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Entries in NYFF (58)

Wednesday
Oct162013

FYC: Best Actress - Marion Cotillard 

Jose here. It's that time of year when I start begging everyone to give Marion Cotillard awards, this time around I think she's Best Actress material in The Immigrant which recently played at the New York Film Festival.

In the film, Cotillard plays Ewa Cybulski, a young woman who arrives in 1921 New York City, escaping the violence in her native Poland. Her American dream is instantly shattered when her sister (Angela Sarafyan) is left at the Ellis Island infirmary and Ewa begins a destructive relationship with entertainer/pimp Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix) who forces her into prostitution in order to rescue her sister and avoid deportation.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct112013

NYFF: 12 Years a Slave

The New York Film Festival (Sept. 27-Oct 14) is in its last few days; here's JA's thoughts on Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave.

The free man turned slave Solomon Northrup's been sent on a trip to the grocer by the mistress of the plantation. He's to get something or other. He walks down the dirt path dutifully... until he doesn't - he darts into the woods, quickly, making pains to not be seen. His brow bursts with sweat. He dodges around trees, through vines, and he runs, and runs. We've been waiting for this moment, for his nerve to snap, for the surrounding wilderness to swallow him up and carry him back to his family up North.

If only freedom were that simple. No, simplicity belongs to the other side here. Evil comes easy. Around every corner, behind every hedgerow, a hangman. A crowd surrounding two black men, strung up. There is to be no escape - just a trip to the grocer, picking up something or other, or else. The two black men yank up into the air furiously, twitching to death, and so Solomon moves on, which is all he can do - that, or hang, twitching to death in the strange surrounding wilderness of this nowhere nothing place where he doesn't belong.

But then it's not quite a nowhere nothing place, though the plantations are all rendered as any muddy backyard anyplace, thick with moss and turned-soil stretching out - it's a specific time, and a specific place, and a specific horror where Solomon Northrup finds himself imprisoned. And to say he doesn't belong implies that anyone there does - that his birthright on one side of a line drawn on a map renders him different from the souls he now stands and suffers beside. 12 Years a Slave knows better and muddies up every distinction - freedom's just a word, its meaning rendered by the person who says it or doesn't say it, so easily snuffed out in a world built upon institutionalized indifference laid over bottomless cruelty. To say one man's a little bit better than another only seems to mean he'll push the problem, you being the problem, off on someone else - you're gonna hang either way.

To say that Steve McQueen's film renders the unfathomable brutality of this period in our history tangible in a way that I've never seen captured on-screen before is both an understatement (for one it makes the cavalier jokiness of Tarantino's Django Unchained seem terrifically misguided, to put it nicely, in retrospect) and a bit of a side-step - it does that but it somehow, miraculously, does so through inclusivity. This is not a film that pushes you away, even as it renders you breathless by its terror. We become one with Solomon. That's on Chiwetel Ejiofor's flawless and open performance of course, but also McQueen's direction and John Ridley's script, which never feel the need to force us any which way but to what's suddenly, inescapably, right in front of us. The commonness of the horror, the ease of it - it's all just so simple here, the way you can turn a corner and find freedom replaced by a sack over your head and your toes scratching at the mud, as you gasp for one last strangled breath.

The scars, by the way, never go away. The ghosts neither. We might crumple into the arms of the people who love us, or we might crumple into the dirt a battered rag doll of a person, but we're all gonna fall. It's as graceless as it is inevitable. It is what comes after that means to survive. And then, after that too. And always, the after, that's all there is, stretching scarred out towards infinity, and falling some more.

Friday
Oct112013

NYFF: 'Manakamana' and 'Costa da Morte'

The New York Film Festival (Sept. 27-Oct 14) is in its last few days; here's Glenn's thoughts on Manakamana and Costa de Morte.

I admire the NYFF’s commitment to what they deem the “avant-garde”. Extensive programming in this sidebar make it a rarity amongst modern high profile festivals. NYFF features no “midnight madness” section for horror, and comedies were few and far between, but if you’re interested in movies that the general public consider “boring” and “strange” then NYFF is for you. I unfortunately did not get to catch more than a very small sampling, but what I did manage to see was enticing and illuminating.

Two of these that make a compelling double feature are Manakamana and Costa da Morte? Both are very sparingly shot examinations of a natural landscape that has likely never seen before by most western audiences. The former, isn't actually a part from the avant-garde showcase, although it really ought to be, comes from the Sensory Ethnography Lab, responsible for such daring and captivating cinema as Sweetgrass and this year’s Leviathan. From directors Stephanie Spay and Pacho Velez, Manakamana lacks the immediate gut-punch reaction that those other two had. It works more or less like an omnibus film, featuring eleven mini-films taken from within the cablecars that take worshippers to the titular mountaintop temple.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Oct062013

Podcast: Best Actor Captain Phillips? Plus Inside Llewyn Davis

For this weekend we have a mini podcast but good things come in small packages.

Katey & Joe attended the Inside Llewyn Davis premiere at the New York Film Festival and tell Nathaniel about it from Garret Hedlund's ponytail, Carey Mulligan doppelgangers, Coen ambience shenanigans and film festival fashions.

All three of us loved Tom Hanks performance in Captain Phillips and Nick joins us, finally, to chat about the Best Actor race. We reference this "no frontrunners" article if you missed it. You can listen at the bottom of the post or download it on iTunes. Join in the conversation in the comments.

[Editor's Note: Because iTunes only hosts the 10 most recent episodes (I'm not sure why that is), the podcasts for this year's films we'll start disappearing after this particular episode so make sure and download them if you haven't yet listened to any episode.]

Inside Captain Phillips, Best Actor

Sunday
Oct062013

NYFF: A Dog Day of a Documentary in 'The Dog'

NYFF moves into its final week Here's Glenn on The Dog.


Whether you watched Dog Day Afternoon for the first time or the tenth when The Film Experience’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” series featured it one year ago, you can surely attest to it being one helluva movie. I recently caught it on the big screen and, boy, does it slay audiences. It’s always refreshing to see a film go over so well from a genre that looks comparatively tame compared to modern day equivalents. Shots remain unedited for minutes and yet the action and the tension are palpable.

Now, even if you’ve never seen Sidney Lumet’s 1975 masterpiece then it’s still hard to deny that the true life story was seemingly made for movies...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Oct052013

LFF: All is Lost

David reports from the London Film Festival on his first voyage to meet Robert Redford, lost at sea... (This film is also playing at NYFF)

Since Kanye West just brought The Truman Show and its climatic sailing sequence into public parlance again, it’s perfectly appropriate for me to refer to All is Lost as an enlarged version of that scene. The manipulator of the heavens here is not a flatcapped Ed Harris, but writer-director J. C. Chandor, fleeing from the immensely talkative boardroom of Margin Call to the vast sea of a practically wordless one-man-show. ‘Our Man’ (as the credits call him) is Robert Redford, in an Oscar-buzzed performance that is certainly his most remarkable in many years. Not only for the physical commitment - the rough winds of the sea buffet the sailor every which way - but for the restraint with which he crafts a stolid and complex man who barely says a word.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Oct032013

NYFF: An Evening with Cate Blanchett

And now Glenn's report from the New York Film Festival's tribute to Cate Blanchett.

When the powers that be at the Film Society of Lincoln Center (my limited knowledge suggests they’re the organisation that runs the New York Film Festival) announced one of the recipients of this year’s special tributes would be Cate Blanchett it was probably hard to find anybody who’d argue against it. Granted, she had no films screening at the fest, but you just try and find anybody who doesn’t think her work in this summer’s Blue Jasmine was a career-topping and undeniably Oscar-bound achievement. A genuine “moment” for the acting craft that Blanchett herself would later acknowledge was like a magical culmination of her years in the profession and her favorite role yet.

After a pair of introductions the assembled audience watched a collection of long film clips to whet the appetite. All five of her Oscar-nominated performances were featured – that’d be Elizabeth, Notes on a Scandal, I’m Not There, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and The Aviator for which she won the golden Oscar – as were The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Talented Mr Ripley and her dynamic duel role in Coffee & Cigarettes. Another truncated clip package follows featuring a wider variety of films from Blanchett’s career which has spanned multiple continents, mediums and propelled her to roles as diverse as Katharine Hepburn and an Elf goddess.

Then out struts Cate Blanchett, her cheek bones so prominent they could distribute radio signals. My friends and I had guessed what colour dress she would be wearing and the winner was a very pale shade of pink. It doesn’t take long to figure out she’s in much better mood than when she recently and famously took to the stage of David Letterman’s chat show and couldn’t hide her disdain for his vacuous, uninformed line of questioning. Within moments she was self-depreciatingly joking about the empty seats, apologising for the “excruciating” clips (we’re looking at you Elizabeth: The Golden Age) and regaling tales of her first acting gig as an American cheerleader in an Egyptian boxing drama where she was promised five pounds and free falafel that never came.

Speaking for an hour alongside NYFF director of programming, Kent Jones, she spoke about many of her most famous roles. I most enjoyed her lengthy discussion on Todd Haynes that spawned out of I’m Not There upon which she noted, “Crossing the gender line in an industry that is usually very literal [was] very liberating.” She spoke at length about how much she loves Superstar (as do I) and musing, “If he can do that with barbie dolls then imagine what he can do with people.” She didn’t talk about Carol, but who isn’t anticipating that? She was also greeted with a personal video message from the one and only Woody Allen. A surprise even to her, he thanked her for her performance in Blue Jasmine and that’s about as big and as public of an endorsement from Woody Allen as you’ll ever get this side of a marriage proposal.

She then went into the advice given to her by Martin Scorsese on making her Aviator performance her own alongside her own acceptance that she was likely going to “upset Katharine Hepburn fans”. Then there was her son’s discomfort at the Lord of the Rings action figures not wearing underwear (coming soon, she joked, “The Blue Jasmine doll. She has a lot of accessories!”), the filmmaking process of Steven Soderbergh and Terrence Malick (on Knight of Cups: “I don’t know what my ultimate role will be”), her listing of her many stage works (“Hedda Gabler, Richard III, Blanche DuBois, The Maids with Isabelle Huppert"), and in another moment of surprise and applause the director of that aforementioned Egyptian film from 1992 stood up in the audience and tried to apologise for his poor treatment. No word on if he brought along any falafel. I wish there'd been some discussion of her Australian work, which was all but ignored, like Oscar and Lucinda, Little Fish and The Turning (what? no mention of Police Rescue: The Movie?)


Chin up, Cate. You're probably gonna win another Oscar!

The conversation was followed by a screening of Blue Jasmine which was apt since a running gag throughout the night was Blanchett’s obvious awareness that the evening was more or less an Academy Award publicity stunt, constantly blurting out “Blue Jasmine, directed by Woody Allen, distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.” Watching it again alleviated my fear that I’d over-sold it upon release. Turns out it’s a remarkably rewatchable film and, yes, Cate Blanchett’s performance is one for the ages. If she keeps doing publicity like this then the Oscar should be as good as hers.