(THE CONTEXT) The most anticipated film of the year is going to land in New York, but bear with me (or fast forward to below). OK, so it’s kind of funny. If you’ve been paying attention to film festival politics this year—and if you haven’t, we don’t blame you—beef has been growing between the Wal-Mart-esque Toronto International Film Festival and the mom n’ pop shop of Telluride (yes, that’s basically this differences in their size, scope and approach, sorry). The long and short is that TIFF has essentially been upset in the last few years that Telluride has “stolen” world premieres by sneak premiering them early at their festival (Telluride doesn’t call anything a premiere and announces their secret line-up the day the festival begins, which is pretty ballsy and bold).
So this year, they basically set a rule (or warning) to filmmakers and studios: you can premiere at TIFF, but you have to disclose whether there’s a secret “Telluride” screening or not, and if there is you cannot premiere during TIFF’s coveted opening weekend slots and instead have to wait until later in the week (when most of the industry has already left). It’s a ploy that Sony Pictures Classics head Tom Bernard has called an “imperialistic” move on the part of Toronto.
What does this have to do with anything? Well, aside from creating internecine bad blood and disharmony in the fall film festival circuit, many have speculated that it’s going to badly affect either Toronto or TIFF. And perhaps this week’s festival news shows that it has. The biggest two films of the season have been announced and neither of them are going to either festival (though anything’s possible with Telluride and their last minute reveals).
(THE ACTUAL NEWS) Perhaps because of this unrest—coupled with the fact that it’s a great festival in its own right— the New York Film Festival has landed two of the biggest, most anticipated films of the year. Earlier this week they announced that David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” would open the festival, and now NYFF has announced that Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice” will debut at the festival in its centerpiece slot. It's a big salvo in the fall film festival circuit and NYFF has gotten the jump on TIFF, no question (the New York festival usually announces their titles after TIFF)
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, along with Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom and Benicio del Toro among many other actors like Maya Rudolph, Martin Short and Eric Roberts, “Inherent Vice” has a sprawling cast.
Based on Thomas Pynchon’s novel of the same name, “Inherent Vice” is very much in the vein—at least plot-wise—of a Raymond Chandler detective novel (and therefore Robert Altman-esque story as his “The Long Goodbye” crime/detective drama is a Chandler adaptation). Set in 1960s Los Angeles against the backdrop of Venice beach bums, surfers and acid heads, ‘Vice’ centers on an inept stoner detective who uncovers a larger conspiracy as he begins to investigate the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend's boyfriend in Los Angeles.
Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood has once again composed the score (that’s three PTA films in a row) and the movie won’t arrive in regular release until December 12, before going wide on January 9, 2015. Why the early preview? Well, as potential Oscar bait, the movie—said to be somewhat difficult and inscrutable like PTA’s last two pictures—will need to bang the drum all season and will need the assistance of film critics who will presumably give it a thumb’s up and therefore loud buzz.
New York Film Festival Director and Selection Committee Chair, Kent Jones said in a statement: “Every new Paul Thomas Anderson movie is an event, an experience – when the lights come up, you feel like you’ve been somewhere, and come back with your mind altered. Inherent Vice is a journey through the past, bringing the texture of the early 70s SoCal counterculture back to full blown life. It’s a wildly funny, deeply soulful, richly detailed, and altogether stunning movie.”
For more internal film festival context, the centerpiece slot at NYFF is usually considered the least prestigious premiere of the festival’s main spaces. Generally opening night and closing night films are the ideal positions while the centerpiece film is a more modest station (and in previous years they’ve been occupied by unremarkable films like "Not Fade Away," "My Week With Marilyn" and "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"). So either PTA and producers want the pressure off, or NYFF has a hell of a line-up with an even more coveted picture about to land the closing night slot—so on top of an additional potential secret premiere, NYFF could be gearing up to have its best year ever (plus there's a rumor that Christopher Nolan's"Interstellar" will be the closing night film too).
And yes, NYFF is usually great and the organization is well liked, which certainly doesn’t hurt, but don’t be surprised if some producers read about the TIFF/Telluride imbroglio, frowned and just said to their team, “alright, f*ck that drama, we’re going to NYFF or Venice” (the latter of which already has announced Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Birdman" as its prestigious opening night film). Though to be fair, “Punch Drunk Love” had its North American premiere at NYFF in 2002 and “Boogie Nights” was also shown there as well in 1997, so it could just be a delayed homecoming of sorts too. More announcements as they happen. “Inherent Vice” will have its world premiere on October 4th. NYFF runs September 26-October 12.
Expect Toronto's first announcements to arrive next week. In the meantime, check out our feature, Fall Festival 50: Our Wishlist For The Venice, Telluride And Toronto Film Festivals.