TCFF: 6 Films. 2 Days. 1 Programmer’s Personal Picks

Call it the Ultimate Film Fest Experience. With only 2 more days to go, there are still a bunch of great films playing at the ShowPlace ICON Theatre through Saturday. If you haven’t been able to catch any of the films during the weekdays, but you’re ready for a TCFF movie marathon this weekend, then you’re not too late!

Earlier today I sat down with Steve Snyder, TCFF’s Artistic Director—who’s also TIME.com’s Assistant Managing Editor—to list his recommendations for the last stretch of the film fest. After screening about 200 submissions including a mix of features and shots, and circling other film festivals around the country with executive director Jatin Setia, here are Steve’s picks are that you can still catch at TCFF.


Get your tickets now before they sell out!  Oh and check out this
Amazing Ticket Deal of Saturday Movie Marathon.


FRIDAY:

6pm – Things I Don’t Understand (independent)

I’ve mentioned this on yesterday’s post when I met with director David Spaltro. Well, this film has won Best Feature Film and Best Actress for Minnesota-born actress Molly Ryman in various film festivals. Steve calls Molly a ‘MN star is born’ and this is one of the films that he’s most thrilled about that he was able to get it screened at TCFF. Both David and Molly will be in attendance for a red carpet spotlight and Q&A after.

Having recently chatted with him, I’m even more intrigued by his film and can’t wait to see it. I will post the transcript of the interview when it’s ready, but check out the trailer below:

///

9pmA Late Quartet

This is also on my most-anticipated list. I mean the cast alone should get you to rush to see it. Christopher Walken + Philip Seymour Hoffman + Catherine Keener playing members of a string quartet struggling to stay together in the face of death, competing egos and in-suppressible lust. Great thespians making beautiful music together? Steve said you can’t miss this, and I tend to agree. You can view the trailer here.

SATURDAY:

10:45Bay of All Saints

Winner of Audience Award, Documentary at SXSW 2012: In Bahia, Brazil, generations of impoverished families live in palafitas, shacks built on stilts over the ocean bay. Steve said that not only is the subject matter intriguing, but the incredible access director Annie Eastman was able to get to shoot this film gives it a uniquely intimate portrait of the individual stories of poverty shown in the film.

12:45 After I Pick the Fruit

This is a documentary that follows the lives of five immigrant farm worker women over a ten-year period as they labor in the apple orchards and fields of rural western New York, migrate seasonally to Florida, raise their families, and try to hide from the Bush-era immigration raids that were conducted in response to September 11, 2001. This doc is more of an investigative journalism of sort, which illuminates a community that is nearly invisible to most Americans. Director Nancy Ghertner will be in attendance.

These two documentaries are also my picks I’ve listed on this post.

3 pm Take Care

Two estranged women tread cautiously into each other’s lives and their newfound friendship creates a mirror of self-discovery in this character-driven indie drama. I actually have had the pleasure of seeing this one earlier this month and I absolutely agree with Steve that this one is definitely worth checking out. It’s rare to see a meaty role written for a woman, let alone two in one film. Both Ryan Driscoll and Elise Ivy are both fantastic here, and the revelation for both characters are quite intriguing to watch. Don’t miss Ryan Driscoll and director Scott Tanner Jones in attendance for Q&A.

5:30 Dead Dad

When their dad dies unexpectedly, estranged siblings Russell, Jane and their adopted brother, Alex, come home to tend to his remains. Don’t be put off by the title, even though it deals with the loss of a loved one, it’s also about a celebration of family and how they come together to achieve a proper goodbye. Steve said he’s very impressed how the actors could pull off such complex characters. He even went so far as calling it some of the best acting performances of this year. Trailer below:


So, what are you waiting for? Get your tickets now »


TCFF Day 6: Nobody Walks Review

Day six at TCFF has come and gone. So far I’ve seen over a half dozen films, on my way to completing the 11 movies I set out to do. I think that’s about hit the maximum number of films I could handle in a week before things become a blur and I’d have a hard time reviewing each of them.

Before I get to my Day 6 review, I just want to share that my highlight of the day was chatting with director David Spaltro, whose sophomore film Things I Don’t Understand will have its Minnesota premiere@ TCFF on Friday at 6 pm. It stars Minnesota-native Molly Ryman as Violet Kubelick, a brilliant young grad student studying near-death experiences, is now withdrawn and closed-off after a mysterious, failed suicide attempt. Check out his film’s official site for more info, it’s been winning all kinds of awards in the film festival circuit.

I’m thrilled that David has agreed to an interview with me and fellow blogger June later this afternoon, yay! He’s the nicest director you’ll ever have the pleasure to meet. Stay tuned for my interview post!

Now on to the review:


NOBODY WALKS

Confession: This is the kind of film I normally don’t gravitate towards because of the subject matter. But hey, sometimes as a film blogger, stepping out of one’s comfort zone once in a while is a good thing and a film festival is a perfect venue for that.

Nobody Walks centers on Martine (Olivia Thirlby), a young New Yorker traveling to L.A. to finish her film with the help of Peter (John Krasinski), a married 30-something living in the Hollywood Hills area. It’s not a good sign when within the first five minutes I’ve got a dreadful inkling that I would not like this movie. The way Martine is introduced at the airport, making out with some guy she just met on the plane sets the tone of the rest of the film and also about her character. Later on we learn that she’s an artist, though it’s unclear what kind of artist she is and it’s never fully explained why she came all the way to L.A. to finish her movie.

One thing for sure, the tomboy-ish Martine is effortlessly seductive. She gives such a sensual vibe that men just can’t help being drawn to her. Peter is no exception, within a couple of days working with her, it’s inevitable that the start getting physical. Neither of them seems to have much remorse over this, not the husband who’s married with kids, nor the seductress on the brink of ruining someone’s family. The sexual tension practically ricochets off the screen, not just between Martine and Peter but everyone else in their circle: Martine and Peter’s assistant David, Peter’s wife Julie with her therapy patient and Julie’s 16-year-old daughter Kolt discovering her sexuality.

I don’t know if ‘glorifying’ is the right word but I feel like the writers and director Ry Russo Young puts so much emphasis on sexuality that the characters feel so one-dimensional. My impression of this family is that they’re a bunch of well-off, self-absorbed people who live such a comfortable existence that life is all about instant gratification. There is barely any nuance in any of the characters, save for Julie (played by the immensely likable and talented Rosemarie DeWitt) who still has some scruples left in her when temptation comes her way like a storm. But even so, her conversation with her young daughter about men and relationship leaves me scratching my head. Let’s just say if I were Kolt, I’d be even more confused about what I’m supposed to think or do.

To be fair, I think there are some interesting ideas here and the cinematography has that intimate sense that makes it atmospheric. There are also some fun scenes in relation to sound effects towards the beginning of the film. The performances are pretty good overall. This is the first time I’ve seen both Olivia Thirlby and John Krasinski in a feature film and I think both have screen charisma as lead actors. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always liked DeWitt and it’s nice to see her get adequate screen time here and she’s perhaps the most likable character in the film for me. Dylan McDermott and Justin Kirk also have a memorable supporting part. Unfortunately, none of the characters are well-developed. In fact, up until the end of the movie, I still have no clue just who Martine is and why she does what she does. Enigmatic is one thing but vacant is another and I feel that the protagonist falls under the latter, and she is impossible to root for.

It’s unfortunate that I got my first intro to the co-writer, Lena Dunham through this post on Cinematic Corner, at the time I hadn’t seen any of Dunham’s work but now I realize that some of the characters on her HBO show GIRLS are similar to Martine. Needless to say, I did not enjoy this movie. The whole thing just rings hollow existentialism to me, it communicates nothing of value and the film has a ‘cooler than thou’ vibe that really puts me off. The topic of infidelity is already so dismal, it certainly doesn’t help that in this one, there’s barely any redeeming quality to enliven it.

2 out of 5 reels


Has anyone seen this film and/or film by the filmmakers/writers? What are your thoughts?