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Tribeca Film Festival 2006 Coverage Diary
by Marc Kandel

Press Pass Pickup- In which a run of the mill Bitchslapper becomes a Film Critic:

While my first screening is actually on Monday, I figured this day was important as it’s my first official appearance as an actual Professional Representative of (best not to bandy about the “Bitchslap” nomenclature with the arty types; at least until I ascertain some proof of a sense of humor), rather than the clown who likes to give four star reviews to venerable selections like “Transformers the Movie” and furiously lob colorful obscenities at invading forum shills via my keyboard.

I’ve been struggling to figure out what movies will fit into my schedule, what to pick from, and how best to stay awake during those that will be following a grueling workday and commute without subjecting myself to coffee after 4pm which will destroy this insomniac’s chances of getting a good night’s rest. In the past I have found a firm, fingernailed pinch to the leg right above the knee and along the outer thigh is good medicine to make it through that tough 15 minutes both veteran and nascent filmmakers . Up at 5:50, on the train at 6:28, at work at 8, 1-2 at the gym, out of work at five a few grey hairs richer, and in a movie seat at six, well, it can be a devastating combo, and I don’t want to do disservice to a filmmaker’s product like that, to say nothing of how awful that would look as a rep for our site.

It's happened thrice: once during a viewing of “Sexy Beast” which is a great film (a rarity in the Sir Kingsley kingdom these hardscrabble “Bloodrayne” days), but let’s face it, has its share of slow-going poolside moments, a few times during “Amores Perros”, which frankly took major viewing time liberties with its audience for what was essential a foreign director’s hit and miss shot at Tarantinoism, and once during “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”- I was just plumb exhausted, and killing that fucking snake took forever (though still not as long as two interminable vignettes in “Amores Perros”). Oh, I forgot one: Totally slept through Chicago- snoring and everything, which I was dragged to by my wife when I just wanted to read comics or go to the zoo- but that was a weekend afternoon and I simply didn’t find myself at all engaged by the picture, so that’s their fault. But hey, that was my time, and this is on HBS’s so I’m scribbling this little reminder for myself up publicly as a reminder and warning not to disgrace the uniform (and what would an HBS uniform look like, I wonder?).

So I went, registered, got my press credentials. Ironically, I’m really not attending all that many press screenings- about two or three actually. Most are mid-day and I just can’t take off work to do it, but I’m seeing a few, and hey, I don’t have to shell out of pocket for public screenings, as long as I stand in the ticket line, which frankly, I was prepared to do anyway. Hell, I was prepared to shell out the $13 bucks per pic ($12 + $1 online/phone processing charge- more than that if you aren't press discounted) as it was, so the general screening rules are more than fair by me.

And that’s it. Walked in, got my stuff, walked out. Painless. The screening library isn’t set up yet (in fact, its mostly a two-floor white room with lots of boxes and files and maybe two computers), but I wasn’t utilizing the library much anyway, preferring to see everything on as large a screen as possible.

But look, I feel like cheating for not even putting up one review despite taking up some feature space, so lo and behold, I found a film short submitted to the festival- its called The Tribe, a short narrative on the history, contributions, and outlooks of the Jewish people with especial focus on American Jewry.

An award winning short film pick at Sundance 2006, The Tribe, by director/producer/co-writer Tiffany Shlain, co-writer Ken Goldberg, narrated by Peter Coyote, is now being offered at Tribeca. Me, I saw it online around Sundance time (it is not available online during its run at Tribeca), but as it’s now counted amongst Tribeca selections, I thought it a perfectly appropriate piece to kick things off…

…And it’s really good. In fact its Worth A Look ***: Short, provocative, clever, it's Jewish history and ideology(ies) through montage and voiceover, smartly centered around fun visuals of the most unlikely of Jewish heroines… Barbie.

Yep. Barbie. Blatantly Aryan, impossibly figured (though lets give Kierra Knightly a hearty hand for trying!), not altogether competent at math, and with that goysche boyfriend, Ken (whom I’ve always thought was a bit of a faegella anyhow). Well, turns out Barbie is indeed a member of… The Tribe.

Barbie’s little known surname is actually, Barbie Handel, brainchild of Ruth Handel a German/American Jew. So what makes this fact relevant, and how is this a turnkey into the intricacies and vagaries of Jewish American culture?

Well, that’s not easily answered, because for a short film, a truly considerable amount of ground is covered, in history, belief, politics, culture, sects, the list goes on, yet the film juggles its many ideas deftly and manages to be succinct, witty and intelligent, providing insight for folks who really have not heretofore grasped the concept of Judaism, and for folks in the tribe themselves like me, who thoroughly enjoyed this bit of constructive deconstruction and commentary on the state of Jews in the world today, both good and bad.

Taking the critic hat off for a sec, I found a great sense of pride in this piece, which (taking the yarmulke off, putting the critic hat back on) deftly navigates the minefield between what could easily explode into veiled religious education and glorified propaganda. I really had to consider that for a bit, but in the end I cannot find any manipulative agenda in this work of introspection and love.

And let's face it. Judaism is rarely considered one of the "sexy" religions. The black hats, gefilte fish, the cccccch sounds, holding up the ordering at the restaurant while you make sure the vodka sauce doesn't have ham in it... Well, quite frankly, this film is really about injecting some pride, excitement, and some modern wonder into the mix by providing meaning to tradition and fervently embracing the very things that set Jews apart; its a celebration.

The Tribe is at all times, sincere yet playful, educational yet joyous, and a helluva lot of good natured fun (bolstered by Coyote’s voiceover work, which is at once dry, yet almost mischievous- he’s having a good time and so are we), easily accessible to any viewer regardless of beliefs. Highly recommended.

At some point, I’ll repost this as a regular review, but like I said, a perfectly good way to start things off.

Back on Monday, where I’m taking in a press screening of Wah-Wah:

WAH-WAH is (Richard) Grant's semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story, told through the eyes of young Ralph Compton (Zachary Fox/Nicholas Hoult). Set during the last gasp of the British Empire in Swaziland, South East Africa, in 1969, WAH-WAH focuses on the dysfunctional Compton family whose gradual disintegration mirrors the end of British rule. After witnessing his mother's (Miranda Richardson) adultery with his father's best friend, Ralph must survive not only boarding school, but his beloved father's (Gabriel Byrne) remarriage to fast-talking American airline stewardess Ruby (Emily Watson)...

Byrne, Richardson… So stoked for this… And not above admitting Grant rocked in “Hudson Hawk.” This then is your guy covering the Tribeca Film Festival, a man who can appreciate “Hudson Hawk.” Still want me holding this press pass?

Don't answer that.

Monday April 24: Screening of Wah-Wah
Read the Review Here:

Would you believe I still don't know how to hide the link inside the word "Here"? Somebody's gotta teach me how to do that one of these days.

Thursday April 27:
Premiere Screening of "I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With"

If my "Wah-Wah" viewing was one end of the spectrum, a nice subdued press screening with about 20 other critics in a nice small viewing room with comfy movie chairs that you could rock back and forth in, then this booger was the polar opposite- and honestly, I didn't realize the viewing I chose was going to be the star-studded premiere- lines, lines, more lines, lots und lotz of people (not my favorite thing), a few acting quite the elitist douchebags, strutting, preening and ostentatiously waving their badges- and sadly, those weren't the celebrities (though I will attest for the record that Sarah Silverman looks every bit as scrumptious in person as she does on screen). They even had a red carpet- hell I thought they were kidding on the invites.

I have a Franklin I-Class Pass, which allows me in to all Press and Industry Screenings, and allows me to enter free of charge at all General Screenings dependent on availability. So in order to save a few bucks, I have to gamble on the screenings not filling up. It was a bit of a wait as the theater had to be filled with all the ticket holders and premium industry and press, which was fine but for the line cutters and the sun beating down. The former I was too tired to sweat after my workday (which thankfully was pretty subdued) and the latter I was only bummed about because it was far too late in the day to expect any tan out of it.

There were some fighting words exchanged in the line between cutter and one cuttee, but nobody ended up making a move, just lots of "fuck you's", "kiss my asses" and a few other unoriginal obscenities. Honestly, with all the cops and security around, probably wouldn't have amounted to much anyway, thought the cutter sure was a braying dick. Three more kids cut right in front of me to hang with their friends, but at this point, I was almost ready to call it a day anyway- either I was going to get in or not, and unless these three represented the last three seats in the theater, I really wasn't in any danger of being bumped, and also, as this is New York, the victim is always at fault anyway. Gotta love this town. Wonder why I ever moved to Westchester...

They let the rabble in (i.e. the folks like me or the ones that wanted to pay the $12 at the door versus the 15-16 online- those handling fees can make for quite an expensive festival) aaaand we were off... or so I thought. Turns out, nobody briefed the box office on how to handle Franklin I-class passes. Now let me make something clear: I don't mind paying for a ticket. I wouldn't have minded not getting in- a shrug, a subway ride, and a metro north hour later and I would have been home to feed the fish play some Xbox and watch the Thursday night lineup (wife's working late tonite).

But they started sending me to several different areas- one regular ticket line which said they didn't know what I qualified as, one American Express sponsorship line who had nothing for me not even a keychain, a line for the film's PR team (why was I sent here?) where a nice looking broad with a smile about as genuine as her tits informed me they could do nothing for me. I went back to the original aide, explained my pass again to her and to three other festival personnel, was sent back to the regular ticket line, then was finally given a ticket when the boss lady of the fest reached over into the ticket box, grabbed one and gave it to me with sincerest apologies. I love a woman who can get things done. All in all, the festival folks were pretty mortified that I had to do the dance of the unwanted, and really appreciative of my patience (I can be very charming under duress).

So I saw the film from an interesting angle to the extreme right of the theater, after being led to the sales line viewing area but guess what? It was so damn good I didn't care- had a great time, and am proud to say that's two for two thus far at the TFF. I'll have the review up tomorrow. The folks sitting directly behind me? The cutters. Dear sweet justice...

My review:

Saturday April 29
Well, out of the three films I was slated to see today, I saw one and could not get into the other two. Here is the review for Full Grown Men

One theater that I was denied at had their act reasonably together, the other didn't and continues to be inept and pretty contemptuous of all the hundreds of people allowed to line the streets wasting time on films they have no chance in hell of seeing. I speak of the 34th Street AMC theater.

There comes a point around the 45 minute mark, where I am certain theaters should have a pretty good indication of how many people are actually getting in. This particular branch is well aware of the number of seats in each of their movie theaters, so at some point, you would think they would coordinate with festival people who could do a quick line head count and tell the unfortunates not to waste another moment, once the ticket holders have been accomodated.

But no- legions of people are left to wait (and it can still get pretty cold outside) until moments before the credits roll, 10, at best 20 are allowed in, and the remaining 50 or so sent packing. But common sense dictates telling that latter 50 that their chances are slim to none much earlier, right? Granted, I suppose folks should have some sense to walk away at a certain point, but really, would it be so hard to save some people a bit of aggravation?

Anyway, I was out of luck, being #12 in line for "Kettle of Fish" (in case you were wondering why I stuck around), and the other film, "I'm Reed Fish", over in Battery Park was clogged with Gilmore Girl fans who didn't even know the name of the film they were in line for, nor the barest info associated with it, only that Alexis Bledel was in it. Good for them.

During my time in the AMC line, I did overhear a particularly interesting discourse between 3 or four teenage females on the proper form for inducing vomitus (turns out just sticking your finger waaay back in your throat doesn't always do the trick, you have to keep your finger straight and tickle and prod the upper back pallette and behind the tonsils. Who knew? Personally, I found their desensitized gag reflex and what they must have put their throats, fingers and high school basketball team's weiners through to get to such a point much more intriguing than the apparent lack of any conversational restraint. Learn something new every day, don'tcha?

Sunday April 30:

As frustrating and mindbending as Saturday was, Sunday was an absolute pleasure. First, the press screening of "Mini's First Time" with no fuss, no muss at the Regal Cinemas I was unable to get into the night before:

Then immediately went to a screening of "The Treatment" a very strong festival entry. This was a bit of a trip back up town, from water's edge by the World Trade Center to 11th street and 3rd avenue around my old NYU stomping grounds, and I must say, this festival is pretty spread out making for some real near misses and some exhaustive dashes between screenings- but it went well, and this film was my favorites thus far:

Monday May 1
Aaand I've found my favorite hands down film of the fest, despite the fest not even being over yet- I just know its not going to be topped: "Close To Home", an Israeli film about two women serving in the IDF. Of course, my enjoyment was marred by the fact that my old friend, the AMC 34th St. fucked around again on the viewing lines, and let us in after the film had started, causing me to miss about two or so minutes of the beginning- ok, did I lose out on the plot, get lost in the detailed story? No of course not. But really, its the fucking Tribeca Film Fest- what happened to old fashioned ettiquite? Hitchcock would shoot these assholes. But like I said, I got in and enjoyed the hell out of this movie:

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originally posted: 04/22/06 06:58:42
last updated: 05/10/06 15:59:02
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