Best of Tribeca Film Festival 2013

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1. Northwest
Directed By: Michael Noer
Denmark, 2013

Power and money are the vital forces in this high octane crime thriller. When organized crime grabs hold of the way of life for desperate Casper, he must rely on the only person he can trust: his brother. Michael Noer carefully balances the brutish depiction of street crime with the tenderness of growing up in a tight knit family. The film breaks any spell of an innocent youth being corrupt by crime, by shining the spotlight on a delinquent who turns around and becomes innocent.

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2. Flex Is Kings
Directed By: Deidre Schoo and Michael Beach Nichols
USA, 2013

Originating in Brooklyn, flexing, or a style of freeform street dance, is the subject matter behind Deidre Schoo and Michael Beach Nichol’s solid documentary, Flex Is Kings. Characterized by rhythmic contortionist movements combined with waving, tutting and gliding; the film is about so much more than the subject matter at hand. For many urban youths who partake, flexing is an outer body creative experience. This outlet provides the means to direct physical energy into an utterly unique social experience of trickery and showmanship. For Flizzo and Jay, they just don’t perform, they live and breathe flex. Flex Is Kings largely follows the lives of these two friends, among others, on their parallel paths in making flex known to the masses, and does so with the most earnest of respect for those who commit their lives to it. (Read full review here).

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3. The Broken Circle Breakdown
Directed By: Felix van Groeningen
Netherlands, 2013

When Elise and Didier meet, it’s love at first sight. When they move into an old farmhouse where their daughter Maybelle is born, their happiness reaches its zenith. But when leukemia strikes the hopeful new family, these two very different lovers are forced to fight for the extent of their love. Elise finds comfort in spirituality, while Didier grounds himself in atheistic realism, and the two test themselves as they drift farther away from each other. Very heavy in subject matter, the film balances tone with lighthearted bluegrass song and dance. What may be contradictory to some, the toss between its somber plot and uppity musical interludes is quite refreshing. Ultimately the film is an expression of life, filled with highs and lows. While raising a ton of questions about faith and singles out fantastical raw emotions by great performances; the film will make you laugh and cry all in one breath.

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4. A Single Shot
Directed By: David M. Rosenthal
USA, 2013
When John Moon (Sam Rockwell) accidentally shoots a young woman and discovers a bag full of cash, he has to make the fateful decision whether to provide for his separating family or come out clean. His struggle to conceal both the death and the money formulates a whirlwind of consequences that ultimately heightens into a battle for survival. With overall great performances by Rockwell and Wright, the film is both widely suspenseful and comfortably predictable. Treading the line of a Hitchcockian thriller, the film definitely tests the limits of an ordinary man as he takes on plight to stay alive. With some of the year’s most surprising scenes, A Single Shot will bring you the edge of your seat and shock you, making it by far one of the best films screened at Tribeca this year.

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5. At Any Price
Directed by Ramin Bahrani
USA, 2012

Established indie director Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart, Chop Shop and Goodbye Solo) sharply evokes layered complexity among character performances and ideologies in his new farming family drama, At Any Price. Co-written by Hallie Elizabeth Newton, the film tells the story of empire hungry Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid) as he competes with bigger business, in a modern post-Monsanto farming community. Riddled by the failing interests of his rebellious race car driver son Dean (Zac Efron), Henry is pushed beyond ethical bounds as an unexpected crisis threatens the integrity of his family’s existence.

Brilliantly portrayed and largely misunderstood, Quaid plays Whipple with such self-awareness to camp and corniness, that his performance is largely seen as unnecessarily over-the-top and bombastic. Yet, it is in fact necessary. If Whipple is seen as an act, it’s because he is an act onto himself. After all, his true self is an egotistic power-hungry salesman who hides behind smiles and fake family values. If it feels Quaid is acting, it’s because he’s rightfully playing the role of the lowest common denominator actor. Whipple stands beside his wife Irene (Kim Dickens), yet feels no remorse in committing adultery with Meredith Crown (played by underutilized Heather Graham). Although church-going, Whipple is quick to hide murder. Modestly tongue in cheek, Whipple would rather hide his illegal activities of cleaning and re-selling GMO Liberty seeds to other farmers, than fessing up the truth. One might say that the scene where Whipple is his truest self, is at the very beginning. Attending the funeral of a local farmer, Whipple selfishly seeks the opportunity to buyout his 200 acres by approaching family with a wet heart filled with empty sympathy during the most untimeliness of meetings. After being berated back to his car, the son of the deceased farmer comes back to Whipple with a counteroffer so that monetary matters can be taken care of quickly. As Whipple looks back at Dean with his snake-like smirk, as if to say “Got’em,” his character never rings so genuine. Bravo Quaid.

– Chris Clemente

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