A few months ago I randomly decided to fill out a press application for the Tribeca Film Festival as the act of going to the movies has somehow become my most costly habit, and the opportunity to spoil a film before my pleb friends can even see it is always priceless. As a music-focused website, I wasn't realistically expecting to be approved, but I submitted my information and a goofy headshot (which was required), and shortly thereafter I was granted access to the theatrical festivities. Over the course of the week-long-ish festival I made an effort to see a few notable movies while still managing to run this website.
Time Is Illmatic
Verdict: Just read the Wiki page
The first feature I caught was the Nas-focused documentary Time Is Illmatic, which was introduced by Robert De Niro when it kicked off the entire festival at Beacon Theatre. I wasn't sure what to expect during a press screening at the Bow Tie Cinemas in Chelsea, which was inhabited by a perplexing abundance of middle-aged French women. As far as music documentaries go, Time Is Illmatic peaks at a satisfactory level. The story of Nasir Jones and his upbringing in the Queensboro Bridge projects was certainly alluring, as were the tales of how the rapper's legendary 1994 debut record came to be, yet average Nas fans shouldn't expect to walk away enthralled. The best documentaries, music-themed included, are those that can be viewed with a level of uncertainty as they freely curve away from its creator's original intentions. Time Is Illmatic, however, presents itself like a very well-edited Wikipedia entry, with its bullets more heavily focused on biographical facts and unnecessary side stories than on the album's impact.
Verdict: Could spawn a resurgence of quality 'teen' movies.
I was intrigued by Gia Coppola's directorial debut Palo Alto when I first caught its trailer back in December. In the two-minute clip, the film adaptation for James Franco's story about upper middle class high school kids was palpably different from the three-act narratives we've come to consume like bi-monthly doses of monotony. The latest Coppola to make her way onto IMDB proved herself worthy of the family name by re-introducing us to a truly remarkable, and unavoidably relatable teen movie. The identifiable characters, themes and tones of Palo Alto are precisely what teen movies have lacked throughout the last 20-plus years.
The 80s were the heyday of teen movies; theaters were bombarded with the genre, and we were given countless stories representing everyday high school bullshit that mirrored our own experiences, and that's how and why movies like Say Anything and The Breakfast Club have aged so well decades later. Today's teen movies are saturated by reoccurring themes of life-or-death, superpowers, and ignorant raunch. Although I'm well beyond my teen years, Gia Coppola's Palo Alto brought me right back to my own high school haunts by focusing her lens on the myriad of stresses that the average kid encounters from love, sex, and recreational misdemeanors to bullied peer pressure and student-teacher affairs , there's something retrospective for nearly every viewer.
It's undoubtedly my own nostalgia speaking, but the film's stand-out actors were Jack Kilmer (Val's son) and Nat Wolf (the kid from that Fey/Rudd flick Admission; if you haven't seen it don't bother). James Franco's role, although it influences a primary plot-line, wasn't a focal feature, and Emma Roberts' cutesy innocence was exchangeable. Kilmer and Wolf, however, perfectly played the roles of the artsy apathetic guy and his lethally narcissistic best friend.
The final commendable trait of Palo Alto came via its soundtrack and score which was handled by singer-songwriter-producer Devonte Hynes (aka Blood Orange) and Rooney frontman and Coppola kin Robert Schwartzman. Hynes' heart fluttery lyrics and tipsy, slow-dance tones perfectly complemented the story as did the additions of his Coastal Grooves track "Champagne Coast", "You're Not Good Enough" off Cupid Deluxe, and "Palo Alto", which was written specifically for the film. Also included on the soundtrack are four originals from Schwartzman, which seamlessly meld with Hynes' aforementioned whimsical vibes, as well as a track from Mac DeMarco, Coconut Records, and others.
The Bachelor Weekend (aka The Stag)
Verdict: Your dad will love this movie.
I walked into The Bachelor Weekend lacking any previous knowledge of the film as a timing mix-up forced me to miss the film I originally intended on catching. About 15 minutes into what I discovered to be an Irish buddy comedy, I began to regret my decision.
For years it will be difficult to detach any bachelor party reference from images of The Hangover. And the opening sequences and character introductions in The Bachelor Weekend seemed to almost replicate this 'group of guys getting away with an unwanted weirdo' motif. It was also difficult to warm up to actor Andrew Scott's leading comedic role, as I already associated his smirk with that of a previous character he brilliantly played as fiction's most malevolent villain, Jim Moriarty, in the BBC's television telling of Sherlock. But as the story progressed, I found myself comfortably slumped into my seat as I joined in the packed theater's contagious laughter. What was missing from the John Butler-directed picture's first act was any recognizable representation of the heart that it later revealed. Like the film's title, it seemed like the makers of this film were trying to Americanize the story and its characters, but in doing so, nearly bastardized its Irish charm. The trailer (below) is painful to watch even though I actually ended up enjoying the movie...It's an enigma.