Tribeca is back and looking almost like it did before COVID hit the scene and upended film festivals around the world.
The 2022 edition will have indoor screenings, something that last year’s all-outdoor version eschewed. It will also offer up a steady stream of splashy premieres, performances, concerts and talks featuring A-listers such as Jennifer Lopez (on hand for the stroll down memory lane, “Halftime,” which will be the festival’s opening night feature), as well as new offerings from the likes of Jon Hamm, Jessica Chastain, Ray Romano, Bryan Cranston and more. That’s the kind of sizzle that New York City could use as it tries to regain its stride after coronavirus knocked it for a loop.
But some pandemic-era innovations remain. Film lovers who still prefer to avoid crowds during COVID can access many of the movies and events digitally with the Tribeca At Home platform, a sign that going forward festivals are going to continue embracing a hybrid model.
As Tribeca kicks off its 12-day run on Wednesday, here’s a look at the must-see movies that need to fill festival-goers’ dance cards. It’s a compelling mixture of politically charged documentaries, tenderly observed dramas and off-beat comedies that are sure to move, inspire and, yes, even divide audiences in the best possible ways.
The Integrity of Joseph Chambers
Director: Robert Machoian
Cast: Clayne Crawford, Jordana Brewster, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Buzz Factor: Crawford and Machoian have a good thing going. The pair recently collaborated on “The Killing of Two Lovers,” a criminally under-seen drama about a man who becomes increasingly erratic when as his marriage crumbles. Now, they reunite on “The Integrity of Joseph Chambers,” the story of husband and father who decides to prove his survivalist bona fides by going deer hunting by himself in the woods. In Machoian’s deft hands, the results should be nothing short of gripping.
Director: Jennifer Tiexiera, Camilla Hall
Buzz Factor: What happens to the men and women at the heart of some of the most acclaimed documentaries of recent times after their lives are dissected and their secrets are revealed and offered up for mass consumption? A new film will examine the aftershocks felt by the people who participated in non-fiction films such as “The Staircase,” “Hoop Dreams,” “The Wolfpack,” “The Square” and “Capturing the Friedmans,” while asking penetrating questions about the ethics of placing their stories under the microscope. File this one under “most likely to inspire debate.”
Somewhere in Queens
Director: Ray Romano
Cast: Ray Romano, Laurie Metcalf, Tony Lo Bianco, Sebastian Maniscalco, Jennifer Esposito, Jacob Ward, Sadie Stanley, Dierdre Friel, Jon Manfrellotti
Buzz Factor: Since bidding farewell to sitcoms and “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Romano has forged a very interesting second act for himself, popping up as a character actor in the likes of “The Big Sick” and “The Irishman” and revealing a wounded heart beneath the wisecracks. Now, audiences will get to see yet another side of Romano with “Somewhere in Queens,” which he not only stars in, but also produced, co-wrote and directed. It’s a big-hearted look at a father whose obsession with securing a basketball scholarship for his son goes off the rails in surprising ways.
Director: Joachim Back
Cast: Jon Hamm, Danny Pudi, Christopher Heyerdahl, Sarah Gadon
Buzz Factor: Office life has been good to Hamm. But this film, the new offering from the Oscar-winning Back, features the former “Mad Men” star in a very different light from that of the effortlessly suave Don Draper, who navigated the world of 9-to-5 like a panther. Here, Hamm plays a no-nonsense bureaucrat in this satire of corporate mores. It’s always fun to see the actor mix it up. Plus, the 70s porn star-style mustache Hamm sports in “Corner Office” is worth the price of admission.
Director: Alexandre O. Philippe
Buzz Factor: When it comes to Lynch’s enigmatic canon, one film rules them all, providing connective tissue between the filmmaker’s idiosyncratic oeuvre. That would be Victor Fleming’s “The Wizard of Oz,” the family classic that was a true product of the studio era, an age of mogul absolutism that did its damndest to commodify cinema in a way that seems antithetical to what Lynch stands for. And yet, there’s something about the story of plucky Dorthy Gale and her journey down the Yellow Brick Road that inspires the director, who references it constantly in films such as “Blue Velvet” and “Mulholland Drive,” as well as the television show “Twin Peaks.” This documentary interviews great directors such as Karyn Kusama and John Waters, as well as critics such as Amy Nicholson, as it unpacks the impact that the film had on all things Lynch.
Director: Kyra Sedgwick
Cast: Kyle Allen, Alexandra Shipp, Madeline Brewer, Carrie Preston, Simon Helberg, Kevin Bacon, Andrew Polk
Buzz Factor: Sedgwick, best known for her Emmy-winning role on “The Closer,” directs this story of a young man who is tapped to participate in a Mars colonization effort. Complicating his trip into space is a blossoming romance with a young woman who moves to his town. That makes him reconsider his decision to explore brave new worlds. It’s the kind of dilemma that gets extra points for narrative originality.
It Ain’t Over
Director: Sean Mullin
Cast: Joe Torre, Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly, Bob Costas, Vin Scully, Billy Crystal
Buzz Factor: In which various Yankees players, managers and fans reflect on the ineffable greatness of one, Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra. The baseball legend nabbed 10 World Series rings and three MVP awards over the course of his career, and also developed a reputation for malapropisms and paradoxical statements that somehow managed to be both hilarious and occasionally profound (Example: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”). Joe Torre, Don Mattingly, Derek Jeter and Billy Crystal are just a few of the big names offering up their thoughts on the wit, wisdom and athleticism of one of the greatest catchers in history.
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Jessica Chastain, Matt Smith, Saïd Taghmaoui, Caleb Landry Jones, Christopher Abbott
Buzz Factor: Fresh off her Oscar win for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” Chastain co-stars with Fiennes as a battling couple whose vacation to Morocco takes a turn for the grim after they hit and kill a young boy with their rental car. The A-list cast means that the film demands to be seen, even if the premise could not sound darker.
Jerry & Marge Go Large
Director: David Frankel
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Annette Bening, Rainn Wilson, Larry Wilmore
Buzz Factor: Though the antics of Jerry Selbee may differ dramatically than those of Walter White, Cranston certainly has a gift for humanizing off-beat characters. In the feel-good comedy, Cranston and Bening play real-life married couple Jerry and Marge Selbee, who can’t afford to retire… that is until they find a legal loophole in the Massachusetts Lottery. Under the direction of Frankel, best known for “The Devil Wears Prada,” “Jerry & Marge Go Large” plays like an homage to the kinds of movies that Hollywood rarely makes anymore…but still should.
Rudy! A Documusical
Director: Jed Rothstein
Buzz Factor: Remember “America’s Mayor”? The guy whose steady leadership during 9/11 helped bolster the spirits of a shattered city and inspire the world? Well, that Rudolph Giuliani is a distant memory to many, obscured by his conspiracy mongering and slavish devotion to Donald Trump. This satirical documentary examines Giuliani’s rise to the top of New York City politics and his ignominious fall, most recently on display with his hair-dye melting attempts to prove bogus election fraud claims. But it does it in an unusual way, interspersing talking head interviews and archival footage with musical performances from Broadway actors. In doing so, it reflects the ways that show business has warped politics.
Director: Katie Holmes
Cast: Katie Holmes, Jim Sturgess, Derek Luke, Becky Ann Baker, Zosia Mamet, Melissa Leo
Buzz Factor: A pandemic-era romance that follows a food critic (Holmes) whose attempt to flee New York City for an upstate retreat goes awry when her Airbnb gets double-booked by a hunky, recently single young man (Sturgess). It’s a meet-cute for the lockdown age, one characterized by too much alcohol, too many video calls and a desperate, halting attempt to make sense of our strange new reality.
Director: Josh Alexander
Cast: Reverend Al Sharpton
Buzz Factor: An intimate look at an activist who has given a voice to the voiceless. “Loudmouth” paints a portrait of Sharpton’s journey — the good and the bad — from an 8-year-old preacher to a civil rights figure, presidential candidate advisor and racial justice defender. Love him or hate him (and there are people on both sides of that divide), Sharpton has never shied away from entering the arena.
Director: Andrew Dosunmu
Cast: Niecy Nash, Aleyse Shannon, Giancarlo Esposito, Gracie Marie Bradley, Kyle Bary, Michael Ward, Sharon Stone
Buzz Factor: Paying homage to Black powerhouse vocalists like Patti LaBelle and Whitney Houston, Bradley portrays a young singer on the brink of superstardom. But as a queer woman of color in the 1980s, her path to worldwide fame faces many obstacles. With parents (played by Nash and Esposito) who disapprove of her relationship and a manager (Stone) with a motive, “Beauty” asks audiences to consider what it means to remain true to one’s voice.
Director: Amanda Micheli
Buzz Factor: Jenny from the block is returning to her neighborhood to premiere “Halftime,” a peek behind the curtain as the international pop star gets ready for the Super Bowl Halftime show and the recent Presidential inauguration. And the 52-year-old triple threat says she’s only just getting started with her contributions to the culture. That’s saying something, considering Jennifer Lopez has already gifted the world “Selena,” “J to tha L–O!” and “Hustlers.” As she masterfully interjected into “This Land Is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful” at the 2021 presidential inauguration, “let’s get loud!”