Top 10: Films From the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival

The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival has come to a close. From April 24th until May 5th, New York City played host to one of the most diverse selections of upcoming films. The 18th incarnation of the festival unspooled 103 movies from 124 filmmakers, with half of the directors at Tribeca being women. It was truly a place to be for cinephiles in the Big Apple.

Tribeca offered a slew of unique titles, from riotous comedies to sports documentaries; biopics to war dramas. The festival truly had a little bit of everything to offer. Even work that didn’t make the cut like, “Ask Dr. Ruth,” “Clementine,” “Lost Bayou,” and “Scheme Birds” put forth unique, original narratives. As with any fest, there were also scores of unseen films that weren’t eligible for the list, but here are ten options that everyone should be on the lookout for when they move to general release.

10“A Kid From Coney Island” (2019)
dir: Coodie, Chike Ozah

Stephon Marbury sees his NBA career re-evaluated in this entertaining and informative documentary. From our review: “A Kid From Coney Island” offers the perspective that the point guard known as Starbury is one of the sport’s most misunderstood athletes. By framing where he came from, his circumstances, and how his story was mischaracterized, Marbury comes off in a whole new light. Those who followed his career will be fascinated by this second look at him, while newcomers to his life’s story will be just as enthralled.” The doc presents the basketball star in a uniquely sympathetic light. Whereas once he was easy to mock, a Brooklyn legend who failed upon return to New York, now he’s seen as a cautionary tale, someone who eventually was able to find happiness on and off the court.

9“Lost Transmissions” (2019)
dir: Katharine O’Brien

Both Simon Pegg and Juno Temple deliver career best turns in this melodrama out of Tribeca. “Lost Transmissions” is on its firmest ground when focusing in on the two, especially Pegg. His portrayal of schizophrenia is rife with the sort of lived in pain that anyone touched by mental health struggles in life will recognize. Nothing he’s done will prepare audiences for this work. Combined with Temple’s performance, they lift up an ordinary work and make it one to remember.

8“Safe Spaces” (2019)
dir: Dan Schechter

A better vehicle for Justin Long has never existed. “Safe Spaces” uses his talent for discomfort to build his ideal character. As stated in our review on the site: “This dramedy has a lot on its mind and tackles quite a bit, even if some of the theme explorations are scattershot. At times, the balance between funny and serious can be off, but it always comes back around. Funnier than it needs to be, while also more serious than expected, this is a variation on a subgenre.” Buoyed by presenting Long in his most complete turn, the movie overcomes some misguided choices by rooting audiences in the building catastrophe. Long become a Tribeca mainstay, and if this is any evidence of what to expect going forward, he should return for the foreseeable future.

7“Framing John DeLorean” (2019)
dir: Don Argott, Sheena M. Joyce

Tribeca’s best documentary this year, it’s actually a hybrid work. In parts, the doc looks at the life of controversial auto man John DeLorean, while in others, Alec Baldwin plays him in a biopic style. What could have been disjointed and jarring is instead surprisingly refreshing. From our review: ““Framing John DeLorean” presents the life of DeLorean through multiple lenses. Some of the film is done in the style of a talking head documentary, while others are full on narrative reenactments. It’s a format that’s never been attempted before, which is refreshing to witness. Each of the styles would work on its own, so they compliment each other well, especially as the film moves towards its denouement, the seemingly contradictory presentations of the man become fascinating.” Anyone with even a cursory interest in DeLorean would do well to give this work a shot.

6“Plus One” (2019)
dir: Jeff Chan, Andrew Rhymer

A charming romantic comedy, what would set this apart from the scores of other ones that grace the silver screen? Well, a snappy screenplay and a pair of performances (from Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid) that bring to life characters audiences want to head to a wedding with. As said in our review: “The inherent discomfort of being single at a wedding courses through the veins of “Plus One.” This charming romantic comedy goes to a lot of expected places, though the appeal of the cast smoothes the ride greatly. Witty dialogue and natural characters give the movie a welcome spin. Watching the leads say all the thoughts most guests think as the spouses say “I do” is consistently a pleasing endeavor.” An indie spin on well worn territory, “Plus One” finds enough angles to make for an easy RSVP.

5“Standing Up, Falling Down” (2019)
dir: Matt Ratner

Billy Crystal is worthy of Academy Award consideration for his beautiful turn here. Crystal’s performance elevates “Standing Up, Falling Down” from a merely enjoyable diversion to a film with real pathos. His work is among the best of the year so far, beyond just at Tribeca. Crystal turns on the charm and humor that’s made him famous for decades, though he also brings a haunting sadness to his character. It’s work you’d never have expected him to put forward. Crystal has hosted the Academy Awards like no other, but this is proof that he should contend for one too.

4“See You Yesterday” (2019)
dir: Stefon Bristol

A clever time travel tale, filmmaker Stefon Bristol graduates here from Spike Lee protege to compelling storyteller in his own right. Besides giving the genre a unique flair, he gives it a true sense of place. That element was cited heavily in our review: “See You Yesterday” is alive with the look and feel of Brooklyn. Not just an effective time travel film, it’s also a love letter to the borough. Bristol is tackling issues of police brutality, the right of marginalized citizens, and more, but he does so in a way that’s never preachy. The necessities of the time travel genre actually help him in keeping everything fresh. He has a lot on his mind and a lot to say, so this type of movie affords him ample opportunity to do so.” Mixing a Michael J. Fox cameo, socially conscious time travel, and a vivid Brooklyn neighborhood, Bristol establishes his new voice as a vital one.

3“The Short History of the Long Road” (2019)
dir: Ani Simon-Kennedy

Featuring a star making turn from Sabrina Carpenter, this nomadic character study effortlessly worms its way into audiences emotions. Carpenter’s performance, along with writer/director Ani Simon-Kennedy‘s perceptive narrative guidance, give this film a soul all its own. From our review: “The best part of “The Short History of the Long Road” is the lead turn by Sabrina Carpenter. Her performance is brilliant, walking a very fine line and pulling off a very tough role. Her work removes almost all thought of the film’s somewhat derivative nature, focusing you in on the emotional story at hand. Her casting elevates the movie and lets the main character soar off the page and into our hearts.” Carpenter took what Simon-Kennedy created and absolutely ran with it. Mark our words, she’s going to be a star.

2“The Kill Team” (2019)
dir: Dan Krauss

Adapting his own documentary, filmmaker Dan Krauss crafted a riveting war thriller with “The Kill Team.” Featuring stunning work from Alexander Skarsgård and Nat Wolff, it’s a movie that sticks with its audience long after the credits roll. From our highly positive review: “Intense and raw, danger lurks around every corner in “The Kill Team.” In an unusual turn, it’s not just enemy combatants that traumatize our soldier protagonist, but his fellow brothers in arms. Filmmaker Dan Krauss, in adapting his documentary of the same name, has added drama without sacrificing the power of his true tale. Two tremendous performances and some strong cinematography make this an uncompromising yet essential festival offering.” Skarsgård and Wolff alone would make this essential viewing, so Krauss’ intense work only elevates its stature.

1“Buffaloed” (2019)
dir: Tanya Wexler

The best that Tribeca had to offer in 2019 was this hilarious and incredibly smart comedy. Zoey Deutch is stupendous in the lead role, rip roaring her way through a wonderfully juicy part. Our rave review began on its praise: “Envision the tailgating madness of the Eagles game shown in “Silver Linings Playbook” mixed with some of the financial shenanigans depicted in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” It might be an underdeveloped platitude – simply an idea of just how alive “Buffaloed” is, though it consistently blazes its own trail. Featuring a tour de force performance by Zoey Deutch, this comedy is equal parts brash, hilarious, and intelligent. A vehicle showcasing not just Deutch but Judy Greer as well, they both are worthy of awards consideration here. Both actresses go all out in this gem of a movie.” Nothing came close to “Buffaloed” at Tribeca this year. Deutch is a force of nature, putting forth the most memorable turn of 2019 so far.

Which Tribeca titles are you most looking forward to seeing? Comment below and share!

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