The full lineup of the New York Film Festival's Main Slate was released today. Though the film festival is famously curated and thus exclusionary (I still haven't forgiven them for thinking Rachel Getting Married, the best movie of 2008, was beneath us) this year's lineup is quite a bit larger than usual. Are their standards loosening or was there just too much quality to deny? In honor of the bigger than usual lineup, I thought I'd attempt 35 thoughts on the lineup but I ran out of time. Herewith 29 bullet points...
• Can The Wind Rises save this year's sure-to-be-dismal Best Animated Feature race that Oscars? It's been over ten years since the Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki won the Oscar for Spirited Away (2001). His newest film is a biopic, excuse me a "visionary poem", about Jiro Hirokoshi, the man who designed the Zero fighter.
• Some titles just roll off the tongue. Consider... When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism, a film from the director of Police, Adjective, which is about the life of a film director when the cameras aren't rolling. Except, we hope, the camera filming this movie because staring a blank screen wouldn't do.
• They describe that one as "fascinatingly oblique" which could well be film festival speak for "__________" (that's for you to fill in in the comments)
• The NYFF adores South Korea's Hong Sang-Soo whose films are always represented but whose appeal is largely lost on me. And I typically love South Korean movies apart from his! This year's title is Nobody's Daughter Haewon about a young woman who "tries to define herself one encounter at a time". That sounds fascinatingly oblique!
• I'm not sure why there's a Richard Curtis romantic comedy in the festival (the NYFF selection committee usually airs on the side of humorless sobriety) but there is and it's called About Time and stars Bill Nighy, Domnhall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams and Lindsay Duncan. The men in the family time travel.
• Lindsay Duncan also costars in Le Week-end a dramedy about a couple visiting Paris on holiday. Jim Broadbent is the husband and it's directed by Roger Michell (Hyde Park on Hudson, Venus)
• Provided it's good I really really hope that Cambodia submits The Missing Picture as its Oscar entry. The film sounds and looks (in stills) fascinating so I'll just cut and paste the NYFF description:
Rithy Panh’s brave new film revisits his memories of four years spent under the Khmer Rouge and the destruction of his family and his culture; without a single memento left behind, he creates his “missing images” with narration and painstakingly executed dioramas.
• NEW CLAIRE DENIS MOVIE! NEW CLAIRE DENIS MOVIE! It's called Bastards and its inspired by recent French sex ring scandals. They call it "daringly fragmented" but isn't that kind of her way in general?
• Aside from the Sang-Soo movie too few of the movies are about women. Actressexuals will have to make do with Marion Cotillard in The Immigrant, agnès B's debut film My Name is... Hmmmm about a young woman who runs away from her abusive home and takes up with a kind truck driver, Abuse of Weakness in which Isabelle Huppert muses for Catherine Breillat in her film about her stroke and self-destructive post-stroke romance and Gloria, a Chilean movie about a middle-aged woman whose new lover has difficulty with "old habits" whatever that might mean. I'll use my imagination.
• I cannot keep up with James Franco anymore. He makes so many movies and "installations" and many of them seem imaginary since they don't come out. I'm still waiting to see Interior. Leather Bar which I wish NYFF had scheduled but instead they're showing something called Child of God which is based on the Cormac McCarthy novel and which they describe as "not for the faint-hearted"
• It was only once Nebraska started hitting festivals and being written up that I realized the extent to which I did not like The Descendants. The previous Alexander Payne film just soured me on Alexander Payne films I guess. Which is weirdly tetchy of me because I love all his other ones.
• I like black and white movies so I wonder if Nebraska is the only one this year? They don't say in the writeups but they describe Nebraska, cheekily as having "multiple hues"
• While we're on the subject of Nebraska, you should know that there aren't a lot of Oscar contenders in the lineup (beyond possible Foreign Film submissions) because that isn't really NYFF's thing. That said we will have Captain Phillips, the Somali pirate/Tom Hanks movie and All is Lost the Robert Redford battles the stormy sea festival hit from JC Chandor (Margin Call).
• I've probably told you a million times that I have loved vampires my whole life and vampiric cinema is the only subgenre within horror that I regularly don't avoid. But I have to say that Hollywood has just drained (sorry) my enthusiasm for them. If anything can renew my enthusiasm it'll be Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, two of my favorite immortal creatures to stare at. They're starring as vampires with a long-distance relationship in Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive.
• The director of Paradise Now's new feature is called Omar and its described as a "tense gripping time clock thriller" so the running time of 96 minutes sounds perfect.
• ...but elsewhere the NYFF extra-stuffed main slate is experience severe bloat by way of running time. Relatively speaking the "short" movies in the festival are running at around 110-119 minutes and several are WAY over the two hour mark including Norte the End of History (250 minutes) a Pinoy film that rethinks "Crime and Punishment", At Berkeley (244 minutes) a university documentary from the legendary Frederick Wiseman, Burning Bush (234 minutes) from Agnieska Holland about the events that followed a selfimmolation protest after the Prague spring and The Last of the Unjust (218 minutes) from the director of Shoah.
• ...perhaps it's unsophisticated of me to say but I find excessive running times in art films just as hard to justify artistically as that extra 20 minutes tacked on to most Hollywood Hack blockbuster these days. Can no one edit themselves anymore? Today's filmmakers should watch classic Hollywood films to see how much you can squeeze into 90 minutes. You can say a lot in 90 minutes. My ass is already numb.
• Ralph Fiennes follows up his directorial debut Coriolanus with The Invisible Woman which is about the author Charles Dickens' (played by Fiennes) and his long affair with a younger woman (Felicity Jones). You know what's invisible in romantic drama movies? Women who are the same age as the men. I wouldn't mention this except that Ralph is reunited with his English Patient co-star Kristin Scott Thomas for this movie but instead he's sleeping with Felicity Jones? What is he thinking? Doesn't he remember his own scorching chemistry with Kristin... or that bathtub scene???
• The shortest movie in the festival is Jealousy (77 minutes) from Phillipe Garrel, the director father of ubiquitous wild haired Louis Garrel who stars (bien sur!). It's an autobiographical tale of actors trying to navigate their careers and love lives.
• The description of Stranger by the Lake is 52 words long and 4 of those words are "sexually explicit". The description of Blue is the Warmest Color is 47 words long and 4 of those words are "sexually explicit". So enticing they had to say it twice! Either they're trying to sell tickets or they're labelled thusly to warn people about THE GAY. Apparently heteros only have implied sex these days (poor things!) but our sex is in-your-face!
• I'm super excited to see Blue is the Warmest Color after my Lea Seydoux conversion, its Cannes win, and all the subsequent controversy but I'm so not looking forward to the 179 minute running time. Will no one have mercy on my ass?
• In addition to all the running time self-indulgence quite a few of the movies seem to be autobiographical in nature. Filmmakers like talking about themselves. At length.
• The movie I'm least excited about that I will probably like a lot is Inside Llewyn Davis from the Coen Bros about a folk singer (Oscar Isaac), his cat, his ex-girl (Carey Mulligan) and multiple folk standards. It's weird but I am almost never excited to see Coen Bros movies before I'm watching them despite liking the bulk of them. I also love musicals so I have no excuse or comprehension of why I don't care about this movie yet. I'll get excited eventually but it probably won't be until the movie's first great moment.
• I feel guilty that I haven't yet mentioned Ben Stiller's remake/rethink The Secret Life of Walter Mitty on this blog despite it looking surprisingly good so here's the trailer.
• Two documentaries that could be gripping: American Promise, a years in the making doc about school children from enrollment to high school graduation, and The Square a portrait of events at Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring
• Two films whose inclusion confuses me: Allan Patridge which is a movie starring Steve Coogan's TV comedy character (why is a tv-to-film thing in the lineup?), Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian with Benicio Del Toro that I thought wasn't that well liked at Cannes?
• There are several Asian films aside from the ones already mentioned that might be great like Hirokazu Kore-eda's Like Father Like Son, about families realizing their songs were switched at birth, Tsai Ming-liang's Stray Dogs about a homeless family on the "ragged edges of the modern world" or Jia Zhangke's A Touch of Sin which traces overlapping stories about rage-filled denizens of modern-day China,
• The NYFF premiere I'm most excited to see is Spike Jonze's Her. We've already discussed the moody engaging trailer and then I saw this tweet from Darren Aronofsky.
ok so i saw a rough cut of the best film i've seen in a long time. spike jonze's her is exceptional. reminds me why i love film.— darren aronofsky (@DarrenAronofsky) August 18, 2013
• The NYFF begins on September 27th. We'll be on the scene covering it for you. Which movies are you most excited for?