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The Tribeca Film Festival

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                    Into the Wild
‘s Emile Hirsch is Speed Racer.

F
inally, after reading endless dispatches from Cannes and Sundance, we get a film festival closer to home (at least on the East Coast). The Tribeca Film Festival is underway, opening with the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler vehicle Baby Mama last week. Here are some Tribeca films to keep an eye out for — movies I feel have a shot at getting a decent distribution:

Baghead
Mark and Jay Duplass’s last film, The Puffy Chair, scored some attention when it was one of the first films to be released through Netflix. The film was lumped into an emerging movement called “mumblecore:” naturalistic, Cassavettes-style films about kids in their 20’s that are very light on plot. Baghead is the brothers’ next mumblecore movie, also about kids in their 20’s, and also light on plot. This time, the characters are — what else? — actors trying to put together their own indie movie.

Bart Got a Room
Next in the line of Napoleon Dynamite-style films about lovable losers comes Bart Got a Room, a film about high school senior Danny Stein’s search for a little love on prom night. He just needs to find himself a date. William H. Macy puts in one of his signature sad-sack performances as Danny’s divorced dad. Did I mention it’s a comedy?

Finding Amanda
Just like in Election, Matthew Broderick teams up with a younger actress (Brittany Snow) for a pitch-black comedy. Finding Amanda, the directorial debut of the Larry Sanders Show producer Peter Tolan, is about a sitcom producer and recovering addict who decides to redeem himself by rescuing his young niece from a life of drugs and prostitution in Las Vegas — but can he resist the lures of Sin City himself? The hilarious Steve Coogan has a small role as a casino pit boss.

Redbelt
When you think of writer/director/playwright David Mamet, I know Jiu-Jitsu isn’t the first thing to come to mind. Yet here he is, bringing his trademark grittiness to a story about an honorable Jiu-Jitsu teacher. Chiwetel Ejiofor (you know him, even if you can’t place his impossible-to-pronounce name) plays the lead role, a man who, after leading a peaceful life as a teacher, suddenly has to enter the prizefighting circuit. I never knew prizefighters to be a talky bunch, but in Mamet’s hands, they’re sure to be.

Savage Grace
Oh, the perils of being wealthy! As in The Hours and Far From Heaven, Julianne Moore puts in another performance about the inner sadness of well-to-do families. This time, director Tom Kalin tells the true story of the dissolution of the Baekeland family, the heirs to the Bakelite plastics fortune.

Speed Racer
Directed by the duo behind the Matrix trilogy, Speed Racer, based on the old cartoon, is the antithesis to arty festival fare. The Wachowskis zoom through the candy-colored, hyper-kinetic, special-effects saturated Speed universe for nonstop, family-friendly thrills. It comes out soon, an see it in IMAX if you want a true stomach-flipping experience.

The Wackness
This film already screened at Sundance, and with an extreme love-it-or-hate-it reaction from critics. And, with such an insane premise, you can see why: Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck, or Josh of Drake and Josh) is a weed dealer who dreams of becoming a hip-hop star, but, in the meantime, he’ll spend his days trading drugs for sessions with a therapist (Ben Kingsley?), who also happens to be the stepfather of his big crush (the awesome Olivia Thirlby.) Also, Mary-Kate Olson is in it somewhere, and I think she gets an on-screen kiss with Ben Kingsley. Now that is wack.

Visit the Tribeca Film Festival official website.

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