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I know, it’s a tradition, but I think it’s about time that the Tribeca Film Festival should change its name. Most film festivals that call themselves after a certain geographic area usually take place there. But not Tribeca, Nooooooo! It hasn’t actually been there for years.
Okay, take this year for example, where the main venue is in Chelsea, at the corner of 23rd Street and 8th Avenue. This is nowhere near Tribeca. The street festival that’s going to take place during this weekend right next to the venue isn’t there either. Nor is the secondary venue, on 2nd Avenue and 12th Street. The opening film is closer to Tribeca, but the World Financial Center's North Cove Marina is actually in Battery Park City.
The fact that there’s a second street fair that really IS in Tribeca has little to do with it. 98% of the films will have been shown by then, and the hoopla surrounding the event will have already begun to fade. Usually only the people from the neighborhood will show up.
Quite clearly, the Tribeca Film Festival is no longer serving its original purpose, as it’s totally divorced from promoting the actual Tribeca neighborhood. And from what I heard the teensy-weensy Manhattan Film Festival, which is takes place at Symphony Space, (at the corner of West 96th and Broadway) is ripe for the picking since it's grown by leaps and bounds.
The Tribeca people should buy it up and re-brand itself. After all, it’s still in Manhattan. The Chicago Film Festival isn’t in Oak Park, the Miami Film Festival isn’t in Fort Lauderdale, and so Tribeca should either be in Tribeca or be called something else.
It’s only logical.
For the first few years of the Tribeca Film Festival’s existence, back when it was actually still in Tribeca, there was a grand rock concert in Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan. The tickets were free, but you had to get them in advance, but for those who could actually get in, it was a real treat, better even than the movies! Sadly, sometime around ’04 or ’06, they stopped having them.
This was also about the time that the fest left downtown and moved to other parts of Manhattan. I’ve been pining for the concerts ever since. Well, this year I don’t have to. Elton John has come to the rescue!
This year, the high mucky-mucks have decided that having the opening night gala being a “stars only” event was a really bad idea (something the rest of us have known since back when Pataki was governor), and came up with the idea of a free, under-the-stars opening night screening at the North Cove between the World Financial Center and the River back where it all started. This is an improvement to be sure.
The film shown was called The Union and was a documentary by Cameron Crowe about the making of the eponymous album by the abovementioned Elton John and Leon Russell, who was one of the great rock keyboardists back in the day. He now looks like Santa Claus in ZZ Top drag. The film itself isn’t bad. Crowe uses a bunch of very old clips from here and there to pad the film. The music isn’t bad, but the film is, in fact boring as heck and not a single song is played from beginning to end.
By focusing on the fact that the old geezers aren’t dead yet and not the music as such, this is a film only the hardened fan would like, much less tolerate. To make matters worse, the temperature fell almost 20 degrees and by the end I was really cold. When it was over I got up and ran toward the heated building behind me, when I realized that there was a possibility that Elton John, who introduced the film, would be doing a few tunes afterward.
That was indeed the case and the old queen was in fine form. He did versions of his top five hits and a couple from the new album, and was fantastic. He also bitched about the temperature falling (the forecast said it would be in the '70s), which made me smile because it proved I wasn’t imagining it.
This was the only way to properly open the festival, and I hope they do it again next time.
There’s a lot going on at SxSW besides the movies, and official panel discussions. There are also lots and lots of corporate-sponsored venues where they give away free food. Now for the most part, these venues are not all that well publicized, since food and drink are expensive, and the lines can go on for miles (I’m not kidding).
I’d like to talk about two of them for a minute: The IFC Lounge on Seventh and Brazos, and the CNN Grill on Third and San Jaquito. Now the former was great last year. There was free beer and pretzels, easy access, and a couple of large bathrooms with short lines.
This year, it’s almost the same, but Facebook screwed it up when they decided to interview a bunch of celebrities, and in order to make it even cooler, decided to prevent most of the people who would ordinarily go there wait out on the street for hours.
The first afternoon was fine; I got in with little or no trouble, but then the next day, I got an invite from the Facebook people announcing that a movie star friend of mine was going to be interviewed. Now without naming names, she and I only get together about twice a year, when she’s doing something at a large event which I was going to be at, and since I had no idea she was going to be in Austin, I decided to go over and give her a howdy doo.
When I got there, there was a huge line. The thing wasn’t supposed to be open until 3 pm, and I showed them my press passes (never leave home without them), and mentioned the celeb in question -- who wasn’t there. She’s a celebrity, they said, she gets here when she gets here.
So they pushed me aside, and soon enough a limo with the celebrity and her boyfriend -- the basketball player -- showed up. She recognized me, and when they pushed her and him in, I went in as well… She went to the green room…. And I didn’t.
Here’s when things get weird. I had to go to the bathroom and I knew where the bathroom was, but they wouldn’t let me use it. It was not that anyone else was in it. In fact, PeeWee Herman was already in the “studio” and there was no one anywhere near it. But for some reason they thought that those of us who were actually inside the building were somehow going to do something insane there, like pee and I had to leave… I had a movie to go to anyway.
Now the next major lounge is a lot better. It’s also a lot harder to get into because its run by CNN’s entertainment division and is only for high mucky-mucks and people with press passes. I managed to get in and discovered that everything, food and liquor both, were totally free. The Canadians had a place at a local bistro where they were giving out free sliders and scrambled eggs, though not together. Also, Pepsi was giving out free samples and hot dogs.
Definitely worth the price of admission.
Day Three: I took the wrong bus, and wound up somewhere in the U. of Texas campus. I then started to wander around the convention center, where I began talking to people, mostly about the interactive section, which is where a bunch of website constructors get together and talk about the latest gadgets. They really didn’t have much on their minds besides, parties, money and how to make it, and a fellow who had the platinum badge (it gets you everywhere) told me how the music industry is almost dead and soon there’s going to be nothing left except MP3s and self-published specialty vinyl.
I went to the filmmakers lounge and ate the bagels and drank the coffee. They told me not to do it anymore, but let me have seconds nonetheless. Then there’s the SXExpress, where one can get special passes to get in ahead of everyone else (except those who were in front of the SxExpress line). I got the ones I wanted. I could get four, but since this is the first day of the actual festival, there’s only time for two.
The press lounge is rather small for this year, and may not be available to us on the film side when the interactive part is finished. That’s what happened last year and it really sucked. That’s traditional. Not good.
Having gotten the express tickets, I had to wait on line for Source Code anyway. It started a bit late, as these things always do. The film wasn’t something particularly original. There was a TV series called Seven Days back in the ‘90s, not to mention Quantum Leap, Groundhog Day and the movie Groundhog Day ripped off.
That doesn’t mean it wasn’t good, just that it wasn’t original. I enjoyed it, but had another movie I had to go to. Taken By Storm: The Art of Storm Thorgerson and Hipgnosis about the guy who did most of Pink Floyd’s album covers, which was actually pretty decent for that sort of thing. Then I had to head home.
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