Tribeca 2012: The Twitch Team Raises the Curtain With Our Top 15 Picks

Ben Umstead, East Coast Editor
What time is it, folks? Tribeca time. This evening the 11th annual Tribeca Film Festival opens with a gala screening of The Five-Year Engagement, the latest written-by-and-starring project from Mr. Nick Andopolis himself, Jason Segel (oh, it's also directed by this guy Nicholas Stoller, you might have heard of him). But that is just the tip of the massive post-modernist sculpture that resembles an iceberg. Over the next 12 days Peter Gutierrez, Christopher Bourne, Joshua Chaplinksy and I will be sharing with you a tumult of reviews, news and interviews straight from the streets... well actually theaters...  of New York City. Here's a quick recap of our TFF2012 Preview coverage followed by a few words from Team Twitch NYC. Peter, Chris and I have each picked our Five Most Anticipated Titles and we'll have plenty more coming soon. In the meantime, you can follow all of our exploits on twitter: @TwitchFilm | @BenUmstead | @Peter_Gutierrez | @bournecinema (Christopher Bourne) | @thejamminjabber (Joshua Chaplinsky).

Tribeca 2012 Preview: Galas & Competitions
Tribeca 2012 Preview: Cinemania & Viewpoints
Tribeca 2012 Preview: Spotlight

And now, a few words from some of our contributors and their Five Most Anticipated Titles:

Peter Gutierrez

Something has changed this year compared to the last few fests. Is it that there are new folks involved in the programming? In any case, there have always been some gems in the lineup but so far the 2012 edition has impressed largely because the overall quality level seems to have risen considerably. That is, there seem to be way fewer "indie for indie's sake" and "genre for genre's sake" films included. I've seen 12-15 films so far (with another ten to go once the event actually starts), and even the handful I haven't cared for, I could see someone else really liking. No head-scratchers this year.

SleeplessNightStill.jpgSLEEPLESS NIGHT
I've heard nothing but very good things about this film, including that it's reminiscent of Jean-Pierre Melville's work. Heck, that Sleepless Night might even just rub shoulders with 'ol JP is enough for me. Alternately, one can just say that no one does the existential crime film with the same cerebral-yet-soulful flare as the French, and this looks to be the newest entry in a long and proud tradition.

Jackpot_Photo_by_Fantefilm_Fiksjon_AS_2.jpgJACKPOT
As with the above title, I've heard nothing but praise for this, and I happen to love these playfully convoluted and darkly comic crime thrillers. Granted, there have been a lot of them made in the past fifteen years; probably The Usual Suspects got the ball rolling, with Guy Ritchie kicking things into high gear, but these days such films usually aren't that accomplished or satisfying. I'm banking on director Magnus Martens to buck that trend big time, especially as he's working from a story by Jo Nesbø, and Headhunters is one my favorite flicks of the past year.

replicas_couch_web.jpgREPLICAS
The clips I've seen so far bode quite well for Replicas, which seems to go the unnerving, psychological slow-burn route... until we reach a paroxysm of stay-at-home, middle class violence.  Do I expect Michael Hanneke-caliber work from first-time feature director Jeremy Power Regimbal, as a colleague hinted at? Such expectations would be too much of a burden, I think. But as the force behind The Lab Magazine (which Twitch has a relationship with, by the way), I think it's more than safe to say that this is a man who knows his art, knows his film, and who won't let us down.

bookers_place-1.jpgBOOKER'S PLACE: A MISSISSIPPI STORY
I'm cheating because although I've already seen this, I'm eager to learn of others' reactions given how much I liked it. I guess I'm drawing attention to this title because I could see it getting lost in Tribeca's deep lineup ("Please, not another Civil Rights doc "). But Raymond De Felitta, whose comedy City Island was a welcome TFF discovery back in 2009, proves himself highly versatile, using a lot of creative approaches (e.g., recursive/repetitive footage) in this impressive nonfiction outing. Moreover, Booker's Place doesn't just present the compelling story of an individual who takes a stand, but is about the power and role of the media itself in shaping race relations--a topic that, sadly, is rather timely here in the U.S.

tribeca12_cut.jpgCUT
I love when it Japanese filmmakers make metafilm, since they just seem to have a knack for being so comic or clever or--wait, what's that you say, this isn't really a Japanese film? Well, you'd be right of course because Cut was in fact made by Iranian heavyweight Amir Naderi. More than two decades after the bow of the classic The Runner, I guess it's now fair to ask whether Naderi is "just" a master storyteller or rather a full-on genius. Either way, the audience wins. So with Cut's intriguing cultural blend, and its screening in downtown Manhattan--well, we'll see if film is really so universal a medium after all. My guess is that it is.


Christopher Bourne

This will be my 7th year covering the Tribeca fest, but my first year as part of the Twitch gang.  I've had the opportunity to see quite a few films so far in pre-festival press screenings, and I must say that out of what I've viewed so far, most of them have at least been worth watching, and I've come across a couple of real gems so far.  Out of what I have yet to see, these are particularly noteworthy:

tribeca12_yoursisterssister.jpgYOUR SISTER'S SISTER
I'm a huge fan of director Lynn Shelton and the two previous of films of hers I've seen, My Effortless Brilliance (2008) and Humpday (2009).  Both of these films, especially the latter, explore male friendship and rivalry with often gut-bustingly funny results, making brilliant use of improvisation to achieve these ends.  Her latest film re-teams her with actor/director Mark Duplass (who I'm also a fan of), with the addition of the two fine actresses Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt.

tribeca_12_war-witch.jpgWAR WITCH
Canadian filmmaker Kim Nguyen's film received quite a lot of buzz when it premiered earlier this year at the Berlin International Film Festival, with the young actress Rachel Mwanza, playing a child soldier in an unnamed African country (though the film was shot in the Congo), receiving the best actress award at the festival.  Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, so this seems a pretty good bet.

tribeca_12_rubberneck.jpgRUBBERNECK
Even though Alex Karpovsky has directed three previous features, I'm much more familiar with his work as an actor in such films as Beeswax, Tiny Furniture and another film in the festival this year, Supporting Characters.  He brings a sardonic wit to characters whose self-delusions eventually puncture the self-possessed facades they present to the world.  His latest film, at least according to the fest catalog description, breaks with the comedic bent of his previous acting and directing work to offer a darker, more disturbing story of obsessive infatuation. 

tribeca_12_2_days_in_new_york.jpg2 DAYS IN NEW YORK
I must admit I didn't much care for actress/director Julie Delpy's previous effort 2 Days in Paris, which played Tribeca in 2007.  I felt it pandered to its imagined so-called sophisticated festival audience with stereotypical cheap targets and easy laughs.  Delpy's latest film seems more promising, if only for the addition of Chris Rock, a very funny guy and talented writer/performer whose own films I consider consistently underrated.  Hopefully his considerable talents will counteract Delpy's directorial shortcomings.

tribeca12_thegirl.jpgTHE GIRL
I was quite impressed with David Riker's 1998 New York black-and-white neorealist film La Ciudad, and his latest film (only his second feature), like his first, is also concerned with the plight of immigrants, this time across the Texas-Mexico border.  The presence of actress Abbie Cornish makes this film an even more intriguing prospect.


Ben Umstead

This'll be my third year covering Tribeca for Twitch. As I was all by my lonesome in that first year, and then it being mainly me and Peter huffing it last, I'm most pleased that this year we've got a right proper team of the film reviewing persuasion. If anything, Tribeca in these past years has been a festival that has grown wiser and more adventurous in their film programming choices each time out, and so I hope I can share with you all some of their good stock in the coming days. For now, here are five films that have my fingers crossed.     

tribeca12_jackanddiane.jpgJACK AND DIANE
You may find a lot of hyperbole in these next words, but I find Bradley Rust Gray's The Exploding Girl to be one of the best American films of the aughts. That is why I am near to biting my nails down to stubs in anticipation of seeing his follow-up. Never mind that it's a story about a young romance with dark fairy tale undertones and animation by the Brother's Quay.

tribeca12_resolution.jpgRESOLUTION
Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead's feature debut is one of those titles I want to know as little as possible about before going in (not to say I don't want this with all movies).The trailer, which we premiered last fall (and linked in the title above), gives little away, enticing with a flurry of images that exude backwater paranoia and dread. So for a film that's being described as a complex, transgressive intervention story, well... that's all I need. Also, Peter told me it was quite something. And I very much value Peter's opinion.

tribeca_12_foxes.jpgFOXES
I'm always up for showing some love to short films, and by the looks of the trailer linked above... well... Lorcan Finnigan's Foxes, I could kiss you. The fourth short from this Irish director, the film appears to be a case of suburban melancholia dancing with the unknown, yet magnetic, and of course terrifying, world of nature. Oh, if this film wasn't made with that special Twitch-mentality in mind...
     
tribeca_12_consuming_spirits.jpgCONSUMING SPIRITS
Frame by frame 16mm animation. 15 years in the making. After reading those words I knew my ass would be plopping squarely, and most happily in a seat for a showing of Chris Sullivan's clear labor of love about a midwest newspaper -- a project that Tribeca is comparing to Altman or Cassavetes in tone. Animated Altman or Cassavetes? Woah. Don't be yanking my chain, programmers.   

tribeca12_wavumba.jpgWAVUMBA
Dutch documentarian Jeroen van Velzen takes his cameras to the coast of Kenya, where he meets legendary shark fisherman Masoud. Looking more like a film from Terrence Malick than your average doc (thought to be fair can I really say things like that anymore?); a loving tone poem and intimate culture through character study on this magical shoreline, Wavumba seems like a journey worth taking.

Hope you enjoy our coverage!
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