"Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic"
Synopsis: The definitive documentary portrait of one of the most well-respected (and troubled) comedians of his generation, the documentary uses new interviews and archival footage to give a complete view of the man both on and off the stage.
What You Need to Know: First and foremost, you need to know that "Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic" was directed by Marina Zenovich, the controversial filmmaker behind "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired" (which questioned the investigation and prosecution of filmmaker Roman Polanksi) and "Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out" (which looked at how that initial film might have stirred up interest in recapturing Polanski). Zenovich is unreasonably talented and gets to the heart of her subjects in truly incisive ways – choosing figures that the public embraces (or despises) without ever really knowing them. For "Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic," she talked to Whoopi Goldberg, Mel Brooks, Robin Williams, Dave Chappelle, Lily Tomlin, Quincy Jones and Jesse Jackson, and set the whole thing to a new score by electronic jazz musician Mocean Worker. Is there any part of this that seems like anything less than a must-see? Considering how long and tortured the development of a narrative biography of the comedian has been, this is probably going to be the best Pryor bio for a while.
When: TUE 9/23 9:30 PM SVA Theater 1 Silas
Synopsis: A stark documentary set in Oceana, West Virginia where, after the local mining industry closed down and left the local economy in a state of desperation, a new trade has emerged – the drug trade. The locals have nicknamed the town Oxyana after the OxyContin epidemic that has seized the tiny Appalachian community -- now every resident is a potential addict.
What You Need to Know: Part of the World Documentary Competition, "Oxyana" is directed by Sean Dunne ("American Juggalo") with the potential sensationalism of the subject matter dialed way down. Dunne has decided to take a naturalistic, humanistic approach, focusing on the daily struggles of drug dependency – the reason for the pill-popping instead of the pill-popping itself. The atmospheric score is by American alt-country band Deer Tick and adds to the sense of homespun gloom and the feeling that the events in Oxyana are probably happening all over the country.
When: FRI 4/19 9:30 PM Clearview Cinemas Chelsea 6
Synopsis: A documentary charting the development and classification of that fearsome demographic and cultural needle-mover: the teenager. From early 20th century, up until 1945, the film charts the development of the concept of the teenager and its social and cultural importance.
What You Need to Know: Based on the book by punk author Jon Savage, directed by New York filmmaker Matt Wolf (2008's "Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell") and narrated by Julia Hummer, Jessie Usher, Jena Malone and Ben Whishaw, the movie uses archival materials, Super 8 recreations, and diary entries, all set to a contemporized post-punk soundtrack (by Deerhunter/Atlas Sound mastermind Bradford Cox), in an effort to create both the history of the teenager and what it feels like to be one. Everything from flappers to Nazi youth to juvenile delinquents are covered in "Teenage." It might not be enough to make you nostalgic, but it'll certainly take you back.
When: SAT 4/20 9 PM Clearview Cinemas Chelsea 7
Just missing the cut, but still worth keeping an eye on, are the documentary on The National "Mistaken for Strangers"; the possibly exploitative, possibly awesome "Raze" starring Zoe Bell as a woman taken prisoner and forced to fight other women; and the incendiary-sounding "Kill Team" a doc about alleged "thrill kills" carried out in Afghanistan by U.S. soldiers.
Of course, there are a few films that have cropped up at other festivals that we've already seen. Of those, there are three absolute must-sees for anyone who hasn't had the chance already: Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight," David Gordon Green's "Prince Avalanche,"and the debut film from Saudi Arabia's first female feature filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour "Wadjda."
Not quite so vital, but still worthwhile, are: Paul Verhoeven's shortish, but immensely fun crowd-sourcing experiment "Tricked," Ramin Bahrani's "At Any Price," and Neil Jordan's vampire flick "Byzantium." "Taboor" is an exceptionally strange but compelling and beautiful film for those with the patience, that shared the Jury Prize at the Marrakech Film Festival, while the neo-realist "Ali Blue Eyes" won a special Jury Prize in Rome. "Before Snowfall," which took the Grand Prix in Goteborg is a powerful, if somewhat too slowly told, story of a young man embarking on an international voyage to carry out an "honor" killing. "The Rocket," a film set in Laos, featuring children going to a rocket festival, won big in the youth categories in Berlin, while "Northwest" is a decent Scandinavian crime thriller which won the Critics' prize in Goteborg.
And then there are a few we're only mildly interested in, like "The English Teacher" which, despite starring Julianne Moore, just sounds a little mediocre to us, the severely disappointing "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" which we reviewed out of Venice, "Greetings from Tim Buckley" which we were underwhelmed by at TIFF, and the Sam Rockwell-starring "A Single Shot" which let us down in Berlin.
But not to end on a dour note, in addition to the films being shown, this year Tribeca is organizing a series of interesting and innovative events that maybe expand a little our definition of what a film festival covers, and of those, the one we most have our eye on is the "Beyond: Two Souls" video game presentation. With stars Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe in attendance, it will be a sneak peek at the incredibly lifelike visuals (see here), and a discussion with the designers and the stars about the creative process behind it.
So yeah, we're excited for this year's festival. We think it's going to be a good one -- stay tuned for more!