At last year's New York Film Festival, folks were caught off guard when a last-minute addition was made to the festival: "A world premiere of a work-in-progress by a major filmmaker." Except they didn't tell anyone what that film was until they were sitting in theatre moments before the film started. It turned out to be Martin Scorsese's 3D "Hugo" (in nearly complete form). Three months later, the film was up for 11 Oscars including best picture and best director.
As one might have suspected, the success of last year's tactic has lead to another secret screening this time around. Today the festival made the following announcement:
"If you thought we'd stop there, you're crazy! We're excited to announce that on Monday, October 8 at 6:15pm in Alice Tully Hall, another work-in-progress will be shocking NYFF audiences—and all but a few employees—when the lights go down and the (figurative) curtain goes up. We can't tell you much else about it yet, but rest assured that, as with Hugo, you'll definitely want to be able to say you saw this film before anyone else... at the historic event that is the 50th New York Film Festival!"
So what could it be? The fact that AFI is already officially screening "Hitchcock" and "Lincoln" as world premieres more or less rules them out (or does it?), leaving a handful of films as possibilites:
Django Unchained -- Rumors have swirled that Quentin Tarantino's follow-up to "Inglorious Basterds" is going to screen at the Rome Film Festival later this month, though nothing has been confirmed. Whether that's true or not, a work-in-progress at the New York Film Festival seems like a reasonable suggestion (though whispers have suggested it's not happening).
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey -- Probably the most unlikely suggestion on this list, but buzz has been fairly muted on Peter Jackson's first film in the "Hobbit" trilogy and this could be an excellent way of changing that (if, of course, the film is actually good).
Les Miserables -- Giving audiences a first peak at Tom Hooper's highly anticipated adaptation of the classic musical (starring Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway) just blocks from Broadway seems quite appropriate. Universal just pushed it back a week in release, which suggests the film may not be complete. Though it is a "work-in-progress" screening, so you never know...
Promised Land -- Focus Features unexpectedly bumped up Gus Van Sant's "Promised Land" (starring and written by Matt Damon and John Krasinski) to a December 28th release date, suggesting it has awards hopes for it. Considering the Oscar nominations have moved up to January 10th, getting the film screened as early as possible would be a smart move.
Skyfall -- The festival might not necessarily go the awards favorite route and instead give us a first look at Sam Mendes' much-anticipated Bond entry "Skyfall." Considering its the 50th anniversary of both Bond and NYFF, it would be fitting...
Zero Dark Thirty -- Kathryn Bigelow's take on the mission to capture Osama bin Laden is out this December and has yet to screen anywhere. Though it would go against speculation that the film's release delay to December was an effort to squash suggestions the film would help politically motivate Obama's re-election. Mind you, that speculation was never confirmed.
Of course, maybe the fest will throw a huge wild card and screen something not even on the 2012 release calendar (like the Coen Brothers' latest, "Inside Llewyn Davis"). We'll find out soon enough. Member tickets to the screening go on sale Thursday, October 4 at 12:00pm EST online and at the Alice Tully Hall box office. General Public tickets go on sale Friday, October 5 at 12:00pm online and at the Alice Tully Hall box office. More info here.
What do you think the film is?