13 Movies We Can’t Wait to See at Tribeca 2022
Some twenty years into its existence, the Tribeca Festival may have dropped the “film” part from its name — it wants to rebrand itself as something that includes TV and games and technology and whatever else strikes its creators’ fancy at the moment, and apparently that means not associating itself with movies per se, which, Ok, you do you, Tribeca, we’re still calling you a film festival. But that little thing we old people like to call “cinema (when we’re not yelling at clouds, I suppose) is still very much present and accounted for, and between opening night on June 9th and the closing-night screening on June 26th, there’s plenty to see once the downtown NYC event kicks into gear.
We’ve narrowed down a lucky 13 movies from its abundant competition lineups/sidebars that are worth your time, effort and eyeballs: some choice music documentaries, profiles of both Rudy Giuliani and Al Sharpton, a sitcom star’s directorial debut, a famous Bronx resident’s take on her multifaceted show-business career, a mindblowing essay that connects a master filmmaker with a Golden Age of Hollywood classic, and more. (Should you want to check out some of Tribeca’s virtual premieres and offerings at home, you can purchase tickets for those here. Just be sure to call them “films.”)
It’s subtitled “The Songs of Marc Bolan and T. Rex” — and this look back at the late glam icon wants you to pay particular attention to his chops as a songwriter, which tends to get short shrift in light of what we usually talk about when we talk about Bolan (fashion, flirtations with sexual fluidity, the outré banging of 1970s rock-star gongs). You actually get two docs in one: a chronicle of how a kid from Hackney inspired everyone from Bowie to Elton John to go crazy big or go the fuck home, and how his death in 1977 cut short an amazing career; and a glimpse at producer Hal Willner putting together his tribute album to Bolan and getting U2, Nick Cave, Kesha, Lucinda Williams, Macy Gray and other artists to cover great T. Rex songs. (The fact that this would be Willner’s final project before passing away in 2020 only makes this film that much more poignant.)
Easily one of the most underrated filmmakers working today — seriously, if you haven’t seen Mother of George (2013) and Where Is Kyra? (2017), you should rectify that situation ASAP — Andrew Dosunmu returns with this story of a talented young singer named Beauty (Gracie Marie Bradley) who’s poised to become the Next Big Thing in the early 1980s. That also means her personal life is about to come under a lot of scrutiny as well, which means the fact that she has a longtime girlfriend (Aleyse Shannon) has to be kept hush-hush if she wants to make it on the charts. Any similarity to any famous singers of that era, living or dead, is completely coincidental, we assume. Lena Waithe wrote the script; Sharon Stone plays the music-industry whiz who’s grooming Beauty for superstardom; Giancarlo Esposito and Niecey Nash play the singer’s devoutly religious parents. We have high hopes for this one.
You can’t talk about the history of West Coast hip-hop without mentioning Tracy Curry, better known as the D.O.C. An M.C. who got his start in Dallas, he was asked by Dr. Dre to come to Los Angeles to help write on the first N.W.A album. His debut, No One Can Do It Better, immediately established him as the guy who’d help bring Cali rap to the next level. Then a car accident damaged his larynx, and his career behind the mic was, for the most part, over; he’d spend the next few decades contributing behind the scenes to classic albums like The Chronic and Doggy Style, wielding what one peer calls the deadliest pen in hip-hop. Documentarian Dave Caplan traces the history of D.O.C.’s career, with luminaries like Dre, Eminem and Too Short weighing in on his influence and lyrics, while Curry himself debates over an experimental surgery that could possibly restore most of his voice — but radically change his life again.
‘God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines’
Or: Dance, Dance, Musical Revolution. This deep dive into the roots of techno music goes back to several key origin points — Detroit, Chicago, London, Berlin — and emphasizes how a handful of creative types with drum machines and D.J. slots at clubs helped turn dance music into something much, much bigger than a few scattered regional scenes. Notably, it emphasizes how these were Black artists at the forefront of this art form, and acts as both a history lesson and a corrective to the origin story that’s formed around techno’s birth into a billion-dollar industry over the years.
Tribeca kicks off this year’s shindig with a peek behind the curtain at the woman we call J-Lo, as one Jennifer Lopez holds forth on acting, music, family, legacy, superstardom, being a Latinx artist, performing at the recent Presidential inauguration and, per the title, the Super Bowl halftime show. But there’s a double meaning to the name, see, because Lopez says that all of the heights she’s scaled so far have just been the first half to what’s she got planned next. Fans will get to spend some quality time with the Renaissance woman. Detractors will get to see a very robust ego in display. See, there’s something for everybody!
Everyone has an opinion about Al Sharpton. You don’t even need to be a New Yorker to have feelings about his work as an activist, a provocateur, a public figure, a preacher who’s treated social justice like gospel, an opportunist who’s used the flames of outrage for his own benefit or, most likely, some combination of all of the above; his reputation as a Civil Rights crusader and modern-day shit-stirrer goes beyond the five boroughs. Josh Alexander’s doc tries to look at the many sides of Sharpton and come up with a picture that takes into account how the good, the bad and the ugly of his persona plays into a decades-long campaign to right wrongs on a local and national level. It’s a movie that earns its moniker in the best possible ways.
David Lynch fanatics will tell you that the director has long been obsessed with The Wizard of Oz; it’s not a coincidence that Isabella Rossellini’s character in Blue Velvet is named Dorothy. And the filmmaker has borrowed a number of elements from it over the years, from the not-so-subtle — see: the homage-filled Wild at Heart — to the downright subliminal. The latest cine-essay/meta-movie-documentary from Alexandre O. Phillippe (78/52, Memory: The Origins of Alien) enlists a host of narrators ranging from RS contributor Amy Nicholson to John Waters to deconstruct and dive deep into the ways Lynch has channeled this beloved Golden Age of Hollywood classic in to his own work. A must for film nerds, Oz-aphiles and anyone who’s wondered why so many of Lynch’s characters wear red shoes.
‘Rudy! A Documusical’
Remember when Rudy Giuliani was “America’s Mayor,” a sort of beacon of hope, grace under pressure and civic leadership in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks? Instead of, say, the toxic clown who showed up on television spewing lies about election fraud and inciting insurrectionists to indulge in “trial by combat” before they storm the Capitol’s steps? Jed Rothstein’s documentary traces the rise and spectacular fall of the politician, touching on everything from his crusade to go after Mob bigwigs to his controversial “broken windows” approach to cleaning up NYC, 9/11 to January 6th. And because Giuliani is a noted fan of opera, the movie includes a few musical numbers that dramatize his path to from hero to pariah-hood as well.
‘Somewhere in Queens’
Should you miss the pleasure of seeing new episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond every week, you’re in luck — Ray Romano has finally made his directorial debut, and this comedy sounds like a cross between a supersized ELR and a heartfelt riff taken from his stand-up act. Romano plays a dad who is pulling some strings behind the scenes so his son can get a basketball scholarship. If you think that will not hilariously backfire on this well-meaning guy, well…you don’t know Ray. Costarring Laurie Metcalf — who should be recognized for the national treasure she is! — Sebastian Maniscalco and Jennifer Esposito. If you like crowd-pleasing motion pictures….
It’s now a given that nonfiction storytelling has moved out of the cinematic “eat your vegetables” realm and has become a huge part of most media diets (just scroll through the documentary section of your streaming service of choice if you don’t believe us). But what happens to those who find themselves at the center of a popular doc or a must-watch true-crime series once the cameras go away — and their private lives are now part of the public discourse? Filmmakers Jennifer Tiexiera and Camilla Hall talk to various subjects involved in Hoop Dreams, The Staircase, The Wolfpack, Capturing the Friedmans and more, and examine how the effect of being at the center of a cinéma verité storm hasn’t always been a good thing.
A twentysomething musician named Cole spends his nights cutting tracks in the studio, his days in a sort of numb haze fueled by drugs and alcohol, and the rest of his waking hours pissing off everybody around him. His manager wants him to finish the new album already; his various hangers-on and enablers want him to keep the party going; his long-suffering assistant just wants him to cut her some slack. You get the sense this is not going to end well for our man in the spotlight. Tim Sutton’s portrait of an artist as candle in the 21st century rap-rock wind casts a jaundiced eye on the music biz; the fact that Cole is played by Colson Baker, a.k.a. Machine Gun Kelly, adds a whole other voyeuristic thrill to the proceedings.
Has it really been 20 years since Andrew Bujalski delivered unto the world Funny Ha Ha, and thus inaugurated the microindie genre known (often non-affectionately) as “mumblecore?” How time flies. One of our favorite American filmmakers is back with another lo-fidelity, extra-dry ensemble dramedy, described in the press notes as “an experimental series that construct a delirious mirror image of everyday life in a distinctly twisted and discordant world.” Cool! Lili Taylor, Jason Schwartzman and The Walking Dead‘s Lennie James are among the cast members.
Writer/producer/the artist forever known as “Ryan from The Office” B.J. Novak premieres his directorial debut at this year’s fest, a thriller about a podcaster who travels to West Texas to attend the funeral of a young woman he casually knew and maybe hooked up with a few times. (It’s complicated, folks.) The story is that she died of an opioid overdose; he thinks some foul play was involved, however, and wants to dig around for some answers. If he gets a few good true-crime episodes out of it, hey, all the better. Think Blood Simple but for Radiolab fanatics. Issa Rae, Ashton Kutcher, Dove Cameron, Boyd Holbrook and the mighty J-Smith Cameron costar.