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by Andy Lauer
April 24, 2009 8:55 AM
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Tribeca '09 Round Up: Fest Kicks Off A Streamlined Eighth Edition

Larry David in a scene from Woody Allen's "Whatever Works," which kicked off the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“We hope that, especially when you look back to what our original mission was and is, that in these trying economic times that we can help, through film, restore some hope and inspiration,” Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Jane Rosenthal told indieWIRE recently, reflecting on the evolution of the eight-year-old festival. With both the New York Times and Variety praising this year's streamlined roster--offering a smaller but arguably more carefully curated selection of films than in past years--the 2009 edition of the fest kicked off this week amid ample buzz.

Woody Allen's latest, "Whatever Works," opened the festival on Wednesday. In his snapshot review for indieWIRE, critic Eric Kohn said: "Marked by interchangeably trite and witty dialogue, Whatever Works' is the definition of a minor Woody Allen movie. The director’s triumphant return to New York City after several years of European excursions finds him in familiar, if not exemplary, form. Most people on the Allen bandwagon will likely view this outing as a charming mediocrity."

Kohn was more enthusiastic about Bradley Rust Gray’s “The Exploding Girl." "With 'The Exploding Girl,' director Bradley Rust Gray upgrades the routine not-quite-platonic love story with a magnificent sense of visual clarity," he wrote in his review for indieWIRE. "Think of it as 'When Harry Met Sally' meets an art house aesthetic — in the best way possible."

You can also check out indieWIRE's Q&A with Gray, along with dozens of other interviews with directors whose films are screening at the festival.

Already stirring discussion is Kirby Dick's documentary "Outrage" which "outs" prominent closeted politicians who work against gay rights. indieWIRE's Brian Brooks caught a sneak preview of the film and he reports: "While the sometimes sordid details of these and other politicians’ penchant for the same sex makes for some salacious tales and even some laughs - the film is ineed funny at times - the main thrust of the film is to tie together the culture war, what the filmmakers view as equal rights for all Americans, and the hypocrisy of those with power and their complicity in attacking the same minority that they are a part of - even if only on the fringe."

If you're looking to get up to speed on this year's other offerings, check out Howard Feinstein's piece 10 Films To Watch at the ‘09 Tribeca Fest, spotlighting some of the best documentary and foreign features screening at the festival. His list includes Iranian director Asghar Farhadi's "About Elly," Turkish director Yesim Ustaoglu’s "Pandora's Box," and Israeli filmmaker Yoav Shamir's documentary exploring anti-Semitism "Defamation" (which was, incidentally, picked up by First Run Features earlier today). Cinematical's Eric D. Snider offers an alternate list of films to watch for, including the Oscar winning "Departures" and "Serious Moonlight" (written by the late "Waitress" director Adrienne Shelly). At the Village Voice, Melissa Anderson looks forward to Lucía Puenzo's ("XXY") "The Fish Child," Hirokazu Koreeda's latest "Still Walking," and Damien Chazelle's "Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench," among others. You can view the complete festival line-up, with synopses of the films, here.

Spout's Karina Longworth offers her takes on two of these highly anticipated films: "About Elly" ("a tightly constructed verite relationship dramedy which, with a sequence that’s genuinely gripping, first turns into a you-are-there thriller, then into a very talky mystery, then into a tragic melodrama of morals") and "Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench" ("full of failure, but its willingness to experiment, and particularly the alchemy that Damien Chazelle hits on within the musical numbers, is actually exciting").

Finally, indieWIRE and Apple kicked off a series of daily filmmaker talks at the Apple Store on Wednesday with a Q&A with director Spike Lee, where--when not being lavished with gifts from audience members--he discussed his two films screening at Tribeca, "Kobe Doin’ Work" and "Passing Strange."

Check back here often as indieWIRE will be keeping you updated throughout the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival with a steady flow of reviews, photos, and on-the-scene coverage.

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