Tom Berninger (Director, "Mistaken For Strangers")
There’s something incredibly endearing about the scenes late in The National documentary “Mistaken For Strangers” where Berninger gazes upon a wall of disorganized notecards, attempting to piece together the narrative of his own film as if it will come together through osmosis. But that image of a bumbling goofball trying to make sense of the abstract (accompanied by his brother’s patient nodding) runs counter to the format of “Mistaken For Strangers,” a proudly revelatory documentary about what it’s like to be the brother of a rock-star. As Berninger follows brother Matt and his band The National on the road as an awkward roadie, he also captures moments of unusual serenity that exist when a major band is on-tour, hitting either far-off European countries or holding court with the President of the United States. “Mistaken For Strangers” is the rare doc that puts a face not only on a wildly popular but anonymous-seeming band, but also on the lives touched by rock stardom, in one way or another. Berninger, who shows off two previous films he’s made with splatter-horror bonafides, may have just found a more viable muse as the ultimate rock and roll outsider. [Read our review here.]
As the title role in the comedy-drama, Grantham is arresting as soon as she appears in front of the camera. Whether it be in a thick set of bangs, her eyes shining through an elaborate chemo-wig, or her short pixie cut highlighting her lithe physicality, Grantham immediately puts viewers at ease; this may be a film about cancer, but Grantham’s easy smile and sweet nature conveys that she’s a survivor. Despite her girlish glee, there’s hardness to Grantham, a worldliness that reveals an inner toughness, pivotal to this film considering that given Lily’s cancer treatments, personal troubles and difficulty finding work would suggest she’s a victim. It’s a beautiful performance from a writer-actress whom we hope to see more of very soon.
“Run And Jump” earned attention during the fest for being the first dramatic role for comedian Will Forte as Dr. Ted Fielding. While he acquits himself well as the role of a humorless doctor with a secret love for the sticky icky, it’s impossible for viewers of the film to keep their eyes off Ms. Peake. As struggling wife Vanetia, Peake has to balance a natural effervescence and upbeat nature with the everyday disappointment that comes from coping with a post-stroke husband who has lost most of his motor skills (an also-excellent Edward MacLiam). Peake has a natural vitality and joy onscreen, and it’s not hard to imagine the exceedingly-devoted Dr. Fielding shirking his professional responsibilities and spending the evening hours lighting up and dancing to old 45s with this beacon of Irish joy. [Read our review here.]
Befitting its vague, elliptical title, “Floating Skyscrapers” places a strong emphasis on the elaborate exteriors of gyms, apartment buildings and offices, turning wide-open spaces into claustrophobic set design to emphasize the closing worlds of the illicit homosexual lovers within the narrative. But “Floating Skyscrapers” isn’t just an airless observation of humans amidst architecture, but also a surprisingly sharp domestic melodrama that plays off a small cast of characters consistently bouncing against each other in an attempt to cope with a massive change in the life of Kuba, the swimmer that everyone is counting on to produce. “Floating Skyscrapers” carries an obvious plotline involving tragedy befalling gay lovers, but it doesn’t neglect the blisteringly explicit lovemaking scenes between lovers both gay and straight, moments where bodies collapse and collide into each other like crashing buildings, leaving the impression that director Wasilewski captures the human body like no other, powering this drama with the lust and focus of messy, borderline irresponsible love. [Read our review here.]
Like we said above, "Bluebird" is a terrific debut film picture and yes, "Mad Men" and "Girls" stars don't hurt, but there's exceptional female trio in the cast that are all mostly unknown and they are all stellar. The women are Amy Morton (Tony winner for “August: Osage County,” also George Clooney’s sister in “Up In The Air”), Louisa Krause (the bitchy, scene-stealing hotel clerk in "Young Adult") and Emily Meade ("Fringe," "My Soul to Take"). As the devastated mother who inadvertently creates a tragedy (and true lead of the film) Morton is fantastic and someone we hope to see on screen all the time. Krause plays the dysfunctional, alcoholic mother of the boy whose life is hanging by a thread, and Meade plays Morton's disaffected and alienated daughter. In a movie about how we're all connected yet emotionally divided, these three exceptional female talents bridge a world of deep pathos, confusion and longing. They're all outstanding performances and they are now, forever on our radar moving forward.
We wanted to say something about the handsome Jack Reynor of “What Richard Did” though we doubt he needs the extra dap given that he’ll appear in the next “Transformers” film. Both Johan Heldenbergh and Veerle Baetens brought a strong emotional intensity to “The Broken Circle Breakdown” (with the latter winning an award at Tribeca) while Tribeca's Best Documentary award went to Dan Krauss for “The Kill Team,” an honor that we cannot dispute. Andrea Suarez brought a toughness to her lead role in “Stand Clear Of The Closing Doors,” while the Lynch-like direction on “Taboor” makes us think director Vahid Vakilifar might be one of our next great surrealists in the vein of Elia Suleiman, and even surrounded by a collection of hokey plotlines, newcomer Saxon Sharbino brought a Tatum O’Neal-like maturity to her role in “Trust Me.” Jenée LaMarque, the writer/director of the quirky, but emotionally substantial “The Pretty One” definitely has personality and we’ll clearly keep seeing good things from her in the future. Laurie Collyer, the director of “Sherrybaby” knows the downtrodden well and while this year’s Tribeca entry “Sunlight Jr.” was a bit too unrelentingly bleak, it is a strong effort nonetheless and features impressive performances from Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon. And yes, they're mentioned above, but director's Lance Edmands, Sean Dunne, Daniel Patrick Carbone and Kim Mordaunt all having exciting careers ahead of them and we can't wait to see what they do next. - Gabe Toro, Rodrigo Perez, Drew Taylor