The Best of the Tribeca Film Festival 2014

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Seeing every film in the Tribeca Film Festival is impossible, but in the screenings leading up to the festival and during the festival itself, I saw 48 feature-length and 34 short films. Out of that field of 82 films, I have selected my top 20 best and 10 worst films of the festival, some of which are reviewed more in-depth in my previous coverage. I decided to choose 20 Best Films and 10 Worst Films because there were a lot of great films at the festival that I wanted to recognize and only a few films that I would recommend avoiding altogether. Read on to see the best of what the Tribeca Film Festival had to offer this year.

The Best, In No Particular Order with Letter Grades

  1. NOW: In the Wings on a World StageA – As a fan of Kevin Spacey, Sam Mendes, and theater, NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage hit a sweet spot with me. I love seeing how stage productions like Mendes’ Richard III come together, and the film is beautifully shot backstage and on-tour around the world.  
  2. Human CapitalAHuman Capital is a mystery that unravels as the audience sees the same events from three different perspectives. The story subverts the audience’s expectations, and it kept me guessing up until the final chapter as to how everything would play out. Performances by all the leads are all excellent, particularly Valeri Bruni Tedeschi who won Best Actress in a Narrative Feature Film at the festival, and it was one of the few films that I made a point to see again before the end of the festival.
  3. Zero MotivationA+ Zero Motivation, a film about female Israeli soldiers, is a crowd pleaser and one of the best-received films at the festival. It won the Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature, and I couldn’t be happier about it. The concept is original while still being wholly relatable, and the cast of characters are unique and memorable, from strict-yet-earnest Rama to crybaby Daffi and lovable slacker/Minesweeper addict Zohar.
  4. Mala MalaA-Mala Mala explores the diverse community of transgender people and drag queens in Puerto Rico. Interviews with transgender leaders, drag queen performers, sex workers, and a wide variety of trans-women and men give a broader view of a community that is still misunderstood by the mainstream media. (See Piers Morgan’s embarrassing interview with Janet Mock.) Mala Mala lays out the struggles facing the trans community and educates while still being a great film.
  5. Point and Shoot A – Winner of Best Documentary Feature at the festival, Point and Shoot is an exciting tale of self-discovery that examines Matthew Van Dyke’s “crash course in manhood” and how young people craft their image through self-documentation.
  6. An Honest Liar AAn Honest Liar details the life and career of James “The Amazing” Randi, a magician who has made it his life’s work to debunk charlatans and frauds profiting off people’s ignorance. What elevates An Honest Liar above other biographical documentaries is the deception right under his nose and how that secret changed his life.
  7. In Order of DisappearanceA+ - Stellan Skarsgard goes on a bloody rampage when his son is murdered by a local drug lord. In the vein of Fargo and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, In Order of Disappearance is a perfect dark comedy. The title is a play on films that credit their cast “in order of appearance.” In Order of Disappearance credits its cast in the order they are killed off by Skarsgard, a vegan pony-tailed gangster, or a cranky Serbian drug lord.  
  8. The Newburgh StingAThe Newburgh Sting is a documentary about the arrest of the “Newburgh Four,” four men accused of conspiring to plant car bombs in front of a Jewish center in New York City. There is much more to the story than what was reported in the media, such as the FBI’s targeting and entrapment of Muslim Americans. Thanks to footage never before seen by the public, the true story of the Newburgh Four can now be told.
  9. The One I LoveA+The One I Love is the best science-fiction film in the Tribeca Film Festival, and it is being promoted as a romantic comedy. It is nearly impossible to discuss the plot of the film without giving anything away, but fans of The Twilight Zone will find a lot to love in this unconventional romance.
  10. Venus in FurA+ Roman Polanski’s adaptation of the Broadway play gives the story new life in a Paris theater rather than a New York City audition room. Beautifully filmed and brilliantly acted by Emmanuelle Seigner and Matthieu Almaric, Venus in Fur is one of my favorite films of the festival and possibly of 2014.
  11. Tomorrow We DisappearA- Tomorrow We Disappear is a documentation of the Kathputli colony in Delhi, a community which faces displacement as the city plans to use the land for new luxury buildings. The colony, which is made up of puppeteers, acrobats, magicians, musicians and other artists, has many prominent members who have won national awards and traveled around the world. Tomorrow We Disappear profiles several members of the Kathputli colony and shows the colony struggle to find unity in their fight against the government and land developers to keep their homes and way of life.
  12. Art and CraftA – Mark Landis, one of the country’s most famous art forgers, is the subject of Art and Craft. A pathological liar, Landis created elaborate fake art pieces and then donated them to museums across the country until a Matthew Leininger, an art registrar from Cincinnati, made it his life’s mission to expose him as a fraud. In this exploration of art and culture, the question is where an eccentric but talented individual like Landis belongs in society, and what is the harm in Landis giving away his phony art?
  13. Honeymoon A-Honeymoon, a body horror film with a touch of romance, is probably the best horror film at the Tribeca Film Festival this year. Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway have real on-screen chemistry, and their characters are so endearing that the film’s climactic ending is genuinely disturbing.
  14. Starred UpA- – This tense prison drama from the United Kingdom placed a complex father-son relationship at the center of its story, and its quietly heartbreaking final scene has stuck with me long after the film ended.
  15. Traitors A-Traitors puts a twist on the usual drug trafficking story, making its protagonist Malika an aspiring punk rocker in Tangier, Morocco. She needs some quick cash to cover a demo record which could lead to the big break she has been waiting for. She agrees to be a driver for a local drug dealer, but when things start to go wrong with the drug run, she changes the script on her bosses and fights for a different ending.
  16. Love Is StrangeB+ – There is a scene in Love is Strange where Alfred Molina and John Lithgow, playing a married couple, are sleeping above and below each other in a bunk bed, and Lithgow asks for Molina to climb down and sleep next to him. Molina is hesitant, worried that they will break the bed. It is the perfect analogy for the rest of the film. This couple has been together for decades and built a life together, and due to circumstances beyond their control, they have to uncomfortably fit themselves into the lives of their friends and family. Molina and Lithgow are both excellent, and Cheyenne Jackson as their Game of Thrones and D&D-obsessed friend was an unexpected treat.
  17. Today’s The Day A+ - Today’s The Day was a pure shot of joy and the only movie-musical I saw in the festival this year. Major kudos to Daniel Cloud Campos, the film’s director, choreographer, co-writer, and star, for transforming an ordinary workplace into an elaborate Broadway music number. It was the last film I saw of the festival, and I could not stop grinning from the moment Campos started dancing until the credits rolled. (He is channeling some Singing in the Rain Donald O’Connor goodness in his performance, and I love it.) Also, it’s nice to see Danny DeVito lending his talents to a Kickstarter project.
  18. Peepers A+ – I love Peepers. This short film about a normal-looking couple sitting down for a quiet dinner of gazpacho descends into hilarious madness so quickly, I could hardly catch my breath. Its examination of adulthood and the discomfort of being a grown-up is hysterical, and it has my favorite quotes of any film from the festival. “Who eats cold soup?” “What is this, a booster seat for my pretension?”  “I’m doing adult things, adult things!”
  19. Scratch A- – I am a sucker for films about crimes gone wrong, and Scratch packs robbery, romantic betrayal, and a drastic change in fortunes into only 14 minutes.
  20. SequenceA – One morning, a man wakes up to find that his girlfriend, neighbor, boss, and everyone else in his small town has had a nightmare about him. What could have possibly happened in their dreams to elicit such horrified reactions? The audience never finds out, but every part of Sequence from the production design to the story and performances is almost perfect.

Honorable Mention: It just barely missed the cut, but in The Body, Alfie Allen plays a hit man who finds it oddly easy to get rid of a body on Halloween. The premise is clever, and Allen plays his hit man role with wicked glee.

May
12
2014
Rachel Kolb • Staff Writer

I love movies, writing, and breaking into song in public. You can follow me on Twitter @rachelekolb or check out more of my work at http://rachelekolb.wordpress.com.

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