The 2016 Tribeca Film Festival is currently in full swing, with movie screenings, nerdy filmmaker conversations and hip parties dominating the scene in lower Manhattan. Here's some of the best stuff we've seen so far…
The Best Movie
What It's Like: Think along the lines of Whiplash meets White Men Can't Jump meets Friday Night Lights, except set in the world of high school basketball.
Why We Love It: From director Bart Freundlich (Trust the Man), Wolves tracks the story of Anthony (newcomer Taylor John Smith), the star of his New York City-set high school basketball team and the pressures that come with being good enough to snag that scholarship to a top college (in his case, Cornell University).
Wolves moves beyond the pressures of elite basketball as Anthony struggles to manage a relationship with his hard-gambling father (Michael Shannon), who's slowly depleting all of the family's savings while trying to toughen up his son and causing more harm than good. It's their relationship — and the twists and turns it takes — that ultimately elevates Wolves and gives the film's final moments some meaty emotional tension. Yes, the championship is on the line and yes our hero is right at the center of it, but the execution of the relationships combined with some fantastic basketball choreography are what make Wolves stand out from the pack.
The Coolest Experience
What It's Like: Imagine watching a DreamWorks-style animated short that's viewed in virtual reality with 360-degree views.
Why We Love It: Invasion!, which was created in conjunction with director Eric Darnell (Madagascar movies), delivered one of the coolest virtual-reality experiences we've had yet. Not just in execution, but in what it foreshadows. Honestly, it felt like we were watching the future of family-friendly movies.
The short is pretty simple. Evil cartoonish aliens pop out of a space portal and head towards Earth as two adorable bunnies (your POV is of one of the bunnies, by the way) meander around a lake that's iced over. When the aliens happen to land on the frozen lake, our two bunnies hop into action and save the day.
It's cute and kinda funny, but what's very cool is just how much a part of the film you feel as a viewer. When you look down, you see a bunny's body, and the other bunny that's with you attempts to play with you prior to the aliens arriving. With so much VR geared towards teens and adults, Invasion! is the best family-friendly VR experience we've had yet. Kids would have a blast playing around in the world of Invasion!
The Conversation Everyone Is Buzzing About
Who: J.J. Abrams and Chris Rock
What's the Buzz: Abrams and Rock spoke about a range of topics that tracked the career of J.J. Abrams, but of course many are interested in what the director has to say about Star Wars — namely the identity of Rey's parents, and how Mark Hamill was at first reluctant when he heard how Luke Skywalker was going to be used in The Force Awakens.
You can read more about what they each had to say here.
The Most Inspiring Filmmaker Story
[image via Getty Images]
Who: Director Bart Freundlich on Wolves
The Story: While this year's festival is full of inspiring stories, we love the one Freundlich told about his movie Wolves. This was a film that started way back when Freundlich was in 10th grade, when he was tasked with writing a short story that focused on character for his English class.
That story, which was about a father and son, formed the basis for Wolves, which the director then worked on again in his twenties and thirties and eventually made at the age of 46. We thought it was rad that Freundlich stuck with this story for decades, and also the fact that sometimes it's the tiniest school assignments that wind up having the most impact on your life.
The Sexiest Celebrity Encounter
[image via Getty Images]
Who: Carla Gugino and Malin Akerman
Where: While attending the after party for a movie called The Ticket — about a blind man (Dan Stevens) who regains his vision only to become blinded again by his own obsession with the superficial — we sidled up to both Ticket star Malin Akerman and her buddy Carla Gugino, who's also in town promoting her role in Wolves. (Yes, this is the third time we've mentioned Wolves in this piece — can you tell we dug it?)
Both Akerman and Gugino were looking beautiful and both were a delight to talk to, with the latter teasing her hopeful return in the San Andreas sequel.
The Most Rockin' Party Experience
Where: The after party for the Tribeca film Folk Hero and Funny Guy at 1 Oak in NYC
The Film: The charming Folk Hero and Funny Guy, which premiered at Tribeca and stars Alex Karpovsky, Wyatt Russell and Meredith Hagner, follows a down-on-his-luck stand-up comedian (Karpovsky) who joins his singer buddy's (Russell) East Coast tour following a breakup. Directed by actor Jeff Grace (in his directorial debut), the film is very much inspired by the relationship Grace has with singer Adam Ezra, whose music is featured in the movie.
So What Happened? Wyatt Russell (the real-life son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn) took the stage alongside Ezra to dole out some tunes. From our pal Wilson Morales' Instagram, here is what that looked like.
Here's #wyattrussell and #adamezra performing at #folkheroandfunnyguy afterparty #tribecafilmfestival
Stay tuned — we'll have more on the Tribeca Film Festival later this week.