Welcome back to Tribeca, folks; what that means for you is that there's two weeks to catch over 150 films; what that means for me is that I've got eight days to see over twenty-five movies. For those of you who don't know what Tribeca is, it's the ever-expanding film festival centered in New York that is now in its sixth year. This year brings back the popular Narrative and Documentary competitions from across the world, as well as the Spotlight performances that feature notable actors and directors doing smaller (but in no way less important) works, and the fantastic Discover films that are either new approaches to film or first-time forays by directors. Those of you who want to see what's most talked about can head to the Showcase to see films previously screened to critical acclaim at festivals around the world, or go to the Encounters series to see the films that may become the next festival's showcase. Those of you who just want something different, perverse, and hopefully fun, can head to the Midnight block of films. There are Shorts and Family plans -- this year, there's even the involvement of ESPN to bring some sports centered works into the spotlight.
You can buy tickets and plan your marathon of filmgoing up on the Tribeca website, and I strongly recommend trying something like the Daytimer pass (access to all screenings before 6:00) to get in -- just remember to show up a little earlier for the big-name films (or the big-buzz ones) as a lot of these get overbooked by pass holders, industry insiders, and the occasional entourage. There are talkbacks at many screenings, not to mention plenty of faux red carpets (and some big ones, like the premiers of Lucky You and Spider-Man 3), so start the planning now. Here's my guide to the big show.
- THE AIR I BREATHE is going to be the sleeper hit of this festival; an unknown director has written a story based on a Chinese proverb and will be playing with Forest Whitaker, Kevin Bacon, Bredan Fraser, Andy Garcia, and Sarah Michelle Geller in an fractured tale about the essentials of our life. Struggling with corruption makes for good film, no?
- THE GRAND is another film with high-expectations. The first mockumentary to nail the poker circuit (not counting Bravo's real-life Celebrity Poker) not only has Woody Harrelson returning to the comedy he perfected in Kingpin, but also has plenty of cameos from people like David Cross all the way to Werner Herzog.
- WATCHING THE DETECTIVES stars Cillian Murphy, whose selection of starring roles makes it easy for a critic to simply follow along blindly. Given that it's also a mockery of noir films -- all about a guy who is obsessed with the genre, until walking into it himself -- I don't see how this can be anything less than brilliant.
- TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE is a documentary from the people who brought us Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, but it's also a mystery that aims to reveal what's really going on with the torture policy of the US.
- TWO EMBRACES could be Mexico's next Amores Perros, but even if it's not, it's sure to be a heartbreaking work that looks at people forced to suddenly fend for themselves in an often unforgiving world.
- MULBERRY STREET puts half-rat half-zombies monsters in Manhattan's historic Lower East Side. BLACK SHEEP puts mutant sheep on the attack in New Zealand. Risky premises, but with horror flicks, that's also the potential for huge cult value, and I can't resist either, especially after Snakes on a Plane bombed.
- THE OPTIMISTS is an episodic film that deals with illusory visions by its characters. At the least, expect to seem some breathtaking cinematography, at the worst, expect to be confused. See also the works of TAXIDERMIA and TIMES AND WINDS, both of which are foreign films (Austria, Turkey) that are pushing the envelope of storytelling.
- GARDENER OF EDEN is Kevin Connolly's first full-length film, and it's not a comedy. That may hurt him more than it helps, but he's got some serious material to work through, involving the accidental capture of a serial rapist and the questions that raises. Look for Giovanni Ribisi to surprise us all in this film; let's hope for Connolly to do the same.
- Also, be sure to check out the documentaries BOMB IT, PLANET B-BOY, DOUBLETIME, and KING OF KONG. If last year's Air Guitar Nation has revealed anything, it's that our odd little cultural pasttimes produce the best characters: so graffiti artists, serious breakdancers, hardcore Double Dutch activists, and Donkey Kong enthusiasts should hook us all in.