, aloof father. The cold war between the retired-doctor patriarch (Yokoyama Kyohei) and his son Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) who has married a widow leads into subtler looks at masculinity across generations, though the most engaging performance comes from the shrewd mother (Kirin Kiki). The occasion for the reunion is memorializing the untimely death of a third brother, and throughout the film we see the gnarled forms which grief can take. Limited to the time period of the visit, Still Walking also has an affecting feel for how people change over the course of a day. The fuzzy gentleness of it all, however, didn’t jive with one restless colleague sitting next to me, or another who said a lipsmacking scene of corn frying was the film’s finest moment. With the latter I might agree: there’s an element of corn in any film that uses a butterfly as a dramatic climax.

Grandma steals the stage in Pandora’s Box, from Turkish director Yesim Ustaoglu, after disappearing one day from her mountainside house. With a lovely beginning subtly trapezing among landscape-dominated POV shots of her grown children, the film follows their fractious journey to her house and the reverberations when they find her (somewhat selectively) touched with dementia. Pandora’s Box covers a lot of ground, literally, as Grandma (played by French actress Tsilla Chelton) is shunted in the city among the two daughters and a grizzled deadbeat son; the sole, woefully adrift grandson joins the mix too. Ustaoglu’s handling of their relationships in intimate two-person scenes is excellent, though Grandma (who mostly does whatever the hell she wants, except when she can’t do much at all) is a little too prone to dropping cutting epigrams about her kids.

If you want to see pallid Brits in debate-team suits casually dropping elaborate invective, In the Loop [see also Henry Stewart’s review] is for you. The satirical intent — an insignificant British minister inadvertently talks up war “in the Mideast”— suffers from a patched-together feel maybe traceable to the film’s origins in acclaimed British TV show The Thick of It. It’s an interesting reminder of the verbal culture to British politics — here straddling both Westminster and the Beltway — even though the movie runs out of gas. Still, a hateful foul-mouthed Scot is always a tonic for the spirits.

04/22/09 4:00am
04/22/2009 4:00 AM |

The Eclipse
Directed by Conor McPherson

The Eclipse would be a great horror movie, if it were a horror movie. Noted playwright and stage director (cf. The Seafarer) Conor McPherson’s ghost-obsessed film includes a few surprising and truly unnerving scenes in which our hero confronts a cadaverous black-eyed spectre and deals with assorted thuddings in a creaky old house. But, unfortunately, these moments are few and far between; the bulk of the film concerns needling domestic dramas about a struggling single father caught in a love triangle with a couple of lovelorn writers (an irritating Iben Hjejle and a marvelous Aidan Quinn).

Set during a literary festival — which was totally meta, because it was screening at a film festival — in Cobh, a sleepy seaport town in County Cork, the movie follows Michael Farr (the severe-faced Ciarán Hinds), widower and festival-talent ferrier, on his gloomy misadventures. And I do mean gloomy: nearly every scene is shot in a backlit room, a shadow-blanketed exterior or a rainstorm.

McPherson handles the atmosphere proficiently; generally, he boasts a sophisticated visual sense, from gorgeous coastline panoramas to an elegant slow-motion tracking shot through a sun-soaked field. Even his use of music is clever: a polyphonic choir shockingly slips from an ethereal “Kyrie Eleison” into screams during one terrifying scene that accordingly slips in tone from (deceptively) middling to unbearably tense. (Really — I almost closed my eyes and asked the press or industry person sitting next to me to announce when it was over.)

That’s impressive, especially considering the recent lackluster film work of fellow Broadway contemporaries like John Crowley and Terry Kinney, who in their moviemaking insecurity rely too heavily on clichés both narrative and formal. So it’s disappointing that McPherson goes nowhere with his talent; bogged down in the romantic trials of a few bland characters, he fails to rise above the banalities he misguidedly embraces. (Drunk writers, philandering married men, grieving widowers, yawncetera.) Here’s hoping that, should his film career continue, McPherson abandons his pretensions as a chronicler of Irish melancholia — save it for the Great White Way, bub — and nurtures his gift for horror stories.

Remaining screenings are Tue, 4/28 at 9:45pm, and Thu, 4/30 at 4pm. The film is currently without a U.S. distributor, but this seems almost certain to change.

04/22/09 4:00am

In the Loop
Directed by Armando Iannucci

In the Loop, a manic and borderline screwball verbal satire, marries two comic styles from opposite ends of the pond: zany yet dry-witted English sitcom humor — a la Steve Coogan’s multiple Alan Patridge series, which director Iannucci helped write and produce — meshed with its goofier American counterpart. (Think the ensemble films of Christopher Guest.) For once, Britain and the U.S. sensibilities comedically complement one another: In the Loop is hilarious, peerlessly so among its contemporaries. And it isn’t funny for funny’s sake, either, like so many American film comedies; it uses its humor Colbertly, for the worthy cause of political lampooning.

Set contemporaneously, during the run-up to an unnamed war in the Mid East, the movie, shot like The Office in faux-documentary style (though without all the winking at the camera), follows two sets of behind-the-curtain politicos: on one side of the Atlantic, an English cabinet minister (Tom Hollander) and his retinue; on the other, generals (including James Gandolfini) and assistant secretaries (Mimi Kennedy and David Rasche) and their staffs. Each side has its hawks and doves, scrambling for supremacy in the backroom meetings at 10 Downing Street, the Capitol Building and the United Nations in order to incite a war or prevent it.

It’s a Dr. Strangelove-ian examination of political backstage imbecility, with appointed staffers more concerned with their own careers, saving face in the media or indulging personal rivalries than with the grave and real prospect of war. Baby-faced, fresh-out-of-college grads run major departments of the U.S. government; a pro-war politician uses a live grenade as a paperweight; reports are doctored, intelligence fabricated. The characters’ over-the-top behavior is played for laughs, but it also feels creepily believable — that juvenile knuckleheads and madmen really do make the major political decisions on matters of life and death. At times, the movie seems so credible that chuckling, ineluctable though it is, feels like the wrong response.

Not when Peter Capaldi is on screen, however; he steals the film as a British-government enforcer, reprising a character from Iannucci’s BBC series The Thick Of It, out of which this film grew, though most of the other characters are new. His is a tour-de-force performance, a master class in timing and one-liners that mixes rapid-fire vulgarity with the pop-culture literacy of an Apatovian schlub. Since the dark (i.e. unfunny) AbFab days of the last century, it appears that the once-disparate English-language comic styles are becoming increasingly congruent; the Anglo and American comic actors are meeting somewhere in the middle, finally catching up with their country’s politicians who have been collaborating, troublesomely, for years.

Screens Mon, 4/27 at 8:30pm; Tue, 4/28 at 10:45pm; Fri,5/1, 2:45pm; Sat, 5/2, 8pm. All screenings sold out, but rush tickets may be available. An IFC Films release, coming in July.

04/15/09 12:00am
by |
04/15/2009 12:00 AM |


From April 22-May 3, this year’s modestly slimmed-down Tribeca Film Festival lineup still features the fest’s trademark hodgepodge of synergistic marquee debuts; fest-circuit culled American and international features and documentaries, of wildly varying name recognition, screening in and out of various competitions; a sports film festival copresented by ESPN; free family-friendly events; talks and panels; and photo ops on makeshift red carpets outside of various downtown ‘plexes. What follows is the first batch of our reviews — keep up with us as we keep up with the fest at thelmagazine.com — and our best guess as to which Tribeca films you’re likely to be hearing about in the coming weeks.

Easy Virtue
Directed by Stephan Elliot

Elliot, the director of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, attempts to “modernize” a period piece by eliminating from a Noel Coward comedy of manners any subtlety, lightness or wit. What do they pump in to replace it? Coarseness, dog-squashing jokes, symbolic shots of fire (it means passion), bad bleach jobs and costumes that look like they came from Forever21. The film stars Jessica Biel as an irreverent American whose arrival causes an upheaval in the manor house, and Colin Firth as the indifferent husband who, unshaven and disheveled, spends every scene looking as though he’s wondering how the hell he got in this movie.
Miriam Bale

The Exploding Girl
Directed by Bradley Rust Gray

Or, The Girl Who Ran Over Her Minutes, as epileptic Ivy (Zoe Kazan) spends half the film chatting on her cellphone. Some of those conversations are unsettlingly authentic, but — hark, young directors! — authenticity alone is not a virtue. This is the kids-in-Brooklyn-apartments movie run amok: shallow people stammer insufferably with little subtext, insight or significance, criminally underserving cinematographer Eric Lin’s gorgeous compositions. Gray’s wife, So Yong Kim, served as producer and assistant director; Exploding is In Between Days’ de-Koreaned doppelganger. Each was named for opposite faces of the same Cure 45; this is, conspicuously, the B-side.
Henry Stewart

Garapa
Directed by José Padilha

Hard not to see this as penance for Padilha’s prior bloodsporty favelasploitation Elite Squad: a critic-proofingly austere (black and white, no soundtrack) immersion in the hunger — the distended bellies, fly-swarmed scabs, soggy mattresses, barbed-wire clotheslines and boiled drinking water — of two rural families and one slum-dwelling clan. (“Garapa” is starvation’s cheapest stave-off, a sugar-water mix.) Moments of truth re: alcohol and sex as poverty’s motor oil; but Padilha’s off-camera questions prompt sob stories more than context, and the film seems edited less with a trajectory than a target run-time to elapse before the guilt-tripping, undeniably effective closing title cards.
Mark Asch

The Girlfriend Experience
Directed by Steven Soderbergh

The past decade of NYC gentrification was a false front, propped up by money that never, in fact, existed. Shot on hi-def last October and populated with semi-improvising nonpros, The Girlfriend Experience notes the background chatter of awful, awful people — balance-sheet bubble-blowers and bodybuilders — worrying about the economy at New York-approved restaurants (like the since-closed European Union). Among them is label whore and multi-diamond escort Chelsea/Christine (now-21-year-old porn star Sasha Grey), whose full-service facade of emotional involvement is an illusion-popping metaphor for a city whose solution to everything, even loneliness, is to throw more money at its ego.        
MA

Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench
Directed by Damien Chazelle

Mishmashing myriad influences — Cassavetes, Godard, Bujalski, Woody Allen, Astaire-Rogers — writer-director-editor-lyricist Chazelle fashions something new: the first Mumblecore Musical. It’s a black-and-white, naturalistic, 16mm exploration of young people and their romantic affairs that plays out on Boston streets and in apartments. But instead of awkwardly stammering their way around What They Mean, Guy (Jason Palmer) and Madeline (Desiree Garcia), respectively, play the trumpet and spontaneously slip into song. It’s affecting, endearing, and, even better, toe-tapping.
HS

Moon
Directed by Duncan Jones

The happiest surprise of Moon is not the nifty look of its mid-budget special effects (though the target audience, OG science fiction fanboys, should be satisfied), it’s the fact that Kevin Spacey, when voicing a robot, sounds noticeably more human. Borrowing its lunar conceits from every outer-space classic you can name, the highly derivative Moon reeks of larceny and pretension, though it’s a good deal more coherent than Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain. Praise be, however, to a virtuoso performance by Sam Rockwell, who shares the screen with himself, playing two clones of the same astronaut.
Benjamin Strong

Rudo y Cursi
Directed by Carlos Cuarón

“Tough and Corny” refers to the nicknames of banana-harvesting brothers turned soccer stars Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal, but also to the film’s bearhugging tonal shifts, from locker-room raunch to cautionary-tale moralizing to karaoke sincerity. Zapata-mustached Luna and chav-y Bernal reunite for the first time since Y tu mamá también, for Alfonso Cuarón’s little brother’s feature directorial debut; the family reunion backstory may explain why the best jokes feel inside (like aspiring singer Bernal’s repeated renditions of “I Want You to Want Me”), and the plot so lazily familiar (mentioning that one brother is a striker and one a goalie feels like a spoiler).    
MA

SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO…
What to hope — or fear — from the Tribeca Film Festival.

Burning Down the House
Directed by Mandy Stein
Boo-hoo, CBGB’s closed. Where will we pay $6 for a bottle of beer and listen to metal bands on a shitty sound system? This reverential doc hopes to prove why the club matters, er, mattered.
Hope it’s like: Union Hall
…and not like CBGB’s

Kobe Doin’ Work
Directed by Spike Lee
Spike follows Kobe for a day in the life, with lots of cameras.
Hope it’s like: Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait
… and not like: Spike Lee’s contribution to Lumiere & Co

Love the Beast
Directed by Eric Bana
Israeli assassin/incredible hulk-hunk Bana bets his modest stardom on a self-indulgent doc about racecars and the Bana who loves them.
Hope it’s like: Gran Torino
… and not like: Cars

Newsmakers
Directed by Anders Banke
Before you cry foul at this remake of Johnnie To’s Breaking News, know that it’s not an American remake—it’s Russian! In Soviet Union, news breaks you.
Hope it’s like: Breaking News (duh)
… and not like: Bangkok Dangerous: Nic Cage Edition

Passing Strange
Directed by Spike Lee
Meanwhile, another documentary “joint.” Lee documents the final performance of the Tony-award-winning coming-of-age musical that gives this doc its title. Not every talented movie director has a knack for making stage shows captivating on film.
Hope it’s like: Shine a Light
… and not like: Lou Reed’s Berlin

Playground
Directed by Libby Spears
All your favorite Soderberghites — Steve, Clooney, Grant Heslov — have taken producer credits on this partly animated doc about sex slavery and its American roots.
Hope it’s like: William T. Vollmann (or Taken!)
…and not like: The Toe Tactic

Poliwood
Directed by Barry Levinson
That’s politics plus Hollywood—get it?  This doc concerns the effect celebrities have on the political process. Because you didn’t get enough of that during the election itself.
Hope it’s like: Wag the Dog
…and not like: What Just Happened

Serious Moonlight
Directed by Cheryl Hives
It felt like a little kid outlined Waitress, the late Adrienne Shelley’s first film: all the characters had jobs like figures in Playskool’s Americana playset.  (Waitress, doctor, mailman — and the mean old man at the restaurant!)  This movie boasts a Shelley script directed by Larry David’s TV wife, Cheryl Hines.
Hope it’s like: Curb Your Enthusiasm
… and not like: Waitress

Still Walking
Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda
The director of Nobody Knows returns with a movie about a dysfunctional family wrestling with its dysfunctions.
Hope it’s like: Tokyo Sonata
…and less like: Lifelines

Tell Tale
Directed by Michael Cuesta
The director of L.I.E. adapts E.A.P. (Poe, philistines) for this psycho-supernatural thriller about a heart transplant and its hideous beating.  Starring the very talented but usually misused Josh Lucas and everybody’s favorite character actor, Brian Cox.
Hope it’s like: the “Tell-Tale Heart” diorama in The Simpsons’ “Lisa’s Rival”
… and less like: the 42 other adaptations of this story listed on IMDb.

Variety (1984)
Directed by Bette Gordon
A forgotten possible-classic about a female porn palace ticket taker and (sigh) the male gaze.  (Mulvey, Mulvey, Mulvey…) Lots of downtown names are attached — John Lurie, Spalding Gray, Tom DiCillo. But if the 21st Century is more your thing, Gordon’s new movie, Handsome Harry, is part of the festival too. Steve Buscemi’s in it — and what would a Tribeca film festival be without Steve Buscemi?
Hope it’s like: Stranger than Paradise
… and not like: After Hours

Whatever Works
Directed by Woody Allen
The Woodman’s NY return after years of self-imposed European exile has Larry David in it!  But just because you like Allen and David doesn’t mean they’ll collaborate well — one’s a hilarious, Jewish, New York neurotic and the other’s a… a well, maybe they do go together well.
Hope it’s like: Curb Your Enthusiasm
… and not like: Sour Grapes