“Cutie and the Boxer”
Synopsis: A documentary detailing the contentious, artistically fruitful relationship between Japanese artist Ushio Shinohara and his much younger (but just as talented) wife, Noriko. Ushio is known for his papier-mâché motorcycles and splattered masterpieces, created by soaking boxing gloves in paint and pummeling the canvas.
Verdict: A true triumph, one in which the complexities of the couple's relationship is only rivaled by how complicated their working life together is. Director Zachary Heinzerling brilliantly takes Noriko's own illustrations, which weave an autobiographical portrait of her life with Ushio, and animates them. It gives us the story of their forty-year-plus relationship in a delicately dreamlike manner, full of vivid detail and emotion. Ushio always battled for international superstardom, which never really came his way, but his biggest achievement was keeping Noriko around for all these years. [Read our review here.]
Synopsis: In a summer that should be full of adventure and fun, an unexplained accident forces death into the lives of two young boys, leaving them confused, devastated and angry.
Verdict: DP turned feature-length narrative writer/director Daniel Patrick Carbone might be the festival's biggest directorial discovery. Beautiful, yet anguished and tense, “Hide Your Smiling Faces” marks the start of an auteur in the making. The film could be described as if a young Michael Haneke directed David Gordon Green’s directorial debut “George Washington," and there are some spiritual similarities to Terrence Malick. But Carbone, who recently worked with indie filmmaker Rick Alverson, is in the end, his own person with his own voice. “Hide Your Smiling Faces,” is unnerving and disquieting, but also possesses the curiosity and inquisitiveness of young boys at play, but figuratively and literally. A brooding and atmospheric score from one of the members of Labradford adds yet another layer of simmering mood to the picture and it’s gorgeously shot too. It’s a bit of a shock the film didn’t take any major awards (perhaps it’s missing the awards-vital ingredient of a crowd-pleasing tone), as it’s an accomplished effort, the type that rarely comes from a first film, but nonetheless, it’s easily one of the best film from this festival’s crop. [Read our review here]
Synopsis: A documentary regarding the number one high school basketball player in the country and why he seemed to vanish from professional ball as soon as he left school.
Verdict: There’s a certain heartbreaking sadness once you piece together the reality of the making of “Lenny Cooke.” It’s clear from the exhaustive footage from Cooke’s youth that directors Joshua and Benny Safdie assumed they were at one point making a film about the next big superstar. The footage bears this out, revealing Cooke as an exciting, rangy talent that traded baskets with the likes of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in the early 2000s. But Cooke’s career never took off, as he fell off the radar following failures at home and in school; by the time he readied himself for the NBA Draft, he went virtually ignored. The rest of the footage captures a heftier, more modest Cooke at an older age, seemingly beat down from what seems like a lifetime of too-late hustle to make up for just a couple of lost years in the spotlight. Most sports stories are like this, the tale of the one-time prospect who doesn’t pan out for one reason or another, the underlying truth being that they simply did not have the intense desire to succeed in that field despite being anointed as a superstar at a too-young age. But few of those stories feature a talent as remarkable and peerless as the young Lenny Cooke and none feature the sort of candid access to Cooke’s current life and struggles as this film, which transcends the sports doc formula to produce something wholly indelible. [Read our review here]
Synopsis: A young New York City woman attempts to balance her social and professional life with the end of her cancer treatment.
Verdict: First-time director Matt Creed has made a picture of startling loveliness, capturing the feeling of having to jump back onto a treadmill long after having stepped off. As brought to life by co-writer and star Amy Grantham, Lily is a touching character, not a wallflower but not in a rush to be the center of attention either, and her lack of chemistry with the friends and lovers that clutter her self-esteem speaks not just to the awkwardness of someone hoping to rejoin the rest of the world, but of the unending momentum of New York City. “Lily” is a New York movie through and through in an age where most visions of the city are highly corporate and basically anonymous. Creed and Grantham perfectly capture the vibe of a city that seems alive and vital, demonstrating that a great New York City film should play like a musical, but without the lyrics and instruments, just the melodies. [Read our review here.]