2023 Tribeca Festival Report

    (above: John Hamm and Tina Fey in “Maggie Moore(s)”)

    My favorite film from this month’s Tribeca Festival was a wacky comedy no one else seemed to like, which I reviewed here. Of the 25 or so films I did get to see, here are the ones I can recommend.

    Rod Blackhurst’s “Blood For Dust” is a tense neo-noir with good performances even if the story is a bit predictable. Scoot McNairy is a traveling salesman, out there riding the northwest on a handshake and a smile and not making enough money to support his family. An old friend (Kit Harrington of “Game of Thrones”) lures him into a lucrative but dangerous side hustle (drugs and guns) and that never goes well, does it? Great atmosphere in this film, a nice cameo by the always good Stephen Dorff but the shoot outs (though expertly executed) at the end seem a bit abortive, as if an entire season of a series had been condensed to one motion picture.

    “Smoking Tigers” is a quietly affecting family drama about Korean/American high school students competing to get into the best universities. A powerful debut by director So Young Shelly Yo.

    “Cypher” starts out as a good portrait of the rise of a talented female rapper but then falls apart when combined with a fictional conspiracy plot. And this won the festival’s award for Best Narrative Feature?

    “The Line” is an effective but predictable frat hazing story with an excellent young cast (most of whom looked so alike I had a hard time telling who was who!) and good direction. The cameos by John Malkovich and Denise Richards were needless and a bit of casting overkill.

    “Maggie Moore(s)” is a charming comedy-crime drama with a great cast: John Hamm, Tina Fey and Nick Mohammed (Nate in “Ted Lasso.”) It’s a bit of a poor man’s Cohen Brothers combo of humor, drama and violence directed by Hamm’s fellow “Mad Men” cast member John Slattery.

    “The Blackening” is a crackerjack comedy horror parody film (think the “Scary Movie” franchise with a bit of “Get Out!”) about a group of black friends celebrating Juneteenth in a remote cabin who discover a board game with murderous consequences.

    “This Is Not Financial Advice” is a revealing portrait of the sucker game called crypto currency with some key participants documented. 

    “It’s Basic” documents participants in municipal basic income programs around the United States. It’s more anecdotal than explanatory but still makes a good case for continuing such experiments. Worth watching with the recent doc about union busting, “Americonned.”

    “The Gullspång Miracle” is a likeable oddball Swedish doc about sisters reuniting with a mystery twin after the twin they grew up with died.

    “Rather” is little more than a vanity bio of news anchor Dan Rather. He deserves better.

    Great miniature art design interstitials and narration by the legend himself make director David Gel’s “Stan Lee” a fun and fascinating introduction to the Marvel Comics legend.

    You may have thought the late Biz Markie was a one hit wonder (“Oh baby you/Got what I need…”) but Sacha Jenkins’ “All Up In The Biz” tells the whole story of the legendary beat-boxer and rapper from Long Island. Inventive animations (some with puppets) and a tour of Markie’s legendary pop culture collection enrich this highly enjoyable doc.

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