The critical buzz on the Tribeca Film Festival.

Highlights from the week in criticism.
May 4 2007 1:55 PM

Tribeca Grand Prix

The critical buzz on the Tribeca Film Festival.

Tribeca Film Festival.

Tribeca Film Festival. The New York-based film festival, which concludes its two-week run May 6, handed out awards Thursday. One winner was Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst's The Education of Charlie Banks, which grabbed the prize for best narrative feature made in N.Y. "Fred grew up in the South, but he was so adamant about making (the film) authentically on location in New York," the star of the film, Jesse Eisenberg, told the crowd at the ceremony. Alex Gibney's Taxi to the Dark Side won best documentary for its unsparing examination of the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Variety notes that Gibney, who also directed Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, has "stripped the rhetoric from official doublespeak to expose a callous disregard for not only the Geneva Conventions but the vision of the Founding Fathers." An Israeli film about the personal struggles of an ultra-Orthodox rabbi in Israel, My Father My Lord, won the $50,000 purse for best narrative feature, though the Village Voice called the film "not a happy movie or a particularly subtle one: It draws a grim parallel between Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac and a modern Israeli rabbi's devotion to God at the expense of his wife and son."— D.S., May 4

Spider-Man 3

Spider-Man 3 (Sony Pictures). The third installment of the Spidey saga is 139 minutes, features three supervillains, and reportedly cost more than $250 million to make—leading the Los Angeles Times to cast the franchise as an evil force in itself: "a master that must be served, a monster to be fed, an imperious creature with its own needs and drives." Certainly, the critical consensus seems to be that the film is a lot bigger in budget than in heart. Anthony Lane sums up its sins in The New Yorker: "Laziness mingles with overkill, violence with mawkishness."L.A. Weekly's Scott Foundas considers the film a relative failure—he loved Spider-Man 2—and blames creative fatigue from the filmmakers, speculating that "the thrill has somehow gone out of it for them this time around." But as a popcorn flick, the film has action and effects to offer: A middling review in Entertainment Weekly concludes: "Spider-Man 3 is product, but it's a machine that tickles your eyes." (Buy tickets for Spider-Man 3)— B.W., May 3

The Atlantic Journal-Constitution.
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Book review sections. The National Book Critics circle has launched a campaign to save book reviewing, following the elimination of the book editor position at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution—prompting much debate over the value of newspaper reviews in an age of proliferating book bloggers. "[S]ome publishers and literary bloggers—not surprisingly—see it as an inevitable transition toward a new, more democratic literary landscape where anyone can comment on books," notes the New York Times' Motoko Rich. In the Los Angeles Times, author Michael Connelly worries that "efforts to cut costs now will damage both books and newspapers in the future. Short-term gains will become long-term losses." In the Huffington Post, Mark Oppenheimer proposes a solution: "[T]he most important job of book critics is to keep people informed about books worth reading. So the fight should proceed on two fronts: newspapers should be pressured to keep their book sections in print, but they should also be pressured to expand book coverage online."— D.S., May 2

American Doll Posse by Tori Amos.

American Doll Posse, Tori Amos (Epic). The singer-songwriter adopts the roles of five female characters in her ninth studio album, donning different wigs and wardrobes and even creating Web sites for each persona. Reviewers are generally positive about the music, if puzzled by the concept. According to Billboard, the album is "so ripe for feminist debate that Epic could market it to literary circles with dignity." The Washington Post thinks the heavy-handed theme comes off as a "gimmicky attention grab" but concedes that the music itself is, "perky and demented and unexpectedly decent." Meanwhile, Newsweek lists the album as a top pick, not for its gender politics or Bush-bashing (Amos lays into the president in a song called "Yo George") but for Amos' signature "bouncy piano chords and sharp-tongued lyrics." And the Boston Globe finds the album "brilliant," adding that "the cynical may well roll their eyes," but Amos' latest "is a lush sprawl of an album that works, with or without the feminist playbook." (Buy American Doll Posse)—P.F., May 1

Alec Baldwin with Barbara Walters on The View
Alec Baldwin with Barbara Walters on The View

Alec Baldwin. The embattled actor went on The View Friday to seek absolution after viciously berating his 11-year-old daughter in a much-publicized voice-mail message. Baldwin told his hosts he wants to leave the NBC sitcom 30 Rock to write a book about parental alienation (though he recently signed on for a second season). Television critics doubt this would be a wise career move. "For the good of viewers—and readers—Mr. Baldwin must not leave the show," writes the New York Times' Alessandra Stanley. "His performance yesterday suggests that he may need some persuading to stay with the sitcom, in which he is brilliant, and away from talk show couches, where he is anything but." Lisa de Moraes of the Washington Post notes Baldwin's victim mentality, interpreting his analysis of events as: "Translation: I am being unfairly tarred and feathered by people who are merely projecting their hatred of their own parents." Meanwhile, Newsweek comments: "Fathers' rights activists disagree whether their new de facto celebrity spokesman helps or hurts their cause."— D.S., April 30

Paige Ferrari is a freelance writer and former Slate intern.

Doree Shafrir is the executive editor at Buzzfeed.

Blake Wilson is a Slate contributor and former Slate editor.

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