Scattered highlights from the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival
Including the Columbus-centric ‘Poser’
It seems only fitting on the weekend that “F9: The Fast Saga” rumbles into theaters that… I highlight some movies that are on the other end of that spectrum.
The 2021 Tribeca Film Festival just wrapped up in New York, returning to live screenings after the 2020 edition was canceled due to the pandemic. But in a sign that some of the changes to the film industry represent a larger shift, Tribeca also offered the ability to watch debuting films from home for the first time.
While home viewers could buy individual movies or a festival pass, I sorted through a smaller selection of films that were made available to the press. The offered films left some big gaps in what I was hoping to preview, but it recreated the festival joys of finding unexpected gems — especially since I would have likely had no luck getting into some of the big-name premieres.
Here are some quick thoughts on a handful of the films I saw. Note: Most of these don’t have distributors or wide release dates yet (except for one you can actually watch a home now).
The obvious choice to kick off my virtual festival was “Poser,” a homegrown drama set in the Columbus indie music scene from directors Ori Segev and Noah Dixon. It stars Sylvie Mix as a scene hanger-on and aspiring podcaster who spins up a friendship with Bobbi Kitten (half of real-life local band Damn the Witch Siren, playing a fictionalized version of herself here).
I don’t often review local productions because of the challenges of grading on a curve, but “Poser” is a work of filmmakers to watch, with gorgeous cinematography that belies its small budget and includes solid performances, particularly by Mix in the lead. Yes, it was also a lot of fun for me playing “spot the friend” and identify the Columbus shooting locations, but when this gets a local premiere, you can bet I’ll be there.
Next up was the very modern love story “Mark, Mary & Some Other People” from director Hannah Marks. The indie comedy focuses on a young married couple (Ben Rosenfield and Hayley Law) that decides to introduce ethical non-monogamy into their relationship. As both joys and complications arise, it works both as a lighthearted comedy and a more serious view of modern relationships.
I can’t resist a documentary, but I didn’t have as much luck finding a gem as I did catching the wonderful (and now in theaters) “The Sparks Brothers” early this year at virtual Sundance.
“Stockholm Syndrome” is ostensibly focused on rapper ASAP Rocky’s imprisonment for assault in Sweden and the efforts to get him home. But it also explores his career at-large and is more for fans than the uninitiated.
It felt almost mandatory that I watch a documentary on Stanley Kubrick, but “Kubrick on Kubrick” didn’t feel like it added much new to the conversation, especially since there’s already a fantastic retrospective Kubrick doc in “A Life in Pictures.”
“All the Streets Are Silent” was the best doc I screened, a look at the intersection of the hip-hop and skateboarding worlds of late ’80s/early ’90s in New York City. Tribeca also featured a documentary called “The Kids” about the making of Larry Clark’s controversial coming-of-age film set in the same NYC skate scene era.
For a creepy and funny time, horror-comedy fans should have “Agnes” on their radar. Director Mickey Reece turns things upside-down at a small convent when one of the nuns has a crude and blasphemous outburst that leads to an exorcism. The second-half turn might lose some, but it’s worth the ride.
Traversing a similar lane is the fertility horror story “False Positive.” When a successful New York couple (Ilana Glazer and Justin Theroux) is having trouble conceiving, the husband turns to his former med school professor (Pierce Brosnan) who runs an exclusive fertility clinic. The “Rosemary’s Baby” vibes are inescapable, but it’s elevated by the performance of Glazer, who also co-wrote the script with director John Lee. This isn’t up to par for the usually stellar distributor A24, but “False Positive” is also getting released on Hulu this weekend and it’s definitely worth a spin.
Finally, I hit an unexpected gem in “How It Ends,” an existential comedy that was filmed in Los Angeles during the pandemic.
In the mood for a feel-good story about the end of the world? This movie follows Liza (Zoe Lister-Jones) and a manifestation of her younger self (Cailee Spaeny) on a journey to tie up loose ends on the day a meteor is going to destroy Earth. Its episodic nature makes for a wealth of appearances from actors, comedians and musicians within L.A. circles, from Sharon Van Etten and Olivia Wilde to Bradley Whitford and… Pauly Shore.
“How It Ends” may wear its quirkiness on its sleeve a bit too much, but if you’re looking for something akin to “I Heart Huckabees” meets “Melancholia,” mark your calendars.