The 2013 Tribeca Film Festival is in full swing this weekend and continues through Saturday. This year's film slate is heavy with hard-hitting documentaries and narrative features with all-star casts. But not every movie is living up to its early buzz. Read on for our guide to the highs and lows of this year's festival, with screening times and locations.
'Michael H. Profession: Director'
Yves Montmayeur, who has shot numerous behind-the-scenes features about Michael Haneke's work, gets inside the head of the elusive, intimidating Austrian director, who won the 2013 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. “Michael H. Profession: Director” takes us on the the set of “Amour,” “The Piano Teacher,” “Cache” and “The White Ribbon” for an unprecedented look at what makes the fearsome, avowedly anti-Hollywood filmmaker tick. In several candid -- and sometimes explosive -- interviews, Haneke defends his reputation for making films (“Funny Games,” “Time of the Wolf”) that punish the audience. “If you take someone seriously, you can tell them unpleasant things that upset all of us,” Haneke insists.
While Montmayeur might allow Haneke, a notorious control freak, to have a bit too much influence over the narrative, “Michael H. Profession: Director” ultimately lets the audience decide if Haneke is as honest with himself about his motivations as his films are about humanity's capacity for cruelty.
Screening Sunday at 3:30 p.m. and Thursday at 3:30 p.m. at Clearview Cinemas Chelsea, Saturday at 4 p.m. at AMC Loews Village 7
'Some Velvet Morning'
Speaking of cruelty, Neil Labute's (“In the Company of Men,” “Your Friends and Neighbors”) latest provocation stars the unimpeachable Stanley Tucci as a broken, self-obsessed man who makes a surprise visit to a former mistress (Alice Eve) he hasn't seen in years.
Premieres Sunday at 6 p.m., at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. Additional screenings Monday at 9:30 p.m. at the School of Visual Arts and Thursday at 7:00 p.m. at AMC Loews Village 7
Thomas Haden Church (“Sideways”) stars as an alcoholic widower reeling from guilt over a death that may or may not have been an accident. The Canadian thriller from Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais takes place almost exclusively in the snowy forests of Quebec, where Church's Bruce desperately tries to reconcile his actions. The darkly comic character study has drawn comparisons to the Coen Brothers in its glowing early reviews.
Screening Sunday at 1 p.m. at School of Visual Arts and Saturday at 7 p.m. at AMC Loews Village 7
Also set in a remote winter landscape -- this time in Maine -- “Bluebird” studies the consequences of a tragic mistake on the residents of a depressed logging town. John Slattery (“Mad Men”) stars alongside Amy Morton and Adam Driver (“Girls”) in what Indiewire describes as “an affecting and moving examination of family, mothers, connectedness and the ripple effect of tragic consequences.” “Bluebird” is NYU grad Lance Edmands' first feature.
Screening Monday at 8:30 p.m at AMC Loews Village 7 and Tuesday at 10:00 p.m. At Clearview Cinemas Chelsea
Dave Carroll's feature debut follows Chris “Wonder” Shoeck, a New York City loner with physical strength that far outmatches his size, as he attempts to realize his childhood dream of becoming a Coney Island sideshow performer. The Hollywood Reporter praised “Bending Steel” for generating “a surprising level of investment in its subject's odd quest” and offering the “hold-your-breath drama of a fine sports film.”
Screening Sunday at 10:30 p.m., Wednesday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 10:30 p.m. at Clearview Cinemas Chelsea
Phil Morrison's sophomore effort is no “Junebug,” but “Almost Christmas” is an engrossing, sympathetic study of a Canadian ex-con (Paul Giamatti's Dennis) who is desperate to redeem his past mistakes and provide for a daughter who thinks he is dead. Paul Rudd is charming as Rene, Dennis' former partner in crime who stole his wife while Dennis was in prison and who is the only person who can help him get back on the straight and narrow.
Screening Sunday at 9:30 p.m. at the School of Visual Arts and Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. at AMC Loews Village 7
'Run and Jump'
After her thirtysomething husband suffers a stroke that permanently changes his personality, a relentlessly cheerful Irish housewife (a spectacular Maxine Peake) struggles to adjust to her new life after an American doctor (Will Forte, in his first dramatic role) moves in to study her husband's recovery. Initially resentful of the doctor's intrusion, which comes with much-needed grant money the family needs to survive, Vanetia and Ted eventually develop a unique bond that further complicates the family's tragic circumstances. “Run and Jump” feels a bit like two different movies stapled together, but, while the first half might have you rolling your eyes, the deceptively slow-burning tragicomedy just might win you over in spite of yourself.
Screening Monday at 3:45 p.m. and Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. at Clearview Cinemas Chelsea, Friday at 6:00 p.m. at AMC Loews Village 7
'The Broken Circle Breakdown'
This peculiar musical drama from Flemish director Felix van Greoningen follows the extreme highs and lows of an edgy young musician couple as they face an unthinkable tragedy. The heartbreak is punctuated by exceptional performances from Elise and Didier's bluegrass band, but the third act takes an in-your-face melodramatic turn that might leave a bad taste in your mouth. Warning: "The Broken Circle Breakdown" is an abusively sad movie. Allow yourself some time to recover.
Screening Monday at 8:30 p.m. at the School of Visual Arts, Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Clearview Cinemas Chelsea and Friday at 2:30 p.m. at AMC Loews Village 7
Movies To Skip
'At Any Price'
Zac Efron and Dennis Quaid star in Ramin Bahrani's racecar driving melodrama set in rural Iowa, which was skewered by Film School Rejects: “The film throws logic and caution to the wind, features an insanely campy performance from Dennis Quaid, flip-flops each character’s motivation with abandon, has zero regard for morality and never ceases to have a cheese factor that explodes through the roof.” Curiously, Bahrani was named "the director of the decade” by the late, great Roger Ebert (who gave “At Any Price” a fairly positive review.) Indeed, Bahrani's previous films (“Man Push Cart,” “Chop Chop”) were accomplished and warmly received, but the buzz on "At Any Price" suggests you should not buy a ticket for any price.
'Lil Bub & Friendz'
Though it's a nice idea, the documentary about Internet cat culture doesn't live up to the quirky promise offered in the fetching trailer. The film, co-directed by Vice Global Editor Andy Capper and Vice staffer Juliette Eisner, focuses primarily on the adorable, somewhat deformed Lil Bub -- arguably the most famous cat in the world -- and the dramatic impact she has had on her owner's life. But too often, the film feels like it's poking fun at the subjects it purports to take seriously, and Eisner -- however lovely -- spends way too much time in front of the camera, begging the question of what “Lil Bub & Friendz” really aims to do. More troubling is a deeply artificial third-act bombshell that misleads the viewer into believing there's far more at stake than there really is. Wait until it's on YouTube.