The Wee Hours: A Festival We Couldn’t Refuse

In what must have been a fit of fanboy indiscretion, Brian Williams signed up to interview the famously cagey Robert De Niro on the actor’s home turf, the Tribeca Film Festival.

Some typical responses from Mr. De Niro: “I’m O.K.” “I am and I’m not.” “No.” “Yeah.” “What?”

Closing the conversation, Mr. Williams eased out of his triumphant deadpan, returning to newsman mode and forcing the actor and film festival founder to fashion a real response. 

“When you go on IMDb,” Mr. Williams said, “the lead sentence alongside a picture of our guest today and our founder of all of this is ‘Robert Mario De Niro, Jr., who is thought of as one of the greatest actors of all time, was born in New York City.’ That’s all we need to say.”

“Wait, wait, wait!” the actor countered. “My middle name is Anthony!”

This mattered little to the audience giving the standing ovation at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center—the actor does not need anything between “Bobby” and “De Niro” to sell tickets to the films he picks for his festival. The perpetual line around the block stuffed the plaza. Granted, The Observer chose to attend the flashiest of the events, the films with boldface names, the premieres that could rival Tribeca’s opponents on the festival circuit.

And so the personally curated schedule seemed like spectacle, imported from the West Coast. Scenes at the parties reeked of L.A. As we navigated the schedule’s first half, The Observer spent screenings jittery from chugging free cappuccinos and then jetted to the obligatory bashes, each packed with the same flavored-vodka cocktails.

Last Thursday The Observer slouched late and tired into a tote-bag-laden seat for The Bang Bang Club. It’s a picture about war photographers, a topic made tragically timely by the deaths of Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros in Libya. As lucky ticket holders took their seats, Taylor Kitsch, who plays one of the featured photographers, stood and merrily flicked off three women who catcalled him from the back. Later, at the after-party, Mr. Kitsch entertained the guests flocking by the useless pool table at the useless faux-boîte La Bottega with a quick stand atop a dining booth, girl clutched to his side.

Paul Haggis, the screenwriter, was having a glass of white wine. “I’m only here for a few days before I’m taking off,” he told The Observer. He was going back home to L.A.

And you, Ryan Phillippe, star of the movie we’re celebrating—surely you’re staying for more Tribeca action, right? “I’d like to but I’m flying back to L.A. tomorrow,” Mr. Phillippe said to. 

The documentary God Bless Ozzy Osbourne, which screened Sunday, detailed the Prince of Darkness’ descent into harrowing substance abuse that left him as a stammering, pill-popping dad on The Osbournes. It had its fans.

“Rock ’n’ roll!” shouted a man before the lights dimmed. He repeated this chant, unprompted and unwelcomed. Other heckles from the one-man peanut gallery: “Boring!” “Shut up, bitch!” “Been there, done that.” The seemingly superfluous members of New York’s finest suddenly had a job to do—they gently, then firmly, warned the guy that, no, you cannot yell at a movie screen. He still did, every time a member of Black Sabbath appeared.

It’s a shame the men and women in blue opted out of the after-party, as assault-prone Paz de la Huerta stopped by draped in leopard print. She refrained from swinging fists but did sway her lankiness through the nautical knickknacks spangled all over Anchor Bar, her brows heavy and forehead pleated. She settled down with Kelly Osbourne. Having just watched a documentary about his crippling addiction to alcohol, Mr. Osbourne left the vodka to The Observer and succumbed to no more than a quesadilla wedge.

And then Last Night, two hours of Keira Knightley fretting and pouting as she and her husband ponder extramarital flings. On film, Ms. Knightly dwelled mostly in Soho House, but after the screening, its viewers had to suffer Avenue, its slim alleyway crushed by the thick ripples of sport coats clutching wineglasses. As The Observer leaned from the beamed catwalk above, Courtney Love chatted up a capped Liev Schreiber, Eva Mendes replicated her character’s allure and hands everywhere snapped up the requisite coconut shrimp.

It became clear that neither Ms. Knightley nor her co-star was going to make it to the party. And where was Mr. De Niro, “one of the greatest actors of all time”?  The Observer instead spotted Gilbert Gottfried against the wall, and knew it was time to leave.

  The Wee Hours: A Festival We Couldn’t Refuse