Tribeca Film Festival

Universal Studios; Magnolia Pictures; Sony Classics; Doug Chamberlain; Chris Cassidy

Some film festivals wallow in their brooding art-house cred. The Tribeca Film Festival? It proudly pimps out its pop-junkie spirit!

This is, after all, the cine confab that, in previous years, has screened blockbuster-baiting flicks like Shrek Forever After, Speed Racer and Spider-Man 3—much to the bemusement (or, if you're a frou-frou cineaste, torment) of the pop punditry.

This year's fest, which kicks off today, isn't any different. (Two words: The Avengers!). But while Tribeca 2012 has its fair share of boldface blowouts (Michelle Williams! Jason Segel! James Franco!), its slate also coddles some hidden gems waiting to break out into the big time.

Here are five films worth keeping an eye out for, which straddle the fest's yawning chasm between high-wattage star power and high-art ambition.

MORE: Five Things to Know About the Sundance Film Festival

Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Hysteria

Sony Classics

Hysteria: You can feel this movie buzzing—no really, you literally can: It's about the invention of the vibrator! Hugh Dancy stars as a pioneering young doctor in repressed Victorian London tasked with treating women suffering from "hysteria;" symptoms include nymphomania, insomnia and frigidity. Turns out, his patients just needed a handy gadget to help them get by, and he promptly invents one. Maggie Gyllenhaal costars as a feisty feminist who catches the doctor's eye. With its provocative premise, Hysteria's filmmakers are no doubt hoping the movie delivers the Big O—that's "ovation." Tsk, tsk…naughty you.

James Franco, Francophrenia

Doug Chamberlain

Francophenia: Renaissance man James Franco—he writes! he paints! he hosts!—shocked Hollywood when he signed on for a recurring role on General Hospital. Looks like Franco was actually using it as creative inspiration for an experimental movie. During his stint on the show, the actor brought along a camera crew to film him behind the scenes, and he's now refashioned that footage into a psychological thriller about an actor who blurs the line between reality and fiction amid a backdrop of Hollywood glitz. How meta!

Take This Waltz, Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen , Toronto Film Festival

Joe's Daughter

Take This Waltz: Actress Sarah Polley's 2006 debut as a writer-director, the Alzheimer's-tinged drama Away From Her, was a major revelation, winning a Golden Globe for its lead, Julie Christie, and establishing Polley as a sparkling narrative voice. Her follow-up, Take This Waltz, promises to be equally intriguing, as it follows a dissatisfied woman, played by Michelle Williams, who becomes infatuated with a new neighbor (Luke Kirby) despite being married to a doting writer (Seth Rogen). If Polley's track record with leading ladies is any indication, Williams is in good hands. Plus: It's Michelle Williams! Is there any role the My Week With Marilyn actress can't pull off?

Keanu Reeves, Martin Scorcese, Side by Side

Chris Cassidy

Side by Side: Is this a film documentary or a Film 101 master class? Looks like both! An exhaustive survey of the history of filmmaking, Side by Side chronicles the revolutionary effects of today's digital technology and is produced by Keanu Reeves, who's tapped a few, ahem, heavyweight pals to chime in. How heavyweight? The film includes interviews with, among others, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, George Lucas, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Steven Soderbergh and Lars Von Trier. Impressed?

Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Five-Year Engagement

Universal Pictures

The Five-Year Engagement: The rom-com romp, which opens this year's fest, reteams Forgetting Sarah Marshall star Jason Segel with director Nicholas Stoller. But this time, instead of trying to win the gal, Segel is determined to keep her, as his character's impending marriage to his fiancée (played by Emily Blunt) just seems to keep getting sidetracked en route to those I Dos. And how's this for finishing touch: Judd Apatow is a producer. We're so there.

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