Review: Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts

oscar shorts 2016Here I am back it after a brief hiatus and I’m happy that this year I am fortunate enough to bring you coverage of this year’s Oscar-nominated short films. Over the next few days, I will roll out reviews in each of the categories – documentary, animation and live action. Since I’m the resident documentary cat around here at Reel News Daily, I thought I would start off in that category. These films cover a variety of important and emotional topics from honor killings in Pakistan to the affects of Agent Orange on the youth of Vietnam to the fallout of capital punishment on the family of the accused. These five films hit every emotional string that you can imagine and leave an impression long after the viewing has ended.

Body Team 12

oscar shorts 16 - body team 12Body Team 12, directed by David Darg (as well as produced by Paul Allen of Microsoft fame as well as actress Olivia Wilde), follows one of the teams charged with removing the bodies of the those who died during the Ebola outbreak in Liberia this past year. It is shown through the perspective of the only female member. Body Team 12 is a moving portrait of community members doing an incredibly difficult and dangerous job to do their part to help curb the epidemic. That said, there are some incredibly difficult parts in watching family members of the deceased deal with the loss of their loved ones. The shortest film in the bunch at just over 13 minutes, Body Team 12 is able to pack a narrative wallop that hits you right in the gut, which makes it no wonder that it was nominated for an Oscar in this category. This film will debut on HBO in March.

 

Chau, beyond the lines

oscar shorts 16 chauChau, beyond the lines is a moving film about Chau, a young man whose body is deformed from his parents having been exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Because of the degree of care he needed, Chau was sent to a peace camp (an orphanage of sorts) where other children – some more, others less – affected by Agent Orange live and are taken care of by a group of state-funded nurses. Chau is an artist at heart and spends his time dedicating himself to honing his craft, which isn’t easy because of the deformities that have affected his hands and arms. Every year, Chau submits a piece to a national contest for young artists across the country, each believing and hoping that he can win and garner some attention on the merits of his art, not his disabilities. Make no bones about it, this one is a difficult watch, but well worth it. This is a story that shows that nearly 45 years after the end of the war in Vietnam, the price is still paid for the hostilities. Chau has an unbelievably positive outlook on life and begs us to all ask the question, “why can’t we do the same?” Written and directed by Courtney Marsh.

Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah

oscar shorts 16 - lanzmann posterAdam Benzine‘s short treatise on director Claude Lanzmann and the making of his seminal documentary on the Holocaust, Shoah. The director queries Lanzmann and others (including fellow documentarian Marcel Ophüls who calls Lanzmann a megalomaniac) about the struggles of making of the film as well as its impact. What can be sure is that Shoah is indeed a masterpiece and widely considered one of the best documentaries ever made. The 12 years that went into filming and editing this film took a toll on Lanzmann who was never the same after making it. From having to surreptitiously record conversations with former Nazis to getting beaten by some who found out his game to having to listen to the stories of those who survived concentration camps like Treblinka and Auschwitz, it’s no wonder. An incredilby affecting piece, Lanzmann is a person worthy of documenting, which makes sense since his life was devoted to the same thing. This film debuts on HBO in May.

A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness

oscar shorts 16 - girl in the riverDirected by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness is by far the film that I found had to most effect on me in this category. After a few contextual shots of the city of Gujranwala, Pakistan (population 5 million), the film opens with Saba Qaiser in the emergency room of the hospital, getting her face stitched up from a gunshot wound. Saba had been attacked by her father and uncle in an effort to kill her for dishonoring their family by marrying someone of a social class they didn’t believe high enough and disobeying her father’s orders. The film opens with a statistic that nearly every year, 1,000 of the so-called honor killings take place in Pakistan despite being illegal. Saba was fortunate in some ways to survive this attack. Fortunate in that she lived, but unfortunate that she must now face the pressing question of whether she should forgive her father and uncle and let them free from jail where they can essentially attack her again if they please. She is adamant against forgiving them and even goes so far as to say they should be killed in a public market as an example to any others considering doing this. However, the reality is her mother and sisters face a lifetime of shame because of her deeds and with her father the sole breadwinner in the house, they would likely not be able to support themselves. A decision that is heavier than anything I can imagine. That Obaid-Chinoy was able to access Saba throughout the entire ordeal makes this film really quite stunning and heartbreaking all the same. If I had a vote for the Oscar, this one gets mine. This film will also debut on HBO in March.

The trailer for this film can be found here.

Last Day of Freedom

oscar shorts 16 - last day of freedomThe final nominee is Last Day of Freedom directed by Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman, is one of the more innovative films nominated in this category I’ve seen to date. It is animated, a kind of mixture of recreations a la Errol Morris with a something that resembles the style of Richard Linklater‘s Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. The film allows Bill Babbitt to tell the story of his brother, Manny, a Vietnam vet who was arrested for murder and sentenced to death. The circumstances surrounding Manny‘s actions were colored by his PTSD and schizophrenia diagnosis, but somehow he still found himself on death row. Bill‘s account gives such a stark and emotional rendering of what it is like to live in the shadow of a loved one’s violent actions, that it wasn’t just the victim and their family who have suffered, but also the loved one’s of the perpetrator. Not only that, this films serves as a stark reminder, one that we seem to see all too many times these days, that justice is not always served.

 

By no means are these films uplifting as they all expose a piece of misery of that sticks with their subjects every single day. What they do do, as I think only documentaries can do, is shed light on subject matter that isn’t easy to face or confront and allow it to be seen in a way that is neither heavy-handed nor flippant. These films help us remind us that even at times when things are the shittiest, that humanity can still succeed. While I don’t have access to the many films that were submitted for this award, I can say that these films represent the documentary spirit well.

 

Review: ‘MEADOWLAND’ drives Olivia Wilde to the brink.

Meadowland poster

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 Olivia Wilde. 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. Read More →

Breaking News: ‘TRON 3’ Cancelled

tron_legacy_hd_1080p-HD

Well this is truly disappointing news. The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that Walt Disney Pictures has decided not to move forward with TRON 3. As of late, word was spreading that both Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde were preparing to reprise their respective roles as Sam Flynn and Quorra from TRON: Legacy with director Joseph Kosinski hoping to start production in the fall, but it appears their efforts to keep the project moving forward are all for naught.

Disney had been interested in adding Jared Leto to the cast, but an offer and negotiations had never commenced.

Tron Legacy grossed $172 million domestically and $400 million worldwide. The sequel to the cult classic Tron received mixed reviews. The under performance of current Disney tentpole Tomorrowland might have had some influence into Disney’s decision. The $180 million live-action film debuted with a dismal $42 million dollar opening weekend followed by an abysmal $13 million dollar second weekend.

More as it becomes available

 

Battle of The Actors Round 1 Matchups Part 2!

Untitled-1Brando, Newman, Hiddleston and Fassbender moved on in the brackets and Denzel Washington beat Leonardo DiCarpio in the bonus bracket by a slim margin..this weeks matchups we switch gears and have our first actress showdowns!

Brad’s Bracket:

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Jeremy’s Bracket:

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Liz’s Bracket:

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Melissas’ Bracket

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Michael’s Bracket

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RED NOSE DAY USA is today! Live on NBC tonight at 8/7c

Red Nose Day, the U.K.’s #1 television fundraising event, is coming to America in a spectacular live star-studded special Thursday, May 21 (8-11 p.m. ET) on NBC.

redNoseDay_marketingBand_learnMore_1080x350Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Julia Roberts, Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Jodie Foster and more, are coming together to have fun, raise money and change lives in an incredible “fun-raising” special. Featuring great comedy, videos produced by Funny Or Die, incredible music performances and Hollywood’s favorite stars, the benefit event will help 12 charity organizations lift children and young people out of poverty, in the U.S. and throughout the world.

RND_Tonight_350x467_v1Julianne Moore, Jack Black, Coldplay and Neil Patrick Harris will also appear, along with John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Michelle Rodriguez, Gwyneth Paltrow and music sensations John Legend and “Voice” coaches Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera and Pharrell Williams. Sienna Miller, Paul Rudd, Olivia Wilde, Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sir Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Leslie Mann, January Jones and Simon Cowell will also be joining the fun, as well as Matt Lauer, Carson Daly, Nick Offerman, Elizabeth Banks, Chris Pine, Jeff Goldblum, Billy Eichner, Martin Short, Laura Linney, Anna Kendrick, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, John Michael Higgins, Bill and Melinda Gates, Stephen Merchant, Naomi Campbell, Anna Camp, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Yvette Nicole Brown, Retta, Natalie Morales, Danny Pudi and Rob Huebel.

In addition, the star-studded event for charity will feature “Game of Thrones” cast members Kit Harington, Peter Dinklage, Iwan Rheon, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Emilia Clarke, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Mark Addy, John Bradley, Rose Leslie, Alfie Allen and Charlotte Hope.  “Orange is the New Black” cast Dascha Polanco, Samira Wiley, Yael Stone, Selenis Leyva, Lea DeLaria, Adrienne C. Moore and Jackie Cruz will also be part of the charity special.

Nick CanonDancathonNick Cannon will kick off the festivities for NBC’s broadcast of “Red Nose Day” with “Red Nose Day Danceathon with Nick Cannon,” streaming live on NBC.com beginning Wednesday, May 20. “America’s Got Talent” host Nick Cannon will attempt to dance non-stop for 24 hours in honor of the inaugural Red Nose Day celebration in the United States, leading into the “Red Nose Day” telecast on Thursday, May 21. Streamed live from the NBC Experience Store at Rockefeller Center in New York City, the day of dance will be filled with guest DJs and musicians, celebrity drop-ins, and a variety of dance acts and troupes. Viewers can support Cannon’s endeavor through sponsorship and donation.

DonateThe money raised during Red Nose Day will be used to fund programs that address the immediate needs of children and young people living in poverty in the U.S. and internationally in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The money will be split between domestic and international poverty issues. The pre-selected charity partners are Boys & Girls Clubs of America; charity: water; Children’s Health Fund; Feeding America; Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance; the Global Fund; LIFT; National Council of La Raza; National Urban League; Oxfam America; Save the Children and United Way.

In the U.K., Red Nose Day has been a tradition for 30 years and is an inspiring cultural phenomenon that unites people from all walks of life in the interest of saving and changing lives across the globe. With superstar presenters and comedians, original sketch comedy, hilarious film parodies and amazing musical performances, Red Nose Day has been one of the BBC’s highest-rated Friday night shows for many years and raised more than $1 billion in donations so far for organizations addressing poverty.

Created in 1985 by Oscar nominee and Emmy Award-winning writer-director-producer Richard Curtis (“Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Bridget Jones Diary,” “Notting Hill”), Red Nose Day was built upon the foundation that mass media and celebrities can help raise money and increase awareness of poverty in order to save and change millions of lives.

Curtis is an executive producer for the NBC telecast (a Universal Television production), along with Hamish Hamilton and Ian Stewart of Done + Dusted Productions. Henrietta Conrad and Lily Sobhani will also serve as executive producers, as will Mike Farah, Anna Wenger and Joe Farrell from Funny Or Die. Hamilton is set to direct.

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

tribeca film festival 2015 logo

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

Jeremy’s Review: Peter Glanz’s ‘The Longest Week’ Is What Happens When Wes Anderson and Woody Allen Films Mate…But Is That a Good Thing?

The Longest Week - PosterFresh with master shots, sly camera movements and clever inserts of nostalgic items such as record players flush with witty conversations on the meaning of life, sex and relationships, Peter Glanz‘s The Longest Week wears its influences on its sleeve – Wes Anderson and Woody Allen are everywhere in this film. The economic status of the characters could easily lead us to the New York comedies of Whit Stillman (Metropolitan in particular – the Jane Austen chatter alone pushes this). With all that cinematic genius being channeled, as the title of this article asks, is this a good thing? Maybe, maybe not. Read More →