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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

previewing the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival

The Tribeca Film Festival opened Wednesday night with a gala premiere of Baby Mama, and I was not there, since nothing could have made me sit through that stinker again, even if I had been invited. But public screenings — and a veritable shadow festival of press screenings — began on Thursday (yesterday), and I had a battle plan to see as many films as I could without driving myself crazy from sleep deprivation. Of course, that plan instantly fell apart on the very day it was to be put into action, when I didn’t get to a single festival screening — too much other stuff was demanding to be done. But instead of feeling bad and guilty about that, I decided I would relax and keep reminding myself that I’m only one person, and that I can’t do everything.

It’s not really working, though.

Anyway, I’ll start today with a few festival screenings, whatever I can get into, and keep that up through next Thursday, when the shadow festival ends (public screenings continue through next weekend). There are 121 feature films (from 41 different countries) with press screenings running every day from 9am till past midnight. Trying to winnow that roster down into something manageable was quite a chore, but here are the films I’ll try hardest to catch:
NARRATIVE
57,000 Kilometers Between Us: A French teenager seeks refuge from her crazy life online. Testify, sister.

Elite Squad: I’ve been getting emails from folks wondering when I’m gonna report on this controversial Brazilian flick about police corruption in the slums of Rio. This is my first chance to see it, so maybe soon…

Fermat’s Room: It’s a thriller about mathematicians, and it’s from Spain.

Finding Amanda: Matthew Broderick has to convince his niece to go into rehab, except he’s a multiple addict himself. It’s a comedy!

Idiots and Angels: New animation from Bill Plympton.

Lake City: Mother-son drama starring Sissy Spacek and Troy Garity, which I want to see because Garity is one of the most underappreciated young actors working today.

Life in Flight: Stars Patrick Wilson, whom I love. I don’t care what it’s about.

Mister Lonely: Diego Luna, Samantha Morton, and Werner Herzog star in a tale of a skydiving nun. Really.

The Objective: A suspense thriller from one of the Blair Witch guys about a secret CIA mission in Afghanistan.

Savage Grace: Julianne Moore stars as real-life 60s socialite Barbara Baekeland. Loves me some Julianne Moore…

Terra: Animated flick about an alien girl and her planet, which is about to be invaded by Earthlings.

Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon: Epic Chinese/South Korean martial arts drama, starring Andy Lau and Maggie Q.

Trucker: Oh my god oh my god oh my god, Nathan Fillion!

War, Inc.: John Cusack cowrote and stars in this satire on outsourced war. Sounds like this should be in the documentary category.

Yonkers Joe: Drama about a small-time con man. I like Chazz Palminteri cuz he’s a Bronx dude.

DOCUMENTARY
Baghdad High: Iraqi high school students document their last year in high school. I’m thinking it’s not so much 90210 or the O.C.

Going on 13: Four young girls navigate adolescence. So not fun…

Head Wind: How clever people in Iran subvert the government censorship that cuts them off from the rest of world. Go Iranians!

Lioness: If women are forbidden from serving in combat positions in the U.S. army, why are women soldiers seeing combat in Iraq?

Man on Wire: About the crazy French guy who did a highwire act between the two World Trade Center towers in NYC in the 1970s.

Meerkat Manor: The Story Begins: They’re like ferrets or something, these meerkats, right? Cute…

A Powerful Noise: Women around the world fighting poverty and oppression.

Secrecy: Why the hell is everything classified these days in the U.S.? Oh, right: 9/11.

This Is Not a Robbery: About an elderly man who became a serial bank robber. Why? That’s the answer we’re supposed to get.

MIDNIGHT
Baghead: A tongue-in-cheek sendup of indie flicks, complete with a guy with a bag over his head.

The Cottage: British kidnappers screw up. Supposedly it’s gory and funny.

From Within: That’s where the evil is coming from, I’m told. Stars Thomas Dekker, that kid from Sarah Connor Chronicles, who will be cute someday when he’s older than 12.

Killer Movie: A slasher satire revolving around a reality TV show. I hope that means everyone dies.

Ooo, and I’ve already seen Before the Rains (a period piece set in British India starring Linus Roache) and Redbelt (David Mamet’s new flick, about mixed martial arts), both of which are debuting at the festival ahead of their theatrical runs but have been screening outside the festival. So, hey, I’m already ahead of the game, right?

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