Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tribeca Report No. 3

Day three at Tribeca was a little more subdued for me; the last two days, there was at least one movie that knocked my damned socks off, and there wasn’t one today. What I got was two films that I liked a lot, and two duds. The weakest picture of the day was one of the ones I was most anticipating: Ed Burns’ Nice Guy Johnny, a flaccid and clunky coming-of-age romantic comedy/drama. It has all of the same problems as his early films, but they’re less forgivable now, because he’s not a novice anymore. Performances are wildly uneven (leading man Matt Bush looks about 12 years old and isn’t convincing for a moment) and the writing and direction are mostly pedestrian. It has one redeeming factor though: leading lady Kerry Bishé, who’s gonna be a star as soon as she can pull better scripts than this one.

The documentary Feathered Cocaine operates at a peculiar junction of fact, advocacy, and outrageous conspiracy theory; suffice it to say, it’s not a smooth mixture. It starts as a biographical portrait of Alan Howell Parrot, one of the world’s foremost falconers, and his crusade to end falcon smuggling, but along the way, it gets sidetracked and becomes a thin, illogical attempt at political exposé, and it sounds less like fact and more like tinfoil-hat stuff the more you think about it.

I was a bigger fan of Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist’s The Two Escobars, an ambitious dual biography of Colombian footballer Andrés Escobar and Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar which will later appear as part of ESPN’s wonderful “30 for 30” series. The Zimbalist brothers have found a way to mate two of our most cinematic documentary subjects—sport and crime—and they get every ounce of vigor out of them that they can. The film is masterfully edited, full of tight, razor-sharp montage cutting and breakneck narrative; it just plain moves, knocking back and forth between the two men’s intersecting stories, from the lightness of power and fame to the darkness of disgrace and death.

The one to look out for is Paul Fraser’s My Brothers, a quiet, melancholy little picture about three brothers preparing for their father’s death. I have no idea how personal the tale is for screenwriter Will Collins (or director Fraser), but it feels personal, which is more important anyway. It knows these relationships inside out, and brings them to gentle life. It’s is a sentimental tale, and the subject matter is emotionally charged. But they don’t overdo it; there’s an admirable elegance to the film’s simplicity and restraint.

On tomorrow’s menu: two more documentaries (Vidal Sassoon: The Movie and Sons of Perdition) and Monogamy, starring Chris Messina and Rashida Jones and directed by Dana Adam Shapiro, who helmed Murderball.

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