New York Film Festival Picks Up Steam, Loses Outside Voices

New York Film Festival Picks Up Steam, Loses Outside Voices
New York Film Festival Picks Up Steam, Loses Outside Voices

Checking out the schedule for the 51st New York Film Festival, I’m struck by how many movies there are still to see, even if many have played other festivals, from Cannes last May to fall fests Telluride, Venice and Toronto. (Here’s Indiewire’s list of must-see underdogs in the program.)

Under the Film Society of Lincoln Center executive director Rose Kuo, over the past three years the NYFF has not only undergone management changes, but has picked up steam and momentum as a major festival. Following the departure of Richard Pena, for the first time, the entire selection committee led by new NYFF director Kent Jones–programmers Marian Masone and Dennis Lim and Film Comment’s Gavin Smith and Amy Taubin– are Film Society insiders, with no outside critics. (Kuo says this could always change.) The NYT’s Manohla Dargis rhapsodizes about the much-expanded festival, which boasts 51 features and 30 shorts, here; Jones talks about the changes at the Fest here. 

Kuo had much say in wrangling the three much-anticipated gala world premieres: opening night’s “Captain Phillips,” directed by Paul Greengrass and starring Tom Hanks, on September 27 (which I will review after I see it at the LA premiere Monday night), followed by Centerpiece “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (which I will cover at the NYFF on Saturday October 5, along with the press conference), and closing night film, Spike Jonze’s “Her.” All three are being talked up as Oscar contenders, which is why their studios booked them in the festival in the first place. The NYFF can be an effective awards launch (see “A Social Network,” “Hugo,” “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln”). 

I look forward to checking out next weekend Hayao Miyazaki’s last film, the animated “The Wind Rises,” James Gray’s “The Immigrant,” starring well-reviewed Marion Cotillard, Claire Denis’ “Bastards,” Chile’s Oscar submission “Gloria,” Richard Curtis’s “About Time,” Arnaud Desplechin’s “Jimmy P,” starring Benicio del Toro, and Catherine Breillat’s “Abuse of Weakness.” An embarrassment of riches. 

Of the films I have seen, I highly recommend:

Steve McQueen’s Oscar contender “Twelve Years a Slave,” starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender; two films starring 77-year-old likely Oscar contenders, Robert Redford and Bruce Dern, J.C. Chandor’s “All is Lost” and Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska,” respectively; Roger Michell’s sharply hilarious portrait of a middle-aged couple on vacation in Paris, “Le Week-End,” starring Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan; and the controversial Palme d’Or-winner “Blue is the Warmest Color” (my interview with the two stars is here)

Ones I am sorry to miss that have been building buzz include Penn & Teller’s “Tim’s Vermeer,” James Franco’s “Child of God,” Cannes entries “A Touch of Sin” and “Like Father, Like Son,” Agnieszka Holland’s “Burning Bush,” and Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive,” starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. And of course I’d like to attend the tributes to Oscar frontrunner Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”) and Ralph Fiennes, whose Charles Dickens true-story “Invisible Woman” is slotted in the Fest. 

For those who are in New York and able to sample the whole festival, there’s much much more. More information on the 51st New York Film Festival poster designed by British-born artist Tacita Dean here and below.

For the poster Dean used a black and white photograph from a series of 326 photos Dean produced in the Czech Republic between 1991 and 2002.  Dean has participated in many group exhibitions including Venice Biennale (2003, 2005 and 2013), Sydney Biennale (2005 and 2014) and Sao Paulo Biennale (2006 and 2010), and recently showed work in dOCUMENTA (13) (2012). Dean was awarded the Hugo Boss Prize (2006) and the Kurt Schwitters Prize (2009).

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