Released five years ago, the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car is a standard issue-driven documentary about General Motors’ EV1, a vehicle the company recalled despite a devoted fan base. The primary talking heads were outsiders: consumer advocates and environmentalists who were outraged by GM’s disdain for innovation. Fast forward to 2011 and director Chris Paine’s sequel, Revenge of the Electric Car, is another animal entirely. Instead of focusing on the politics and environmental impact of the cars, Paine creates a personality-driven documentary, one where business leaders strive to dominate the a share of the car market with increasingly feverish demand.
The press lounge of the Tribeca Film Festival is a strange yet energetic place. Journalists and industry-types take refuge here, taking ample use of the free snacks and coffee, and the only consistent topic of conversation is which film is everyone’s favorite. Everyone is friendly, and the overwhelming recommendation is to see Beyond the Black Rainbow, a psychdelic experience one critic compares to Eraserhead. Moments later, a man bearing an uncanny resemblance to Allen Ginsberg wanders through the crowd. He clutches a piece of paper that reads, “I am Tony Kaye and I directed Detachment. I want to talk about it, but I have a speech impediment.” Kaye says we can chat after I can see the movie next week, and that’s where my star-gazing ends. Let’s leave the star-gazing at a minimum – I’m here to see movies, after all, so here’s my mostly complete round-up of my Saturday experience.
Today marks the kickoff of tenth annual Tribeca Film Festival, started in 2002 by Robert De Niro and Craig Hatkoff. Over the years, the festival has only increased in popularity, and the lower Manhattan neighborhood is now a top-tier destination for fans of independent film. This year I’m heading to New York to cover the festival. Check regularly for reports from New York – in addition to capsule reviews, I’ll be reporting on lectures, interviews, and Bill Murray sightings – but until then, here is a brief preview of what’s to come. Worry not, DC readers, for this preview will include ways for you to see movies that are premiering at the festival.
Michael Winterbottom loves to blur the line between fact and fiction, and his latest buddy picture is another in the same vein as Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon star as themselves, two verbose comedians who spend a holiday in the Lake District. If the above YouTube clip is any indication, The Trip will offer sharp insight and off-the-cuff comedy from two actors who are known for their brilliant improvisation. Coogan and Brydon will be in New York to promote their film, though I’m sure they’ll be eager to leave once everyone demands to hear their Michael Caine impression.
EDIT: I just confirmed an interview with Coogan and Brydon. It’ll run when the movie opens in DC in June.
Robert seems nervous about his newfound psychic power. His first victim is a piece of trash – after a brief charge, he uses his mind to tear it in half – and soon he’s moving on to more complex targets. He spots two men in a car. The wind-up is the same, but the payoff is far more gruesome, as the burst of psychic energy makes one’s man head explode. Robert enjoys his power, so he sets on a path of gleeful mayhem. This is the set-up for Rubber, a movie so bizarre it transcends any easy categorization. Crazed supernatural beings are common in thrillers and horror, yet what makes Quentin Dupieux’s English-speaking debut unique is how Robert isn’t human or even human-like. He is a black rubber tire.
Your Highness is an unfunny medieval stoner comedy whose missteps are so fundamental, I can’t help but wonder what those involved were thinking. In the hands of other filmmakers, I wouldn’t be surprised how they wrongly replace a tight screenplay with unimaginative CGI. But these guys should know better: the screenwriting team of Danny McBride and Ben Best know their away around gross-out gags and cleverly lowbrow wordplay. Director David Gordon Green is responsible for some of the best dramas of the early aughts, and it’s become frustrating to watch his ambition decline. Coupled with the equally disastrous Green Hornet, Your Highness may be the death knell of this team who once could do little wrong.
With The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, monologist Mike Daisey tackles Apple fanboyism and the untold sacrifice it requires. Daisey, a commanding performer, does this not as an outsider who turns his nose up to those who rush for the latest technology. As someone whose love for Apple wanders into obsession, he’s knee-deep in the company’s latest combination of computing power and intuitive industrial design. His tone changes constantly yet never falters; broad humor and unsettling insight almost occupy the same breath. By its end, Daisey announces how he’s changed the audience’s outlook and I doubt anyone would disagree with his power.