Stars of Tribeca Pt. 1

Capsule reviews and ratings of the films of the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival

Employee of the Month ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

My experience suggests that anything about “employee of the month” programs would be an invitation to ridicule and cynicism. This unique, smart Belgian movie could well be titled “The Revenge of the Employee of the Month.”

Billed as a dark comedy, there are a series of underlying issues about equal pay, workplace harassment and sexual assault. Ines is an underpaid, overworked and sexually harassed secretary. Melody has joined her as an intern and is greeted to a two-foot mound of paper to be fed one sheet at a time through a desktop shredder. Together they come up with the final solution for the misogynists they work with.

Leaving aside the equality issues and the bloodshed, this is a movie that’s full of laughs. The stereotypical portrayal of the good-old-boy office is hilarious as is the bullshitting boss, the narcissistic sales guy and the management bureaucrats.

Tiu ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Not much chance of my being able to provide an objective review of this short documentary because I’m a big fan of the Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men which the movie is about. It celebrates both the tenth anniversary of their first album and the release of their most recent one, also named Tiu.

The band takes us on a tour of places in Iceland that were of significance to them and plays songs that relate to their experience. For example, the camera visits Nanna’s great grandmother’s house and they do a song there about a bowl of sugar on the table, something her great grandmother always set out for her.

What we don’t see in this documentary is the rock band. Instead we see a soft, harmonious, gentle band playing thoughtful, introspective songs. What we also see is some beautiful cinematography capturing the landscape of Iceland.

The name Tui is ten in Icelandic. There are ten songs on the album. They are songs that were written over a period of ten years that didn’t make it onto other records. Doesn’t matter, they’re good.

Cha Cha Real Smooth ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Andrew is 22 years old. He just graduated from Tulane. He’s back home crashing in his little brother’s room. He got a gig behind the counter at “Meat Sticks.” He scores a second gig as a party starter for a string of Bar Mitzvahs in Livingston, N.J. Then he gets a third gig as a babysitter for the autistic girl who sits in the back corner at those Bar Mitzvahs.

It is the Bar Mitzvah gig that gives the movie its name. As someone who lives in New Jersey and who married into a Jewish family from Livingston, I was ready to start laughing before they even rolled the opening titles.The Bar Mitzvah part doesn’t disappoint, even though some of these gatherings result in a stream of profanity, bouts of drunkenness and even fisticuffs.

The other central theme to this movie is the hot and cold relationship between Andrew and the autistic girl’s mother Diamond. Diamond is played by Dakota Johnson who seems grossly out of place at a Bar Mitzvah.

If you can call this a RomCom, I’d say the com is a lot better than the rom. Ultimately it’s about discovering something that many of us realized later in life: that we didn’t know what the hell we were doing when we were 22.

Carol & Johnny ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A documentary about a couple in their 70’s, facing the camera, talking about their lives and wondering where they’ll go next. He’s is Seattle. She’s in Texas.

They are still married but have no idea if they’ll see each other again.

The lives that they reminisce about include 56 bank robberies and two decades in prison.

It’s hard to find much good in Johnny Madison Williams. He stole things when he was a kid. Took a pounding from the adults who raised him. Went to jail for robbing a convenience store then got out, married Carol, and coerced her into being the driver of the getaway car on his heists. Somehow he got 19 years behind bars and she got 20.

This is not Bonnie and Clyde. You can’t romanticize these two. What’s fascinating is how ordinary they seem and how matter-of-factly they tell their story. Johnny doesn’t make excuses for himself and doesn’t show much remorse. Carol says she became a criminal so her husband would love her. Folks like this don’t often get to tell their long form story and it’s pretty interesting to watch.

Karaoke ⭐️⭐️⭐️

A visit to the penthouse changes the lives of a 60ish couple in an Israeli apartment building. It all starts when Itzak, the guy upstairs blocks Meir’s car in the parking garage with his Maserati. That results in an apologetic invite to the top floor where Meir and Tova clearly are fish out of water.

Meir, a quiet, unassuming regular guy sort ends up singing karaoke (quite well), hopping on the back of Itzak’s motorcycle and doing a line of coke. Tova goes from calling the police because of the noise to doing Spanish dances for Itzak in the penthouse.

Does it produce self-realization? Or just middle age folly? Beats me.

The premise promises more fun than the movie provides. There’s a few laughs and lots of awkwardness. Trying to stir the pot for middle-aged married couples seems to be  a theme this year. As in:

Nude Tuesday ⭐️⭐️

Bruno and Laura are an unhappy, harried and seemingly unloving married couple. For their anniversary, Bruno’s mother gives them a gift certificate to a retreat that promises to revive your sex life.

Once there, they stay in yurt-like cabins, listen to the suspicious head guru and do exercises like sitting in a circle touching the genitals of the person on their right.  Nothing here is either titillating or especially funny. That goes for the film as well. The suspense is in wondering whether Bruno and Laura completely lose their minds. The most touching part of the movie is Laura’s relationship with the on-premises goat. Sadly Fritz the goat does not make it to Nude Tuesday, the climax of the program.

You may wonder why this New Zealand movie has subtitles and is in an indistinguishable language. It’s because they aren’t speaking a language, they’re talking gibberish. It’s clever, quirky, but not necessarily engaging.

The Lost Weekend: A Love Story ⭐️

This is a documentary about a young Chinese American woman from New York who becomes John Lennon’s girlfriend? lover? roommate? for 18 months while he and his wife Yoho Ono take something of a break. May Pang got a job with Apple Records, then becomes John and Yoko’s personal assistant, then focuses her “assisting” totally on John.

Pang seems to claim that the whole affair was Yoko’s idea. At least that’s how she tells the story. She is not one to underestimate her influence and importance in John’s life and in his relationship with the other Beatles, his son and his ex-wife. The time frame is 1973-75 and May is 23. 

If you are, like me, not a fan of name dropping, so much the worse because it comes hot and heavy. Watching this movie doesn’t make me like any of these folks any better. There are those who can’t get enough Beatles and with all the footage and interviews contained herein, they will find this doc interesting. For me, watching the home streaming version, I felt no need to press the pause button when stepped out of the room.

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7 Responses to Stars of Tribeca Pt. 1

  1. You saw quite a few films. I love Of Monsters and Men, I’ll look for Tui. Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

  2. These are great, been reading about Cha Cha Real Smooth and am looking forward to seeing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Stars of Tribeca Pt. 2 | off the leash

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