Looking for good movies this weekend in New York? Count on a few gems playing at the Tribeca Film Festival that play like big screeners:
ART AND CRAFT - 7pm, Clearview Cinemas Chelsea
What happens when one of the world’s greatest art forgers gets caught donating masterpiece copies to the some of the world’s most prestigious museums? Well, as a former agent for the FBI puts it: Nothing. “He gave away all of these works away for free,” the former agent says with surrender, “so as long as he didn’t profit, he didn’t commit any crime. It’s not fraud.” So goes the paradox behind the at times delightful Art and Craft, a documentary that spends time with Mark Landis, a peculiar odd-ball who happens to be a savant at recreating just about any kind of sketch, illustration or painting that he puts his mind to.
In a plot reminiscent of Catch Me if You Can, viewers are treated to the secret methods behind Landis’s mad genius, as well as Matt Leininger, the lowly registrar from Cincinnati who spent five years stopping at nothing to have him caught. We get to hear from several curators who were duped along the way, as well as the journalists who want to bring his fascinating story to light. Who engages in unethical activity that could stand to bring a person millions of dollars, and chooses not to touch any of the movie? Landis, who is diagnosed with schizophrenia, alternates time between self-imposed solitary confinement, social care offices, doctors offices and museum offices. Leininger spends most of his time at home looking after his daughter in between news updates regarding Landis, and while the film didn’t approach the subject, there was a sense of sorrow in his home, as if perhaps his wife (who was not shown) wants nothing to do with the project (Leininger admits that people have accused him of being obsessed). It’s hard to know who to feel more sorry for, especially knowing that Landis’s outing will essentially mean the end of both men. But don’t let this review get you down, there are plenty of laugh out loud moments, and watching Landis work alone is worth the price of admission.
INTRAMURAL - 9:30pm, Clearview Cinemas Chelsea
If late-night popcorn flicks are your thing, Intramural is for you. A send-up to the iconic bro-films of the 80s, we follow a rag-tag team of flag football players who reunite during their senior year of college to recapture the spark that was, until the present moment, the most important time of their lives.
Why is this so important? Because as freshman, they were essentially nobodies who won the intramural championship as underdogs. The film has some outrageously funny moments and gets over without toilet humor. OK, so there’s one big toilet joke towards the end—it’s a small price to pay for great comedic timing and a cast of over-the-top sports cliche personalities who know how to feed off each other. Trust us, if you want quality laughs, this one’s a touchdown.
STARRED UP - 6:45pm, Clearview Cinemas Chelsea
Actor Jack O’Connell is one gifted dude. Of This is England and Skins (UK) fame, it would be safe to say that he’s at his best when there’s a fight involved. Starred Up is no exception here. Sent to a high security prison as a teenager, Eric [O’Connell] wastes no time rowing it up and facing his assorted share of punishments. But the film goes deep into the personalities of prison life and prisoners trying to make the most of it.
The situational degree of seriousness sits somewhere between Orange is the New Black (prison sucks, but at least there’s comedy to be found there) and Oz (this isn’t funny at all; in fact, prison is so scary you never want to go there). But as a protagonist, Eric is a hero, even if he doesn’t have anyone necessarily to save. He’s taken in by a volunteer councilor and a small band of his converts, and he works hard to commit though his father (who is also incarcerated at the same prison) want to keep him safe while attempting to make a man out of his son. While it’s not complicated, these characters are, and there’s a side of prison life here that feels real. O’Connell’s performance is on par with Rory Culkin (of Gabriel; see review here) as best of the festival.
BAD HAIR - 9pm, AMC LOWES VILLAGE 7
A couple of years ago, we raved about the visual cinematic brilliance of the Norwegians. This year, the Latin Americans hold that championship belt. Bad Hair is beautiful two watch; the slums of Caracas, Venezuela never looked so extraordinary. Cinematographer Micaela Cajahuaringa shot Mariana Rondon’s story on what appears to be 35mm film, and the results are stunning.
The film follows Junior, a young 9-year-old who has an obsession for straightening his hair ahead of class photo day; the students are encouraged to be photographed in character and Junior’s dream is to be a famous singer. To say that his mother, Marta, is disdainful of this idea is a gross understatement. Her homophobia drives her to great (and socially tragic) lengths to keep her son on the straight, so to speak. But Junior is really too young to declare in that socially accepted way, which is the big paradox of the situation—Junior may have gay tendencies, but Junior also may be too young to have a sexual preference. But for Marta, the writing is on the wall. Forcefully withholding love from her son to get him to man up, she also battles with Junior’s grandmother over custody rights, though it’s clear that grandmother accepts who Junior presently is. The ironic thing is, all of the adults essentially get it wrong, which is where the film really succeeds—sometimes, people are just different, and if Junior does have a preference, it doesn’t mean that he fits the idea of what that is. It’s the idea that’s thrown into question. Bad Hair is filled with some nuanced lessons that don’t always come along with stories like this.