Lost Days at the Tribeca Film Festival

I am coming to you live from the Cadillac® Tribeca Press Lounge (which is actually in Chelsea), eating a bag of Lays® potato chips, drinking a Diet Coke® (other options were water, either of the Smart® or Vitamin® variety), and sitting next to an actual Cadillac® automobile.

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I am coming to you live from the Cadillac® Tribeca Press Lounge (which is actually in Chelsea), eating a bag of Lays® potato chips, drinking a Diet Coke® (other options were water, either of the Smart® or Vitamin® variety), and sitting next to an actual Cadillac® automobile. Should I go sit and get some MAC® makeup put on? Or go enjoy the Getty® Portrait Studio? Maybe I'll just relax here against my American Express® pillow. So many options!

I kid, I kid. Yes the Tribeca Film Festival is heavily branded, but it'd have to be, given the surprisingly large operation it is. It's a sprawling affair. Perhaps the biggest gripe about the festival is that it's not really in Tribeca at all. Well, parts of it are. Panels and whatnot take place down at the Borough of Manhattan Community college, but screenings are in Chelsea and the East Village, with various other venues sprinkled in between. So there's a lot of schlepping, though for the most part people who write about movies could use the exercise, so it's probably not worth complaining about.

Of course there are parties and oodles of celebrities flooding downtown Manhattan throughout the festival, but that's all the fancy nighttime stuff, for the glitterati (and press that wants to wander around getting quotes). The real bulk and grind of the festival is the middle-of-the-day screenings, which are decidedly less glamorous. Here is where movie critics and bloggers and other assorted troglodytes (myself included) get the chance to hobknob with the hip elderly folks of New York City who don't have to be at work. Jostling and jockeying for the best seats is de rigeur, and a strange set of social rules tends to emerge. Someone can hold a seat with a coat or a bag, but they cannot disappear for too long. Tasking a stranger to defend your position for a few minutes is fine, an expected courtesy, but (and this is a particular ahem to a particular lady from this morning) asking a certain person (ahem) to guard your seat for twenty minutes, fending off hordes of blue-hairs and confused French film critics all the while, is not acceptable. There's a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode vaguely about this — how long can you expect someone to "Mind watching my stuff for a sec?" — that should be required viewing before seat-saving begins.

That said, the whole experience is far more mellow than anticipated. As a film festival newbie (this is a good first plunge, going right into Sundance or god forbid Cannes would surely be fatal), I find myself surprised how relaxed the pace feels. Most time is spent wandering between various venues, not elbowing through crowds of movie-mad artsy types. Well, there was a little of that at a festival kick-off panel talk I went to last week — a Universal Pictures retrospective with Robert De Niro and Judd Apatow that, as moderated by a writer for Deadline, proved mostly a meandering, kinda pointless conversation — which featured the phenomenon of more grown adults blatantly cutting in line than you'd even see at DisneyWorld. But that's been basically it for mob scenes. Otherwise the events, well the daytime things anyway, are reasonably sedate. Amid all the branding and sleek city aesthetic and all that, people actually do, y'know, seem to mostly care about the movies.

This morning I had the pleasure of seeing Your Sister's Sister, the new movie from writer/director Lynn Shelton (Humpday), a wistful comedy set during a misty Pacific Northwest winter. Shelton's pal, and a writer/director himself, Mark Duplass plays a scruffy, shabby, but nonetheless smart and appealing guy who has recently lost his brother, while the always welcome Rosemarie DeWitt and Emily Blunt (whose The Five-Year Engagement kicked off the festival) play a pair of sisters (the accent thing is explained, don't worry) with whom Duplass becomes intwined in... certain ways. The movie is brimming with gapingly, tinglingly realistic long stretches of dialogue, sharp and funny and wise and searching. The movie is mostly a relationship comedy, but it's also a small and subtle meditation on grief that, for those who've been through something at all similar, rings achingly true.

There are some other interesting films on my docket coming up, chiefly Sarah Polley's Take This Waltz and the Greta Gerwig starrer Lola Versus. Marvel's big New York-set rock 'em sock 'em The Avengers closes the festival, but I think I'll skip that scrum and see it next week like a normal person. Just thinking about the seats situation at that screening gives me hives. To calm down I think I might try to curl up in the back of this Cadillac and take a nap. They probably won't mind, right?

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