51st New York Film Festival: It Ain’t Over Till the Last Reel Unreels
By: Ellis Nassour
Expansive is the most apt word for this year’s 51st New York Festival, which has exhibited more celebrity-studded Main Slate films than ever: 36; a huge roster of documentaries, revivals, and, perhaps, the largest-ever roster of views from the Avant Garde and "free stuff." The U.S. is dominating the Fest with 12 films. There’re films from 16 other countries and territories, including, of course, France and the U.K.
There’s been something, daily and nightly, for everyone – including NYFF gala salutes to Cate Blanchett and Ralph Fennes.
Sadly, it all comes to an end this Saturday with the Closing Night Gala, the world premiere of Spike Jonze’s "magical, melancholy" comedy of the "near future," Her [Warner Bros.] , starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt, and. in an unique special appearance, Scarlett Johansson [or, at least, a very special part of "her."
There’s still time to catch a number of must-sees, such as:
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 must be Oscar-nomination bound or else. In a feature role is theater/TV vet Mary Louise Wilson. [October 12]
The edge-of-the-seat waterworld thriller, All is Lost [Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions] with a deluged Robert Redford at the helm of his sinking yacht and adrift somewhere in the Indian Ocean for eight days. Not for those that suffer mal-de-mer [Thursday at 9 P.M.].
The U.S. premiere of Jim Jarmusch’s "wry, tender, and moving" take on the vampire genre, Only Lovers Left Alive [Sony Pictures Classics], who are a centuries-old couple portrayed by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hillleston, with John Hurt, Anton Yelchin, Jeffrey Wright, and Mia Wasikowska helping them observe the changing world [Thursday at 6 P.M.; Saturday at 3 P.M.].
The 20th Anniversary "reunion" screening of Richard Linklater’s hair-raising cult get-high classic Dazed and Confused, starring Jason London, Wiley Wiggins, Milla Jovovich, Anthony Rapp, Rory Cochrane, Ben Affleck, and Matthew Mc Conaughey [film debut] set in 1976, on the last day of high school classes. [October 10]
There’s a Revival showing of Martin Scorsese’s lavish 1993 The Age of Innocence, called "a lament for missed chances," adapted with great attention to period detail from Edith Wharton’s novel set in 19th century New York high society about a lawyer who falls in love with a woman separated from her husband, while he is engaged to the woman’s cousin. Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Winona Ryder star. [October 10]
Among shown films to watch for in theatres are:
Opening this weekend is the Fest’s Opening Night attraction, Paul Greengrass’ edge-of-the-seat thriller Captain Phillips [Columbia Pictures, opening this weekend], stars two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks and is based on the 2009 Somali pirate capture of a U.S. cargo ship.
12 Years a Slave, [Fox Searchlight], 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 put into slavery in Kentucky. Chiwetel Eujiofor [Lola in the Kinky Boots film] gives an acclaimed performance that’s a must for an Oscar nomination as Northup. In impressive, Oscar-nomination worthy featured roles are Michael Fassbender as a malevolent psychopath plantation master, Olivier and Emmy nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (War Horse, Star Trek into Darkness, many more; upcoming August: Osage County) as a much-kinder slave owner who ultimately won’t buck the system; and Adepero Oduye as a plantation owner’s lusted after slave. Brad Pitt [also one of the producers] appears all-too-briefly as a Canadian abolitionist who comes to Northup’s rescue. Paul Dano, Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodward, and Paul Giamatti are featured. Shot on location near New Orleans. Opens October 31, and could be the scariest movie you’ll ever see for Halloween.
Nebraska, opening November 22.
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. It’s about Dickens, so natch it’ll open on Christmas Day.
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. [February, 2014]
Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis [CBS Films, opening early December], a 60s Greenwich Village folk music scene comedy headlining Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, John Goodman, and Stark Sands. [December 20]
About Time [Universal Pictures], Richard Curtis’ hilarious time-travel romantic comedy, starring Lindsay Duncan, Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, and Bill Nighy. A 21-year-old discovers he can travel in time and change what happens and has happened, but making the world a better place by getting a girlfriend turns out not to be as easy as he thought. [November 8]
The Fest’s Centerpiece attraction is a somewhat scattered 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 Foxs]. Kristen Wiig [SNL] co-stars, with cameos by Oscar winners Sean Penn and Shirley MacLaine. Directed by Stiller. [Christmas Day]
The three-week encompassing Jean-Luc Godard retrospective, The Spirit of the Forms saluting the French director and New Wave pioneer, is in progress through October 30. Visit www.filmlinc.com for full schedule and details. Among the upcoming films are his adaptation of Alberto Moravia’s novel, Contempt, starring Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance, and Fritz Lang [yes, that Fritz Lang!], about the making of an adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey in Italy [October 21]; his 1987 adaptation of King Lear; and Grandeum and Decadence, based on James Hadley Chase’s 1964 novel The Soft Centre, a funny, melancholy piece about a director and producer (played by famed comic filmmaker Jean-Pierre Mocky) who are trying to make a movie on the cheap out of the novel [October 22, 23].
Purchase tickets at the Alice Tully Hall [Lincoln Center] box office or www.filmlinc.com, where you will find dozens of articles about the Festival and it’s films and information about becoming a Film Society member.