Best of the Fest: Liz & Melissa’s 22 Favorite Narratives & Documentaries from the Tribeca Film Festival!

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It was a fabulous eleven days filled with movies and interviews, and now it’s time for us to reflect on our favorites. Enjoy!

Favorite Comedies

Grandma_Press_1 TribecaGrandma – releasing August 21st

Reeling from a recent breakup and still mourning the loss of her longtime partner, once-famous poet Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin) is surprised to find her teenage granddaughter on her doorstep in need of $600 and a ride. The two embark on an all-day road trip that ends up rattling skeletons and digging up secrets all over town. Co-starring Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer, Laverne Cox, and Sam Elliott.

We’ve only gotten a tease of Tomlin over the past few years, but she’s back with a comedic performance that rivals any dramatic one. So wrong, yet so perfect, her delivery gives the dialogue an extra edge that almost makes you feel guilty as you laugh out loud. I can’t wait to see her and Jane Fonda in Grace and Frankie on Netflix. – Melissa

 

Tomlin is an indisputable legend. Her comic timing is like watching Mozart create a symphony. This film is an absolute gem that tackles so many relevant issues without one ounce of preachiness. I have always been a huge fan and I am crossing my fingers this garners her an Oscar nod. -Liz

Jack (Simon Pegg) and Nancy (Lake Bell) in Ben Palmer’s Man UpMan Up – releasing May 29th in the UK, no US release set

When perpetually single Nancy (Lake Bell) is mistaken for a charming stranger’s (Simon Pegg) blind-date, she just goes with it, leading to a series of escalating adventures for the two mismatched lovebirds in Ben Palmer’s hilarious romantic comedy.

This could have been another boring rom-com, but the trifecta of story, dialogue and performances make it my new favorite “meet cute.” – Melissa

 

Pegg and Bell are an unlikely duo but let me say this is perfect casting. Their chemistry is super believable and laugh out loud funny from start to finish. Do not pigeon hole this flick, it is a riot for everyone. -Liz

OVERNIGHT_Press_2 TribecaThe Overnight – releasing June 19th

Alex and Emily have just moved to LA with their young son. Eager to make new friends, they accept an invitation to a party from the father of their son’s playground mate. After the kids fall asleep, the “playdate” takes a bizarre turn in this racy and hilarious romp. Featuring Judith Godrèche, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, and Adam Scott.

Filled with many twists and turns, you won’t know where the next laugh will take you as these two couples get to know each other. Sharing their hopes, fears and extracurricular hobbies, it all happens so naturally and with the utmost hilarity. – Melissa

 

This crazy funny adult comedy puts to rest the notion that hyper-sexual has to be boring or slapstick. This is actually a really thoughtful script and with a cast like this, you cannot go wrong. -Liz

Sleeping With Other People_Press_1 TribecaSleeping With Other People – releasing August 21st

Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie star as two romantic failures whose years of serial infidelity and self-sabotage have led them to swear that their relationship will remain strictly platonic. But can love still bloom while you’re sleeping with other people? Writer/director Leslye Headland’s (Bachelorette) sexy romantic comedy co-stars Amanda Peet, Adam Scott, and Natasha Lyonne.

The “platonic friends” comedy is so overdone, but it’s been reborn with Jason Sudekis and Alison Brie. With over-the-top intimate dialogue, honesty is the best policy when it comes to modern relationships. One of the funniest movies of the year. – Melissa

 

This film may appear to be formulaic at first glance, but I assure you, you have no idea what you’re in for. One of the best and most honest pieces of dialogue since This is 40, Sudeikis and Brie kill it with the funny as two people with some serious intimacy issues. -Liz


Favorite Dramas

ANESTHESIA_Press_2 TribecaAnesthesia

On a snowy night in New York City, a Columbia professor is brutally mugged on the doorsteps of an apartment building. Director Tim Blake Nelson’s haunting meditation of city life traces the chain of events that precipitate the attack, examining the inextricable and unforeseen forces that bring a group of disparate individuals together. Featuring a star-studded ensemble including Sam Waterston, Kristen Stewart, Glenn Close, and Cory Stoll.

Make sure you pay attention and get ready for dialogue that is a hyper-intellectual mental workout. It’s heavy but hopeful and filled with brilliant performances.- Melissa

 

This film’s multiple narrative style is something reminiscent of Traffic or Third Person. Beautifully based on philosophical notions, the audience is treated to a peak inside the lives of a handful of New Yorkers. With a jam packed cast of superb talent, Tim Blake Nelson brings everything to the table and succeeds, wildly. – Liz

Bare_Press_1 TribecaBare

Sarah’s (Dianna Agron) mundane life in a Nevada desert town is turned upside down with the arrival of Pepper (Paz de la Huerta), a mysterious female drifter, who leads her into a life of seedy strip clubs and illicit drugs. Their passion inspires Sarah to break free of her past and seek out a new life of her own.

It’s a story that could be told of any small town. It never attempts to explain anything, which actually gives it much more credibility.  – Melissa

 

In Agron’s first truly adult role, she shines as a small town girl trying to find her escape. Big dreams and little self esteem lead to a complex script and a stellar performance.   -Liz

The Driftless AreaThe Driftless Area

Pierre Hunter (Anton Yelchin), a bartender with unyielding optimism, returns to his tiny hometown after his parents’ death. When he falls for the enigmatic Stella (Zooey Deschanel), Pierre is unknowingly pulled into a cat-and-mouse game that involves a duffel bag full of cash, a haphazard yet determined criminal (John Hawkes), and a mystery that will determine all of their fates. With Alia Shawkat, Frank Langella, Aubrey Plaza, and Ciarán Hinds.

To say that The Driftless Area is cryptic is an understatement. I’m still not quite sure what happened, but the characters are so complex and interwoven that even though you’re confused, you can’t wait to see what happens next. – Melissa (read full review here)

Meadowland_Press_1 TribecaMeadowland

Sarah and Phil’s son goes missing, shattering their life together and forcing each to find their own way to cope. Cinematographer-turned-director Reed Morano presents a masterfully crafted contemplation on a relationship strained to the breaking point. Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson capture the unraveling emotions with remarkable power, alongside Kevin Corrigan, John Leguizamo, Elisabeth Moss, Giovanni Ribisi, Juno Temple, and Merritt Wever.

This emotionally heavy story will kick you in the gut. How does one cope after the loss of a child? Do marriages survive? Can we be saved? These are all questions in an intense script lead by a masterful performance from Wilde. Following up her insane roller coaster role in Third Person, Wilde proves once again that she’s way more than a pretty face. Cast her in all the things, immediately! – Liz

Tumbledown_Press_1 TribecaTumbledown

Years after the accidental death of her folk-singer husband, Hannah (Rebecca Hall) has yet to fully accept her small-town life without him. Then she is approached by a charming New York writer (Jason Sudeikis) intent on penning a biography of her late husband’s life, and Hannah finds herself opening up again. Also featuring performances by Dianna Agron, Blythe Danner, Griffin Dunne, Joe Manganiello, and Richard Masur.

This was a film near and dear to my heart, based on plot and circumstance. The filmmakers and cast hit the nail on the head when it came to recreating a small New England town in Maine and the effect a death has upon it’s entire population. Loss and grief are combined with super smart writing. Sudeikis and Hall own these roles. – Liz

(read full review & podcast of interviews here)

Virgin Mountain TribecaVirgin Mountain

Fúsi is a mammoth of a man who at 43-years-old is still living at home with his mother. Shy and awkward, he hasn’t quite learned how to socialize with others, leaving him as an untouchable inexperienced virgin. That is until his family pushes him to join a dance class, where he meets the equally innocent but playful Sjöfn.

Heartbreaking, yet hopeful, this Jury award winner for narrative and lead performance will grab ahold of you and squeeze. – Melissa

 

This was one of the most endearing films I’ve seen lately. The “I think I can” attitude and transformation of the lead is so compelling from the very beginning. You cannot help but root for this character. -Liz

When I Live My Life Over Again-00002 TribecaWhen I Live My Life Over Again

Jude (Amber Heard) is a would-be singer-songwriter still struggling to make her mark. Cash-strapped and homeless, she begrudgingly returns to the Hamptons home of her father (Christopher Walken), an over-the-hill crooner desperately charting his musical comeback, in this spunky, soulful dramedy about the personal costs of artistic ambition and the bonds that carry us through.

Christopher Walken is charming and tragic. The dialogue is so subtle and natural, you’d think you were watching a documentary. The dining table scene alone is worth the price of admission. – Melissa

 

The tremendously organic dialogue in this film is top notch. It’s an honest portrait of family dynamics we can all relate to on some inherent level. Walken is a gem, as always, and I was blown away by Heard’s level of comfort behind a guitar and piano. Color me impressed.- Liz


Favorite Scary

Backtrack_Press_2 TribecaBacktrack – acquired by Saban Films

In this spine-tingling supernatural thriller, troubled psychotherapist Peter Bowers (Adrien Brody) is suffering from nightmares and eerie visions. When he uncovers a horrifying secret that all of his patients share, he is put on a course that takes him back to the small hometown he fled years ago. There he confronts his demons and unravels a mystery 20 years in the making.

I liked this film as the credits rolled. Speaking of credits, the opening sequence is one of the most beautiful and creative I’ve seen in some time. As I hashed out all the little moments in the script, the makeup, the music, I adored this film. Very smart writing and some really nicely timed jump scares. File this film under paranormal- thriller. -Liz

Hungry Hearts_0341Hungry Hearts – releasing June 5th

After a chance meeting and a whirlwind romance in New York City, Jude (Adam Driver) and Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) become pregnant. Convinced their child will be harmed by the pollutions in the outside world, Mina becomes consumed by protecting her baby, forcing Jude to recognize a terrible truth about why his son’s life could be in danger.

Told like a 70s horror flick, this is a Rosemary’s Baby kind of scary. Crazy camera angles and eerie music make this a very unsettling story that will leave you shivering. – Melissa


Favorite Documentaries

Birth of Sake_Press_2The Birth of Sake

Traditional and labor-intensive, the production of Saké has changed very little over the centuries. Erik Shirai’s love song to the artisans who have dedicated their lives to carrying on this increasingly rare artform follows the round-the-clock process for six straight months, offering a rare glimpse into a family-run brewery that’s been operating for over 100 years.

The gorgeous imagery is enhanced by slowmotion and a calming score. Whether you’re a lover of saké or not, you’ll appreciate the amount of work that goes into its creation. – Melissa (3 docs you must see)

 

Visually breathtaking  with a whole lot of heart, this doc was so enjoyable  for me to watch. It is  akin to a work of art and could easily (and should be) shown on a constant loop in museums. -Liz

Code_web_02CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap

At a time in the United States when the tech sector outpaces the overall growth of the employment market, CODE asks the important question: Where are all the women?

Instead of focusing on one aspect of the gender gap in coding, this film really shows that everyone has something to give. The field of information technology is only getting bigger and we need all hands on deck. The more diverse the people building the future technologies are, the better the world is for it. – Melissa (3 docs you must see)

Crocodile Gennadiy imageCrocodile Gennadiy

Crocodile Gennadiy, real-life, self-appointed savior, who works tirelessly to rescue homeless, drug-addicted youth from the streets of Mariupol, Ukraine. At the same time, he challenges dealers and abusers. Despite criticism, Gennadiy is determined to continue his work. Sundance Award-winning director Steve Hoover’s second feature is a bold portrait of a man on a mission.

Doing what’s right is the main point of this extraordinary documentary. Saving the lives of innocent children that are being taken advantage of by a broken system mired in poverty, Gennodiy is the perfect example of what religion should look like. – Liz  (read interview here)

Democrats stillDemocrats

In the wake of Robert Mugabe’s highly criticized 2008 presidential win, a constitutional committee was created in an effort to transition Zimbabwe away from authoritarian leadership. With unprecedented access to the two political rivals overseeing the committee, this riveting, firsthand account of a country’s fraught first steps towards democracy plays at once like an intimate political thriller and unlikely buddy film.

The bravery of these people to be on film, speaking in the manners they do is enough to cheer for. Getting an honest look inside a corrupted political system outside our own is astonishing. Take note America.- Liz  (read review here)

DREAM KILLER_Press_1 TribecaDream/Killer

In the fall of 2005, 21-year-old Ryan Ferguson received a 40-year prison sentence for a murder that he did not commit. Over the next ten years, his father Bill engages in a tireless crusade to prove Ryan’s innocence. Interspersed with footage from the Ferguson family archive, Andrew Jenks’ film looks at the personal consequences of a wrongful conviction.

One of the most frustrating docs to watch, you learn just how lost our justice system can be. Unexpected and shocking, the combination of footage, audio, and interviews makes for one hell of a story. -Liz  (read review & interview here)

Exclusive Closing Night "Monty Python Live (Mostly)"Monty Python: The Meaning of Live

While perhaps best known for its eminently quotable films, Monty Python has performed its signature, surreal humor in live shows since the group’s earliest days. Dive into the history of Python’s stage work and the genesis of some of its most well-known pieces as they prepare for their last-ever live show. Monty Python: the Meaning of Life is a hilarious and illuminating survey of the process behind the Python.

I saw my first Monty Python films at the age of 13. Why it took me that long, I’ll never know. I have my theater friends to thank for introducing me into a world of absolute insanity and brilliance. This is an awesome look inside  the relationships between some of your most memorable laughs and the men behind them. -Liz

Orion is his iconic eagle suit. Photo credit Sun Records

Orion is his iconic eagle suit. Photo credit Sun Records

Orion: The Man Who Would Be King

Millions of Americans clung to the hope that Elvis Presley faked his death. For the executives at Sun Records that fantasy became an opportunity in the form of Orion, a mysterious masked performer with the voice of The King. But who was the man behind the mask? In this stranger-than-fiction true story, Jeanie Finlay explores a life led in service to those who couldn’t let Elvis go.

Everyone has heard of Elvis, but only a fraction have heard of Orion aka Jimmy Ellis. When Jimmy Ellis sang, he sounded like the legendary Elvis. His talent was brought to new heights when Elvis died and people didn’t want to let go. Never an impersonator, Jimmy did capitalize on this coincidence and attempt stardom on his own. – Melissa (read review here)

Artwork from "That Dragon, Cancer".Credit: That Dragon, Cancer

Artwork from “That Dragon, Cancer”.Credit: That Dragon, Cancer

Thank You For Playing

For the past two years, Ryan and Amy Green have been working on That Dragon, Cancer, a videogame about their son Joel’s fight against that disease. Following the family through the creation of the game and the day-to-day realities of Joel’s treatment, David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall create a moving testament to the joy and heartbreak of raising a terminally ill child.

Fair warning: bring an entire box of tissues with you to this truly important and thoughtfully crafted film. If most of us are being honest, usually when we see commercials for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital we change the channel, but in this instance we come to know and love the members of the Green family. Understanding “That Dragon Cancer ” is the only way to help save lives and support those  on their journey. Using art as an outlet for grief is a transformative way to share an experience, good or bad. – Liz

Wolfpack_Press_1 TribecaThe Wolfpack – releasing June 19th

Everything the Angulo brothers know about the outside world they learned from obsessively watching movies. Shut away from bustling New York City by their overprotective father, they cope with their isolation by diligently re-enacting their favorite films. When one of the brothers escapes, the world as they know it will be transformed.

Something about this film grabbed my heart and held it for it’s entirety. These kids are among us here in NYC, but you’d never know since they’ve been essentially held captive their entire lives. The intense detail  in which these brothers re-create their favorite films is unreal. Their passion and intelligence should be on view for all the world to see and enjoy.- Liz

About Melissa Hanson

Melissa Hanson aka Dial M For Melissa –
Managing Editor / Podcast Producer –
Growing up, Melissa’s favorite destination was always the video store and would agonize over whether to watch something new or to rewatch a favorite. Things have not changed.
Follow on Twitter @DialMForMelissa

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