Downtown Gabby: Top 15 Chatter-Worthy Films from Tribeca

For your water-cooler needs — and so you can get excited about distribution deals — we rank the Tribeca Film Festival movies that will be worth paying attention to.

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The Tribeca Film Festival takes place April 18 – 29 in New York City, but you don’t have to be there to know which films to talk about. Nearly 6,000 movies were submitted to Tribeca this year, the highest number in the program’s 11-year history, and dozens of world premieres will be crammed into the ten days of the festival. So, to help you wrap your cinema-loving brain around it, we’ve narrowed the list down to 15 movies worth paying attention to.

1. 2 Days in New York

Julie Delpy’s 2007 Tribeca outing, 2 Days in Paris (which she wrote, directed and starred in), gets its follow up this year, and it couldn’t be in a more appropriate place: Thursday will see the New York premiere of 2 Days in New York. The French actress reprises her role as the photographer she played in the original 2 Days film. The relationship that hung in the balance in that comedy must have failed because she now lives in the second movie’s title city with her radio-host husband, played by Chris Rock, who has generated buzz for his unexpected and dramatic performance. This time, instead of paying a visit to the protagonist’s French parents, the film revolves around the weekend when her family shows up for a surprise visit in New York. And, mais bien sûr, comedy ensues.

2. Mansome

Morgan Spurlock, the documentarian of Super Size Me fame, takes his look in the opposite direction for his latest film, which will have its world premiere at the Festival on Saturday. In Mansome — yes, that’s man plus handsome — Spurlock explores the growing world of men’s beauty products and routines. The film will question what it means that men are quickly catching up with women in terms of the mental energy devoted to looking perfect, especially when it comes to facial hair. The topic has plenty of weighty implications in the realms of masculine identity, money spent, gender politics and societal norms — and, with funnymen Will Arnett and Jason Bateman featured alongside Spurlock as stars and executive producers, there is a waxing (pun intended) chance of comedy.

3. Jack and Diane

This movie — which will have its world premiere at the Festival on Friday — is not about two American kids growing up in the heartland. It’s actually sort of the opposite: two American kids, Jack and Diane (both female, played by Riley Keough and Juno Temple), fall in love one night in New York City and…well, there are werewolves. The movie takes a coming-of-age, first-love story in a totally new direction, and early word is that director Bradley Rust Gray manages to avoid the camp possibilities of lesbian lycanthropy, instead turning the peculiar-sounding plot into an insightful and unique love story. The film also stars Jena Malone and Kylie Minogue.

4. Francophrenia (or: Don’t Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby Is)

James Franco — actor, director, writer, grad student, et cetera — co-directs and stars in this experimental film, which will have its North American premiere on Sunday. The film follows Franco during his stint on General Hospital, and strives to make sense of how the “real” Franco differs from the performance artist version of himself who appeared on the soap opera — and how that personality split affects the star…or at least the version of himself he plays here.

5. Side by Side

Film buffs are waiting for this feature-length documentary, receiving its North American premiere on Tuesday. Director Chris Kenneally and producer Keanu Reeves investigate how fast-moving technology has changed the way we make and experience the movies. Big name directors (James Cameron, natch) and film-clip examples explicate how those changes are happening and how the emotional heart of the cinema is preserved untouched.

6. Polisse

A quadrilingual feature that will get its U.S. premiere on Thursday, this film sounds at first like a subtitled SVU, involving French Child Protection Unit cops, the sordid crimes they investigate and a journalist, played by director Maïwenn, who is following the unit. But it took home the Jury Prize at Cannes so, unlike SVU, the research-based movie has all the French-film cred it could ask for.

7. Your Sister’s Sister

Emily Blunt and Rosemarie Dewitt play the sisters in this rom-com, also starring Mark Duplass. Set in the San Juan Islands, near Seattle, the film follows two people (Duplass and Dewitt) who think they are going off to spend some time alone and end up spending time together—and what that does to someone stuck in the middle.

8. Take This Waltz

Sarah Polley, who wrote and directed 2007′s Oscar-nominated Away From Her, takes on those roles again with this new drama. Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen star as a married couple taking a second look at what their happy life together is really all about, and whether a handsome new neighbor could get in the way of that. Sarah Silverman also stars.

9. Broke

ESPN documentaries consistently present incisive looks at the world of sports through movies that appeal to even the least athletic of viewers. This latest, still a work in progress, looks at how and why so many professional athletes can make financial touchdowns worth millions of dollars and then fumble it all in an instant, and what that means for the rest of us.

10. Hysteria

This film is set in sexy Victorian London and, no, that’s not a contradiction. Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal star as a doctor and a feminist in the comedy, which concerns treatment of the titular feminine ailment. (For those unfamiliar with sexy Victorian London, “treatment” involved a vibrator.)

11. The Revisionaries

A documentary which will have its world premiere on Friday, this film follows the Texas Board of Education as its textbook standards panel decides just what exactly Texas schoolchildren ought to be learning. The debate over one state’s classroom materials shines a light on the front lines of national conflicts over science, religion and history.

12. Consuming Spirits

An experimental animated feature with more than two-hours worth of cutouts, drawings, collages and stop-motion work, this film took more than a decade for director Chris Sullivan to complete. The plot takes place at a newspaper office in the Midwest and uses its varied artistic styles to echo and evoke the story’s atmosphere.

13. The Giant Mechanical Man

This romantic comedy, starring The Office‘s Jenna Fischer, will have its world premiere at the Festival on Monday. For a hint at the level of quirk promised by the movie, consider the fact that the giant mechanical man is a “living statue” street performer (Chris Messina) for whom Fischer’s character falls. The movie also stars Malin Ackerman as Fischer’s sister and Topher Grace as a motivational speaker.

14. Free Samples

This drama is another Festival world premiere, this time about a young woman (played by Jess Weixler) who spends a day handing out, yes, free samples. Her time in an ice-cream truck is a test of her sanity…and same goes for anyone who happens to want dessert on that particular day. Jesse Eisenberg also stars.

15. The Avengers

D’uh. This big-budget mega movie may not be your typical art-house festival fare but The Avengers, directed by fan-favorite Joss Whedon and starring a lot of famous people as a lot of famous comic-book characters, will be featured in the Festival’s closing events with a screening for local heroes and first responders. It’s not at the bottom of our list because it’s less buzz-worthy—it’s probably the most buzzed about of all—but because chances are you already know what’s up.

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