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Tribeca Film Fest Diary Part II

Tribeca Film Festival 2006
by Marc Kandel

Continuing my coverage of the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival in its second week:

Tuesday May 2
The phones were reasonably quiet at work, allowing me to polish up questions for Wah-Wah director Richard E. Grant tomorrow- this will be my first interview oh… ever, so I’m doing my best not to come off like some damn fool- even got some great questions from others on the site.

After some consideration, I realized taping the interview might be a better idea than scribbling furiously in a notebook leaving me to translate my wretched handwriting or typing away on a borrowed laptop- either method would still have me interrupting the subject to repeat what I couldn’t get on the page fast enough, and frankly, I want to keep it as conversational as possible. I was a little daunted to look into digital recorders and see price tags of $300 or more, but my wife, proving once again what great taste in women I have, went and grabbed one from Circuit City for forty bucks, and it works damn well. Now I just hope I know how to work the thing when its go-time.

At 5pm I headed uptown to 66th street and Broadway to pop in line for Pittsburgh- I got there fairly early, and tooled around Tower Records for 45 minutes or so, but I tellya, between downloading MP3’s and Netflix, that store just doesn’t do so much for me anymore versus the countless hours I would spend wandering the aisles there and in Kim’s Video back in college, which was akin to wandering through halls of treasure; something our instant e-gratification of today has dulled, I suppose. Then again, maybe it also has something to do with the fact that I barely had two nickels to squeeze together back then, as opposed to now where I can plunk down for any number of DVD’s.

Anyway, the 45 minutes I took to wander ended in finding the Pittsburgh line pretty damn long, but this was one I wasn’t about to miss, and by the skin of my teeth, I got in, got a really good seat, and unbeknownst to me, discovered this was actually a night where the directors and Jeff Goldblum were in the audience and would field questions afterward. Bonus. Even better, the film was terrific. Double Bonus.

Afterwards, directors Kyle Labrache, Chris Bradley, and Jeff Goldblum fielded questions, most of which concerned separating fact from fiction. Turns out Goldblum is no longer dating the actress in question that provoked the whole plot, he did indeed perform in this rushed production of “The Music Man”, the director did tear him a new one daily, the reviews were mostly kind but varied, Illeana Douglas did not date Moby but was actually running late the day of shooting their breakup during a parade in New Orleans, and her chasing Moby through the streets pushing aside throngs of people was very real as she was afraid of losing the chance to film the scene. By the way, she was awesome.

For some reason or another, Julia Stiles was there as well with some of her friends (she gave Goldblum a big hug, so I must assume she was there to support her bud). I later had to explain to my wife, who adores her and just about anything she’s in (and yes, she has successfully made me a fan of “10 Things I Hate About You” which I do find an entertaining and funny Shakespeare update), that I could not, as much as I love her, get Julia’s autograph for her. I gave her several reasons, all valid in my opinion:

1. People who ask for autographs are assholes.
2. People who ask for autographs are assholes.
3. People who ask for autographs are assholes.

She didn’t like those reasons. I gave her some new ones:

1. I was there on business, namely to review the film for this site- granted, nobody’s paying me, and its not like I had to wear my badge while I was doing it, buuuut any bit of professionalism I can muster, even in my own head…

2. The girl was there with a bunch of friends, to see a movie. In other words, she was distinctly there as an audience member, not a celebrity. Now why would I bug her on a night off, call attention to her, and probably start an avalanche of similar requests when all she’s doing is trying to sit back and enjoy a flick with her buddies, to say nothing of stealing her friend’s thunder on his big night? Rude. Won’t do it.

3. My wife is asking me to approach a gaggle of whispering, giggling, reasonably nice looking chicks and asking one for something. This immediately resulted in some high school flashbacks, which for me or just about anyone, is never a good thing. Does anyone remember trying to approach one girl in a crowd of many whilst they are engaged in whatever it is groups like this talk about? Hell no. Absolutely not. There’s not much I won’t do for my gal, but this one wasn’t gonna happen. My ears burned with just the thought of it.

4. People who ask for autographs are assholes.

This list went over a lot better. I did feel bad I couldn’t do this thing for her, but hell, I even explained that had I actually gone over and gotten her to sign some piece of paper, what good would it do? It wasn’t her headshot or a script, or a dvd of something she was in, it would have been a scribble on notebook paper, bereft of any professional or personal context. What’s the point? Plus, I’d just gotten off of work, stood in a long line, hadn’t shaved, wasn’t exactly dressed to the nines, and hell, when you are with me, Every Day is Valentine’s Day, so who needs some broad’s autograph when you are living in the Paradise that is life with me?

Wednesday May 3
When it rains…upon getting home last night I had a call and a script waiting for me from a pal I do the occasional voiceover for, who wanted me in at 10am this morning to do about six or so voices for an animated short on theater etiquette for another film festival. Some good money for an hour of pretty easy work, so what the hell- the trick then is getting as much done as possible at my regular job from 8:30-9:30 getting to the voiceover, keeping the session down to the hour exactly, getting back to work from 11:40 or so until 12:30 and then getting my butt to the Richard Grant interview.

And everything went fine right up to getting to the interview- the clients liked all the voices I put in save for one girl’s voice that I just couldn’t go high enough for, which was okay, they wanted to save some coin by only hiring one actor, but look, I ain’t a chick. Work was fine with my erratic morning schedule, and then, upon getting to the subway, New York City did its famous trick of throwing a little “fuck you” into one’s day- the ol’ sick passenger on the subway.

If there is one thing about New York anyone should realize, it is that no matter how prepared or insulated you think you are, this city will find a way to suck more cash out of you and inconvenience you whenever possible, and always at the worst moment. Now I don’t want to seem unsympathetic, but you see enough of these, get held up enough, you do get somewhat desensitized, or at least wonder why the police and subway staff would not remove someone from the train at the point where its not a spinal injury or gunshot wound- as far as I could tell, the person was nauseous or something. Hell, I don’t know and never will, but point is, the train was staying in the station and going nowhere soon whilst subway workers and medics were pretty much just standing around, and this was not a meeting I could afford to fuck up. I despise being late.

So I ran upstairs, scrambled around Wall Street to find an ATM, took out cash, miracle of miracles, found a vacant cab, and enjoyed a lurching, staggered carnival ride through midday traffic to the space the festival was using to conduct interviews, getting through the doorway with about a minute to spare. Having done without a car for so long, a backseat cab ride is not a big thrill for me- so I was not feeling up to par, and it was a hot enough day to have broken a sweat with all my frantic running around. Luckily, Richard was still in the midst of the interview prior to mine, so I had adequate time to towel off and stop for a breath of air.

And thank God, the interview went just fine. I managed to find the right combination of buttons to press on the recorder, didn’t erase anything, and Richard was as accommodating and friendly as one could hope for. Here’s the interview, which is a word for word transcript of the recording:

Afterwards, the PR firm representative for Wah-Wah was kind enough to offer an email interview with Nicholas Hoult, one of the film’s leads, which I immediately took:
The Hoult interview is pretty brief consisting of some quick responses to forwarded questions, but hey, what are you gonna do? I pressed for interviews with Gabriel Byrne, Miranda Richardson and Emily Watson, and was told that both Watson and Richardson are unavailable due to filming commitments, and Byrne is Press-Shy. But I hardly came home empty-handed, so I’m gonna chalk these up in the “win” column. I’d be most interested to ask Byrne about “Excalibur”, as its one of my top ten favorite films. Then I’d only have to think about what I wanted to ask about it.

I also walked out of a screening today, as my patience threshold was reached. My ancient enemy, the 34th Street AMC once again displayed a wealth of ineptitude in managing the crowds, and after an hour wait for “Keeping Up with the Steins” I was ushered into the theater and given a seat in the very front row, which could not have been closer to the screen. If I stuck my tongue out, I’d probably lick the characters. Who designs these theaters? I’ve sat close to the screen before, but this was a physical impossibility. It’s maybe 3-5 feet from edge of seat to screen, which isn’t all that much when dealing with a large, high screen.

I might have stuck with it, but then the theater added insult to injury by opening up a previously reserved row to the group of fifteen that was let in behind my group- there was a dash to the seats which I could not bring myself to dignify, and then, taking stock of my incredibly busy day up until now, the thought of my wife and a new episode of “Lost” at home, the hour train ride it would take to get there, and the nagging thought that in my present state of frustration and exhaustion there was no way I was going to give this film the fair shake it deserved, particularly since I would need to distend my head to perceive anything more than a five foot radius of overall screen, I stood up and headed out before it began. So I didn’t keep up with the Steins. Sorry. “Lost” was good though, and my fish tank looks awesome after I spent some time that night rearranging the flora. My wife says hi. Fuck you AMC.

Thursday May 4
Today was the only day I actually took off from work early to catch a screening, as this was one of my “do not miss” viewings. The film is “Color Me Kubrick” a look at the life of a man who spent the last decade of Kubrick’s life (and, as it turns out, his own) racking up an amazing amount of free booze, food, 4-star hotel stays, and fellatio by passing himself off as Stanley Kubrick utilizing an astonishingly miniscule amount of knowledge about the very man he was impersonating. The director got up and very briefly introduced the film, but honestly I can’t remember anything of note that he said- mostly it was regarding how they never really got to know the man, and that the film is a fictional recreation of his exploits.

Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed with the movie, as the premise was much more promising than the final product, which ended up being a shallow day in the life rather than a character portrait of a man driven to take advantage of a culture’s preoccupation with celebrity for petty gain:

Friday May 5
This was a disappointing day as I was unable to get into a viewing of perhaps the most intriguing of the festival’s documentary offerings, “The Bridge”, a piece which promised some fascinating visuals and exploration, as a camera crew filmed the Golden Gate Bridge for a year, documenting an alarming number of suicides and actually preventing one, filled in with interviews with families of the jumpers.

I had known that the Golden Gate was the number one spot in the world for suicides. There had been a feature story back in October 2003 in The New Yorker detailing the history of the bridge and its suicides. Not only had the managed to document some truly fascinating facts such as what happens when a body hits the water, but they had even found a few of the 25 survivors of the jump and had gotten quotes, one which is just about one of the best statements against suicide I have ever read both in the truth of the situation, and to be frank, the humor inherent:
“I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped.”—Adam Baldwin, Golden Gate jump survivor, in JUMPERS: The fatal grandeur of the Golden Gate Bridge, from the October 13th issue of The New Yorker, written by Tad Friend.

Unfortunately, there are considerable numbers of New Yorkers out there who share my morbid fascination, and they stretched half a block down from the theater by the time I was able to get there from work. Easily the longest line I’ve stood in to get into any viewing at the fest, there was just no chance. But a film like this, with the buzz it’s garnering, well, I’m sure I’ll get another crack at it at some point. Just not this festival, I’m sorry to say. So in recompense for all the interest these paragraphs have stirred up, here is the link to the New Yorker story, if you are interested- it's a great read:

Saturday May 6

Sorry folks, got nothin’ for ya. It’s been an exhaustive week, and circumstances had me miss the train into the city for the collection of film shorts I was to see this afternoon, along with a documentary. After a long work week + films, well, frankly I’m not too upset. Promise I’ll round up a bunch tomorrow for you. Apologies.

Sunday May 7

The final day of the festival, and honestly, this is probably what it should have been all along; a textbook example of an ideal screening day. First up, my press screening of Mentor, which despite a premise that veered dangerously into Lifetime or worse, erotic thriller turf, kept its head above water and finished as a very entertaining outing:

I saw it at my hated adversary the AMC 34th, and for the first time, got in and seated without incident. Upon film’s end, I chatted up the writer William Whitehurst briefly, congratulating him and director David Carl Lang on sidestepping the chest thumping and hair pulling melodramatics that might have been, and asked them about the genesis of the film. The answer was not altogether specific to the question, which was meant from a story perspective, and answered more on the production process side, mostly about bouncing the idea around town and finally picking up the funding after signing Rutger Hauer. But he had a cool anecdote about how they got Hauer on the project. In the process of waiting for that meeting to be set up, William actually bumped into the man himself at a coffee shop, where he personally got a copy of the script to him, returned with an agreement to do the film- what are the odds?

Upon leaving the screening, I saw that my next film was right across the hall, a collection of short films. At this point, rather than going out and standing in line to get right back in, I decided it was time for some passive payback, and simply walked into that theater, grabbed a seat and set up shop. One of the festival folks asked if I was there for the screening to which I replied in the affirmative, he popped me on the seat count list, and that was that. I read a comic book for about thirty minutes alone in the theater (She Hulk if you must know), and then took in the show, having to duck out right after the sixth film on the seven film list in order to grab a subway to 14th street and run from 7th to 3rd Avenue for my final screening (and damn did I make good time). So here’s the lowdown on the short film collection: Contents Under Pressure:

Who Cares How Long the Batteries Last? Dir: Gustavo Rondon Cordova, Venezuela 2005, 10 minutes **- a loud, obnoxious film about a man hearing cries from a sewer grate culminating in a media circus and a robbery- it's a “twist” story, and I’ve just given you all the clues you’ll ever need- needless to say, it didn’t take to look to figure out. I believe the film’s claim to fame is that it was part of a contest to put together a film shot in 48 hours or something like that- in those terms, it's a cohesive little story that makes its point, but from an entertainment standpoint, its obvious that somebody got whacked with the Tarantino Homage Stick, with out of sequence storytelling, random “in-joke” flashbacks that add no insight to the characters or story, and a sound system that needs its special 11 notch turned to a less invasive setting.

Under the Rubble Dir: Carlos Davila Yeo, 2005, 11 minutes ****- An intense fly on the wall view of the destructive power of an earthquake and its terrifying aftermath as two men are buried in their apartment building. Within a short amount of time we see characters with plans, with lives beset by horror and terrible uncertainty as their world literally tumbles down around them and we are with them through their claustrophobic imprisonment under tons of earth and concrete. Stunning and economic, we are given brief character portraits, frightening, effective disaster that does not require a multimillion dollar budget, just filmmaking skill, and excellent performance of quiet despair and tenacity.

Today 30 November Directed by Mahmood Soliman, Egypt, 2005, 20 minutes * A 20 feel every minute mess leaving the viewer with no idea what the fuck just happened, “Today…” is the type of foreign film that people who don’t like foreign films picture when faced with the prospect of seeing one; tedious, incoherent, puzzling, pretentious, and just flat out fucking boring. A man plans his suicide every November 30, but gets sidetracked from his goal for one reason or another. He gives his apartment to a young couple, talks with a guy who explains why he can’t dump him in the river due to increased police presence, and stares at the mirror… I can’t even remember the rest. Lots of street shots of Egypt… Really, it’s totally left me and if it comes knocking again I’m answering the door with a shotgun.

The Debt Dir: Levan Koguashvili, USA 2005, 15 min *** A grainy, but interesting look at the lives of Georgian immigrants and their plights as day-laborers in Brooklyn, haggling for pay on manual labor, dodging police, and trying to survive as illegals with no source of regular income. Two men whose under-the-table employer has avoided paying them for a job are faced with a moral dilemma when, encountering the man, he passes out leaving them with the decision to get him help or take what is owed them and leave him for dead. You can feel the winter cold of the streets through the screen and the desperate day-to-day lives of this underground society is well captured in this slice of a different kind of life short which outstays its welcome perhaps by two minutes, but is nonetheless noteworthy.

Walk on a Little More Dir: Minyoung Shim, South Korea, 15 min *** A young woman overwhelmed by responsibility considers abandoning her children as they travel to her mother-in-law. The kids are handled well, trying to find fun even in the most unwelcome places such as the various bus depots they pass through, unconditionally loving their mother, frightened of the coldness and desperation in her demeanor, and the mother herself is convincing as a woman who cannot take the pressures of her life and searches for an easy out. We’ve seen the premise before, but in the short time we have with this family, the tale is told well, the constant needs of the children and the mother’s conflicted, stomach churning decisions written on their faces and in every gesture. There are the long, pregnant moments of silence with the howling wind that I’ve found in Asian cinema before with varying results, but a nice ending and natural performances go a long way.

The Shovel Dir: Nick Childs, USA 2005, 15 min **** The only film sporting mainstream actors an American filmgoer would recognize, David Strathairn (Good Night and Good Luck) plays Paul Mullin, a man who hears sounds coming from his neighbor’s yard late one night. Upon investigating, Paul finds his neighbor distraught and irritable, feverishly digging a deep hole in his yard, claiming his dog has died, though a dog can be heard from within his home. His neighbor responds to Paul’s questions, first curtly and with growing fury until finally Paul is threatened with bodily harm unless he leaves the man about his business (Paul’s main observation is that it is his shovel being used for this project, and he wonders when he will get it back). The next morning, Paul awakes to find the shovel neatly placed by his door, and the hole filled in, with no sign of his neighbor. After a brief time, Paul alerts the authorities fearing something is going on, and they respond, digging up the earth. What they find, what Paul finds himself unwillingly involved in as a sudden suspect leaves him with a growing horror that perhaps some things should be left undisturbed. A very entertaining mystery with some Hitchcock-stylings and some spot on performances from Strathairn and Co finished this six pack of shorts off very, very nicely, and satisfied, I crept out at the credits, as staying for the final short would result in my missing the last film in my Tribeca calendar.

And I made it to the 3rd Avenue 11th Street theater with moments to spare- skipping the line, as I had been assured by not one, but two reps from the PR Agency that I was on the list for press tickets, I walked in, only to discover that no such list existed. I suddenly realized that I was in the midst of a horrific cliche, that of the infamous "list" that one is supposed to be on. Ugh, not only a cliche, but one that hasn't been amusing since... well its never been amusing. Its the crutch of shitty party films and long dead, bleached remnants of rock and roll videos. And yet here I was, claiming to be on the "list". Fuck. The ignominity of it all. That it should come to this.

Fortunately, one of the Tribeca staff directed me over to a gentleman who was sporting a "Flock of Dodos" badge. He asked me what the problem was and I explained my dilemma, ears flaming red over this humiliation, but composed to the last. He asked who I was there for, I showed him my E-Filmcritic badge, and he said "what the hell, its the last day" and handed me a ticket. Un.Be.Lieveable.

First up was a quick short from Germany called

Garden of Eden Revisited Dir: Titia Rieter, 2005, 10 minutes ***: A cute little look at an imperfect creator, a rebellious, horny yet innocent Eve, and a companion made for her that doesn't quite pass muster. Eve, observing every other animal in the garden copulation furiously, demands God, a put-upon, doddering, yet kind farmer whip her up a mate. Promising to do his best, the companion he creates... comes up a bit short. But love prevails in the end, and the short was a nice, appropriate appetizer to the main event.

Then Randy Olson, director of Flock of Dodos: The Evolution/Intelligent Design Circus came out and introduced his baby. And damn if the film didn't kick the ass it promised to.

Flock of Dodos is a fantastic documentary that actually did its job as a documentary with a minimum of judgement and a maximum emphasis on letting the facts speak for themselves. Great capper to a fun fest. And the gentleman who provided the ticket? Executive Producer Steven Miller. Man. That's class. I couldn't stick around for the discussion afterwards, but as I got to the door, I was able to thank Steve for his kindness, and let him know that the film was a winner as far as I was concerned, and something I'd have up on our site asap. And so I did:

And that's it. Done bun can't be undone. And out of the 35 some odd films I had hoped to cover, a meager 12 + 7 shorts ended up on my plate. But it was a helluva experience, got me popping more reviews up in a scant few days than I have posted in years writing for this site, and a really productive interview with a guy whose work I respect both in front and behind the camera.

Much thanks to Erik Childress for entrusting me with the responsibility of representing HBS and facilitating my coverage of the Festival. Thanks to MP Bartley for contributions to my interview questions. And lastly thanks everyone for your kind attention. See you next year.

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originally posted: 05/20/06 06:54:36
last updated: 06/08/06 05:47:48
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