Tribeca ’18 Roundup

As the Tribeca Film Festival comes to an end, here’s my take on a few films I was fortunate enough to see. And since it was the first major festival I’ve covered, it shouldn’t be surprising that I was constantly in an “OMG this is really happening! Where am I?” mental state. So, to keep you all up-to-date on the experience, I offered some insight into my scatter brain throughout the festival.

mary-shelley-tiff-2
‘Mary Shelley’ © Focus Features

‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’

What a great start to my festival coverage! After receiving outstanding reception at Sundance, Desiree Akhavan’s latest film shot to the top of my Tribeca list. Thankfully, it didn’t disappoint. For a film about a teenage girl sent to a gay conversion camp, it is unexpectedly funny and shockingly devastating. Chloe Grace Moretz’s performance in the titular role, though at times subtle, shines throughout. Her supporting cast members, like Forrest Goodluck and Emily Skeggs, are still able to have their numerous moments as they excel in their roles. While the film could have benefited from going deeper into Sasha Lane’s character, Akhavan does a standup job.

‘Song of Back and Neck’

By the title itself, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the title’s premise turned out to be the most interesting aspect of the film. Produced, directed, and starring Paul Lieberstein, the film follows the somber Fred as he attempts to treat his debilitating back and neck pain with strange methods. Fred soon becomes a music instrument as his back makes the chiropractic needles vibrate in a melodic symphony. Coincidentally, I saw this film at the same time as I was on my fourth rewatch of ‘The Office’ (U.S.) and enjoying my daily dose of Lieberstein’s character Toby’s pitifulness. Lieberstein’s character in his directorial debut isn’t far off from his beloved sitcom character and is the film’s heart and comedic source. It’s difficult not to laugh when Dr. Kuhang (Raymond Ma) brings his musician son to Fred’s appointment for a jam session with his patient’s back. The stunning melody his back creates adds a bright side to his immense pain and further intrigue to the story. Unfortunately, the intrigue stops there. Many interesting ideas fall short and I was left feeling unpleasantly bored.

‘Woman Walks Ahead’

I’ve come to expect greatness whenever I see the A24 title sequence at the beginning of a film and ‘Woman Walks Ahead’ is no different. Directed by Susanna White, the Jessica Chastain-starring film tells the true story of Catherine Weldon, who traveled from New York to Dakota in the 1890s to paint a portrait of Sioux Chief Sitting Bull, and the subsequent complications that come with her arrival. The film could have easily become a white savior tale, however, it thoughtfully allows the Native people to tell their own story as Chastain’s character is used, simply, as an entrance into their world. While the title suggests that Weldon is the story’s sole focus, it becomes apparent that it is equally about Sitting Bull (effortlessly played by Michael Greyeyes) who is struggling to find the best way to lead his people. And, man, was this movie stunning.

‘Mary Shelley’

Elle Fanning serves an amazing performance as the young author who is credited for founding the horror novel genre, but she’s the only memorable part of the film. While I am unfamiliar with Shelley’s story, other than authoring ‘Frankenstein’, many aspects of the film seemed pointless by the end, like Tom Sturridge’s Lord Byron and the film’s short time in Scotland. This is a perfect example of a film that starts strong, but is diluted by the end of its two-hour run.

‘Duck Butter’

I decided against looking up the definition of “duck butter” before the screening and I stand by my decision as the description of the film is not nearly as horrifying as the urban dictionary definition. The film, co-written by Miguel Arteta and star Alia Shawkat, enters the 24-hours Naima and Sergio (Laia Costa) spend together, getting to know each other, and having sex every hour. It’s a provocative idea, in theory, to watch two strangers lock themselves inside as it skips the tedious parts of dating. Unfortunately, the repetition the experiment requires lacks much plot. So, mid-way through the hour and a half runtime, I grew tired of the only two characters we see for 95% of the film (even though it may imply that the audience should only be annoyed with Sergio’s antics). Despite all that, this character-driven film delivers impressive performances from Shawkat and Costa.

Sydney’s Tribeca 2018 Journal

Day 1:

1. (Walking into the Tribeca Hub) OMG WAS THAT PAUL DANO?

2. (After security guard puts badge around my neck) DUH, SYDNEY!

3. (In lounge) Why is everyone on their computers? Should I be doing something?

4. *Opens computer to look professional but really just messaging the Much Ado crew*

5. Okay, I need to talk to someone.

6. This woman is so nice and helpful! Yay to being social!

7. Wait, but was that really Paul Dano?

8. Okay, I need to leave before I miss my first screening.

9. (Waiting in line outside for screening) WTF, it’s freezing! I’m done with this crap.

10. I wonder if people from Film Twitter are here.

11. I’m a master at seat selection, wow.

12. I’m gonna need to get one of these cute tote bags I see people with.

13. Did I even see Paul Dano? I’m losing my mind!

14. Charlize Theron is incredible.

15. Thank you, Diablo Cody.

16. Jason Reitman seems so cool!

17. But seriously, am I losing it? I won’t find peace until someone confirms that Paul Dano was at Tribeca.

Day 2:

1. IS THAT MORGAN FROM FILM TWITTER?

2. Should I look at the urban dictionary definition of Duck Butter before the movie?

3. No.

4. I think that was Morgan!

5. Thank goodness I didn’t look at the definition before.

6. But, was that really her?

7. So that’s what duck butter means! Oh…

8. (After 3rd film in 12 hours) I’m going to sleep.

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