Choice Picks from 51st New York Film Festival Hit Cineplexes
By: Ellis Nassour
Expansive is the most apt word for this year’s 51st New York Festival, which exhibited more celebrity-studded Main Slate films than ever. The U.S. dominated with 12 films. Additional programming unreeled from 16 other countries. Now, with the 17-day Festival concluded, many of the films are opening or will open before year’s ends in cineplexes.
Just opening in theatres to the type of acclaim heaped on them by media during the NYFF are these standout films:
Paul Greengrass’ edge-of-the-seat thriller Captain Phillips [Columbia Pictures], starring two-time Oscar-winner Tom Hanks and is based on the 2009 Somali pirate capture of a U.S. cargo ship. Some crew of the attacked ship are claiming, even after being paid for depictions in the movie, that the real Captain wasn’t the superb seaman, leader, or great hero as depicted in the film. Be that as it way, Hanks was mighty impressed when he spent time with him before cameras rolled. Hanks’ portrayal, especially after the film settles into his kidnapping for ransom by the pirates, gives nothing less than a heroic performance – especially given the confines of a tiny, modern-day lifeboat. You have to wonder, since the sequences were shot on the rolling sea, how there was room for the camera and various equipment [Greengrass watched on a monitor from a service ship. It’s not all black and white when it comes to the pirates, who, yes, are committing criminal acts, but Greengrass adds a social element about their poverty and desperation. Ironically, the ship they attempted to seize was carry food for refugees.
The edge-of-the-seat waterworld thriller, All is Lost [Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions] sinks or swims on the performance of a deluged Robert Redford at the helm of his sinking yacht, totally-disabled and adrift somewhere in the Indian Ocean for eight days and through two violent storms. Thankfully, this is not in
3-D; however it’s not for those that suffer mal-de-mer. It’s unthinkable that Redford won’t be honored with an Oscar nomination, and perhaps finally win his first for acting [after two nominations]. He won a directing Oscar and was honored with a special Oscar.
12 Years a Slave [Fox Searchlight/Regency], Steve McQueen’s harrowing and raw adaptation of violinist Solomon Northup’s true-life story of being a free black man in Saratoga Springs, NY, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South, doing hard labor, often while given the opt to play his violin for plantation owners. Chiwetel Eujiofor [Lola in the Kinky Boots film] gives an acclaimed and harrowing performance that’s a must for an Oscar nomination as Solomon Northup. The film is based on the memoir he wrote during his return to freedom in the 1850s. In impressive, Oscar-nomination worthy turns roles are Michael Fassbender as a scripture-quoting, psycotic plantation master; Olivier and Emmy nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (War Horse, Star Trek into Darkness,many more, such as upcoming August: Osage County) as a much-kinder slave owner who ultimately won’t buck the system; and, in a riveting performance as a plantation owner’s lusted after slave, Nigeran actress Adepero Oduye [who last July succeeded Condola Rashad on Broadway in the revival of The Trip to Bountiful]. Brad Pitt [also one of the producers] appears all-too-briefly as a Canadian abolitionist who comes to Northup’s rescue. Paul Dano [in a demented performance as a plantation overseer that even tops his amazing portrayal opposite Hugh Jackman in Prisoners], Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodward, and Paul Giamatti are featured. Shot on location near New Orleans. This is must-see social drama, but it’s not for the squeamish .
Upcoming in theatres:
One of the best films in the festival and a feel-good one at that, Alexander Payne’s spin on a father-son (Bruce Dern, named Best Actor at Cannes this year, the winning SNL alumnus Will Forte) road trip for the aging father to collect a sweepstakes prize, Nebraska (Paramount), shot in glorious B&W, and a trip almost cut short by the tart-tongued wife/mother, played by June Squibb [Payne’s About Schmidt], who steals the movie and is surely bound for an Oscar-nomination. In featured roles are Stacy Keach and theater/TV vet Mary Louise Wilson. November 22.
Roger Michell’s quite watchable bittersweet comedy/drama, Le Week-End (Music Box Films), centered on a decidedly-different Jim Broadbent and brilliant Tony and Drama desk-winning (Private Lives revival) and nominated (Les Liaisons Dangereuses) Lindsay Duncan as a bewildering middle class English couple enjoying an unaffordable anniversary weekend in Paris. November 1.
About Time [Universal], Richard Curtis’ hilarious time-travel romantic comedy, starring Lindsay Duncan, Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, and Bill Nighy. A young man (Gleeson) discovers he can travel in time, and though he can’t change history, he can change what happens and has happened in his own life. He decides to make his world a better place by getting a girlfriend, which as all guys know isn’t as easy as you think. November 8.
Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis [CBS Films, early December], a 60s Greenwich Village folk music scene comedy headlining Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, John Goodman, and Stark Sands. Limited release beginning December 1.
Ralph Fiennes is director and star of The Invisible Woman [Sony Pictures Classics], based on Claire Tomalin’s quite revealing, well-researched book about a mostly unknown, but shocking affair between the womanizing Charles Dickens [I know!] and a much younger actress, portrayed by Felicity Jones. Co-starring are Kristen Scott Thomas and, in a movingly sensitive portrayal as Dickens’ much-trampled upon wife and mother of his brood of children, noted Brit TV star Joanna Scanlan. Christmas Day.
Also opening Christmas Day is a somewhat adaptation of James Thurber’s classic comic fable about a mild-mannered man, played by Ben Stiller, who lives vicariously through heroic daydreams, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty [20th Century Fox]. Kristen Wiig co-stars, with cameos by Oscar winners Sean Penn and Shirley MacLaine. Directed by Stiller.