In order to summon up star luster, film festivals have to make certain compromises. In the case of the New York Film Festival’s tribute to Nicole Kidman–who totally deserves many kudos–that includes adding Lee Daniel’s controversial adaptation of Pete Dexter’s novel “The Paperboy” to the fest’s main slate.
That could prove a double-edged sword, because while some critics are willing to praise its audacity, gothic melodrama “The Paperboy” is far from a crowdpleaser and may fall flat with sophisticated New York audiences. Millennium releases its own production on October 5, following its debut at Cannes, where the film earned mixed reviews.
In the film, Kidman gives a memorable, fearless performance as a boldly sexual woman infatuated with an incarcerated killer (John Cusack). While Daniels draws great performances out of his actors, the movie itself is as chaotic and messy as its swampy setting. Daniels added homosexuality to Matthew McConnaughey’s character, turns the housekeeper (Macy Gray) into the narrator, and cast David Oyelowo as a fish-out-of-water journalist who was written in the original novel as white. At the Cannes press conference Kidman admitted that when she commits to a role she goes all the way, and in this case stayed in character on set. She created her own hair and makeup and assembled her provocative wardrobe out of her own closet. She’s a trooper.
Richard Peña, Selection Committee Chair & Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, stated:
“Nicole Kidman is one of film’s finest contemporary actresses. Since her breakthrough performance in TO DIE FOR and her bold and provocative appearances in Lars Von Trier’s DOGVILLE, Stanley Kubrick’s EYES WIDE SHUT, as well as her awarding-winning portrayal of Virginia Woolf in Stephen Daldry’s THE HOURS, Kidman has insisted on finding roles that are complex, bold and demanding. We are excited to honor her with a tribute at the New York Film Festival.”
The Gala Tribute to Kidman will take place on Wednesday, October 3, and the Gala Tribute to Richard Peña will take place on Wednesday, October 10. It is fitting that the NYFF tribute Pena, who is leaving after 25 years of extraordinary service to the Festival. The Film Society of Lincoln Center executive director Rose Kuo has been moving deliberately–some say too slowly–to replace Pena, who leaves at year’s end. She posted the NYFF job, described as “program director,” someone working closely with the exec director, just before Cannes, and met with some prospective candidates on the Croisette. Kuo, who has programmed many fests including LA’s AFI FEST, is looking to become more involved in the NYFF programming, which is picked by a rotating selection committee, especially the major opening, closing, and centerpiece slots. It will be fascinating to see who she brings in: someone powerful, or less established?
Kuo may want her own FSLC critic-programmer, ex-LA Weekly critic Scott Foundas, to get the job. Toronto’s Noah Cowan, who programs the Bell Lightbox and used to have Cameron Bailey’s TIFF director gig, is a strong candidate. Venice Film Fest programmer Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan might be ready to move up to a directing position. Another name that comes up is brainy frequent NYT contributor and Malaysia Film Fest programmer Dennis Lim, who has served on the NYFF selection committee, but may lack the showmanship required of a front-man for a major New York Festival. Respected Newsweek critic David Ansen, who is going strong programming the Los Angeles Film Festival, may be deemed too close to retirement age himself if the NYFF is looking for someone to put in another quarter century. NYT critic Manohla Dargis, Harvard’s Haden Guest and Locarno’s Olivier Pere are also in the hopper.
“It is very fitting that we celebrate the 50th birthday of the New York Film Festival by honoring the man who has guided the festival’s artistic vision for the last 25 years. Richard Pena helped us discover directors like Pedro Almodovar, Abbas Kiarostami, Olivier Assayas, Lars Von Trier and Hou Hsiao-hsien, making an indelible contribution to film culture in New York CIty and around the world. We hope that his friends and colleagues will join us for a special evening to celebrate his achievements.”
Kidman and Pena bios are below.
An Academy Award-winner for Stephen Daldry’s THE HOURS (2002), Kidman was encouraged to begin what would become a prolific and prestigious career in front of the camera by director Jane Campion. Following both film and television work in Australia, her performance in Philip Noyce’s DEAD CALM (1989) proved to be a breakthrough for US audiences, leading to starring roles in such major films as Tony Scott’s DAYS OF THUNDER (1990), Robert Benton’s BILLY BATHGATE (1991) and Ron Howard’s FAR AND AWAY (1993). Kidman received much critical acclaim and her first Golden Globe Award for her role in Gus Van Sant’s TO DIE FOR (1995) and continued to star in both big screen blockbusters like BATMAN FOREVER (1995) and THE PEACEMAKER (1997) and work with the best filmmakers, including Jane Campion’s THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY (1997) and Stanley Kubrick’s final film, EYES WIDE SHUT (1999).
Kidman’s received her first Academy Award nomination for her performance in fellow Australian Baz Lurhman’s MOULIN ROUGE in 2001. From that point, Kidman developed a solid reputation as an actress fearlessly willing to tackle challenging and provocative projects like Lars von Trier’s DOGVILLE (2003) and, Jonathan Glazer’s BIRTH (2004), and work with notable filmmakers like Anthony Minghella’s COLD MOUNTAIN (2003) and Noah Baumbach’s MARGOT AT THE WEDDING (2006). Recently, Kidman’s performance in John Cameron-Mitchell’s RABBIT HOLE (2010) earned the actress her third Academy Award nomination and eighth Golden Globe nomination and her role in the HBO drama “Hemingway & Gellhorn” brought Kidman her first Emmy nomination. Her performance in Lee Daniels’s upcoming drama THE PAPERBOY has already been singled out by critics following the film’s debut at Cannes.
Richard Peña has been the Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Director of the New York Film Festival since 1988. At the Film Society, he has organized retrospectives of Michelangelo Antonioni, Sacha Guitry, Abbas Kiarostami, Robert Aldrich, Roberto Gavaldon, Ritwik Ghatak, Kira Muratova, Youssef Chahine, Yasujiro Ozu, Carlos Saura and Amitabh Bachchan, as well as major film series devoted to African, Israeli, Cuban, Polish, Hungarian, Arab, Korean, Swedish, Taiwanese and Argentine cinema.
In his unprecedented tenure as the FSLC’s Program Director and Selection Committee Chair of the New York Film Festival, Peña has upheld the organization’s gold standard for showcasing the best in world cinema, while dramatically expanding its—and, in turn, the audience’s—horizons. From his encyclopedic surveys of Italian Neorealism and pre-revolutionary Iranian cinema, Peña’s inexhaustible knowledge and insatiable appetite for undiscovered cinematic territory have been an ongoing gift to New York moviegoers for the better part of three decades. During that same time, he has overseen the Film Society’s expansion from an annual festival to a year-round film exhibitor with three screens and a rapidly expanding online presence. In addition, he is a Professor of Film Studies at Columbia University, where he specializes in film theory and international cinema, and from 2006-2009 was a Visiting Professor in Spanish at Princeton University. He is also currently the co-host of WNET/Channel 13’s weekly Reel 13.