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Some Movies I Watched at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival*

*(on my couch)

As the beginning of every superhero movie trailer clearly points out: “The world is changing.” Sanitizer bottle stations still riddle the landscape in front of, next to and just past every doorway. People that don’t believe in science are dying meaninglessly across the nation. Human beings recently set the ocean on fire and tried to put it out by spraying a bunch of water on it. The same people who throw temper tantrums for having to wear a mask at a 7-Eleven are questioning the “toughness” of a 30 time World Champion Olympic Athlete who spent years as the face of one of the most disturbing abuses in sports history, a history that has A LOT of entries in that department. When all is said and done, and we look back on these years from our isolation pod towers, being charged by the cycle of our very own vacuous existence, we will remember that it sucked and did not get better ever.

But, there were also festival movies that got released on digital platforms, allowing for normie critics like myself to gain access to the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, which every year features some of the freshest flicks about to be distributed over the next couple awards seasons. Some of them stunk and some of them were fantastic, a pretty regular balance from what I’ve been led to believe from past, bigger festival events. Below I’ve listed off a few that I felt might be of interest to write about, and hopefully to read about, too. Enjoy, and keep on watchin’ movies, ol’ sports!


A delight from start to finish, this lil comedy-horror indie is full of fun performances, slick filmmaking and is simply flat-out hilarious. This one is a bit of a fib, as I wasn’t able to catch it during my virtual window for the festival, but got myself a private screening with my buddy, Tim, on the big screen and boy oh boy I’m glad I was forced to wait. There’s something special about a small, low stakes film just being transformed by the size of your viewing experience. With a little cheating, this could be the most inarguably great video game adaptation of all time. Not to brag (too hard), but I also had the delight of briefly corresponding with director Josh Ruben on the possibility of stopping by Story Screen Beacon Theater for an intro and Q&A, but alas it fell apart in the end. Even so, I found him to be a very delightful human being and someone who I think has just the right head on his shoulders for operating in this world of Hollywood.


A riveting ride of tension and beauty, The Perfect David is equally horrifying in its story of control and confidence as it is blindingly visionary in its approach to an audience’s gaze and interpretations of these characters we are fighting to understand. A very delicate tone is nearly smashed to pieces by the overwhelming stress of its subject matter, yet The Perfect David never strays too far from what it understands to be its most powerful attribute: the fragility of compassion and understanding.


This one kind of missed the mark a bit for me. Sure, it’s well-directed and adequately performed, but ultimately the lack of momentum causes this symbolic family horror to fall short on the scares and cares. Definitely something to check out if you’re into the premise presented in the synopsis and trailer, as it just might not be exactly what you expect, and folks’ appreciation of that will vary.


A sweet glimpse at a jagged story, Brighton 4th never lets up on the abysmal existence of its characters, yet injects them into moments of pure friendship and love that make the whole experience an overall joyful one. The mixture of sorrow and devotion, all wrapped in a bitter portrayal of flawed masculinity, is a palpable one. Levan Tedaishvili is remarkable as the film’s lead, and Giorgi Tabidze, who plays his son, is hopefully a newcomer to watch out for. But, in my opinion, the big star is director Levan Koguashvili, whose talent for framing oozes with naturalism yet still has that flair you can’t deny being captivated by. Easily one of my favorites of the fest.


This is one that I think will grow on me over time. It’s bright atmosphere and bubbly attitude are extremely engaging, often even entertaining, but it’s vignette style of storytelling deflates the world trying to be built. It’s as if you’re watching a person move bricks from one pile to the next, unaware that someone right behind them is doing the reverse, leaving the same thing happening over and over and over again. Intentional? Possibly. Rewarding? Not really.


Very much my vibe. Just a little more entertaining than it is confusing, with some cool tricks up its sleeve. It’s a very neat flick, and one that benefits from the lack of a trailer or deep synopsis that a viewer is forced to engage with in a festival filled with just finished and undistributed materials. Mark my words, director Rob Schroeder is gonna make one hell of a movie in the next five years.


A fascinating and joyous ride through one of the most influential stages in both counter and queer culture. A cast of insanely talented artists and storytellers giving their thoughts on their passion? Sign me the hell up. There’s something in this doc for everyone, be them huge fans of the genre and movement, complete newbies to the culture or any varying point in between. It’s hard to make a doc that is 95% talking heads, but No Straight Lines pulls that off effortlessly by using footage of truly impressive and relatable people who changed, and continue to change, the world.


Get Out but with aliens and no pulse. This was the first flick I tossed on in the festival and while it has its moments, it doesn’t have the charm needed to carry a full movie, really just coming across as an over bloated episode of The X-Files without Scully and Mulder.


This one may be elegant while never getting too sophisticated, but that never stops a great lead performance and a genius pitch (eating disorder communicated by Cronenbergian body horror visuals) from making it a slick lil entry into a lovely sub-genre that I happen to adore.


Simple and effective, this one was my first big shocker of the festival. I loved it. Elijah Wood continues to be such an interesting performer. Luke Kirby, here portraying the menacing Ted Bundy, weaponizes his inherent charm as a good-looking-acting man to bring to life the inexplicable appeal the real life Bundy could hold over so many. This is one I highly suggest checking out without having seen the trailer if you can, as there are a few moments that hit very hard for me during my screening that the trailer accidentally spoils. You almost feel bad for Ted Bundy. Ted Bundy!! THAT Ted Bundy!!!


Whiplash but with rowing? Mmhmm!! Yes, please! With elements that recalled (but never imitated) Julia Ducournau’s own trip to college, Raw, The Novice is equally accomplished. The film contains, and unabashedly flaunts, a level of talent both in front of and behind the camera that should make even the most skeptical critic excited about the next projects from this crew. Raw. Painful. Tragic. Grueling. Beautiful. My favorite film of the fest, and now I understand why it’s so annoying when pictures like this don’t get immediately picked up and released the same year as the festival in which they premiere. I want EVERYONE to see this thing. It’s going to straight-up blow people’s minds.

That’s all for me on this. My first official festival outing was a glorious and exciting one (thanks Diana DiMuro for the great gift!), and I’m pretty psyched to do more of these. I’ll be hitting Fantastic Fest this year (LEGITIMACY!! VALIDATION!!!) so I’ll definitely try to catch a more varying array of films at that fest for another one of these pieces in September. Until then, enjoy the world as much as you can, even while it’s just about literally burning down around us. And watch more movies.


Mike Burdge


Founder of and programmer for Story Screen. Lover of stories and pizza in the dark. When he isn't watching movies, you can find him reading things about people watching movies. He currently resides in Poughkeepsie, NY, and most assuredly is going through a French Connection phase.




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