TFF 2016: Murder, Madonna Dying Parlors and More

The overall theme for the 2016 Tribeca Fim Festival was a little more serious this year in tone and in film selections/screenings.  From the Opening Night film “The First Monday In May” to the tribute of Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” to the Closing night film “The Bomb” the films were mostly thought provoking and emotional.

Here is my take on a few films that I happen to squeeze in:

STARRING AUSTIN PENDLETON

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I was intrigues to find out who the actor was that has earned the respect of such peers as Meryl Streep, Ethan Hawke, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and many many more.  What I discovered is that I actually know who Austin Pendleton was, but he is such a chameleon of an actor that I didn’t realize it.  For those of  you who are reading and wondering who I am talking about, if you have ever seen “My Cousin Vinny”, Austin turns in a performance as a stuttering lawyer that will leave you in stitches.  That’s only ONE of his films!!!!

When I asked him about that film he told me that he took that particular role as favor to a friend and joked that as a real life stutterer, it is ironic that he recognized for that role more so than any other.  Ironic…isn’t it?  Like fellow thespian James Earl Jones, he began acting to hide his stuttering.

Touted as the “the most famous actor you’ve never heard of”, this entertaining do has Austin reflected on his career while his A-list peers discuss what it’s like to be an original in a celebrity obsessed, social media driven world of entertainment.  When I asked Austin about his social media presence he jokingly remarked, “If I have a Twitter account…I don’t know about it”.

 

STRIKE A POSE

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Honey, who can forget that “Vogue” video by Madonna?  It’s iconic and whenever someone says “Strike A Pose”, you can’t help but hit one and think of homegirl and that famous “Truth or Dare” movie.

Well, Directors Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan didn’t forget how to strike a pose and the lasting impression inspired them to seek out Madonna’s infamous dancers and find out what they are up to now.  Kevin Stea, Oilver Crumes III, Carlton Wilborn, Jose Guiterrez, Luis Camacho, Sue Trupin and Salim Gauwloos lives were changed by the “Blonde Ambition” tour and its accompanying “Truth or Dare” documentary.

 

THE FAMILY FANG

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How does one move on being the center of a performance artist group with your parents?  Caleb (Christopher Walken) and Camille Fang (Maryann Plunkett) are celebrated and controversial performance artists whose work revolved around staging elaborate scenes with innocent bystanders featuring their young children.  As they age, their work starts to suffer, so when they go missing under mysterious circumstances, their children set out to discover their whereabouts.

Annie (Nicole Kidman) is convinced her parents have staged another performance piece and Baxter (Jason Bateman) is worried that the worst has occurred.  Bateman, in his follow up directorial debut of “Bad Words” does a spectacular job of telling the story of a dysfunctional family with humor and realism that makes The Family Fang very enjoyable to watch.

 

A KIND OF MURDER

Being a huge Hitchcock and Patricia Highsmith (“Carol”) fan, this film was on my radar from day one and it did not disappoint.  Based on Highsmith’s 1960 thriller (“The Blunderer”), investigates how quick one is jump to conclusions of guilt or innocence.  Architect Walter Stackhouse and his wife Clara have a troubled marriage, but is it troubled enough for Walter to commit murder?  On the other side of town Kimball is accused of murdering his wife and regularly harrassed by the cops.  Did he or didn’t he do it? Susan Boyd does a spectacular job of weaving that edge of your seat Hitchcock style with the brilliant story telling of Patricia Highsmith into a  fascinating game of cat and mouse.

On the carpet, I asked Susan (hypothetically, of course) what her method of murder would be and this is what she had to say…

CHILDREN OF THE MOUNTAIN

This film won the Jury Award at Tribeca and deservedly so.  It had me in the ugly cry and mo beyond words or tears.  Check out the review and click  below

TFF 2016: CHILDREN of the MOUNTAIN

 

I also had the opportunity to watch several shorts and docs.  My favorite doc was Southwest of Salem and favorite shows were You Can Go and Mildred & The Dying Parlor

SOUTHWEST OF SALEM

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Directed by Deborah S. Esquenazi, “Southwest of Salem” explores the case of what would known as the San Antonio Four.  In 1994 four women were accused, tried and convicted of assaulting two young girls.  Twenty years later these women maintain their innocence, citing that the accusations against them were fabricated and were perpetrated from the homophobic prejudice surrounding lesbians and that lifestyle leading to covens, cults and child abuse.

It is heartbreaking to watch this women railroaded, much like the subject of the Netflix series “The Making of a Murderer”.  It tore several families apart and ruining some relationships beyond repair.

Not having seen the film when I spoke to the ladies and while offering congrats on they release, they were quick to remind me that, “it’s not over yet…we could still go back to prison”.  Let’s hope not, so that these beautiful women and get on with the little bit of life they have left to enjoy.

 

YOU CAN GO

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Gun violence in this county is a real problem. It has made Americans paranoid to attend a large film opening, send their kids to school or even big outside in a big crowd.  Directed by Christine Turner, we watch  in horror as a high school administrator (S. Epatha Merkerson) talks down a troubled student (Charlie Tahan).  Upon first glance, I thought this was a film about a guidance session with a student brought in for counseling.  It wasn’t until I heard a gun cocked that I realized this was a hostage situation of an administrator versus a student.

S. Epatha is a master at establishing a calm presence in the most dire of circumstances on screen and this performance is no different.  However, Charile Tahan effectively conveys the confusion, hurt and overall emotional merry-go-round a student experiences in this stressful situation that can ultimately effect his life and anyone he may come in contact with.

This is a film that should be shown on a grand level.  If nothing else, but to  let those students contemplating such a horrible act see how lives can be affected in an instant.

 

MILDRED AND THE DYING PARLOR

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Who doesn’t love a good fairy tale?  Alex Gaynor very slickly take Little Red Riding Hood and turns the fable into a narrative taking place in a dying parlor (which is exactly what you think that means).  Starring Zosia Mamet,  Jane Krakowski, Steve Buscemi and Evan Jonnigkeit, one who enjoys a dark twisted version of the famous fable will get a kick out of this one.

 

 

 

 

 

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