10 films to see at the Tribeca Film Festival

Justin Peck observes his dancers in the New York City Ballet doc "Ballet 422." Credit: Ballet 422/New York City Ballet
Justin Peck observes his dancers in the New York City Ballet doc “Ballet 422.”
Credit: Ballet 422/New York City Ballet

Like every year, there’s gobs up for grabs at the 2014 iteration of the Tribeca Film Festival. Here are some we can assure you are good, or at least of debatable quality.

‘Ballet 422’
Ballet is traditionally depicted as a hotbed for outsized egos and shattered psyches. One of the most shocking things about Jody Lee Lipes’ documentary about the New York City Ballet is how non-shocking it is. The “star” is Justin Peck, a 25-year-old member who goes from the lowest rank to choreographing the company’s 422nd work. Lipes is a star cinematographer — he’s lensed “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “Girls” — but he mostly stays loose and fly-on-the-wall. He borrows a touch from Frederick Wiseman, showing how an organization works. But where Wiseman’s films on the arts are about the financial side as well as the artistic, Lipes sticks with the latter. He painstakingly shows how much work goes into what amounts to relatively brief performance. Everyone, most of all Peck, stays calm; all the turmoil is trapped inside the constantly moving bodies.

Designer Raf Simons gets profiled in the fashion doc "Dior and I." Credit: Tribeca
Designer Raf Simons gets profiled in the fashion doc “Dior and I.”
Credit: Tribeca

‘Dior and I’
Like “Ballet 422,” “Dior and I” is a film about process. The focus is the arrival of Raf Simons as the new creative director at Christian Dior. The Belgian designer finds himself facing unbelievable pressure due to his relative unfamiliarity with women’s fashion, on top of having to take a prestigious mantle. Director Frederic Tcheng is a fashion-specific documentarian, who last co-made the probing “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel.” “Dior and I” finds him watching events as they occur, and like “Ballet 422” it finds creativity-in-progress as both intense and mundane. By the end, all Simons can do is celebrate surviving the gauntlet.

 Alonso Ruizpalacios's "Gueros" is a hang-out film with bored students. Credit: Alejandra Carbajal
Alonso Ruizpalacios’s “Gueros” is a hang-out film with bored students.
Credit: Alejandra Carbajal

‘Gueros’
The latest exciting newish voice from modern Mexican cinema, director Alonso Ruizpalacios, makes his feature debut with this old school hangout picture. Set over a day during a monthlong student strike, “Gueros” finds slacker roommates tasked with watching over a teenage brother. Boredom leads to pranks, which lead to an all-night journey that, unfortunately, means some pat lessons. But Ruizpalacios has an odd sense of humor, and a black-and-white film style that, while reminiscent of 1990s indie cinema — and the work of fellow countryman Fernando Eimbcke (“Duck Season”) — has an idiosyncrasy and yen for leftfield fits of poetry and playfulness all its own.

Tsai Ming-liang's "Journey to the West" is a series of long takes in which a monk crawls across frames. Credit: Tribeca Film Festival
Tsai Ming-liang’s “Journey to the West” is a series of long takes in which a monk crawls across frames.
Credit: Tribeca Film Festival

‘Journey to the West’
With his latest, Taiwanese minimalist Tsai Ming-liang (“What Time Is It There?,” “Stray Dogs”) goes big — or at least he will be presented as such. A series of long takes that follow a monk (Lee Kang-sheng) walking very, very, very slowly in public places, it will be treated as an installation, projected onto MoMA PS1’s geodesic VW dome. It’s the perfect way to get lost in his film, which does a kind of reverse “Koyaanisqatsi”: Everything moves at regular speed, save our star. Like most Tsai films, “Journey to the West” is mind-clearing and playful, often placing the monk in “Where’s Waldo?” positions in dense frames, or even delaying his entrance till later, just to dive you batty. However you want to approach it — as a game or as a contemplation piece — it will be rewarding.

Earl Lynn Nelson and Paul Eenhorn hang out in Iceland in "Land Ho!" Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
Earl Lynn Nelson and Paul Eenhorn hang out in Iceland in “Land Ho!”
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

‘Land Ho!’
Filmmaker Aaron Katz (“Quiet City,” “Cold Weather”) used to be lumped in with the “mumblecore” indies of the aughts, but he’s always been his own type. In “Land Ho!,” which he co-directed with Martha Stephens, he goes far afield — in fact, to Iceland. There, he follows the travels of two aging, white-haired ex-brothers-in-law played by “This Is Martin Bonner”’s excellent Paul Eenhorn and, in a starmaking turn, Earl Lynn Nelson. Eenhorn is a sadsack nursing a recent split; Nelson is a boozing, toking Southern good ol’ boy with old fashioned attitudes toward women and life. They don’t fit, like most odd couples, but Katz and Stephens shape their friendship so carefully that the film always seems weirdly deep, even when it’s simply chugging along as a travelogue that alternates between chat fests and ‘80s-style musical montages. It’s at once acutely observed and also the kind of film that blasts “In a Big Country” twice.

"1971" portrays the 40-some-year-old robbery of files from an FBI office in Media, Pa.  Credit: Tribeca Film Festival
“1971″ portrays the 40-some-year-old robbery of files from an FBI office in Media, Pa.
Credit: Tribeca Film Festival

‘1971’
A bizarrely obscure piece of history gets examined in Johanna Hamilton’s doc, which tells of citizens stealing FBI files — over 40 years ago. The crazier-than-fiction tale finds anti-Vietnam War protesters breaking into an FBI office in Media, Pa., an event that Hamilton captures with the usual mix of talking heads and recreations. But she never loses track of the people, some of whom question whether what they did was right. One even admits to becoming more conservative in his older age, and probably not likely to do what he once did. This puts it in the same league as the doc “The Weather Underground,” which isn’t afraid to question whether such brash actions are simply the forte of fiery youth, or if they are, in fact, justified.

Emma Roberts plays a disaffected, bored teen in "Palo Alto." Credit: Tribeca Film
Emma Roberts plays a disaffected, bored teen in “Palo Alto.”
Credit: Tribeca Film

‘Palo Alto’
Films about youth tend toward the condescending and vaguely pervy; a film that does Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts” on a short story collection by James Franco should be no different. But throw in debuting feature film director Gia Coppola, and you have a film that smoothes over the problems with the source. It helps that this is a refreshingly rare youth film that’s not about nerds. One (Jack Kilmer) is a mathlete, but he’d rather bro down with his self-destructive bud (Nat Wolff). But most have modest ambitions that don’t extend past high school, including the athlete (Emma Roberts) who divides her time babysitting for and sleeping with her coach (Franco). The main comparison point here is “The Virgin Suicides,” by Coppola’s relative Sofia, though her style is grounded where that was dreamy, though both capture a time of life when blinders are firmly on.

"Point and Shoot" is a doc that follows Matthew VanDyke as he takes part in the Libyan Revolution. Credit: Tribeca Film Festival
“Point and Shoot” is a doc that follows Matthew VanDyke as he takes part in the Libyan Revolution.
Credit: Tribeca Film Festival

‘Point and Shoot’
Another tall tale told from a human level, Marshall Curry’s doc hangs tight with one Matthew VanDyke, a Baltimorean who went from only child with OCD to an adrenaline junkie fighting in the 2011 Libyan revolution. Told mostly from his hair-raising footage, “Point and Shoot” gets as lost as its subject, who winds up as invested in rebellion as the friends he makes, even becoming international news when he’s taken prisoner. Most of all it’s a harrowing portrait of life among war, one where a nice, shy boy suddenly finds himself — with cameras rolling — worked up enough to almost take a life.

Mathieu Amalric plays submissive to Emmanuelle Seigner in Roman Polanski's "Venus in Fur." Credit: Sundance Selects
Mathieu Amalric plays submissive to Emmanuelle Seigner in Roman Polanski’s “Venus in Fur.”
Credit: Sundance Selects

‘Venus in Fur’
Roman Polanski is too versatile a director to be stuck making stage adaptations, but both “Carnage” and especially his follow-up show that he can bring out the nerve-racking in the relentlessly chatty. Once again tackling a New York-set play — namely David Ives’ acclaimed two-hander — but moving it to Paris, he snoops in on a mysterious sparkplug of an actress (Emmanuelle Seigner) as she undoes a director (Mathieu Amalric) mounting a play of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s S&M-themed “Venus in Furs.” Roles reverse, the play is dismantled and put back together again, and Polanski generally has more fun depicting the slide into genuine madness, while his actors do the same.

"Zero Motivation" depicts the life of bored female Israeli soldiers. Credit: Yaron Scharf
“Zero Motivation” depicts the life of bored female Israeli soldiers.
Credit: Yaron Scharf

‘Zero Motivation’
Boredom and anxieties among young female Israeli soldiers in the desert get a very funny look in this triptych from writer-director Talya Lavie. Some are lovelorn, some are trying to shed their virginity, and others just want to keep their Minesweeper records from deletion. Lavie frontloads the film with material darker than she’s prepared to deal with, but her attempts to rebound to deceptively lighter circumstances prove surprisingly successful, especially once things have broken out into a staple gun fight.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.